Language: if in doubt, blame the Americans
Yesterday, the BBC published an article titled “Americanisms: 50 of your most noted examples“. It included 50 “Americanisms” sent in by the ill-educated British public—together with 1,295 comments—before it closed the forum. Some highlights from the 50:
- Two-time and three-time (instead of double and triple), from D. Rochelle in Bath. My understanding is that this relates to concurrency. “Double–silver medallist” suggests two in one competition, whereas two-time silver medallist suggests two silver medals won in their career
- 24/7 instead of 24 hours, 7 days a week, from Simon Ball in Worcester. If we’re being pedantic, the longhand should have read “24 hours a day, seven days a week”, with seven written as a word. And should we use per instead of a? But let’s not go there, Simon. If you can’t handle such an obvious abbreviation, then you don’t belong in 2011. Or should I say AD 2011. Get over yourself
- The word “gotten” makes Julie Marrs in Warrington shudder, despite it being an 11th century English word
- Chris Capewell from Queens [sic] Park should concentrate more on his apostrophes and not let his teeth be set on edge at the use of the term “train station”
- Ami Grewal, a Brit in New York, does not like the term bi-weekly, preferring fortnightly. But the latter is not common parlance in the US, so it’s understandable that they use the former. The confusion that the British seem to have over the use of the prefixes bi and semi should really be of greater concern to you, Ami
- Michael Zealey in London berates “You do the Math”. Maybe we Brits should abbreviate to Math’s, to indicate the removal of some letters
- James in Somerset berates the use of Scotch-Irish. Me too, James, but only because you’ve used a hyphen instead of an en dash. Scotch, while in declining usage, is a 16th century adjective meaning “of or relating to Scotland”
- Tabitha in London despairs at the phrase “that’ll learn you”. Me too, but I’ve found it far more prevalent in the UK than the US
- Period or full stop, Stuart Oliver in Sunderland? Well Aristophanes of Byzantium (257 BC – c. 185–180 BC) preferred periodos, from which the former has evolved
- D. Henderson in Edinburgh detests the use of the word season in relation to TV series. Quite literally, (s)he should get out more
- John in Leicester doesn’t like people having issues, preferring them to have problems. There’s one right there
- And for Helen, in Martock, Somerset, medalling, as a verb in competition, “sets [her] teeth on edge with a vengeance”. I find your turn of phrase far more grating, Helen
Most of the people that commented, I expect, are British sticklers ill-at-ease with change, writing letters on a regular basis to the Telegraph and Points of View. (Apparently, it’s still on air! Who knew?) But many are ill-educated buffoons of the opinion that any phrase that grates must be down to the Yanks. In actual fact, a good number of the top 50 entries constitute either language changes through business use, or Olde English words that have fallen out of British English usage, but that still form part of the American lexicon.
So people: get over yourselves. Stop blaming the Americans for the beautiful enhancement of our shared language. British and American English should live together in harmony, each celebrating its quirks, but not disparaging the other for infiltrating its own with a phrase that has become common parlance. Oh, and here’s my post on developing a single written version of English.