Anyone who knows me can tell you that I get quite narked about American spellings or words creeping into use by my friends – to the extent that I do correct them if they do it! There’s just no need to say “let’s take the elevator” when you’re in something you would naturally call a shopping centre, not a mall… It clashes in my ear and I just can’t help but comment.

Anyway, it was no surprise that this article caught my eye as I was reading the news over breakfast this morning. ‘Britishisms and the Britishisation of American English’? Surely the tide can’t possibly be turning….

But it seems it is! However, what surprised me most in this article was the number of phrases that I never would have imagined the Americans said differently to the British. Everyone knows the usual examples; pants for trousers, sidewalk for┬ápavement, trunk forboot…

But do Americans really not say someone is ‘called Joe‘, but instead that they are ‘named Joe‘? That sounds surprisingly formal to me for everyday speech. And ‘bit‘? Really, is that incidental word honestly replaced by ‘part’ in American? And do you always have to rather dramatically say someone has disappeared rather than have the option of saying they’ve gone missing?

To me, all these are different from the usual “alternative noun” examples, because while those highlight a simple foreign difference, these seem to represent a certain lack of nuanced vocabulary or richness of meaning compared to British English.

The closing lines of the article made me pause for thought;

“In the UK, the use of Americanisms is seen as a sign that culture is going to hell.”

“But Americans think all British people are posh, so – aside from things that are fairly pretentious – no-one would mind.”

Perhaps in time, the language that diverged on different continents, pushed apart by the political independence of the nations, will mix and exchange back towards each other in this new globalised linguistic world.

Potayto, Potahto…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.