Thursday, October 20, 2011

Lengthy. Reliable. Talented. Influential. Tremendous.

Did you know all five words in the headline are American in origin? I had no idea. Not until I read a feature on Americanisms by veteran British journalist Matthew Engel on the BBC website.

American culture is ubiquitous in Britain on TV and the web, Engel writes in the article. He continues:

As our computers talk to us in American, I keep having to agree to a license spelt with an s. I am invited to print something in color without the u. I am told "you got mail". It is, of course, always e-mail — never our own more natural usage, e-post.

Don't we grapple with the same issues here in India, too?

There's more:

In many respects, English and American are not coming together. When it comes to new technology, we often go our separate ways. They have cellphones — we have mobiles. We go to cash points or cash machines — they use ATMs. We have still never linked hands on motoring terminology — petrol, the boot, the bonnet, known in the US as gas, the trunk, the hood.

(In some respects, at least, the English spoken in India and that spoken in America are coming together in the form of "mobile" and "ATM".)

Engel then gives us examples of "ugly and pointless new usages [that] appear in the media and drift into everyday conversation:":
  • Faze, as in "it doesn't faze me"
  • Hospitalize, which really is a vile word
  • Wrench for spanner
  • Elevator for lift
  • Rookies for newcomers, who seem to have flown here via the sports pages.
  • Guy, less and less the centrepiece of the ancient British festival of 5 November — or, as it will soon be known, 11/5. Now someone of either gender.
  • And, starting to creep in, such horrors as ouster, the process of firing someone, and outage, meaning a power cut. I always read that as outrage. And it is just that.

Read Mathew Engel's piece in its entirety here: Why do some Americanisms irritate people?

Also read readers' reactions to the article: Americanisms: 50 of your most noted examples.
  • Thank you, Swagata Majumdar, for the tip-off.

1 comment:

  1. Oh my God! We haven't at all been following British English!


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