Thursday, 21 July 2011

List Mania

Again on the BBC website, the Blether Region spotted this list of 50 Americanisms. There's no better guarantee of raising the ire of true-blood Britons — particularly the right-wing variety — than drawing attention to the aberrant linguistic habits of their cousins in the New World, and the article has already attracted over 1,000 comments.

At its best the "Americanisms" discourse can be a source of exquisite satire, as in the repeated use of the word "acreage" in Rev. Glenworthy's creaking monotone towards the end of The Loved One — underlining the number-crunching, hypocritical venality of "spiritual" mid-60s California. More often than not, however, it is the complainants who seem ripe for satire.

Looking through the list, it's difficult not to come to the conclusion that most of the examples are entirely innocuous modernisms rather than linguistic usages that separate those on the two sides of the Atlantic. Others, such as to "wait on", while perhaps not current in London, will be well known to residents of Northern Ireland, aptly illustrating a tendency towards the parochial among those at the centre of things. Indeed, one contributor even takes umbrage at the term "Scotch-Irish", apparently believing, as Queen Victoria did of "lesbianism", that it describes a physical impossibility.

Perhaps it's time the Ulster-Scots Agency sent a delegation to England.

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