Barbaric Americanisms: Why do some Americanisms irritate people?
How do you feel about the barbaric Americanisms ruining English?
Those interested in language should take a moment to read this amusing article on the BBC, entitled Why do some Americanisms irritate people?
Despite the title, the article doesn’t really answer the question as to why people (and they mean British people) are irritated by Americanisms.
The author, one Matthew Engel, just says that some Americanisms are more barbaric and outrageous than others, without really giving any specific reason for thinking so.
Like many Americans, I have no idea that I’m speaking in Americanisms until somebody points it out to me.
I don’t have any intention of debasing the noble English language when I speak.
I’m just using the words people use. And when I say people, I mean American people. There are over 308 million of us, after all.
To me, expressing outrage at the use of words like “hospitalize” or “wrench” makes British people seem like pre-adolescent girls who have had their favorite doll taken away.
So “wrench” is an Americanism?
Well buck up, lads!
Nobody’s forcing you to stop saying “spanner.”
Massive Ignorance: the US has no monopoly
Occasionally people from outside the US like to tell me their moronic opinion that the English spoken in their neighborhood is the correct one, and the rest of us are butchering the language with every sentence.
Most of them, incidentally, are totally ignorant of English grammar or linguistics.
Linguistic xenophobes, basically.
Mr Engel doesn’t go as far as xenophobia, but he does lament that the linguistic exchange is at this point almost entirely one-way.
The fact is that even bands like the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, who took a few Britishisms to America with them, were much more interested in importing American music to Britain.
Listen to Dizzy Miss Lizzy and Rock and Roll Music by the Beatles, or Brown Sugar and Honky-Tonk Women by the Rolling Stones.
Now find one thing that’s actually British about those songs, other than their use of the English language.
I dare you.
Not only did Americans invent rock and roll, they had British artists imitating the very inflections of their voices: Mick Jagger sounds as country as Billy Ray Cyrus, and as far as I know there are no honky-tonks where he and Keith Richards went to school in Dartford, Kent.
(I grew up in a place where honky-tonking was one of the main cultural activities, and I know a thing or two about it.)
The real reason why Barbaric Americanisms are taking over English
I would like to argue that the reason British English isn’t making a big impact in America these days is that Great Britain simply isn’t producing or exporting many cultural products of interest.
Because language itself isn’t exported.
Boats don’t go across the pond with a million pronunciations of the word “dude” which are then sold on Saville Row.
The American ambassador doesn’t sit down with David Cameron and say, “Listen Davy. This year everybody’s saying ‘scrilla’ to mean ‘money.’ It is imperative that Parliament adopts it as official usage!”
It just doesn’t happen.
What Americans export is culture: books, films, music, TV shows, and technology. Americans end up setting the trends that the British then follow.
American kids today don’t grow up wanting to sing like Robbie Williams. Gone are the days when the Clash were the only band that mattered.
If the BBC manages to make a TV show like Friends, and gets an audience of millions of Americans to watch it every week for a decade, then surely Americans will start using barbaric Britishisms like “faffing about” or “chuffed to bits.”
Until then, journalists will just have to lament that the British adopt more and more Americanisms every year, for lack of exciting local slang to pick up.
American music and cinema has become increasingly mindless and repetitive over the last decade. Most intelligent Americans freely admit it. Why don’t the British pick up the slack?
Get working, my good chaps!
Give us something worth imitating.
C’mon punks. Make my day.
P.S. For some linguistic fun, check out 10 palabras en inglés que pronuncias mal with my British friend Lucy. And also diferencias entre el inglés británico y americano on my other blog.