This article examines certain aspects of the debate surrounding English as a Lingua Franca (ELF). It argues that in some ways, neither ELF nor its opponents have come to terms with the complexities of English in a globalized world. By defining ELF according to how it differs from native-speaker language use, ELF researchers have tended to essentialize and exaggerate these differences, creating a false dichotomy between 'ELF' and 'non-ELF'. At the same time, the conservatism of language teaching and testing in many parts of the world also suggests that there is further scope for an enhanced awareness of language variation. A desirable outcome of the debate would be the realization that all language use - whether by native or non-native speakers - is variable, emergent, contextual, and subject to hybridity and change.