Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer : Criss-crossing the language barrier
Linguistic muddle results from lack of a ‘helicopter’ view.
The Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer project is an attempt to complete the first solo non-stop circumnavigation of the world in an aircraft. Its newly ‘made over’ website aims to help generate and satisfy interest ahead of the scheduled take off towards the end of the year.
Content covers background on the people and technology involved, flight-related Kids’ Stuff, a Merchandise shop and a feature on the project’s chosen charity. However, the version of English used varies depending on the section visitors are in. For example, the Kids’ Stuff section talks about “airplanes” refuelling with “gas” and offers a “personalized” membership card (American English); Charity refers to training “programmes” and an “aeroplane” (British English). The GlobalFlyer itself is referred to as an “aircraft” (neutral).
GlobalFlyer’s sponsor, the Virgin Atlantic airline, bridges the gap between the US and the UK every day of the week but here seems to have fallen into a common linguistic muddle through lack of a ‘helicopter’ view.
A big issue for an English-language site trying to appeal to an international or ‘overseas’ audience is which version of English to use. Employ American English and the site might appear too US-centric. On the other hand, British English can strike Americans as odd or weirdly spelled. Some degree of ‘bias’ in unavoidable: for example, the site will have to choose whether to go with the American ‘z’ or the British ‘s’ in words such as ‘organization/organisation’. But in many cases there are neutral alternatives to country-specific usage; for example, ‘fuel’ instead of ‘gas’ or ‘petrol’; ‘aircraft’ rather than ‘airplane’ or ‘aeroplane’.
GlobalFlyer’s problem is one of consistency, stemming in all probability from a lack of a central editorial authority. Kids’ Stuff has been sourced in the US, Charity in the UK and the project news (which uses more neutral terminology) from Virgin Atlantic’s press office. But in pulling them together, the site has failed to match its use of a visual style book with one for editorial.http://www.virginatlanticglobalflyer.com
First published on 19 August, 2004