On American Briticisms

Ah, language.

Slate weighed in on the Britishism invasion, charting the slow creep of British English into the American idiom.

This is new? 🙂

To quote Sherlock Holmes, “My font of English has been permanently defiled.”

I’ve been reading Doctor Who novels for years. I watch BBC America on a regular basis. I have shortcuts to the BBC World Service on my desktop at work. My news website of choice is not American but British. (Specifically, the Guardian.)

But it’s not just me. There’s a generation raised on the Harry Potter novels, and they’ve received an education in Briticisms.

Among the words Slate complains about, I use a dozen of them — “brilliant,” “chat up,” “early days,” “ginger,” “gobsmacked,” “kerfuffle,” “mobile,” “shite,” “snog,” “top up,” and “wanker.” I also use “wheelie bin,” but Slate has no complaint there.

As I read the article, I began to wonder.

So what? British English is making inroads into its American cousin. And this is a problem… why?

There’s the chance that someone I’m talking to, when I use a word like “mobile” (in the sense that I have a mobile phone), won’t understand what I’m talking about. Except that’s true of many conversations. People have different vocabularies, and their vocabularies are based on their experiences and the languages to which they’ve been exposed. But usually, if someone encounters an unfamiliar word in conversation, its meaning is either deduced from context or outright explained, even if someone has to ask what it means.

So I’m not really seeing the problem with Briticisms in American English.

At the very least, it lends a touch of color to the stuffy old language. 🙂

One thought on “On American Briticisms

  1. Fascinating! As a Brit, I am much more used to laments of how American English is seeping into the British variety. It had never occurred to me that the converse was evening happening, let alone that it would be seen as a problem!

    It’s pretty obvious that we’re headed for a single, global dialect of the “English” language. For every Britishism you pick up from Doctor Who or Harry Potter, we pick up half a dozen from Friends or Buffy. It’s nice for me to think that the emerging global dialect won’t be a wholesale adoption of current American TV English, but a hybrid that we have some contribution to.

    I wonder how many Canadianisms and Australianisms we use without being aware of it?

    Now that the idea has occurred to me, I Wikipedia’d it. Not impressive:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canadian_English#Canadianisms
    There’s nothing there that I have ever used (unless you count Smarties, but that’s just what they’re called in Britain, so that doesn’t count).

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