Tag Archives: Anglo-American relations

Not One-off Britishisms

Hands across the water!

Via a fairly circuitous route, which involved a curiously beguiling essay about commas, I fell across the above titled blog of Ben Yagoda, a professor of English at the University of Delaware.

Yagoda’s fascination is how distinctly British English is finding a toe-hold in American pop culture. I’m not sure I had consciously considered it before, but I find this equally fascinating. The onslaught in the opposite direction is obvious and, given the population ratio, understandable. That English is the dominant language of the United States is, of course, a quirk of history. That this small island, stubbornly detached from the continent it is part of, is the origin of what almost passes as a global language is in itself remarkable.

The two branches of the language quickly set off on different, and diverging, tracks many generations ago. So it is of considerable interest that the old country can still exert any influence at all on American English.

Probably born out of the leg-up that a broadly similar native language gives, the disproportionate success of UK artist (principally in acting, but often in music as well) is something that has struck me as notable. One simply has to leaf through Entertainment Weekly, in which barely a page goes by without some British reference, or listen to the sound system in a North American ball park, to ‘get’ the British influence.

But influence the day-to-day cadence of American speech? Never, or so I would have thought. To be fair, the examples Yagoda blogs about don’t exactly add up to a seismic cultural shift, but is gives me a warm wet feeling to think us Brits can still punch far above our weight when it comes to changing the world!

Tagged ,