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Is British English being Americanized?


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Is British English being Americanized? #31 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 15:45 pm   Is British English being Americanized?
 

It is worthless to worry about whether one language is being influenced by another one too much. Languages are always influenced by other languages. If we removed all the "foreign", non-Anglo-Saxon words from English, we'd be left with less than 30 percent of our vocabulary and a lot of important concepts. English has gone through periods of intense borrowing, and so have others. Who really cares, and what can anyone do about it?
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Is British English being Americanized? #32 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:20 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Jamie, it's great you joined this discussion and I agree with what you have written 100%.

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Is British English being Americanized? #33 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 1:53 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Jamie (K) wrote:
It is worthless to worry about whether one language is being influenced by another one too much. Languages are always influenced by other languages. If we removed all the "foreign", non-Anglo-Saxon words from English, we'd be left with less than 30 percent of our vocabulary and a lot of important concepts. English has gone through periods of intense borrowing, and so have others. Who really cares, and what can anyone do about it?
Yes, from an impersonal historical perspective it is worthless to worry about it, and impossible to prevent anyway. However, people do also have a personal and emotional attachment to the language that they grew up with and are familiar with, and for that reason change can sometimes be unwelcome.
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Is British English being Americanized? #34 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 6:09 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

I laughed when I read Jamie K's post, because I was going to say that Americans seem to be the only ones unconcerned about protecting their language. (I guess the Indians are similar - at least as far as English is concerned) Maybe it is because we realize it is not really our language, we are just borrowing it. I can't imagine anyone raising an eyebrow if everyone starting calling trucks "lorries" or gas "petrol". Most Americans love using new words and foreign languages are a handy source. Volkswagen tried to capitalize on this a few years ago, but I'm afraid Fahrvergnügen didn't quite make the cut, although schadenfreude is well on its way.
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Is British English being Americanized? #35 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:07 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Torsten wrote:
Claudia, I agree with you. Where there is a German word you might as well use it. However, there are so many words that simply don't have a German equivalent so you have no choice but use the English one. Here are just a few of them: airbag, browser, marketing, flipchart, app, flirt, mountain bike, fax, email. Actually, the list is endless.

Words that are new because they are derived from new inventions and developments are definitively an enrichment, no matter where they come from. I would never say Lufttasche or Elektropost (unless I make a joke), and Bergrad sounds downright ridiculous. There was a time when a few Germans thought they should call a computer Rechner and a compact disc Silberscheibe, but neither of the words really describe the objects correctly and therefore they were never commonly accepted. I call a computer a computer, not Rechner and a CD is not made of silver. Silly terms. I don't mind some English lingo in German, either. When my friend's thirteen-year old comes up to me and plays me a new Hip-hop song, saying in German, "Listen to this, Claudia. That song is so phat!" I grin and tell him that the beats are really cool. But when my very anti-American friend says on the phone, "Heute gehe ich mit meinen Kids zum See." (Today, I'm going with my kids to the lake), then I can't help but wonder why she doesn't say Kindern since "kids" is evil Americanism that is invading the world. Even I who is so incredibly Americanized in her eyes, even I say, "Das ist merkwürdig" and not "Das ist strange." Many Europeans complain about America, yet they sound as though they just stepped off the plane.

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Is British English being Americanized? #36 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:13 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Luschen wrote:
I laughed when I read Jamie K's post, because I was going to say that Americans seem to be the only ones unconcerned about protecting their language. (I guess the Indians are similar - at least as far as English is concerned) Maybe it is because we realize it is not really our language, we are just borrowing it. I can't imagine anyone raising an eyebrow if everyone starting calling trucks "lorries" or gas "petrol". Most Americans love using new words and foreign languages are a handy source. Volkswagen tried to capitalize on this a few years ago, but I'm afraid Fahrvergnügen didn't quite make the cut, although schadenfreude is well on its way.

A lot of Americans fear that Spanish will replace English due to all the illegal immigrants.

