August 23, 2004

Neurotic American English

I forgot to mention to Language Log readers a couple of weeks back (it's been busy) that I had learned from The Wall Street Journal (August 3, 2004, B7) of an advertising campaign launched in Britain by H. J. Heinz Co., featuring a baked bean with an American accent complaining about being undervalued for its nutritional qualities. Many British consumers think of Heinz Baked Beans as a quintessentially British dish, and are not aware that Heinz is based in Pittsburgh. But they love the way the underappreciated kvetching bean has an American accent. Far from expecting a baked bean to be British, test group audiences for the ads caught the psychiatric overtones and thought that the American English spoken by the bean character "was a good way to convey neurosis".

I thought the British were supposed to be our allies? Perhaps if we Americans are neurotic, it's because even our European friends keep stabbing us in the back. Neurotic indeed. Ha! They say we're paranoid, too; but you're not paranoid if people really are out to get you!

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at August 23, 2004 01:35 PM