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Why do some Americanisms irritate people? / Language

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British people are used to the stream of Americanisms entering the language. But some are worse than others, argues Matthew Engel.

I have had a lengthy career in journalism. I hope that's because editors have found me reliable. I have worked with many talented colleagues. Sometimes I get invited to parties and meet influential people. Overall, I've had a tremendous time.

Lengthy. Reliable. Talented. Influential. Tremendous.

All of these words we use without a second thought were not normally part of the English language until the establishment of the United States.

The Americans imported English wholesale, forged it to meet their own needs, then exported their own words back across the Atlantic to be incorporated in the way we speak over here. Those seemingly innocuous words caused fury at the time.

The poet Coleridge denounced "talented" as a barbarous word in 1832, though a few years later it was being used by William Gladstone. A letter-writer to the Times, in 1857, described "reliable" as vile.

My grandfather came to London on the outbreak of World War I and never lost his mid-European accent. His descendants have blended into the landscape. That's what happens with immigration. It's the same with vocabulary migration.

The French have always hated this process 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.

That's part of the secret of its success. It has triumphed where Latin, French and the artificial language of Esperanto all ultimately failed, and become the natural medium of global communication. This is the version of English sometimes...

Продолжение читайте в журнале English4U №9 (сентябрь 2011) на который можно подписаться или купить здесь.

22 сентября 2011


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