Thursday, 24 February 2011

One woman's quest to save British English

If I didn't already run so many twitter accounts, I'd open @AmericanismsWatch.

Really, really, I have nothing against Americans (with a few notable exceptions - Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, I'm looking at you), but since we linguists are always banging on about the death of languages I just wanted to be part of documenting the Death of British English, which can be witnessed through a cursory glance at the Facebook statuses of Brits.

They reveal the use of words and phrases like: I'm on it, I'm psyched for, Awww.

Yes, "awww". When an American says it, it sounds like Ahhhh. If you want to say Ahhhh, you need to spell it Ahhhh, because since when do we say "awe" when we are presented with a picture of a kitten?

So periodically I'll be having a little rant about Brits who can't seem to stop themselves from sounding American (and yes, that does include me), and asking for satisfactory translations, which are a lot harder to come by than they might sound. "Pretty" is not exactly the same as "quite" or "rather" or "very". "Smart" is not exactly "clever". But a onesie is a babygrow, we are not "psyched for" but "excited about".

Save British English! Who's with me?


fiona lynne said...

Have you come across this blog before? It sounds like you too would get on... :)

Claire said...

thank you so much! She might be my new best friend :)

Trinovante39 said...

I'm a Brit who's lived in the US since 1971, and found Lynn's SbaCL blog several years ago. Over time, she has astounded me with the number of BrE 'neologisms' I took for Americanisms that (BrE which?) turn out to be centuries-old British, abandoned in the UK, being returned to us eastwards across the Pond.

Nevertheless, the pronunciation of some vowels can be jolting, including your AmE 'ahh' for awe. I would add 'ahh' for the letter o, such that 'spots' become 'spahds', and 'dot com' becomes 'dart calm'.

However, since the BBC went off the 'Received Pronunciation' standard, just as many bizarre local dialects now spew forth from Auntie Beeb. To my Americanized East Anglian ears, Scouse, Geordie, and Yorkie are much more jarring than anything I hear from US coast-to-coast, or anywhere else in the English-speaking world for that matter.