Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Vive la difference!

There's a great article on the BBC website today about the Americanisms we love to hate. Now I don't mind Americanisms from Americans but I do object to them in good old Blighty.

It just isn't British to say '24/7' (although I mind that particular one the least), but 'gotten' gets my goat as does 'wait up' used by my children to mean 'wait for me'. Even worse I've heard 'wait up already' which makes me shudder. Don't get me started on 'normalcy' - I don't even know what it means - or 'orient' instead of orientate. It's worthy of note that the auto-spell check thingy on here (which doesn't like thingy by the way) is perfectly happy with all those Americanisms (which proves it isn't clever enough to know I'm an English woman writing in Wales).

Does it matter? Perhaps. In France there was a drive to rid the language of Englishisms like 'le weekend' but that appears to have failed with the advent of social networking and its necessity for brevity. Apparently the French now use 'now' in texts and tweets instead of 'maintenant' because it's shorter. Presumably it was adopted the same way we took on 'hi' instead of 'good morning' or 'hello'.

Welsh isn't immune either using 'computer' instead of 'cyfridiadur' for example. Native Welsh speakers generally use a brilliant and wonderful version of 'Wenglish' and I'm not sure they know they're doing it. I was in Boots in Carmarthen once and the woman in front of me asked if a particular mascara was waterproof. The sales assistant replied in Welsh except for the phrase 'you could swim the English channel in it' which was in English. Now that's a clever bit of linguistic gymnastics and it's what makes Welsh so hard to learn. Perhaps it's a lesson for those of us who have attempted to learn Welsh - if you don't know the Welsh, say it in English.

Mind you there are other things creeping into daily usage which are probably entirely English. 'Should of' is one, instead of 'should have'. It's complete nonsense! As is 'off of' as in 'can't take my eyes off of you'. No! Another is the use of 'that'. As a sub editor I was constantly removing the 'thats' from reporters' copy (and I'm well aware subs editing my copy used to remove a few too, but perhaps not the nine I once removed from a single paragraph written by one reporter.)

I read something recently which said millions of pounds of business is lost each year by websites with bad grammar and miss-spellings. Apparently things like 'your welcome' instead of 'you're welcome' make consumers mistrust the validity of the website (even sub-consciously).

Language is lovely. It is what helps us to be properly understood and I shall continue to pedantically (but gently) nag my children about their usage of it. I shall also 'stomp' (great word - I think I'll keep that one) all over any creeping Americanisms.


  1. I have rants about the same things, also, the difference between 'bring' and 'take', and 'bought' and 'brought', especially when uttered by BBC presenters! Don't they test their command of English before giving them jobs? Silly question!

    Mind you, I am married to a Londoner, so I'm just grateful if he manages to put a consonant on the end of a word!

  2. I thought I was the only one to have an aversion to 'normalcy'.
    Although it doesn't seem to crop up quite as often as 'attendee' and 'invitee.' I'm sure we used to invite guests!
    The current exhibition at my local museum boasts a sign - the first sign as you walk in the door - explaining how a fabric designer's work 'compliments' her husband's furniture. I pointed it out to one of the staff - actually, I said it was a disgrace in a museum - but he looked at me blankly. And that was a man in his 50s who might have known better.

  3. Have you noticed the creeping use of the word check instead of cheque?

    'I got if off' instead of 'I got it from'

    'I don't know, can you? ' was always my mother's retort if we ever asked 'Can I?' instead of' May I?'

    I could go on (and on), but won't.

  4. Australia seems so very influenced by Americanisms
    I feel our young people seem to be developing an American accent.
    I feel quite strongly, that our Australian accent is what it is and we should not have to be more British(which was how we were treated at school) or American as our youth seem to be adopting.
    When I visit Wales and England , I do find people mimic my accent. I smile and keep my opinion on this behavior to myself.
    If you hear me say G Day in September, remember it's a choice.

  5. AMEN!

    I hate it when people use "brought" instead of "bought". In several cases it has made the difference between me following someone's blog and not. Is it REALLY so difficult?

    I will admit that my grammar has suffered as a result of having lived in a foreign country for 10 years and becoming immersed in the Dutch language during that time. That said, there are some basics that you don't forget.

  6. If you find the occasional Americanism a bit troubling, perhaps a thought of pity for us Canadians would be appreciated. We live next door to them, and our language suffers as a result.
    Perhaps more of us should be using Welsh.

  7. Blame President Harding for "normalcy."
    "A return to normalcy" (i.e. a return to the way of life before World War I) was United States presidential candidate Warren G. Harding’s campaign promise in the election of 1920. Although detractors believed that the word was a neologism as well as a malapropism coined by Harding (as opposed to the more accepted term normality), there was contemporary discussion and evidence found that normalcy had been listed in dictionaries as far back as 1857.

    I'm American and I cannot abide "24/7", and "wait up" is a phrase (or command) I would never use.

    Just here to let you know that Americans aren't all Americanisms.


I am sorry to have to add word verification thing again but I keep getting spammed.