Friday, May 30, 2014

Who is ruining/spoiling/destroying English?

This is NOT a serious post. Nothing here stands up to particularly good academic standards. But I just wasted some time in the corpus of Global Web-Based English (GloWBE) and thought I'd share this with you in order to make me feel better about the time-wastage.

I wanted to see who blames whom for 'ruining English language, so I looked in GloBWE because it conveniently divides things into country categories like this:



I looked for the verbs spoil, ruin and destroy (with -s, -ed/t, and -ing endings too) with the word language three words before or seven words after the verb. (I also tried it with English instead of language and all most all the results were about BrE football/AmE soccer, so I gave up on that.)  Then I looked at the texts and (a) reassigned the categories if it was obviously a person from another country writing (a couple of the US ones have British writers) and (b) tried to determine who (or if I couldn't find a who, then what) is responsible for the degradation of the language according to these writers. Most of the results were from US and UK--in part because these parts of the corpus are bigger and in part because people in other countries were often worried about other languages (in these cases it may have been English doing the ruining).

So, here's who ruins the English language, according to various people.
UK US
people who say like a lot people who say like a lot
PC police liberalism
hypothetical Nazi victory the French
reality television immigration
Americans "wretched burn-outs"
Americans southerners
Americans slothful abbreviation

(Australia is the only other country for which I got more than one result. There it's the commercialism of modern literary publishing and feminists who are to blame, apparently.)


For good measure, here's the first things I get when I google the question "who is ruining the English language?". It was interesting that no one blamed technology/texting in the corpus:



Happy Friday!

P.S.  I'm on Radio 3's The Verb on Friday 6 June talking about British and American dictionaries. Should be on iPlayer for a week after.

49 comments:

Anonymous said...

(Australia is the only other country for which I got more than one result. There it's the commercialism of modern literary publishing and feminists who are to blame, apparently.)

As a Brit living in Australia I find this fascinating. I can't recall ever hearing anyone here complain about the English language being ruined etc. So I'm intrigued to know where these references came from. Time for some googling I suppose.

lynneguist said...

If I'd kept track of which verb and verb form went with each of the examples, I'd tell you. But I don't think I can afford to spend another hour replicating the work!

Pierre said...

Funny and useful - you tick both boxes in my own corpus ;-)

David Crosbie said...

What would it mean for a language to be ruined?

My first thought is that it would involve negative action on the part of speakers and (for most languages) writers.

If people stop speaking the language, or stop writing it (assuming that it's a written language) it will be a lesser language, but possibly adequate for its dwindling band of users.

If people find it easier to switch into another language when the topic changes, that's a sign of a not-so-rich language. If this happens more than in the past, I'd say the language is in decline.

It's all too easy to say that language must always change. I think that's overstating the case. A language should be capable of change whenever the surrounding society and environment change.

• If inclusive language is prohibited, Australian feminists will struggle to express themselves in a deliberately impoverished language.
• If Americanisms are outlawed in Britain, we'll struggle to appreciate your films, your TV shows and quite a bit of your literature.
• If youth language is prohibited, young people may turn to a foreign language for use among themselves.
• If technical jargon is prohibited, we may end up reading our manuals in German or Japanese.

Of course, none of this can happen. Of course there is no language police, no grammar Nazis. But we've all heard and read people who wish they had the power to freeze English in mythical perfect form that never really existed.

My feeling is that if they really had that power and if they exercised it, then English would over time become more and more dilapidated, though unlikely to end in actual ruin.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I think the so-called "grammar Nazis" are those present who, like me, find themselves jerked out of a story they are reading by a misplaced apostrophe or a confusion over when to use "there", "they're" and "their". Unfortunately, while sometimes it is genuine ignorance, at other times it is sheer laziness, a sort of "paint it red and make it do" approach to language, found on both sides of the Atlantic, and probably Down Under, too. Which may or may not kill the language, but it certainly impoverishes it.

Fnarf said...

The correct answer, of course, is "people". People are ruining the English language, and have been from the beginning. If we could just eliminate them, everything would stay perfect forever.

