During dinner at a conference last week, a British colleague raised the question of where the closing formula “kind regards” had suddenly come from. It is pervasive in emails nowadays, she said, but she waived my suggestion that it might be American influence. So to find out, I decided to search my email inbox for “kind regards” and classify the users according to whether they were native speakers of English (and whether British or American) or non-native speakers. This turned out to be a massive undertaking, as my mailbox is chronically full to overflowing, so I limited myself to the emails I received this year.
There were altogether 224 emails (out of how many I didn’t count) that ended with “kind regards”, ”best regards” and sometimes just “regards”. Of these, 109 were by non-native speakers (not only Dutch ones), 72 by Dutch students, 29 by Americans and 14 by British native speakers. (It should be said that many of these emails were by the same students and other people, which naturally skews the data. But the differences are striking all the same.)
I don’t want to mention names, but I was struck by the fact that three of my younger British colleagues tend to vary between “kind regards” and “best wishes”, but the Dutch students were remarkably consistent. So were the American students. What I also noticed is that faculty communications also consistently used “kind regards”, sometimes alongside the Dutch equivalent “met vriendelijke groet”. But though the two are clearly regarded as synonymous, I still wonder why “with best wishes” wasn’t chosen.
So do we have an example of American influence here? At first I thought of posting this small analysis on the Leiden English Department facebook page, but I didn’t because the last thing I want to achieve is to make students insecure about their English. Or should I raise the issue after all? I do think that people writing official Faculty communications should be aware of the fact that they might be using an Americanism when university policy is to use British English (though I’m not even sure that either of these things is the case). So let me have your views please! And tell me whether I should adapt my preferred British model in this respect to a new usage.