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I'm a native (British) English speaker for the UK, working in an agency with other native speakers.

We have international clients, and one from the US just sent back a piece of copy with the phrase Communicating All The Way From A to B claiming that "From A to B is offensive to Americans".

Is this phrase truly offensive? What is the meaning it construes that is offensive?

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    As a native AmE speaker, I would not find it offensive. The only guess I can make is that all the way from A to B is not that far a distance. Rather, I would expect to see all the way from A to Z used. Perhaps your coworker is offended that such a short goal is made to seem difficult. – Davo Jul 26 '17 at 13:36
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    We'd expect a range from A to Z, so A to B is pathetic. It's a quote form our beloved, catty Dorothy Parker. In reviewing Katherine Hepburn's part in the film Stage Door, Dorothy said Hepburn "ran the gamut of emotions from A to B." It's a put down. – Yosef Baskin Jul 26 '17 at 13:38
  • I agree with @Davo , I think maybe your client wanted ...from A to Z. Interestingly, that's an Amazon thing. It's the reason for the 'smile' on their logo being an arrow from a to z. – Chim Chimz Jul 26 '17 at 13:39
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    @YosefBaskin has it exactly right. Quote Investigator duly questions the origin story, but the point of the line is not in question. Thus it is offensive, but as a witty put-down, not as any kind of vulgarity. – Brian Donovan Jul 26 '17 at 13:45
  • It's impossible to say without knowing what the context is. – Hot Licks Jul 30 '17 at 1:18
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I don't see why anyone would be offended by either phrase, but "From A to B" and "From A to Z" do have different meanings.

"From A to B" usually refers to a journey, where A is the start point and B is the destination. So, "Communicating All The Way From A to B" sounds like "Going from your start point to your end point, and communicating in the process." It might be suitable if you were trying to sell a mobile phone which had a feature of keeping a call open during a train tunnel, or something - you're saying "You will be able to communicate over your entire journey".

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/from_a_to_b

From one's starting point to one's destination. ‘most road atlases will get you from A to B’

"From A to Z" is a reference to a dictionary, and is intended to indicate thoroughness - ie that you will go all the way through the dictionary from start (words beginning with A) to finish (words beginning with Z). I'm not sure where you might use "Communicating from A to Z", but what it's implying is that your communication strategy is very thorough, perhaps.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/from_a_to_z

Over the entire range; completely. ‘make sure you understand the subject from A to Z’

Anyway, I don't know the context so I'm just speculating about possible uses, but that's the difference between the two phrases.

As far as I know these phrases are not unique to any variant of English and can be used with AmEng or BrEng or whatever you like.

EDIT: As Davo & Yosef Baskin point out in the comments above, if the context is a range and hence "A to Z" is expected, and you say "A to B" instead, it could be taken as a deliberate statement that the range is very limited, rather than being thorough.

  • The copy was paired with an image based on public transport, so I suspect that's why the copywriter chose A to B. Anyway, glad so see we there was good reason for us to be confused by the response – Solflux Jul 26 '17 at 15:08
  • Yeah, I'd definitely ask for clarification on the offensiveness, "to prevent similar problems in future" or words to that effect. I honestly can't imagine what it would be. – Max Williams Jul 26 '17 at 15:27
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It is pretty common to say something along the lines of "How would I get from Point A to Point B?" This seems to be based on geometry tests, to me. I agree that the quip from Dorothy Parker would explain how such a innocuous phrse could be turned into an insult.

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