Anonymous said...

@David Crosbie:

If people find it easier to switch into another language when the topic changes, that's a sign of a not-so-rich language.

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence (says he, waving his hands vaguely in the direction of a search engine) that multi-lingual people switch languages sometimes when one of their languages seems incapable of expressing their exact meaning. And languages borrow all the time for the same purpose. "Schadenfreude", for example. Or "le weekend".Is English impoverished just because it doesn't have a handy word for something? I don't think so, although some might.

Of course there is no language police

You really think so? There are a lot of people around trying to prescribe/proscribe without reasonable justification, with some degree of success. "People of colour", anyone? Or indeed round here (yes it's your correspondent from Down Under again) "indigenous" for "aboriginal" which baffles me because you would have thought the latter term to be more respectful of their 40000 year history and status. Pardon the digression.

David Crosbie said...

Anonymous

At the margins there's no threat to a language when individuals switch languages for easier communication. Impoverishment comes about when whole communities decide that their language just isn't up to in in certain forms of discourse.

In the British Isles, over half a dozen languages have suffered from competition from English. They became increasingly restricted to intimate codes to talk about intimate matters. Some have disappeared, some left written texts which have allowed them to be revived, a couple (Irish and Welsh) have turned back the tide and become official languages which minorities may choose to use for pretty well any purpose. (I think it helped that they had a depth of literary language to draw on.)

Back in history, two great languages — Latin and French — were out-competed here by English, but they weren't diminished as languages. There were still plenty of French-speakers in France. The Western Church still spoke Latin and the educated still read it. So it's not just numbers that count when a language slides into ruin.

In a superficial sense borrowing word like Schadenfreude enriches English by definition; there's one more word in the lexicon. Some argue that it also impoverishes the language by suppressing a 'native' word or preventing the invention of one. I disagree. I think of schadenfreude (not capitalised) as an English word with alien associations inherited from cultural commentary, knowledge of German and so on. Using the word in an English sentence allows for an effect — more technically an — which would be absent from a sentence using a 'native' paraphrase.

As for language police The people you identify are, I would say, language vigilantes. They may bully some speakers into complying with their shibboleths, but they have no back-up reinforcements when we refuse to be bullied.

But we're straying from the purpose of the blog. Let's relate richness, impoverishment and ruin to varieties of English. Let's strive to maintain the majority of differences between British English and American English — and the other varieties — at least as options. That way we enrich the language as a whole. And the more we know about the differences, the richer our experience of the language.

Dick Hartzell said...

As a liberal wretched burn-out afflicted by slothful abbrev. (yeah, I abbrev.'d that -- wanna make something of it?!) I'm on a mission to ruin the English language. I'm also one of the Americans, Americans, Americans, which makes me triply destructive! So watch out as I carelessly say "on the weekend" instead of "at the weekend", viciously misspell "tire" without a "y", and display my insufferable parochialism by making you a cup of tea with water I've neglected to bring to a boil.

Had enough yet?

Anonymous said...

@Dick Hartzell:

Funnily enough Aussies say "on the weekend" too. I hadn't realised they shared this with Yanks.

You are welcome to maintain your attacks on the English language. We Union-Flag-waving tea-sipping empire-nostalgic stiff-upper-lip Brits will merely sniff, tut, and utter deprecating comments about how Americans think they speak English when we know much better. We invented it, dontcha know. Such is parochialism.

Anonymous said...

@David Crosbie: Let's strive to maintain the majority of differences between British English and American English — and the other varieties — at least as options.

Going back to where this started, it's interesting to note two camps: those who complain that the ruin is caused by people who want to restrict variation and those who complain that it's being caused by people who want increase variation. Should we blame the grammar nazis or the GenY txters? Isn't all this noise simply the two camps yelling at each other? It's hardly startling to suggest that there is in fact no ruin, only evolution. But we all still seem to be happy to waste time discussing it. Let English Shake.

Philip C James said...

A related theme would be the evolution of how English is spoken, not written. It probably evolves more quickly and ephemerally in that regard, though new media ensure that one variation favoured regionally can swiftly become a global favourite.

