Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Some American academics are concerned about the number of British slang words and colloquialisms that are finding their way into the pure and beautiful American language after being picked up from TV shows and films. One particular individual who shall be nameless because he is probably the type of small minded, humourless bastard who would sue, is getting his knickers in a right old twist and throwing hissy fits about it every chance he gets. And what are these colloquialisms he finds so irritatingly un-American? Well his favourites are "gone missing" and "at the end of the day."
When I read this I was like "No Way! That is just so not true. British street slang, gone missing? As if? And it isn't like we are not hearing Americanisms 24/7 is it.
The good professor feels that "gone missing" is a typical example of sloppy British grammar and should never be used instead of that Fine, upright, stars-and-stripes-waving, silver-ring-thinging Americanism "gone astray."
It is a generalisation and very unfair to say that Americans do not get irony, but there is a certain class of American of whom that is true. The "aspirational middle class" not only do not do irony, they do not do humour at all. And so the effect of "gone missing" is lost on them. When something has gone missing it implies an act of will was involved. Things go astray in the mail, people go missing with the funds from the social club. Other than that, gone astray is no more American than Apple Pie (which is actually German, it was brought to Britain by the Saxons.) "Gone astray" is perfectly standard English grammar and to use it where "gone missing" is more appropriate it to condemn us all to that sterile and colourless version of English spoken by corporate managers, the style immortalised in that early Microsoft Grammar checker that would have had us change references to Dick Van Dyke into Penis van Lesbian.
The other phrase singled out for attention is "at the end of the day." Now I can't understand how this was noticed as BBC America does not screen Football Focus, nor even Soccer Focus. "At the end of the day" does not strike me as particularly British, in fact it has the idiom of those American management buzz words and phrases that began to creep into the language in the 1970s. You know, the ones that use ten words when one would do, "at this moment in time" instead of "now", "we have an ongoing situation" instead of "we're clueless," etc.
We are told however that it is mightily offensive to use "at the end of the day" instead of that modest and unpretentious phrase "in the end." Now when have you ever heard an American say "in the end" rather than "in the final analysis." American English loves wordiness, police officers say "I need for you to stand up" instead of just "stand up please," salesmen say "I have to meet with" rather than "I have to meet," blind to the sheer impossibility of meeting yourself.
Americans also have this tendency to overqualify, where we would go horse riding, an American goes horseback riding. What other part of a horse would you ride FFS (Guys who are into bestiality need not answer). optical aids, a British person would simply say, my vision is not what it used to be, I need to get some glasses, but an American would call them eyeglasses? What other kind of glasses would you get to help you read a book, a pair of shot glasses? Champagne glasses? Real estate? Who would buy fake estate?
At the end of the day of course, these are trivial matters but annoying because it is another example of America's habit of claiming everything as its own, for example, splitting the atom, inventing the computer, Catherine Zeta Jones, apple pie and now the English language.
With respect to our American friends here at Boggart Blog we think it is time we fought back. We should recruit bloggers around the world, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Jamaica, South Africa, India, Pakistan and we should overwhelm American academic institutions with slang, patois, lingua franca and parliari.
American my khyber! They'll soon be on their twos and threes begging for mercy if we start to throw rhyming slang at them. After a few days the guy who started this bollocks will be as sick as a parrot if he comes near this gaff. This is a place where we celebrate English like what it is spoke.
I will start tomorrow if I can find a window in my diary.
Parliari (Polari) the underground slang - aka parliari - was orignially used by travellers and circus folk. Later it evolved into Polari, the slang of showbusiness people, prostitutes, drug users and homosexuals, people who might not want morally uptight individuals knowing what they were talking about.
If you are as irreverent as I am here is the Bible in polari
Online slang dictionary
Cockney Rhyming Slang
more rhyming slang
The dictionary of britspeak
The Greenteeth Labyrinth
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