Common Language – Hardly
You are safe to carry on reading this because it isn’t about ‘Common Language’ that today appears to mean the increasing use of curse words in public that would have been unheard of 20 years ago.
And no I’m not going to go all evangelical about the language we hear because having worked in coal mines and the RN foul language was common everyday language.
The difference being that it was generally left in the workplace at the end of the shift.
What I’m writing about in this missive is the difference in language between us and our ‘American Cousins’ that is creeping into English as spoken in the UK.
Last week Willy Guilder the Chief reporter for the local Northampton BBC radio who is an excellent wordsmith raised the issue around the on-line English dictionaries taking on what he called a ‘Colonial’ tinge in looking up the word malarkey.
It was followed by a frustrated tweeter who asked what exactly does “top of the hour” mean.
On Wednesday I found myself using the word ‘pavement’ when talking with some elderly residents in Bellinge Community House instead of the more common word today of ‘footpath’ which got me thinking about friends and former colleague who have now emigrated to the USA.
I should point out that a number of friends and colleagues from my Royal Navy days have not only moved to the States but have also married and taken out United States Citizenship and have started to use American English.
The question is as they become more integrated into the American way of life how easily will they be identified as Brits.
The joy of social media and especially Facebook is that you can read how their use of language has changed and it raised the question how has American English started to replace English words especially when you consider that the majority of people from the UK have never been to the States.
The answer of course lies in the explosion of television channels which show mainly American produced programmes now available on satellite TV.
So how to identify a Brit in the USA and vice versa an American in The UK.
I’m quite partial to a glass of wine and those from the New World are very nice especially from the west and in particular from California which I refer to as ‘Californian Wine’.
But is it?
A Californian I’m told by my friends who live in the USA is someone who comes from California and what I should be asking for is California Wine.
Damn it I’ve been identified as a Brit before I even have a drink of the stuff.
Another difference is children and more particularly how they get their names.
I was talking to a friend who now lives in Florida and when congratulating him on the arrival of a new grandson asked the typical Brit question, “what have you called him”?
This then got complicated; the answer was Peter who was promptly corrected by his American wife who said he’s been ‘named’ Peter.
The difference, and it makes sense, was explained to me as being that you call someone if you want to attract their attention which means you don’t call but name children.
So is it a problem, the Americanisation of English in the UK?
Will I be banned from using the word ‘pavement’ and ‘lift’ and forced to use ‘footpath’ and ‘elevator’?
I doubt it, and I doubt if it is too much of a problem because after all isn’t English as we speak it an amalgamation of centuries of different languages coming out of the invasion of our shores?
And wasn’t it taken to the USA where it’s been amalgamated and influenced by the Europeans, Hispanics etc. who emigrated to the US?
So bring it on but whatever happens I’ll still insists that ‘centre’ is not spelled ‘center’ and I will not be replacing the ‘s’ with a ‘z’ in words like improvise.
To my friends who now live in the USA and their gorgeous families I think you’re great but I won’t talk about the ‘top of the hour’ or ever be convinced that football is a game played on an artificial pitch by players who wear more armour than the Knights of The Crusades.
So “Have a nice day, y’all”
I’m off to have a cup of Yorkshire tea.