One example springs to mind is the High Rising Terminal

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_rising_terminal .

Also known in the UK as Australian Uptalk. There's a general perception here that Australians developed it and it spread to the UK through watching too many episodes of the Aussie soaps NEIGHBOURS and HOME AND AWAY.

Though I heard a talking head on BBC Radio Four claim it originated in California. This uncertainty is reflected in the wikipedia article.

What does appear clear is that one of the most influential groups for changing ('ruining' in some people's eyes) the language are young women.

IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT #Sarcasticon (or possibly #ironicon - I can't decide).

Autolycus said...

>>As a Brit living in Australia ..... I can't recall ever hearing anyone here complain about the English language being ruined etc.<<

I'm saying NOTHING.

David Crosbie said...

"Who is ruining/spoiling/destroying English?"

Not three ways of saying the same thing.

Destroying a language renders it extinct.

Ruining a language leaves something behind — an impoverished code with only limited functionality for communication.

Spoiling a language is quite different: it's subjective. If someone says 'Such-and-such is spoiling English for me', an appropriate response is not Your are right/wrong but I share/don't share your taste.

Different groups feel that different things are spoiling English for them. Each group has its own preferred experience of English. There's a palette of expressions, words, even pronunciations that constitute a comfort zone. For some poor tortured souls, it's crucial to their very identity.

We all occasionally encounter English that's outside our comfort zone, but there's a type of individual that insists on blame

People who say or write X are wantonly spoiling English for me. They have no regard for my feeling. They are bad people.

Many project such individual feelings onto group identity

People who say or write X are wantonly spoiling English for us. They are ignorant of the value of the sort of X-less English that has always united us and empowered us to speak and write with precision.

The us in question may be defined by nationality (sadly common among little-Englanders), by education, by generation. For some sad people us is a dwindling beleaguered band fighting a rear-guard — and losing — battle against the barbarians.

What unites these various definitions is a sense of historical depth. There was a golden age when every one was us. Since then English as a language of literature and admirable speech has been produced by us and has thrived because of appreciation by us.

But there's no such thing as us — except as a subjective projection. So for each us there's a subjective demonised them. Hence the rag-bag:
people who say like a lot, PC police, liberalism, hypothetical Nazi victory, the French, reality television, immigration, Americans,"wretched burn-outs", southerners, slothful abbreviation

TtTt said...

Dick Hartzell makes light of a very serious subject, and I make no apology for charging off topic to tackle him on it:

To pour merely hot, rather than boiling, water onto tea leaves isn't an example of cultural diversity, it's an objective error. If the water isn't boiling then the tea won't infuse. That's a scientific fact, not a quaint British superstition.

Anonymous said...

The us in question may be defined by nationality (sadly common among little-Englanders)

I'm sure David would be the first to agree that of course little-Englanders are not necessarily English. Such insularity can occur in any nation. (Some of) the French can get quite hot under the collar about the "corruption" of their own language.

John Cowan said...

Little-Englander is a nice example of semantic change. It used to mean "anti-imperialist". Now it means "narrow-minded ethnic nationalist".

Anonymous said...

Obviously, the people making a hash of English, are all those people not speaking proper English. I guess you could argue then, that those same people are ruining it.

And of course, proper English is what is spoken where I am from (or, more exactly, by me).

And I'll fight you if you don't agree.

Dark Star in the Morning said...

(Gah .... this is Starwefter, I changed emails and accounts and since Google took over Blogger I've had terrible trouble signing into it. Things are completely weird now.

Google is trying to take over the world........ Don't get me started.)

----

So, like, first we need to, like, define what it is we like mean by like ruin the, like, English language......

You know I've, like, now got, like, Frank Zappa's "Valley Girl" running through my head, on, like, continuous loop. Like, gag me with a spoon, that's totally so groady........

Like, how do you, like, spell groady, anyway?

......... *wince*

Okay, enough of that. I think I need to clean out my ears. Probably you do, too?

