It's Time to Rise Up and Throw Prime Mary Lee out of Britain; Keep Americanisms out of English; Say No to the GET-GO

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), June 13, 2010 | Go to article overview

It's Time to Rise Up and Throw Prime Mary Lee out of Britain; Keep Americanisms out of English; Say No to the GET-GO


Byline: Matthew Engel

Three weeks ago, MATTHEW ENGEL lamented the number of ugly Americanisms swamping the English language. Since then, hundreds of Mail on Sunday readers have joined his campaign to stop the onslaught - and inspired him to start a weekly dispatch on the latest offenders...

We are not alone in the fight against American linguistic domination. Last week the Queen's English Society announced plans to set up an academy to try to protect the language.

Well, I don't want to fall out with possible allies, but I can't think of anything more ghastly. The last thing we need is a group of pompous old prunes issuing commands about what is and is not correct. It doesn't work in France, and it certainly wouldn't work in Britain.

English - or at any rate the simplified version of it that the writer Robert McCrum calls 'globish' - is taking over the world largely because it is so adaptable and flexible. Unlike French. But the Keep out of language of the United Kingdom is not globish. It isn't really the Queen's English either. It's British English or plain old English, and it has infinite variety, depending on region, age and, yes, class. I think it's rather wonderful.

As any gardener knows, you need to water and weed to keep everything beautiful. There is nothing wrong with a few daisies, but if you don't rip out nettles and bindweed, everything gets strangled.

That's what this campaign is all about. Like a neglected flower bed, our language is being wrecked by ugly American usages, spreading because no one thinks or cares enough to stop them.

We don't need a new academy because this isn't about right and wrong; it's about good and bad. And anyway, one already seems to exist: nearly 1,000 Mail on Sunday readers have signed up in the past fortnight by responding to these columns.

I have to warn that some battles are unwinnable. 'Gay' has changed its meaning, and that's the end of the discussion. And your children have gone - they are all 'kids' now.

But on other fronts, the policy must be No Surrender. The most effective remedy would be the abolition of 24-hour news channels and breakfast TV, both American imports of no merit. Readers report numerous cases of 'upcoming' items at 'the top of the hour'.

Simon King, of Birdwatch, is accused of saying 'on the weekend'; Gary Lineker allegedly refers to 'ama-chuh' golfers; and Radio 2 DJ Steve Wright is apparently so addicted to giving the time with such formulations as 'nine to three' that one reader is terrified he will start saying 'five after' instead of 'five past'.

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