Few days ago I was eating lunch with my friend. In the middle of the relation from the baby shower I attended she exploded “I can’t stand that”. She said she doesn’t want to hurt me or offend but I’m using too many Americanism and it drives her crazy. As foreigner I never paid attention to distinguish American words from British ones because they all were part of my vocabulary and I only cared about knowing their meanings.
On my way back home I was thinking why I am culpably using American equivalents for British words. I realised that my generation was growing up in the late 20th century, the time of globalization spreading the American English on other countries through new technologies, films, music and Internet what fructified with borrowing and then adopting Americanisms. It’s obvious under how big influence of a ‘new’ language we were just by watching our favourite cartoon or listening to Britney Spears’ songs and we hadn’t got a choice to learn them or not.
I couldn’t help but wonder how we can stop the process of Americanisation of British English.
Few decades ago United States has been seen as a highly status country and people wanted to imitate Americans to feel a little bit like them. The imitation of American English was the cheapest way to feel that oversea's glamour and the world domination of American culture made it much easier than you can think. From the usage of countertypes for British words, e.g. Chips (Am.E)/ Crisps (Br.E), Elevator (Am.E)/ Lift (Br.E) through acceptance of taboo language and slang to elisions and insistence on correct spelling (which is not a standard one in British English).
When using slang or countertypes is freewill, the automatic spell checker is not. Our computers are helping us a lot but they do not know the distinguished difference between American and British English so we end with American spelling in our document like ‘color’ instead of ‘colour’ or common exchanging ‘s’ for ‘z’ in words, for example ‘realize’. Children think it’s a right spelling as the omniscient computer suggests it and they start using it every day. Since it becomes a part of their vocabulary there’s no chance for changing that and one day they will tell their children that it is the right spelling of that word.
Here’s coming the help known as the Plain English Campaign which is fighting not only with Americanism but with all loan words which became a part of the British lexis. The PEC is trying to convince us to use British words as there are many forgotten ones which mean exactly the same thing as the word borrowed from any other language. Americanisms are the most danger loan words as they’re coming from the same language as the British English was the base for American variation.
It’s showing how flexible and open for evolving Britsh Language is but there’s always going to be someone who will complain.
Matthew Engel in his article for the Daily Mail from May 29 2010 was concerned about the fact that people don’t know the boundry between American and English and we are not doing a selection of words we’re borrowing from Americans.
In For Thought Broadcast (13th July 2011) Engel said that usage of some phrases which have a „vigour and vivacity” is acceptable (I think it might bring some freshness into British English) but losing a distinctive phraseology and that difference between Britain and US in the language is actually a losing an origins of English language.
The life goes on, the language change but patterns stay the same. We are importing new fancy words to show our intelligence and sound better (even Americans do it) but by that we are forgetting the beauty of the original language we are using since our first words.
It has been noticed that Americans are using more British words for over prestige (to sound sophisticated and well educated) and also just because they like their sound. Moreover, linguists noticed that British English is evolving faster than American one what makes it seems more traditional. Maybe one day, when Americans will be ready, we will britishnise their English and make it more posh sounding. Who knows…