It did strike me halfway through the comments on this post that the French have an academy that is dedicated to making sure that the French language is not ruined -- mostly by words creeping in from English, I gather, like le weekend.

So, serious question though: does any other nation or language have anything similar? I'm only familiar with the French, but that's pure ignorance on my part, so I really would like to know. I do know that there are a number of countries that have approved name lists, and you can only choose names from those lists, which I think feels very weird to people in any of the English speaking countries.

Totally unrelated, but my best quotes about the English language -- the first is well known, the next two, not:

“The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that the English language is as pure as a crib-house whore. It not only borrows words from other languages; it has on occasion chased other languages down dark alley-ways, clubbed them unconscious and rifled their pockets for new vocabulary.” – James Nicoll

“English is the result of Norman soldiers attempting to pick up Anglo-Saxon barmaids, and is no more legitimate than any of the other results.” – H. Beam Piper

“The English language was carefully, carefully cobbled together by three blind dudes and a German dictionary. It’s the “rock-soup” of languages. – Dave Kellett http://sheldoncomics.com/archive/090201.html

Dark Star in the Morning said...

Comment, part 2 (because Blogger refused to let me make it all in one part, too many characters *sigh*)

Grammar/spelling police (nazis) ........

As we've seen in various posts, what is proper grammar in Britain isn't in America (or Canada, or Australia, or ....) and vice versa. So how do we choose?

And spelling? Good grief.....

Plus, I role play on Facebook (totally unrelated to this, except for -- and yes, now I'm totally off topic....) a lot of people who also do so get very uptight about proper spelling -- for instance the confusion between there, their, they're or your and you're. Very recently though, I had it pointed out to me that someone I personally know consistently misspells these words because he flat out doesn't see the correct form since he's dyslexic and his version of dyslexia confuses these spellings. The only time he consistently spells things right is when he has someone else proofread it for him, and he doesn't always have that for an option, especially when it comes to casual Facebook posts.

The thing is, I knew spelling was not consistent in the English language until sometime after Samuel Johnson's dictionary (because then you could "look up the spelling") and I also knew that dyslexia and intelligence are not linked. I should have put this together, but I didn't, and somehow I feel I owe an apology to someone, somewhere, even if I don't know exactly who, because I think I've been a bit too judgmental about this.

I've always been forgiving of typos. I need to start being forgiving of a few other things. This is totally unrelated to the original post -- but just because -- British Dyslexia Association: http://www.bdadyslexia.org.uk/ and Yale Center for Dyslexia and Creativity at Yale University: http://dyslexia.yale.edu/index.html

Someone somewhere may need these links.

Unrelated again: here's my other question for the day: stuffs. I have consistently seen the usage stuffs instead of stuff in various writing, but it seems to (always?) come out of writing from the Far East. In other words, as an American I would write, "I got some cards and some other stuff" and I would expect someone from Britain to write the same thing -- maybe the verb form would differ -- "I have got"? or "I have gotten"? or???? ---- but the "and some other stuff" .... that part I'd expect to be the same. But I consistently run into "and some other stuffs" from writers that seem to originate in what is probably best described as Southeast Asia, on Fanfiction.net or in blogs. Can anyone shed some light onto this?

Stuffs. It just goes clunk for me. But I've seen it consistently. Any ideas?

David Crosbie said...

Stuffs is fine for 'types of fabric'. The OED quotes:

1604 E. Grimeston tr. J. de Acosta Nat. & Morall Hist. Indies iv. xli. 320 The Indians make stuffs of this wooll wherewith they clothe themselves.

and centuries later

1838 E. Bulwer-Lytton Leila i. iv. 28 The walls were covered with the stuffs of the East.

Quite generally, uncountable or mass nouns can be used to mean 'types of' e.g.
milks (cow's milk, sheep's milk etc.)
breads (white, rye, pitta, chapati, etc)

We don't usually do this with stuff because it's so vague that any substance is a 'type of stuff'. But when stuff is narrowed to 'fabric' then the concept of different types with something in common does make sense.

David Crosbie said...

Wikipedia has an article titled List of language regulators. An awful lot of them, but not necessarily all with the same agenda as the Académie française.

