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Is British English being Americanized?


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Is British English being Americanized? #1 (permalink) Fri Mar 23, 2012 22:50 pm   Is British English being Americanized?
 

So, how big are those differences between American and British English really? Isn't it true that many British people watch a lot of TV shows and films that are made in the US?Let's say a British teenager watches a lot of 'The Simpson' or 'South Park'. Is it possible that this British teenager picks up some of the phrase he hears without being aware that those are actually 'American expressions'?

Who can really say what exactly 'British' and what is 'American' English is? If a Brit says 'truck' and 'shopping cart', is he still a Brit or does he become an American?

Do the following American based companies have large offices and subsidiaries in the UK? Google, Microsoft, Adobe, Apple, eBay, Dell, McDonald's, Subway, UPS.

Now, do you think that those American companies send some of their staff over to the UK? If so, do those Americans use American or British English when they speak to their British co-workers? What impact might this have on the English language if any?

Also, what language are most mobile apps written in? They get downloaded and installed tens of thousands of times every day. Do you really think that app developers create an American and a British version of their programs? Do you think that British users download and install only apps made in Britain and Americans install only apps that were made in the US?

In other words, do you agree with some British people who say that their language has been 'Americanized' for many years? If so, do you think this is a good or a bad thing?

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Is British English being Americanized? #2 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 1:50 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Many questions at once, Torsten, maybe a few too many.

Here for an Irish perspective. Traditionally, Ireland is probably a bit less protective about the English language than England, and some people even embrace American culture/language as something downright positive. It's chic to sing like a 'Yank', and the watered-down TV accent may sound a bit more American than (BBC) English. Dublin is the main city of Ireland, one in four people live there. There are 24 postal districts in town, and the poshest part of town (D4) is the one that's setting the pace for the media. If you go to the main shopping centre in this area (in Dundrum), you here teenagers talk in what sounds like faux American accents, producing phrases such as 'that's like totally so not like it like', soft on the vowels with a funny Americanesque intonation. The Hollywood impact.

Do I resent it, or do I think it's odd? Yes and no. It's been like that for as long as I remember, and you can see it's somehow gaining momentum. More and more Americanisms make it into people's common parlance, and I think that's quite a normal development for a living language. Having lived abroad for 10 years now, I can tell that language is subject to subtle change, but it's not taking away too much from something that you could call a 'language identity', and I don't think it ever will. The different accents in Ireland, the indigenous idiosyncrasies as well as cultural mannerism are far too distinct to be ever in danger of being altered for good. And if? Nobody speaks like Shakespeare anymore either.
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Re: Is British English being Americanized? #3 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 3:57 am   Re: Is British English being Americanized?
 

These are just my personal opinions/impressions.

Torsten wrote:
So, how big are those differences between American and British English really?

As variations in language go, the differences are minor, and 99%+ of the language is the same. However, those differences that do exist are clearly noticeable. Spoken accents are very noticeably different.

Torsten wrote:
Isn't it true that many British people watch a lot of TV shows and films that are made in the US?

Yes.

Torsten wrote:
Let's say a British teenager watches a lot of 'The Simpson' or 'South Park'. Is it possible that this British teenager picks up some of the phrase he hears without being aware that those are actually 'American expressions'?


Possibly, but this usually happens in a conscious way; people repeat phrases that they hear on TV because they think they sound "cool", without them being truly natural (at least at first). With enough repetition they may become natural, and if enough people use them for long enough then they will become naturalised in BrE.

Torsten wrote:
Who can really say what exactly 'British' and what is 'American' English is?


It is simply a numbers game. If we check people refuelling their cars and observe that (being generous) 0.0001% of British people say they are filling their car with "gas", while 99% of Americans do say that, then we conclude that "gas" (in this sense) is AmE. Obviously there are borderline cases and grey areas.

Torsten wrote:
If so, do those Americans use American or British English when they speak to their British co-workers?


They just speak exactly the way they are used to speaking, which would be American English, unless they have been resident in Britain for a long time, in which case they may start to pick up Briticisims.

Torsten wrote:
What impact might this have on the English language if any?

Not much. For one thing, the numbers are not great.

Torsten wrote:
Do you really think that app developers create an American and a British version of their programs?


Often not. However, software from major vendors (rather than some guy who wrote an app in his bedroom) may have UK English and American English options (these obviously would not be a completely separate program or app, just an installation choice).

Torsten wrote:
Do you think that British users download and install only apps made in Britain?

No, definitely not. The country of origin is probably something most people would hardly think about, provided it is in some kind of English they could make sense of. British users are used to seeing software written in American English, and, indeed, also in any kind of terrible mangled English that came out of Korea, or India, or wherever.
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Re: Is British English being Americanized? #4 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 8:46 am   Re: Is British English being Americanized?
 

Dozy wrote:
These are just my personal opinions/impressions.

I echo them all.
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Is British English being Americanized? #5 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:19 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Dozy wrote:
Often not. However, software from major vendors (rather than some guy who wrote an app in his bedroom) may have UK English and American English options (these obviously would not be a completely separate program or app, just an installation choice).

Nowadays the ‘major’ software companies such as Apple, Microsoft and Google are more focused on creating software ‘platforms’ rather than software applications themselves. The market is becoming more and more fragmented with new developers emerging constantly. A lot of people own a smartphone or tablet that runs either on Apple’s or Google operating system.

This means that even ‘some guy who wrote an app in his bedroom’ can now have his program distributed to millions of people around the world. He doesn’t even need to do a lot of marketing.

