Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 22, 2005
By: Kevin Drum

BRITSPEAK....This is a little off the beaten path, but journalism professor Timothy Kenny writes today that he's concerned about the invasion of Britspeak in the U.S. media:

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.

....In major newspapers and in broadcast media, we "send up" instead of "parody"; our thoughts reach a "full stop" instead of merely ending. A correct answer is "spot on" rather than "dead on." And corporate heads get "sacked" instead of "fired."

More widely used are "went missing" and its close relative, "gone missing." Over the last 10 years, the elite American news media have begun to use the phrases willy-nilly, avoiding the perfectly good American "has disappeared" or "is lost."

Now, I'm sure that Kenny wrote this partially tongue in cheek, but at the same time it's pretty obvious that it really does annoy him. Why are we allowing solid, honest Americanisms to be replaced by British affectations?

But of course, that's not necessarily what it is. More likely, it's just an example of cultural globalization. The only difference is that instead of the French whining about American phrases taking over a process that Americans shrug at this time we're the ones on the receiving end. And even though English is the ultimate in bastard languages already, we don't like it so much when cultural globalization works in the opposite direction.

On the scale of linguistic imperialism, then, apparently an occasional Bollywood film is OK, but using the phrase "went missing" once every two weeks in the New York Times is stepping over the line. Who knew that Americans had such Gallic touchiness about their slang?

Kevin Drum 11:52 AM Permalink | Trackbacks

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