There's a nice article on Linguistic purism which analyses some of the things these academies may or may not be trying to achieve.

Some of us may identify the member of these bodies with the so-called 'grammar Nazis'. This term was dreamed up by a sub-editor on the Daily Telegraph and dumped for no clear reason in the heading to this article Are 'grammar Nazis' ruining the English language?. It's based on an interview with Geoff Pullum (with whom Lynne has differences. See On Pullum's 'Undivided...'.)

Although the article — and presumably the headline — were sympathetic to Geoff's anti-prescrptivist stance, many of the Telegraph-readers who commented on the pare's website chose to see the descriptivists as a Nazi cult led by the sinister language-ruining Geoffrey Pullum. His bemused response can be read under the heading I saw one thousand commenting and nobody listening.

Anonymous said...

@Dark star in the morning
I think it's alternative pronunciation to 'grotty'. i pronounce 'grotty' as grow-dee but my reliability is questionable. my spelling and vocab is mostly BrE (thanks, colonialism) while i speak in a predominantly AmE accent (thanks, hollywood).

AmE and BrE converge in emigrants and colonies, who are familiar w/ both. sometimes we pronounce words one way but use the other accent or spelling. it's like a pidgin between dialects of the same language. at the same time they're diverging into two increasingly distinct languages.

how wonderfully mathematical and interesting to think about!

Anonymous said...

@David Crosbie
I'm not sure I agree with your distinction between 'ruin' and 'spoil'. food spoilage surely isn't subjective, is it? I think 'so-and-so is spoiling english for me' is only subjective because you added 'for me' at the end.

spoil and ruin are frequently interchangeable, as in 'he spoiled the story' vs 'he ruined the story'. i do see a difference in severity though. ruin seems exaggerated. it may be because of the reason you said.

'to ruin' does suggest leaving only ruins behind but 'to spoil' would leave spoils behind too! ruins and spoils are both quite concrete. then again, i'm not taking into account the etymology and age of these words. what the hey, i'm just a biochem major; i ain't no, like, linguist or nothing.

Katya said...

In my opinion, people who do not have a love for learning ruin it...
For example, if I don't know where to put an apostrophe, I will look it up, others just stick it anywhere and hope for the best.
[A teacher at my school wrote the word societies on the whiteboard: "society's"...
I get so annoyed too at people who incorrectly conjugate the verb to sit. Professional people: authors, scholars, journalists, radio presenters. "I was sat" has become a colloquialism, but I cannot get over the sheer amount of people who think it is correct grammar. This ruins the English language for me.
I try to restrain my inner grammar Nazi self, but it really saddens me that our language is slowly being deprecated.

David Crosbie said...

Katya

I'm all for learning things — provided that they're worth learning. A lot of the grammar that used to be taught in schools is garbage, even lying garbage.

One thing I've learnt by studying is that society's was once perfectly 'correct'. That's really interesting, as is the history of how a different norm was established. Probably the most interesting thing I've learnt is that the possessive plural studies' is a very recent invention — not universally accepted until the nineteenth century.

As for conjugating sit, only foreigners and babies (and drunks) can be 'wrong'. Everybody else uses the forms that are 'right' in their dialect. These forms may or may not be the same as those of Standard English.

I fail to see anything wrong with I was sat. It means something subtly different from I was sitting. The closest paraphrase is, I suppose, I was seated. If a 'sheer amount' of 'professional people: authors, scholars, journalists, radio presenters' say I was sat then it is, by definition part of Standard English.

Of course, when I was teaching English to foreigners I taught them only I was sitting. But if a student had picked up I was sat from a native speaker, I certainly wouldn't have corrected them. With a sophisticated student, I might explain that not all English speakers find it acceptable.

I think my own dialect is the richer for having three subtly different forms:
I was sitting
I was sat
I was seated


For me, learning about language involves treating everything taught in school as suspect. It's almost as if our Chemistry teachers had taught nothing more recent than Alchemy.

David Crosbie said...

