Short Saturday: Cuts Both Ways

I have to say I always feel a little blindsided when I read about someone like Matt Engel nearly losing his religion because 312 million Americans use the word wrench instead of spanner. Like … what? (Scratches head.)

But let’s be fair. Not all British folk are whiney babies like Matt. The Brits I know have a good sense of humor and are more inclined to enjoy—dare I say celebrate?—our linguistic differences. (Here’s an example.) And besides, those differences are lessening daily, and not just because of Americanisms.

We have Britishisms too. Oh, yesss! And we have the unruffled, unflappable, unthreatened Ben Yagoda to track them for us. I discovered him around the same time I discovered Matt’s tantrum, when he wrote a response for Slate:

Journalist Matthew Engel took to the BBC website to bemoan the corrupting influence of U.S. words on British English. Readers were invited to weigh in with their picks for the worst of the worst, and within a day, nearly 1,300 had responded, with nominations including Can I get a …?, 24/7, and deplane. (“Johnson”—the Economist’s language blogger—pointed out that most of the entries weren’t Americanisms at all, but rather clichés, neologisms, or merely expressions that happened to annoy the complainer.)

Read a little further and you’ll discover Yagoda has a wonderful blog in which he’s tracking this British invasion. :) (His blogroll is a great source, too, yielding Separated by a Common Language among other delights.)

So … we’re cool, right? I’ve done an informal poll and, seriously, we’re not too concerned about this issue on the Yank side of the pond. The only thing that bugs us are fake accents. You know: like when Madonna moved to London back in late 2000 and married Guy Ritchie and six months later started talking like a toff. For that, at least 300 million Americans rolled their eyes. Oh please.

UPDATE: There’s more on this subject here.

Tweet: Separated by a common language: Americanisms & Britishisms.
Tweet: I say we should celebrate our linguistic differences, not whine about them!

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