Monday, 29 November 2004

Need an English-English Dictionary?

I'm fascinated by the insidious process of word adoption - while people bemoan awful coined neologisms, some phrases just slip insidiously into the universal English language. Hence "run-up" and "gone missing" are now part and parcel of American English, and I presume some Americans would be shocked to even realise this wasn't the case 20 years ago. Among other British English words I've spotted making the trans-Atlantic leap: "gobsmacked". On the other hand, I guess "fortnight" doesn't look to be crossing over anytime soon, more's the pity.

Which goes to show, if a word is useful or just catchy, people will often adopt it (I still don't quite understand why "fortnight" has not been popular in America) - and then will probably insist that they've used it all their lives. One great thing about blogging I think for linguists is that it'll make it much easier to track informal usage. But it's interesting that while people fight for the preservation of British English against the presumed roaring hegemonic forces of American English (here in Singapore, British English is the language of education and there's a certain assumption of its superiority), linguistic exchange is often two-way, and British words can enter the American language just as much as the other way around.

Come to think of it, while people certain Americanisms have comfortably settled into the language without evoking too much of an uproar: "babysitter" comes to mind. Or maybe there're a few sticklers who still prefer "child-minder"?

All this reminds me, there's a story about how Paul McCartney's dad was bemoaning the introduction of Americanisms into British English, particularly with regards to the famous refrain of "She Loves You":
"My dad said, "Son, enough of these Americanisms,' " McCartney said. "Why can't you just say 'yes, yes, yes?' I don't think he got it." (Link)




It's annoys me when the Australia pommies, of all people, said fifteen hundred instead of one thousand five hundred. I know the syllables are shorter but it's sooo American.....

-lisa


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