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Allegedly Annoying Briticisms of the Week
Bloody hell and lawks a mercy! Those po-faced septics are whingeing about our lingo. And it's not a wind up. From The Telegraph:
New Yorkers always fall for a nice English accent: whenever my well-spoken sister-in-law visits, they trill at her flowing diction and faultless vowels. Coming from Liverpool, I have a trickier time. In fact, I stopped ordering butter after three waiters in one smart restaurant failed to grasp my pronunciation. "Bootta! Bootta!" I pleaded, while my American friends wept with joy at my embarrassment.
Now, however, it is the words we Anglo-Saxons use, not how we say them, that is causing a stir. After mangling our language for years, Americans are complaining about their own dialect being polluted by "Britishisms".
New Yorker Ben Yagoda, a professor at Delaware University, is studying the invasion of traditional British lingo. He has set up a website to keep track of the wicked, uniquely British words such as "kerfuffle" or "amidst" that are creeping into everyday American usage.
Yagoda's biggest objection, he tells me, is to words for which there are "perfectly good American equivalents, like 'bits' for 'parts' and 'on holiday' instead of 'on vacation' ". They are, he says, "purely pretentious".
Of course, British English has been under assault from this side of the Atlantic for centuries. America's most notorious linguistic anarchist, Noah Webster, decided more than 200 years ago that the English couldn't spell, decreeing that theatre should become theater; favour, favor; jewellery, jewelry; and so on.
Yet so incensed is Yagoda by this new development that he has devised a grading system that awards marks – one to four – for what he calls the "pretentiousness level" of each word. "Advert" gets three, as locals talk about "ads" or "commercials". Saying someone has "got the sack" is also an aberration – Americans are always "fired".
Yagoda thinks use of these overt Britishisms is simply part of an attempt to be "cool" (American, I believe, for "contemporary and fashionable"). So perhaps we should be basking in our trend-setting abilities – not to mention grateful for the attention. After all, as Bill Bryson has said: "Without America's contribution, English today would enjoy a global importance on a par with Portuguese."
It does - proper English anyway.