Thursday, March 24, 2005

On Britspeak and the origin of A Capital Idea

A story in the LA Times discusses the growing number of Briticisms making their way into American speech, including "queuing up," "went missing" and "at the end of the day."

Why are they more prevalent lately?
"We've always had a cultural inferiority complex with regard to the Brits," Stanford University linguist Geoffrey Nunberg says, "that they speak correctly and we don't. We even say we 'use the queen's English.' And why should that matter to us?"

Just such intellectual Anglophilia may be what's behind a virus that's infecting American media these days: Britspeak. We have become a nation of journalistic copycats, betraying perfectly good American idioms along the way.

Adding British expressions to your vocabulary, Nunberg says, "makes you sound pragmatic, a little cynical." Smart, in other words. And it's a cottage industry in some quarters.
I find that Britspeak crops up in my writing and speech when I watch BBC series (I can't get enough of "Wives and Daughters" and "Pride and Prejudice") or read British novels. (In fact, the name "A Capital Idea" came from watching P&P; one character is always saying "Capital, capital," and it was stuck in my mind.)

All that being said, take a couple of minutes to read the whole article. It's a fun -- but quick -- read.

4 Comments:

At 5:27 AM, March 25, 2005, Anonymous ana said...

Interesting complaint, but not really persuasive at the end of the day.

First of all, I don't think "disappeared" is "American."

Second, more "Americanisms" have crept into British English than the vice versa. Many more. (And into French, and Spanish, and Russian....)

Finally, there's absolutely nothing wrong with finding new ways to express ourselves. We adopt words and phrases from other languages, so why not from other dialects of our own?

Cheers. (Shhhh! A Britishism! Don't tell Timothy Kenny!)

 
At 2:00 PM, March 25, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

I didn't read it as a complaint as much as an observation.

And I certainly don't have a problem with the practice. But it's an interesting phenomenon to note (if indeed it is an increasing trend; I'm not convinced).

 
At 4:24 AM, March 26, 2005, Anonymous ana said...

I think this graf is the main reason I read it as a complaint:

Just such intellectual Anglophilia may be what's behind a virus that's infecting American media these days: Britspeak. We have become a nation of journalistic copycats, betraying perfectly good American idioms along the way.

I wonder if it really is an increasing trend? Kenny seems to have documented a rise in the use of certain British terms or phrases, but I suspect those might be the lasted entries on a long list of expressions that have crossed the pond.

 
At 11:45 PM, March 29, 2005, Blogger Paul said...

It's inevitable that words will cross the Atlantic, the Pacific and the Tasman. I'll allow ''Americanisms'' in the paper and ''Britishisms'' as long as they don't grate too much on local ears. Using sidewalk for footpath would be one such example. The expression A Capital Idea ideally illustrates why that should be the case.

 

Post a Comment

<< Home