As I was browsing Google News this morning, I came across a piece with readers’ responses to an article on the use of Americanisms in Britain. Given my interest—or perhaps obsession—with language, I thought I would make a few remarks on the BBC readers’ comments.
I agree that some of the phrases that have ‘seeped’ into British usage are annoying or even ridiculous. For example:
15. What kind of word is “gotten”? It makes me shudder. Julie Marrs, Warrington
Yes, ‘gotten’ is terrible.
32. Going forward? If I do I shall collide with my keyboard. Ric Allen, Matlock
I’m sorry this phrase has entered your lexicon. It should be purged from all variants of English. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard this phrase used by talking heads on CNN, MSNBC, NBC, PBS, etc.
16. “I’m good” for “I’m well”. That’ll do for a start. Mike, Bridgend, Wales
Yes, ‘I’m good’ is not grammatically correct and we should always say ‘I’m well’. Still, this person’s remark seems to presume that Brits always use perfect grammar (or at least use correct grammar more often that Americans).
Some of the phrases BBC readers mention are, however, rarely used by Americans, so it’s strange that they have entered British usage. For example:
2. The next time someone tells you something is the “least worst option”, tell them that their most best option is learning grammar. Mike Ayres, Bodmin, Cornwall.
I rarely hear this phrase used.
3. The phrase I’ve watched seep into the language (especially with broadcasters) is “two-time” and “three-time”. Have the words double, triple etc, been totally lost? Grammatically it makes no sense, and is even worse when spoken. My pulse rises every time I hear or see it. Which is not healthy as it’s almost every day now. Argh! D Rochelle, Bath
I’m curious as to how Brits are using these phrases, since Americans do not use them as equivalents for ‘double’ and ‘triple’. We say ‘two-time world champion’ or ‘three-time gold glove winner’. It wouldn’t make sense to say ‘double champion’ or ‘triple gold glove winner’.
22. Train station. My teeth are on edge every time I hear it. Who started it? Have they been punished? Chris Capewell, Queens Park, London
I’m not sure what the problem is here. Why is ‘rail station’ superior to ‘train station’?
29. I’m a Brit living in New York. The one that always gets me is the American need to use the word bi-weekly when fortnightly would suffice just fine. Ami Grewal, New York
I don’t think ‘fortnight’ has ever been common in American usage. I must admit that it’s a nice word, but Americans simply don’t use it.
Finally, as the author of the original piece on Americanisms notes:
The French have always hated this process [‘vocabulary migration'] with a very Gallic passion, and their most august body L’Academie Francaise issues regular rulings on the avoidance of imported words. English isn’t like that. It is a far more flexible language. Anarchic even.