The state of British English
It seems that every six months or so, there's a discussion about the state of English in Britain. More often than not these arguments focus on the "sloppy speech" of youths who miss out letters, or the ever present threat of "Americanisms" which will destroy our beautiful language.
I usually have several problems with this:
Firstly, overtime most peoples' speech improves between adolescense and adulthood, and also throughout adulthood.
Secondly, English is constantly changing in pronunciation. Look, for example, at the spelling of words to see how much English has changed over 600 years- who pronounces the "k" in "knock" or "knee" or even starts to pronounce the "gh" in "night". No doubt at one time "knee" and "night" were closer to German "Knie" and "Nacht".
Most Americanisms that people cite are often nothing of the sort. Some of the ones that people mention such as "fall" for autumn are words that have only fallen out of use in the last hundred years in Britain.
What do you think?
British English is much better than American English. I like to think of British as the language of Shakespeare, but American as the language of the Big Mac.
American English is lazy English, because it butchers beautiful British English to create a "shorthand" version of English.
Whenever someone describes a language as "lazy," I know they are not a credible commentator.
Sort of like having a political discussion and someone suddenly suggests that the "Jews" and the "Freemasons" are behind it all.
I think that the English are doing a really, really good job at fouling up the standards of spoken English very well indeed on their own and they don't need any help from the Americans or anyone else.
addendum: I really like the use of the word "Fall" as in the season of the year. It's much more descriptive than boring old autumn.....it conjures up images of red and gold and brown and orange leaves gently drifting down from the trees.
"American English is lazy English, because it butchers beautiful British English to create a "shorthand" version of English."
Wow, you are really an idiot, Adam. It was the British who decided to be lazy by dropping their final R's. You used to pronounce them, but now you don't. We still pronounce them here in most of our accents and are thus not as lazy as the British.
Hey RYAN...let's have a wee bit of balance here! OK the British dropped the R's. I'm sorry to inner'rupt here but what happened to the American T's? Maybe that doesn't madder so much.
I think Rick and Damian make interesting points in that sometimes some UK traditionalists assume that any new innovation to English which they don't happen to like must be an "Americanism." For example, I've heard several woefully uninformed British commentators complain about the pronunciation "conTROversy" as compared to "CONtroversy," as an "Americanism," when all Americans have ever known has been traditional "CONtroversy." The first time I ever heard "conTROversy" was from a British professor I had.
Damian, well, look at Estuary English, where /t/ is extremely frequently glottal-stopped (as opposed to flapped, as with intervocalic /t/ in NAE, even though my dialect will very often glottal-stop syllable coda-final /t/ if it follows a sonorant of some sort and is not followed by a vowel, which would cause it to be flapped), so you can't say that this kinda thing is really unique to NAE. ;)
LOL I just knew someone would chuck in Estuary English here!
Agreed! Much of Estuary England especially is making the "T" obsolete when they occur in certain parts of words...like in the middle mostly. They can' very well drop initial le'er Ts wivout i' sounding really stupid. I mean, Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club would become 'O'en'ham 'O'spurs Foo'ball Club wouldn' i'? Tha's carrying Es'uary 'oo far. Tha's plain silly.
It would be really cool if the Queen gave her annual Christmas speech this year in pure Estuary. That really would be mega democratic.....after all Tony Blair blatantly lapses into Estuary when he sees some personal or political advantage in it. I would also have to apologise for what I said in my earlier post. LOL Isn't the variety of English in all its forms fascinating!
As I recall, Blair was heavily chastised early on when he spoke in Estuary during an interview.
Damian, it intrigues me how often you discuss the spread of Estuary since you're from north of the border, so to speak. I knew that Estuary had conquered much of the midlands, but has it actually travelled as far as Scotland, as well?
I thought Damian's Tottenham Hotspurs Estuary English was reasonably accurate even if he thinks its silly.
I think Estuary English gets way too much attention, I've not heard too many examples of it spreading outside of the South East what ever some journalists say- usually the same journalists who hardly ever travel outside of London. There are urban english accents which have developed all over Britain, some even share similarities, but I doubt its spread directly from London.
Trends that have started in London usually fail to gain much support outside of the South East- take for example the early 18th Century change from short a to ah sound e.g. bath, grass and glass to bahth, grahss, and glahss. Much of the rest of Britain has tended to stick to the original pronunciation, but the ah sound has largely been adopted in Australia and New Zealand.
The above should have read early 19th Century
"Agreed! Much of Estuary England especially is making the "T" obsolete when they occur in certain parts of words...like in the middle mostly. They can' very well drop initial le'er Ts wivout i' sounding really stupid. I mean, Tottenham Hotspurs Football Club would become 'O'en'ham 'O'spurs Foo'ball Club wouldn' i'? Tha's carrying Es'uary 'oo far. Tha's plain silly. "
That's not silly. Compared to the dialect of English known as Scots, Estuary English looks normal.
Someone posted this on another language forum, saying why they prefer British English over American Engllish -
" I much prefer the attitude of the British. They have enough respect for the language to use correct spelling, clear enunciation and to observe the correct use of prepositions and general grammar. On the other hand, some Americans seem to like reinventing the language as they go.
In any realm where people share, there must be standards. Imagine if I (as a hypothetical engineer), decide to use my own unique version of the metric system. I think it is much easier and faster to callibrate ruler I am making by sight, as opposed to using internationally standardised measuring instruments. Sure, I can make my ruler quickly, but what are the ramifications for anyone unfortunate enough to use the drawings made with my ruler?
I strongly believe standards must be preserved, even if they are sometimes complex, and even if they do contain irregularities. I believe American English represents a 'dumbing-down' of the language.
It is not my intention to offend users of American English, users of the imperial system of measurement or anyone else who cares little for international standards. I'm just curious as to how and why (if there is a reason) there is so much variation. "