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Is British English being Americanized? #37 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:27 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Dozy wrote:
Yes, from an impersonal historical perspective it is worthless to worry about it, and impossible to prevent anyway. However, people do also have a personal and emotional attachment to the language that they grew up with and are familiar with, and for that reason change can sometimes be unwelcome.

From a historical point of view, some of the so-called Americanism is closer to Middle English than modern British English.

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Is British English being Americanized? #38 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 10:44 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

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Hi Claudia,

You have hit the nail on the head. Comments like the one you quoted above are a little sad. Incidentally our friend referred to my comment on his 'ivory tower' status as 'bizarre'. Funny old world, isn't it?

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Is British English being Americanized? #39 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:34 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Luschen wrote:
I can't imagine anyone raising an eyebrow if everyone starting calling trucks "lorries" or gas "petrol". Most Americans love using new words and foreign languages are a handy source. Volkswagen tried to capitalize on this a few years ago, but I'm afraid Fahrvergnügen didn't quite make the cut, although schadenfreude is well on its way.

Oh, yes, many Americans WOULD raise an eyebrow if people here started saying "lorry" or "petrol", but not because they would think our American form of English was being polluted with British words. It would be because in the US, using distinctly British expressions makes the person seem snooty and gives people the impression that he is trying to appear superior. Just notice how many Americans are irritated by other Americans saying something is "spot on". (I find it annoying too.)

However, nobody would care if people used some word for these things that's not from English. Many of my friends and I often call beer "pivo", and nobody here finds it annoying. It's common here to use words from Polish, Spanish or Arabic to add some spice to your speech, and people find it fun and somewhat comical. So if you started calling gasoline "benzina" or a truck a "camión", people would just find it amusing and wouldn't care.

Also notice that many Americans in the interior of the country (what people on the two coasts uncharitably refer to as "flyover country") get annoyed when someone from their own town uses expressions that are from the East Coast. For example, I find it quite annoying when someone from Detroit calls Coke or 7 Up "soda". Again, as with the British expressions, it looks like they're emotionally insecure and using an East Coast expression to sound "sophisticated".

One thing I have noticed about Detroit is that some kinds of fad expressions never become popular here. People know about them, but they don't use them. I think it's because among teenagers here it's always been a bit stigmatized to "sound like TV". I guess in other parts of the country, kids think it's cool to sound like the people on TV, but, generally speaking, in Detroit kids think you're an idiot if you imitate the speech on TV. They think it makes you sound phony.
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Is British English being Americanized? #40 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:36 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Alan wrote:
Hi Claudia,

You have hit the nail on the head. Comments like the one you quoted above are a little sad. Incidentally our friend referred to my comment on his 'ivory tower' status as 'bizarre'. Funny old world, isn't it?

Alan

Hi Alan,

I don't want to accuse anyone of anything, but it seems to me that the whole fuzz about foreign (though AmE can hardly be considered foreign because it is English) words entering one's native language isn't just about the change they cause and the need for adjustment. I believe it has more to do with a personal prejudice against a specific nation.

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Is British English being Americanized? #41 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:49 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Jamie (K) wrote:
One thing I have noticed about Detroit is that some kinds of fad expressions never become popular here. People know about them, but they don't use them. I think it's because among teenagers here it's always been a bit stigmatized to "sound like TV". I guess in other parts of the country, kids think it's cool to sound like the people on TV, but, generally speaking, in Detroit kids think you're an idiot if you imitate the speech on TV. They think it makes you sound phony.

And this is precisely the reason why some words or expressions make it into British English (or not). The awesome ones that are not too left field are being happily embraced by kids and the media. A lot of people love change because they think it exciting or interesting to play with words or language. And since American English is on TV all the time, it is in the driver's seat to impact BE.
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Is British English being Americanized? #42 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:51 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Jamie (K) wrote:
However, nobody would care if people used some word for these things that's not from English. Many of my friends and I often call beer "pivo", and nobody here finds it annoying. It's common here to use words from Polish, Spanish or Arabic to add some spice to your speech, and people find it fun and somewhat comical. So if you started calling gasoline "benzina" or a truck a "camión", people would just find it amusing and wouldn't care.

