This was a brilliant article, especially the point about American and British English being siblings. Neither is the language that was spoken in the 1700s and modern Britons cannot lay claim to having the ‘real’ version. I do, however, understand the British frustration at being inundated with a constant stream of Americanisms. I don’t see this is as a superior attitude or anti-American. Rather, I think it reflects genuine distress at having their own beloved version of English eroded.
I find that distressing as well. The British have a wealth of wonderful words and phrases that none of us should wish to see lost. The problem is that in our media-drenched, internet-connected societies, this is a real danger. Already we have a generation of English-speaking children around the world growing up on the internet – watching the same You-Tube videos, visiting the same blogs and chatting with each other on the same gaming sites. Clearly, the words everyone knows are the ones everyone will end up using. Given that there are five times as many Americans in the world as Brits – and that the British are well-versed in Americanisms – it isn’t hard to guess which vocabulary is going to prevail. If we Yanks don’t know that the boot of a car is what we call the trunk then all of us on both sides of the Atlantic are going to end up calling it the trunk because that is the word we all understand.
The only way to prevent the Americanization of British English is for the Brits to export their vocabulary to the U.S. Luckily, the same internet that inundates the world with Americanisms can be used to teach Americans British English given a little ingenuity and determination. Venues such as this one would be an excellent place to start and surely it wouldn’t kill the BBC to have a ‘Word of the Day’ on their home page. Something needs to be tried. The fact that most Americans are never exposed to ‘Britishisms’ is a loss for all of us.
English is a brilliant language, full of variety and subtlety. There is more than enough room for every word and idiom on both sides of the Pond (and Down-Under too). So to those of you in the media who consider yourselves keepers of the language, find ways to share the British vernacular with those of us here in America and keep at it until it becomes second nature to us. We love new words – our kids especially do – and we will happily add the British vocabulary to our own given half a chance.
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