Anonymous

For me food spoilage is a technical term that I never use. And yes, the spoils of war are concrete, but surely they're what you take away, not what you leave behind.

My point was that this who talk about ruining or destroying English are really feeling that someone is spoiling it for them, even though they don't admit as much.

David Crosbie said...

Surprisingly, the OED has an entry for grody, which has been there sing the 1993 update.

In their etymological judgement, both BrE grotty and AmE grody were derived from grotesque. Still, it's hard to see that either could be derived from the other, as they're so different in meaning.

The American word started as groaty, but was so seldom written down that people heard the American 'flapped' consonant as D.

Their definition is:

US slang
Disgusting, revolting, ‘gross’; dirty, unhygienic, squalid; unattractive, slovenly, sloppy. Freq. in phr. grody to the max, unspeakably awful, ‘the pits’.

The quotations reflect a change of meaning as well as spelling:

1965 Houston Chron. 5 Sept. iv. 1/5 Groaty, adjective meaning bad in appearance.
...
1969 Publ. Amer. Dial. Soc. li. 16 Among the adjectives with this suffix are:..groady ‘dirty and grubby’.
1982 Los Angeles Times 21 June v. 1/4 Grody is used to describe a disgusting object. Moon Zappa calls her toenails ‘Grody to the max’, which means disgusting beyond belief.

Grhm said...

The language is being spoilt for me by people who talk of "the amount of people" when they mean "the number of people". (Ha!)

David Crosbie said...

people who talk of "the amount of people" when they mean "the number of people"

Nice try, Grhm, but no cigar.

Although the earliest use quoted in the OED is

1. The sum total to which anything mounts up or reaches:
a. in quantity.

1710
Act 8 Anne in London Gaz. mmmmdcci/3 Shall forfeit double the Amount of the said Drawback.


It soon reaches
b. in number

1801
J. Strutt Glig-gamena Angel-ðeod iii. vi. 221 A number of little birds, to the amount I believe of twelve or fourteen.

Grhm said...

[My comment appeared straight away when I submitted it yesterday, but it has now disappeared again, so, at the risk of repeating myself...]
David:
So evidently writers have been doing it for a little while, but it seems to me that every time they do it they undermine the useful distinction that English draws, between the countable (number, many, few, fewer) and the uncountable (amount, much, little, less).
J. Strutt (1801) had an excuse of a kind, in that it would have been inelegant to use the word 'number' a second time in that short passage. (The problem could easily have been averted by rephrasing, though.)
But what, exactly, did Katya (2014) gain above by writing "sheer amount of people" instead of "sheer number of people"?

Grhm said...

David:
OK, evidently writers have been doing it for a little while, but it seems to me that every time they do it they undermine the useful distinction that English draws, between the countable (number, many, few, fewer) and the uncountable (amount, much, little, less).

J. Strutt (1801) had an excuse of a kind, in that it would have been inelegant to use the word 'number' a second time in that short passage. (The problem could easily have been averted by rephrasing, though.)
But what, exactly, did Katya (2014) gain by writing "sheer amount of people" instead of "sheer number of people"?

[I'm getting very fed up with Blogger. This is the fourth time I've tried to respond to David Crosbie's comment. The first three tries appeared briefly but then disappeared again.]

David Crosbie said...

Grhm

they undermine the useful distinction that English draws, between the countable (number, many, few, fewer) and the uncountable (amount, much, little, less)

I see you conveniently forgot about the not-exactly-rare word more which belongs in both lists.

In these quantifiers the grammatical countable/uncountable distinction is a formal resource. It most cases, the choice redundantly adds information already conveyed. In the phrase fewer words, the PLURAL form makes the distinction. The choice of fewer rather thanless is pure redundancy. It has survived in English because redundancy in language is such a good thing.

At the extreme margin, you might argue that the qualifier does the work in less fish vs fewer fish. But this is true only of words with the same form for singular and plural. And we don't miss the distinction in more fish. If the distinction seems really important, we can use the alternative plural fishes.

