Britain Declares War on Words That Snuck into Our Skedule. Last Week, Writer Matthew Engel Declared War on the Americanisms That Are Ruining Our Language and Asked Mail on Sunday Readers for Examples of the Ones They Hated Most. He Was Swamped with Replies
Byline: Matthew Engel
Mark Easton is the BBC home affairs editor. He spent some of his childhood in Winchester, apparently, not Wisconsin. And his job seems unlikely to offer extensive travel opportunities to the United States.
Yet the other night he referred to 'specialty shops' (note the missing i) on the Ten O'Clock News. The rest of his report must have been drowned out by the screaming and spluttering of thousands of Mail on Sunday readers, who share my horror at the way British English is being overwhelmed by a tidal wave of mindless Americanisms.
My article in last week's Review (Say No To The Get-Go) brought forth a huge response, almost all of it supportive. Most gratifyingly, very few of the emails began: 'Hi Matthew.'
I believe language thrives on give and take, but with the United States it is all take. Americans rarely hear any of our words, let alone adopt them. But we are so overwhelmed by everything American that the British have lost their grasp on the difference between our form of English and theirs. This is the reality of 'Can a was cultural imperialism.
Easton was not even speaking good American. 'Specialty stores' would be far more normal in the United States. 'Speciality' (with the i) is a lovely word, full of rolling syllables. His version is the kind of usage that comes out of the mid-Atlantic and needs to be dropped back there, from a great height. And there is a great deal of other useless baggage that needs to be dumped along with it. You offered hundreds more examples.
Top of the long hate-list was probably 'Can I get a coffee?' (and these days it probably would be an overpriced, overmarketed American coffee rather than a nice cup of tea). The answer, says Louisa C., is no '... unless you are planning to clamber over the counter and start fiddling with the steam spouts'.
It was closely followed by 'I'm good' as opposed to 'I'm very well, thank you'. This phrase is even more infuriating when used as an alternative to 'No, thanks', in declining a second helping.
'I just want to yell, "NO, you are NOT good - you might be really, really BAD,"' wailed Patsy Holden.
Other leading hates include 'snuck' as the past tense of 'sneak' and 'dove' as the past tense of 'dive'; driver's license instead of driving licence; overly rather than over; autopsy for post-mortem; burglarized instead of burgled; filling out forms instead of filling them in; fries for chips; chips for crisps; and food to go as opposed to take away. …