One of the jobs I do at work is to process requests for information from propective students – prospectuses (prospecti?), course booklets, that kind of thing. We often get requests from overseas where students have do not speak English as their first langauge but have been taught to communicate in a very polite and formal manner, which in itself is odd since most of the information requests come via email which is largely an informal communications medium.
Sometimes the politeness goes a little too far. I can’t remember the exact contents of the email, but one I had to process today went something like this:
Sir, In the name of God I declare that I am [name], a boy of 21 years of age and a Nigerian citizen. I have heard many great testemonials about your exquisite school. I wish that you and your colleagues are in good health and that your elbows are well-greased.
I wouldn’t exactly call the university ‘exquisite’, unless you’re referring to the sandwiches in the student union bar, but I had to hold in the laughter when I read the elbows comment. I’ve never, ever heard that comment be made before as a compliment. Whoever taught English to this person is either very misguided or in a on a very cruel joke.