Sunday, June 4, 2023

“Two nations divided by a common language”

From Tomiwa Owolade in an article subtitled "the richness of our language is under threat like never before – and an imported culture is to blame":
.... American English has, since the American Revolutionary period of the 18th century, been different from British English in terms of vocabulary, accent and spelling. They say “garbage”, we say “rubbish”. They go on “vacation”, we go on “holiday”. They emphasize, and we emphasise. The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw (probably apocryphally) described us as “two nations divided by a common language”. ....

.... English is the world’s lingua franca (as it were). It’s an official language of 67 of the world’s 195 countries, as well as the UN, the World Trade Organisation, the International Criminal Court, Nato and Eurovision. It’s the international language of business, finance, technology and sport – in fact, anyone who needs to be widely understood. Volodymyr Zelensky tweets two versions of every statement he makes: the first in Ukrainian, the second in English. The latter are always shared far more widely. There are more non-native English speakers in the world than native: 20 per cent speak English, but only five per cent as a first language. Above all, an estimated 60 per cent of all internet content is in English. If you are born as a native English speaker, you have won a raffle ticket. ....

I consume so much American culture. I love American films, music and novels – this is true of countless other British people. The fact that some American words and phrases have been internalised by us makes perfect sense. But we should be wary of too close a connection. As the British writer Matthew Engel put it in his 2017 book That’s the Way it Crumbles: The American Conquest of English: “The child will have eaten its mother, but only because the mother insisted” – by which he means that by 2120, if we acquiesce to its influence, American English will have consumed the British form. The distinctive richness of British English – which is not a homogenous thing, but a wonderful mosaic of dialects and accents – will flatten under the influence of a globalised language experienced through mass culture and politics.

Language is how we make sense of ourselves. Lose it, and we risk being utterly estranged from ourselves. ....
Tomiwa Owolade, "How American jargon infiltrated British English – and our politics," The Telegraph, June 4, 2023.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated. I will gladly approve any comment that responds directly and politely to what has been posted.