27 November 2010

"trippingly on the tongue"...

      Ever since I read yesterday's entertaining Guardian article on the incursion of Americanisms into UK print media, our English language has been much on my mind. The article's central complaint sounded like this: the increasing reliance by British journalists on American English, including the especially vile American slang, is despoiling otherwise engaging articles whose points would be better appreciated if the language used to explain them was British English. The comments, in the main, reflected a hot-headed intolerance for US idiomatic imperialism and linguistic banditry.

      Some examples? "Can I get' vs. "May I have?", the suffix, "ize" vs. "ise', expressions such as "going postal", "my bad", "impacted" as a verb, "dude", "do the math", etc. I generally agree with the argument against the vernacular, although one of my favorite observations noted that the word for describing complaints about Americanisms was the same in British and American English: "petty". Undeniably, English is a rich, dynamic language and its inventive refashioning in the form of slang has had an indelible effect on languages worldwide. The fact that people care passionately about this is good.

     Then, last evening, I saw another example of this passion for our shared language via an interview with MK Asante, an author, filmmaker, and professor of creative writing, and Akala, a hip-hop artist who founded The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, a theater production company in London. They discussed the impact of hip hop on the English language and noted that it served as an means to enliven and enrich rather than compromise our tongue.  Akala recited Shakespeare's 18th sonnet, "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day', in a spirited hip hop cadence that was irresistible. What I found so exciting about the interview was the enthusiasm these gentleman feel for the work they do, for the obvious mutual respect they share, and their heartfelt mission to bring language to life with an unconventional approach. They get my vote for "Role Models of the Week".

Postscript: Please investigate the superb blog linked in the Guardian article and now here in my Reading List a droit, courtesy of its author, Lynne Murphy, a Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language at the University of Sussex.

1 comment:

Mark Harris said...

Hello, I liked your post. I recently blogged about this subject in the light of the actress Penelope Keith's remarks that Americanisms make her shudder. Cool US words: shellacking, boondoggle, scuttlebutt, careen, bobbasheely, willy-wags.
If you're interested, here's my post...

Penelope Keith 0-1 Great Linguistic Satan

Keep up the good work!