BBC - British people are used to the stream of Americanisms entering the language. But some are worse than others, argues Matthew Engel. Lengthy. Reliable. Talented. Influential. Tremendous. All of these words we use without a second thought were never part of the English language until the establishment of the United States. 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. American culture is ubiquitous in Britain on TV and the web. As our computers talk to us in American, I keep having to agree to a license spelt with an s. I am invited to print something in color without the u. I am told “you ghat mail”. It is, of course, always e-mail – never our own more natural usage, e-post. As an ex-American resident, I remain a big fan of baseball. But I sit over here and listen to people who know nothing of the games talk about ideas coming out of “left field”. They speak about “three strikes and you’re out” or stepping up to the plate” without the foggiest idea what these phrases mean. I think the country has started to lose its own sense of itself. In many respects, English and American are not coming together. When it comes to new technology, we often go our separate ways. They have cellphones – we have mobiles. We go to cash points or cash machines – they use ATMs. We have still never linked hands on motoring terminology – petrol, the boot, the bonnet, known in the US as gas, the trunk, the hood. Yet in the course of my own lifetime, countless routine British usages have either been superseded or are being challenged by their American equivalents. We no longer watch a film, we go to the movies. We increasingly have trucks not lorries. A hike is now a wage or price rise not a walk in the country. Ugly and pointless new usages appear in the media and drift into everyday conversation: Faze, as in “it doesn’t faze me” Hospitalize, which really is a vile word Wrench for spanner Elevator for lift Rookies for newcomers, who seem to have flown here via the sports pages. Guy, less and less the centrepiece of the ancient British festival of 5 November – or, as it will soon be known, 11/5. Now someone of either gender. And, starting to creep in, such horrors as ouster, the process of firing someone, and outage, meaning a power cut. I always read that as outrage. And it is just that. I am all for a living, breathing language that evolves with the times. I accept that estate agents prefer to sell apartments rather than flats – they sound more enticing. I accept that we now have freight trains rather than goods trains – that’s more accurate. But we are letting British English wither. Britain is a very distinct country from the US. Not better, not worse, different. And long live that difference. That means maintaining the integrity of our own gloriously nuanced, subtle and supple version – the original version – of the English language.
Seriously, England — shut the fuck up. Is that a proper British phrase for you?
See, the point you’re missing is that America IS better than Britain. Not worse, not the same, but BETTER. And because we’re better, and have more influence, money, cultural impact, military might, etc — we get to decide what words stay and what words go. So yeah, we stole your language and made it better, bro. The Japanese did the same thing with our automotive industry. Shit happens. It doesn’t help to sit and sob into your tea over it like a bunch of pussies. Grab your new American words and have fun with them. “Favorite” and “color” don’t need the letter “u”. Lorry was a silly name for truck. Shopping trolly — that’s just stupid. It’s one word: “cart”. Boom. American English is fun, right?
Until you can once again claim dominance over the entire world like we currently have, you’re gonna have to say things the way we say them. Because we are the police of the world. And like police, if you start talking shit or being disruptive, we can jam you up so bad you won’t know what happened. You wanna get jammed up, England? You want the new Guantanamo Bay to be in Tottenham or some shit? Didn’t think so.