With a Texan in the office, the British English vs American English topic is one that comes up relatively frequently.
These discussions not only cover spelling and grammar (offence vs offense, organisation vs organization and so on), but also various terms that are used widely in one version of the language, and not so much in the other.
The majority of the expressions that are not mutually used are normally comprehensible, and often self-explanatory. “Piece of junk” is one of my personal favourite ‘Texanisms’, used when referring to a piece of equipment when it doesn’t function properly.
There are a number of people who have very strong views on the subject. Several have recently written to The Guardian, accusing journalists of using “ugly Americanisms”. David Marsh argues in his article in The Guardian that new phrases and terms “enrich language” whatever their origin. Then again, if we begin to use American terms when perfectly acceptable English terms are available, do we risk losing the English expressions for good? If we do rule out the use of American English, should we also neglect to use French terms, such as “déjà vu” or “laissez faire”?
The Guardian has commented that they do not write specifically for a British English readership, in fact 60% of Guardian readers live outside the UK. However, the newspaper does employ British English. At the (slightly sarcastic) request of one reader, a glossary has been created, so that British readers of The Guardian can fully understand the articles in the paper.
So the debate continues. Does American English pose a threat to the survival of British English and our Anglicisms, or should we embrace another culture and incorporate its phrases and terms into our mutual language?
The debate will continue in our office for a while to come, I’m sure. I have learnt a lot working alongside Jennifer – my American English vocabulary has increased tenfold!
15 December 2010 09:03