Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Two countries separated by a common language

Love this piece in the London Guardian, where their readers whine that too many Americanisms are slipping in to the newspaper's copy.

Excerpt: "words to incur the anger of some readers include first lady (for the prime minister's wife), kindergarten (for nursery), lawmakers, upcoming, people being raised rather than brought up, authorities ("I regard the use of the term 'authorities' as an dreadfully ugly American import from the land without style"), scuzzy, a slew of, happenstance, and "the increasing use of vacation for holiday, quite apart from the ghastly staycation."

Heh. Reminds me of Americans complaining about Spanish showing up more and more on billboards and the like. No one wants to change, they only want the words they grew up with.

Also, the end of the article kindly defends "suck."

It kind of reminds me of this, where Seattle film critic (and hilarious writer) Lindy West dared to mention Thanksgiving in a movie review she did for an English paper. Brits FREAKED OUT. NO WE DON'T KNOW THANKSGIVING YOU YANK BASTARDS WE'RE ALL GUY FAWKESING AND BOXING DAYING was pretty much the response.


Alice said...

I was annoyed by the West review when I clicked on it, until I realised it had been republished from the a Seattle paper. If it had been written for the UK, it would be like starting a review in an American paper with "So, you know when you're having your Sunday roast for your pub lunch on a weekend..."

It's not a shared cultural experience, and it would be obnoxious to expect that it would be.

In the same way, the Americanisation of the world is a real problem for people who don't live in the USA. If I wanted to read American papers, I would. Newspapers should reflect the culture they're writing about and for. I don't think it's being disagreeable or resistant to change to want that.

I'm Canadian and live in the UK, and have had to change the way I speak to a certain extent to make myself better understood. It's absolutely not unreasonable to expect journalists to do the same.

Anonymous said...


Brian said...

I distinctly remember as a child some (American) adults who were having a conversation about how the English have different words for things -- "lift" for elevator, "telly" for TV, "tube" for subway, etc. What I remember about it was how they all thought these words were absolutely hilarious. Whatever...

Back in the late '90s an English group had a hit song called "Tubthumping." You may remember the refrain, "I get knocked down, I get back up again, ain't nothing gonna keep me down..." Some Americans, though, were shocked and confused by another line in the song, "Pissing the night away..." Thing is, when a Brit is pissed, that means he's drunk, and pissing means drinking. So the line has nothing to do with urination or anger -- the two things Americans associate the word with.

Shaun Clarkson said...

I think part of the disquiet over using first lady in the UK is that there seems to be a far greater sense in the US that first lady is a formal role. For many of us the person who happens to be married to the PM is just the person who happens to be married to the PM. (And of course for many years that person was Denis Thatcher.)

tlockyer said...

The band responsible for the single "Tubthumping", mentioned above by Brian, is called Chumbawamba: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chumbawamba