American, British, Globish, or English

July 25, 2011 by edotgdot

Speackin’ English?


Matthew Engel of the BBC wrote an op-ed piece this month about the English language and how Americanisms are infiltrating British English. Engel explored the issue of why Americanisms irritate people. Engel writes:

“The Americans imported English wholesale, forged it to meet their own needs, then exported their own words back across the Atlantic to be incorporated in the way we speak over here. Those seemingly innocuous words caused fury at the time. The poet Coleridge denounced “talented” as a barbarous word in 1832, though a few years later it was being used by William Gladstone. A letter-writer to the Times, in 1857, described “reliable” as vile.”

It seems strange (and a bit funny to me) that the words “talented” and “reliable” could cause such an uproar. With the ubiquitousness of American business and entertainment in the UK, Americanisms are coming in droves. Apparently American English is still a point of contention: when the BBC asked readers about their least “favourite” Americanism, they received thousands of responses. The report posted fifty of the top responses to the blog.

Some of the peeves are justifiable, while others may seemingly be unfounded as noted in The Economist’s Johnson blog post entitled “Anti-Americanisms.” American English isn’t necessarily bad, it is just different. For example, Johnson responds with comments about the BBC’s most notable Americanisms (highlighted in bold):

“I’m good” for “I’m well.” That’ll do for a start.

Johnson responds: “That’ll do what?  Linking verbs including “am” take adjectives, not adverbs. “I’m healthy,” not “I’m healthily.” There’s nothing wrong with “I’m well,” since “well” is also an adjective, but nothing wrong with “I’m good” either.”

British English or American English. Whatever! Or rather, Bloody Hell! The point is that unlike French, for example, Engel explains that English is far more flexible so it is the likely choice for global communication. Not British English, or American English, but Globish.

As an American, I am all for dumping some annoying *isms* like “my bad” or “24/7.” Nor would I be opposed to British terminology seeping its way into American usage. British English has a way of seeming more sophisticated.Though when I hear “flat” coming from an American, it seems pretentious. Either way, we should embrace the changes and malleability of our language. Moreover, we should feel blessed that our language is spoken throughout the world.




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