Queen’s English, Under Threat: Why Are We Talkin’ Like Yanks?
I promise I’m not a prescriptivist when it comes to language. I believe, absolutely, in linguistic evolution. I’m not remotely averse to the following: slang, abbrevs, hashtags, emojis-instead-of-actual-words, contractions – my parents still make me say ‘photograph’ instead of ‘photo’ and ‘telephone’ instead of ‘phone’, which drives me demented enough for me not to correct others – acronyms, or the scatter-gun addiction that we all have to the word ‘like’, thus using it fourteen times per sentence.
But there’s something that’s really irking me. Something which is increasingly prevalent in the fashion world (I’m not implying that it’s a really exotic world, the ‘fashion world’ – more that like most industries it comes with it’s own slightly nauseating terminology) and which I am beginning to feel like the lone sniper, defending the bastion that is the English vocabulary. For in the last few years, American words have begun to replace perfectly serviceable English ones. Making us, I’m sorry to say, sound like slight twats. It’s as bad as a non-Spanish person saying ‘choritho’ instead of ‘chorizo’ – though at least they aren’t changing the entire bloody word when they do. Having debated this one a few times recently, with my long-suffering contemporaries – the ones who are fully British, I don’t mean the ones who happen to be American, or have learnt English as a second language – the current culprits some of my peers enjoy, *gently pukes*, include:
Fall – instead of Autumn. i.e. “I so love the leaves in Fall”. The mortification of someone adopting what sounds like a whole new season, makes me want to weep. If I said this out loud, I think my friends would actually laugh in my face. Of course, it could be that my friends are more combative than those who use the word ‘fall’. Who knows. But I do know that ‘fall’ upsets me more than any other of the American word replacements.
Pants – instead of trousers. Even worse, is the singular ‘pant’. i.e. “I am wearing a strong leather pant, today”. If I told my mother that I was wearing a strong leather pant, she would a) wonder where the other half of my pants had gone and b) presume that I was referring to my knickers. She would therefore assume that I was wearing a gusset-less pair of knickers and would be as disgusted as she was confused and from thereon, the conversation would be strained, stilted and scared.
Mom – instead of ‘mum’. I get it, I get it. The ‘o’ just seems so eggsotic. Like you might go meet your ‘mom’ for Manhattans on 5th and Lexington. Or Lexington and 400th. Who bloody knows. Rolling a languorous ‘mom’ around your mouth instead of the rather curt ‘mum’ is a one man party. In my diary, aged 8 and totally obsessed with all things Americana (Abercrombie and Barnes & Noble was my Babylon), I used to refer to my mother as my ‘mom’. But doing this when you are in primary school, in the confines of your own diary, is markedly dissimilar to adopting a ‘mom’ in your late twenties. Write to your mum and call her ‘mom’ and I guarantee she’ll put you in your place.
Plaid – instead of ‘tartan’. There seems to have been a large amount of confusion about what ‘plaid’ actually is. Indeed, in my many wasted hours trawling online through Zara, ASOS, Topshop and the such like, I am always confused as to why a search for a ‘plaid shirt’ spews forth a totally different selection to when you enter ‘tartan shirt’ into the search bar. Plaid is simply American for tartan. That is IT.
Excuse me while I just wipe my brow and take a strong slug of soda (LOL. I mean fizzy pop.) You’d be hugely mistaken for taking this as me having a pop at the great US of A. I have always been obsessed with the States. For as long as I can remember, all I wanted to do was move to Connecticut, eat salt water taffy, vaykay in Hawaii (rather than, say, anywhere outside of the States, like a true American) and swing my LLBean monogram bags over my white picket fence – which is why when on my gap year, aged 18, whilst the rest of my peers were drinking mushroom milkshakes, covered in UV paint, in Thailand, I chose to do some summer courses at Yale (what with it being in CT).
I am still obsessed with America. Worryingly so, perhaps. I’d give my eye teeth to move to Venice Beach; I want nothing more than to visit the polygamous hub of Salt Lake City; and I’m literally gagging to go to the deep south and eat grits and biscuits. I can name all the states of the USA (test me, g’wan), but I cannot for the life of my begin to name the counties in England. (I know, I know. But blame my school curriculum; we learnt about honeypot traffic jams in Geography, rather than where anything actually is.) But that doesn’t mean I put my trash out on the sidewalk. In Autumn, dear readers, I take my rubbish, I put it on the pavement and when I’m done, I go to bed under my tartan blanket. End of.