If his app is really good, the customers will find and buy his product themselves. There are all kinds of apps available with all kinds of contents. For example, Britannica has recently announced the discontinuation of its print editions in 2012.

So, instead of paper based encyclopedias people are now using digital resources such as Wikipedia where British contributors work alongside with their American, Canadian and Irish colleagues writing articles on all kinds of topics. Does this form of online collaboration widen or reduce the differences between American and British English? Wikipedia has millions of article in English.

Does anyone know or care how many of them are in British and how many are in American English? Most of the articles are written, edited, changed and updated by a team of people rather than just one writer. Do you think that there are British and American teams or is it more likely that those teams are international?

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Is British English being Americanized? #6 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:29 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Hi Torsten,

Your enlightened views I feel are falling on deaf ears. When a comment like:
Quote:
With enough repetition they may become natural, and if enough people use them for long enough then they will become naturalised in BrE
.
appears, I despair. This quasi clinical approach to language development and change takes no account of what has been happening to English since the time of Alfred the Great and before.

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Is British English being Americanized? #7 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 9:59 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Alan, the underlying motives of this discussion are some of the basic fears and beliefs of all people. We all need stability, a feeling of belonging and control. We all want something that might be called 'national identity' and we want to be proud of our nation's' achievements. We don't want other nations to tell us what to do.

I think you will be hard pressed to find one single country where large parts of its population do NOT complain about the 'Americanization' of their language. Take the Germans for example. There are so many here who say that the German language is in danger of becoming extinct due to the Americans (not so much the British). I would say it's the majority of Germans who think like this, not just a few nationalists.

It's absolutely futile to try and fight the fact that language is constantly changing. There is no such things as 'Americanisms'. There is only new terms, new phrases, new expressions. They are neither American nor British. The French are unhappy about the way their language is being influenced by Americanisms. They introduced a law that forbids the use of such words like Facebook and Twitter in public. Fortunately enough, the words ‘english-test.net’ and ‘English For Winners’ are not on that list (yet)? Long live the institution of ‘freedom of speech’.

PS: I forgot to ask: Who exactly owns the English language?

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Is British English being Americanized? #8 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:17 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Torsten wrote:
PS: I forgot to ask: Who exactly owns the English language?

Noam Chomsky used to own it, but I think he's lost his copyrights.


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Is British English being Americanized? #9 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:41 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Torsten wrote:
I think you will be hard pressed to find one single country where large parts of its population do NOT complain about the 'Americanization' of their language. Take the Germans for example. There are so many here who say that the German language is in danger of becoming extinct due to the Americans (not so much the British). I would say it's the majority of Germans who think like this, not just a few nationalists.

To me, no matter what opinion someone is holding on Americanism in the German language, it is fine with me. What I don't like, however, is hypocrisy. I often come across people who moan and cry about how the evil Americans are invading our language and culture, yet, as they are complaining about it, they use words such as "strange", "kids" and "phat". Overweight Europeans mock at Americans, saying how fat they are but get horribly offended when I tell them, "Well, you're none too thin yourself." I speak and write the American version of English simply because I have lived there for many years. Living in Germany now won't change my English. If some Europeans view me as some invasive weed who helps sowing the seeds of Americanism across Europe, then that's their problem.

Claudia

P.S. I prefer using German words when I speak German, but not because I'm a nationalist. I just like German better that way.
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Is British English being Americanized? #10 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:51 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Hi Ralf. I have an idea. I'll find the guy or company that holds the copyrights of the English language and buy them from him/them. Then I will charge anybody who uses it a fee and I will sue anyone who changes and/or reproduces/distributes it. Why own a book when you can own an entire language?

Let me know if you want to invest into this once-in-a-life-time business opportunity. If you don't want to invest you soon will need to buy a plan to use English just as you do with your utilities or phone. Act now and you will get rich overnight.

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Is British English being Americanized? #11 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 10:58 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

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Hi Claudia,

Very sensible (no, that sounds patronising) very enlightened, well that sounds a bit the same but I hope you know what I'm on about. All I can say is that what you've written is a breath of fresh air. Let all those fussy pedants out there put that in their pipe and smoke it!

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Is British English being Americanized? #12 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 11:00 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Cgk wrote:
P.S. I prefer using German words when I speak German, but not because I'm a nationalist. I just like German better that way.
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.

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Is British English being Americanized? #13 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 11:03 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Torsten wrote:
Hi Ralf. I have an idea. I'll find the guy or company that holds the copyrights of the English language and buy them from him/them. Then I will charge anybody who uses it a fee and I will sue anyone who changes and/or reproduces/distributes it. Why own a book when you can own an entire language?

Let me know if you want to invest into this once-in-a-life-time business opportunity. If you don't want to invest you soon will need to buy a plan to use English just as you do with your utilities or phone. Act now and you will get rich overnight.

Seeing that it is now owned by similarity-based generalisationalists, I'm afraid that our monetary efforts will remain infructuous.
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Is British English being Americanized? #14 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 11:04 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Alan wrote:
Hi Claudia,

Very sensible (no, that sounds patronising) very enlightened, well that sounds a bit the same but I hope you know what I'm on about. All I can say is that what you've written is a breath of fresh air. Let all those fussy pedants out there put that in their pipe and smoke it!

Alan

I second that.
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Is British English being Americanized? #15 (permalink) Sat Mar 24, 2012 11:06 am   Is British English being Americanized?
 

Torsten wrote:
Cgk wrote:
P.S. I prefer using German words when I speak German, but not because I'm a nationalist. I just like German better that way.
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.

I agree, but I think Claudia probably meant people littering down their German by using that 'cool English lingo' (instead of using German words that are readily available).
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