Does nationality beget idiocy?

The Dutch and typefaces, the Australians and melanoma – what is it with national predispositions?

The latest example? The Danish and usability.

No, dear friends, not Jakob “Shut Up!” Nielsen. Some fellow named Kristoffer Bohmann, whose Web site looks eyebrow-archingly reminiscent of that of the éminence grise.

Just how is Bohmann nipping at our heels this week?

Apparently Web designers are wasting our time by offering us splash screens where we can select a language we can actually understand.


Isn’t this guy Danish? Or is he a kind of passing African-American? A Jew trying to hide his absent foreskin, à la Europa Europa?

Danish is hardly a Major World Language. The Danes are forced to learn English to communicate with the world beyond Scandinavia. While such bilingualism may seem like the acquisition of a benign lingua franca, in Bohmann's case, we are obviously dealing with a kind of identification with the oppressor, if you will forgive our use of that word. To paraphrase an exhibit at Itchy & Scratchy Land, “Roger Meyers, Sr., the gentle genius behind Itchy & Scratchy, loved and cared about almost all the peoples of the world. And he in return was beloved by the world, except in 1938 when he was criticized for his controversial cartoon Nazi Supermen Are Our Superiors.”

Bohmann's actual advice?

A large number of European Web sites waste homepages on language selection while their American counterparts rarely commit this usability mistake. I recommend that multi-language sites use English as default.

Um, yes, the Americans “rarely commit this usability mistake” because as far as Americans are concerned there is only one language on the planet, American. Every American speaks nothing but American, self-evidently. There is no need for a language selector. You have a choice of one.

Here in the rest of the world, it is in fact a necessity to provide for language selection, as previously explained. The Web is World Wide, even to Danes. For the majority of the planet that does not speak American, Nazi supermen have not yet become our superiors.

Posted on 2001-06-03