This could maybe sound like Old World snobbishness, but it’s not meant that way. I am interested in the way Americans use language and the English language in particular. For many, it is not their mother tongue. As British English speakers within the EU institutions become unthinkingly tolerant about their colleagues’ ‘globish’, so all Americans are, it seems to me, unthinkingly tolerant of their compatriots’ English. Grammatical errors, approximations, liberal insertion of foreign words, slang and jargon, free invention – all are tolerated unthinkingly. There is a sort of mutual solidarity in this acceptance. It reinforces the ‘melting pot’ image, as if to say ‘we’re all migrants here!’ It also makes American English a living language in a way that British English isn’t necessarily. Perhaps this is what enables Americans to come up so often with witty new composite words, such as ‘staycation’ (a holiday spent at home) and ‘adulescence’ (an adult displaying adolescent behaviour) – two words that I have heard on this trip. Then there is the way Americans seem to assert authority in language through the use of more words. We have been told, for example, to stay in our seats ‘until the train has come to a complete and final stop’ (I think we would just say ‘stopped’). ‘No smoking allowed’, says one sign; ‘danger of traffic activity’, says another (in the UK that would be ‘No smoking’ and ‘Danger; traffic’, respectively). Then there is what I like to call the loquacious officiousness of petty authority. I don’t mean this negatively, but give an American some sort of uniform and s/he will be waiting, chest puffed, for a chance to give some sort of public announcement or instruction (multiply that by ten if a microphone is at hand). I think this is because there is a deeply ingrained sense of civic duty: authority, no matter at what level, is a responsibility and a duty and should be respected as such by both giver and receiver. It goes together with the extraordinary civility and politeness of most Americans. I heard the best example of this phenomenon so far in the Art Institute in Chicago. A young man working on a new exhibition space wheeled a loaded trolley with some wood through a gallery. I suspect that in most European galleries a similar worker would simply say ‘excuse me’ as he wheeled his trolley through; not in Chicago. The man clapped his hands and, without the slightest sense of irony said the following (I noted it down on the spot):  ‘Ah, ladies and gentleman, thank you for your attention, please. We have a loaded trolley situation here. I would be grateful if you could all stand to the left while I proceed through this gallery. Thank you.’