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How British companies are undermining English

Nigel Morris-Co...

British companies are replacing English with American: today, the 4th July, just a year after declaring Independence from the EU, it's time Britain declared independence over the USA's adulteration of English.

Walking into London Heathrow's Terminal Four departures area, one is met, face on, by a branch of WH Smith which, ironically, began life as a bookseller, encouraging widespread literacy by planting its outlets in almost every British high street. Now, like so many chains, it's lost its identity and purpose and the outlet in T4 might as well be a 7-Eleven, with newspapers and books forming a part of its offerings which are dominated by junk souvenirs and snack-food. It seems that it has as much shelf-space dedicated to crisps as to non-fiction books other than the global airport plague of self-help and management-light books. Above various shelves, there are signs telling shoppers what they will find. Above the crisps, the sign says "CHIPS."

There is a significant move towards the Americanisation of retail terms: Marks and Spencer, that most British of retailer, calls its Dinner Jackets "Tuxedos." It is not alone: Those most English of men's clothing shops, Moss Bross, the traditional formal wear hire company and the related Savoy Tailors Guild both use the term popularised, but not originating, in the USA.

The slipping in style, where casual clothing is regarded as the norm, is also present at Moss Bross : they refer to office shirts, which should be regarded as the minimum standards of everyday clothing, as "formal." But at least, so far, they have not reached the ludicrous US phraseology of calling check-pattern office or casual shirts "dress shirts" (see https://www.americanologist.co...) and when they do refer to Dress Shirts they are, indeed, those that are for formal wear under a dinner jacket.

Debenhams describe their office shoes range as "Formal and Smart," a description that allows them to put black and brown, plain and brogues on the same page. But they are all smart: there are no "formal" shoes in the sense of dress shoes.

The co-opting of some American words and phrases is not bad, where they enrich English. However, it's bad where it degrades, diminishes even undermines English. English is a living language but largely by way of expansion not by way of substitution by a lesser form or, worse, something that reduces the excellent clarity that English delivers when used properly. After all, we, the English, have adopted words and phrases from all over the world, some via education (Greek) some via conquest (Latin and French), some via our own empire (which has given us a very large portion of what we, today, consider English.)

This article from the BBC in 2013 shows how some Americanisms have enriched English: http://www.bbc.com/news/14130942

But the BBC itself is now guilty of sloppy language, often adopting poor quality Americanisms. On its website, its "Culture" and "Autos" sections are written with an obvious American slant, not only of content (that's a good thing) but in its vocabulary, grammar, phraseology and, even, spelling. Surely, if there is one organisation we should be able to rely on to teach Americans English, the BRITISH Broadcasting Corporation should be it. And yet, even its (hopefully) educational website section "cbeebies" talks of "shows" not "programmes." It's great to see, however, The Clangers featured - or it would be if clicking on one of the links did not report "Firefox has detected that the server is redirecting the request for this address in a way that will never complete." Bugger. That's English, by the way

But, that is changing: in recent articles in both Culture and Autos, we have seen the use of English terms such as "petrol" but there is still "criticizing" and "right now." And across the BBC, abuses such as "protested" instead of "protested against," "envisioned" and (imported from Australia) "across that story" are increasingly common, especially in news broadcasts. We find that interviewers do not contain or correct poor or, even, inaccurate speech by interviewees, so that in a recent interview with a doctor protesting against something or other, he started every answer - literally every answer - with "so," and in an interview with a playwright (and therefore a wordsmith) did not clarify that when she said "weary" she meant "wary." Both of those, irritatingly, were British natives and therefore a mix of American influence via media and failed education is to blame.

English speakers are confronted everywhere with American. We can't control the imperialist march of the US entertainment industry, of computer operating systems and programs (here, we English are happy to use the US term to differentiate computer programmes from the programmes we would get in the theatre) which push American into our lives at every opportunity (why, for example, am I required to put use the spelling "center" when I insert something in HTML?" and why are program menus always in American when a language option is available for e.g. French?

It's time that Britons fought back, sent "awesome," and "literally" back to the dark corners of language where they belong unless they are specifically required, where "transportation" is a rare and highly specialised word and "accommodations" is uttered only in relation to a agreement to compromise.

It's time for independence. United States: stop messing with our language. Learn English and use it properly and stop contaminating our linguistic gene pool.

And most importantly, stop sending us your puerile management speak and chatty phraseology. We are a nation of clear thinkers and clear communicators, or we were until you started to ruin that and many of us want it back.