The real rule that covers what English speakers actually say, as opposed to what some teachers tell us, is this:

The quantifiers many, few, fewer and the quantifying phrase number of
• are used only with plural noun forms
(by definition forms of countable nouns)
• are never used with singular noun forms
(whether of countable or uncountable nouns)

Grhm said...

Yes, but you haven't answered my question. What, exactly, did Katya gain by writing "sheer amount of people" instead of "sheer number of people"?

lynneguist said...

Grhm:
For some reason, Blogger thinks you're a spammer--it also deleted the items you posted anonymously. I've rescued some of the posts (not the duplicates). Will try to keep an eye on this, and hope that if I hit 'not spam' enough Google'll figure it out...

David Crosbie said...

Grhm

What, exactly, did Katya gain by writing "sheer amount of people" instead of "sheer number of people"?

I presume she liked the sound of it.

Grhm said...

Well, I don't !

David Crosbie said...

Grhm

De gustibus...

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Digger said...

I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet about Americanisms creeping into UK English. It’s a lost cause and I have all but given up.

The BBC and ITV should be flogged, because they pronounce words like schedule, research and privacy the American way on The News and Eastenders, thus exposing them as
being acceptable to the masses. I have noticed that Alan Sugar’s ‘resume’ has also crept in as well as elevator for lift and mall being pronounced as ‘maul’.

I have a lot of American mates on the Internet and I ‘entertain’ them with my moaning about this and we swap language and cultural differences.

With the technology available to us nowadays, and with the adoption of American English as the default for computers, together with imported American entertainment in various forms, I suppose this is inevitable.

It doesn't mean I have to like it though!

I was driving on the M25 one day and nearly had a spelling-induced accident when I saw the official sign reading 'Authorized Vehicles Only' beside the carriageway. God help us.

I had to retaliate by sending a photo of a Tyre Centre to my bemused American mates.

Digger

lynneguist said...

Sorry, what's the Americanism in 'Authorized Vehicles Only'?

Digger said...

There's a tendency to spell words that we would typically spell with an 's' - realise, organise, Americanise, authorise - with a z.

Digger said...

>DC said. food spoilage surely isn't subjective, is it? I would say it can be. I won't throw food away because the date on the packet says it's time to do so. I throw it away if it looks or smells horrible. Whereas I know a number of people who are slaves to the best before and use by dates.

lynneguist said...

The 'z' spelling is not American, although Americans use it too (and don't use the more French -ise spelling). -ize is British. It's part of what's called Oxford spelling, i.e. the preferred spellings as presented in the Oxford English Dictionary. While -ise and -ize have both been used in English for centuries, the fashion for -ise has really only recently peaked.

Digger said...

Yes, I've read quite a bit about ize and ise. Does that mean that itemize and realize are acceptable in British English too?

Digger said...

More Americanisms that have taken over perfectly good British English originals:

On lunch has replaced at lunch.

Can I get (as in ordering food or drink) has replaced can I have.

Press the pound key on phones – it’s the sharp key. We use lbs to denote pounds weight.

Line is busy when it used to be engaged.

Yes I do instead of yes I have, as in "You have some interesting items there." "Yes, I do."

David Crosbie said...

Digger

More Americanisms that have taken over perfectly good British English originals


1. Lynne has frequently demonstrated that so-called Americanisms are British in origin but has gone out of fashion here.

2. That said, even if your preferred variants are 'British original', they can't have been 'perfectly good'. If so, they would not now be being replaced. Adequate for many speakers, yes. Totally satisfactory for all British speakers at all time, clearly not.

4. On Can I get, see Saying 'please' in restaurants.

5. On the pound sign, see hash/pound/number sign.

6. On busy vs engaged, see telephony.

7.On have vs do have, see do you have/have you/have you got.

8. Only on lunch has not been considered here, although there was a thread on on. I can't say I've heard, on lunch, though I do hear and say on your luck break.

Anonymous said...

Australians generally don't blame others for ruining English. We already know its actually us ;)

Irene C. said...

"On lunch"? That's what's wonderful about this blog: one ends up learning as much about one's native dialect as about the other. I've been speaking AmE for 26 years now, and I've never heard this phrase.