Also notice that many Americans in the interior of the country (what people on the two coasts uncharitably refer to as "flyover country") get annoyed when someone from their own town uses expressions that are from the East Coast. For example, I find it quite annoying when someone from Detroit calls Coke or 7 Up "soda". Again, as with the British expressions, it looks like they're emotionally insecure and using an East Coast expression to sound "sophisticated".

One thing I have noticed about Detroit is that some kinds of fad expressions never become popular here.

There you said it yourself: many of these expressions are just a fad. I doubt that "pivo", "benzina" and "camión" will really become integrated in American speech to the point where it is considered part of the language. Much of these words are just said for amusement.

When I ordered a soda in New York, the lady at the counter looked at me as if I were from the moon, yet in Chicago, it is a regular word for a soft drink. If you order a coke there, you will get a coke and not a 7 Up.

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Is British English being Americanized? #43 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 11:56 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Cgk wrote:
A lot of Americans fear that Spanish will replace English due to all the illegal immigrants.

It's not that people think Spanish is going to replace English, but that they think we'll have Spanish-only pockets around the country where native-born Americans will be discriminated against for not knowing the language. This has already happened in some places, as when people applying for jobs with cleaning services, etc., are denied jobs, or even the opportunity to apply for a job, because they can't understand the application form, which is written completely in Spanish. (In my area there is a chain of grocery stores that advertises job openings exclusively in Polish. Nobody who can't read Polish will ever know about the job. The idea is that they don't want employees who are not Polish. It's highly illegal, but they do it.)

There is also a problem that people who never try to learn English use more than their share of government services. For example, Haitians or Vietnamese generally assimilate and become middle class within five years, but many Spanish speakers stay on government food assistance for years and years and years. I know a girl who came to the US from Mexico when she was about 12 or 13, and now she's finished high school (in a "bilingual" program, of course) and she still hardly knows any English. She's going to have problems. And there are more like her. Meanwhile, an Albanian or a Russian who comes here at that age will sound American within six months.

Additionally, there are radical groups who for decades have been trying to foment jingoism and a sense of grievance among Spanish speakers in order to balkanize parts of the US. Some of these groups were previously funded by the Soviet Union, and when the Soviet government collapsed, things got pretty quiet for 10 or 15 years, and you didn't see the anger or the protests you did before. Now, somebody is funding all sorts of radical groups again, possibly a number of countries with cash, like Venezuela or other oil-producing countries with anti-US governments, and you see this language balkanization movement starting again.
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Is British English being Americanized? #44 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 12:01 pm   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Cgk wrote:
When I ordered a soda in New York, the lady at the counter looked at me as if I were from the moon, yet in Chicago, it is a regular word for a soft drink. If you order a coke there, you will get a coke and not a 7 Up.

That's strange, because New York is where they say "soda". The term is used on the two coasts and in Chicago, and other than that, people in the north generally say "pop".

Where I live, a soda is ice cream with the soft drink poured over it.

And, Claudia, some Polish words actually do enter our language in the Midwest. Not many younger people where I live know what Fat Tuesday is, but they all know what Pączki Day is. (It's Fat Tuesday.)
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Is British English being Americanized? #45 (permalink) Sun Mar 25, 2012 12:17 pm   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Cgk wrote:
Dozy wrote:
Yes, from an impersonal historical perspective it is worthless to worry about it, and impossible to prevent anyway. However, people do also have a personal and emotional attachment to the language that they grew up with and are familiar with, and for that reason change can sometimes be unwelcome.

From a historical point of view, some of the so-called Americanism is closer to Middle English than modern British English.
That is a point in itself, but hardly relevant to what I said since no one alive now personally remembers Middle English.
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