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29 October 2014
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Language change
Elsewhere on BBCi
American words make it into the dictionary
Elsewhere on the web
Is America ruining English?
Americanisation: a four-letter word

In Your Area
What do you think about your local accent?
Talk about Voices in your area

Did You Know?
'Booze' is an anglicised version of the word 'busen', borrowed from the Dutch term meaning to 'drink to excess'.

Semantic change
Intrusive 'R'

Your comments

Josh from London
I realise that languages are always changing or evolving, but what I dislike about American habits of writing is the lackadaisical attitude to English. Many 'new' words or phrases are coined because people are simply lazy or don't know enough about existing language usage. As an example, in the US, many people will often say "I could care less" when they actually mean "I couldn't care less". But the practice is now so widespread that it's become acceptable colloquial usage. My impression is that there's little love for the English language in the US. You only have to take a look at the quality of written content from blogs (penned mainly by white, educated middle-class Americans) to see how apparent this is!

Marcus, New York City
Has to be "at this time" or "at this hour" beloved by American newscasters and aped by the BBC. Why use three words when three letters are adequate, that is "now"?

Ricardo from Brazil
I prefer American English to British English, because the former has words that are more proper phonetically. Why will you write "caesium", if you say "cesium"? There's no reason. Someone might think that it happens due to phonetic "heritage", but where is the "æ"? Shouldn't these letters be linked; "a e" has a different sound from "æ".

Isabel, Perthshire.
Misuse of "may" and "might" annoys me. e.g. "He may have been saved if help had come sooner." No! He might have been saved." The word "may" implies doubt about the outcome.

Mike B. from South Carolina (USA)
In our defense, there is certainly a marked distinction between normal variations and improper usage. "Should've" is a contraction that, while perhaps worth avoiding in writing, is typical speech. Converting that to "should of" drives many of us completely batty. Rather, let me point out the general lack of ability to capitalize, spell, and punctuate. Those, I think, irk us all to no end. I think a lot of it boils down to phonetic spelling -- phonics has been touted as the solution to children learning to read easily. But when it comes time to write, they write phonetically as well. Consequently, normal dialect pronunciation becomes an incorrect spelling -- that's not American, it's just lazy.

Colin from Oxford
I agree with Tony from Reading. Uptalking (he calls it AQI) is rapidly taking over speech in the UK. It's like a disease. I was never this bad a year or two ago. I hear people from all ages uptalking and it makes me cringe. My theory; a lot of US TV shows on UK TV and people imitate it thinking they sound cool. They don't sound cool; they just stupid and unsure of themselves.

claire from london
The word research should be pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, as in re-SEARCH, but increasingly I hear it pronounced as RE-search. That's wrong. The same goes for "finance".

Rob from Essex
I studied English at UNI. (short for university); that is, language not literature. People are snobs. A lot of the comments on this board are based on ignorance. If people are more concerned with the language as some sort of museum/zoo exhibit, rather than its use as a means to communicate, they should start learning Esperanto. English is fascinating and flexible. This is because of the history of the English speakers and colonisation of the world of which English speakers have been very adept. Notice I did not end my sentence with a preposition. What a hero

Elizabeth, Hampshire
There aren't really any things that annoy me. I think that language is used to communicate and so what if we say "Me and you" not "you and I"? they know what we mean, what difference does this make to general life? I think silly things like that are just people being padantic over what people say and how they say it.

Kay Harrington from Battersea
Why have we lost the use of the Present Participle with the verbs 'to sit/stand'? Even educated journalists now commonly say or write 'is sat/stood' instead of 'is sitting/standing'. Has this come from a dialect or is it just ignorance?

Jane Rafferty from Newcastle
Pronouncing the word "chav" to rhyme with "have" annoys me no end.It may come as no surprise that there have been charvers on Tyneside for many years-the abbreviation "charv",which has been in common parlance in Newcastle for ages,rhymes with carve.

Edward H.K.
I agree with many of the comments above. However I feel that as English an international language we cannot stop it from eventually changing. I feel that the most important thing we can do is to pass on what we feel are the correct rules to our children and so forth.

Alicia Mitchell from London
I think that saying 'twenty-oh-five' is very sensible- we don't say that the battle of Hastings happened in 'one thousand and sixty-six', do we? Some things that does annoy me is the use of 'to be honest' and '..if you know what I mean', as well as people responding to statements with 'Really?' or 'Seriously?' What do they expect you to say back- 'No, I'm just pulling your leg'? Overall, I have to agree with a lot of what people have been saying about accepting changes in language. I suspect that if you you went back in time and tried to have a chat with Chaucer he'd, like, totally not get you.

Sharon Bell, Stevenage
To David Dewar... surely what people are saying is "should've" rather than "should of"? That's a typical example of people saying stuff that's correct when they don't know that it's correct and therefore don't look for a normal spelling (the same as "used to" becoming "use to" . I think it would really help kids if, in school, they would get more teaching about dialect and slang. It's important to your identity to be able to use your dialect and write in it, and it's important for getting on in the world to be able to know what's dialect and what not, so you can switch to a more "standard" English to communicate with strangers. Take a tip from the German speaking areas of Switzerland where the kids are deliberately taught high German in school so they can speak to strangers and they can relate what they read (all in high German) to what they say at home and in the playground.

Charlie Goring from Eastbourne
Has anybody commented yet on the entry into the UK of the antipodean triple diphthong? I refer, of course, to the way young people pronounce the word 'o'. When I was young (I'm 45) kids said 'naaa' for 'no'. Now they come out with a strange Australian sound. This must come from Neighbours. Eastenders has clearly promoted estuary English (so carefully cultivated by Mr Blair). Ad then Friends has had a lot to answer for with all its 'kinda likes' etc. Perhaps we could coin the term Eastfriendbers to describe how young people speak today.

miriam, yorkshire
what really, really makes me cross is this: why has everyone started saying "please fill OUT the form" instead of "please fill IN the form" ?? They always say it at the bank and at the post office, for example. It gets me hopping mad! I have asked people why this is, and they pretend not to know what I am talking about! I am pretty sure it is an americanism, and I am surprised that no one has mentioned it already!

Derek from Telford
Thomas from Philadelphia raises an interesting issue. The words schedule and school both came into English from old French through Latin from Greek. Schedule is from the old-French word cedule (with a soft c or "sh") and school from escole (a hard c or "esk") hence the differing pronunciation of the 'sch' prefix. The problem arose when the spelling of both words was defined as beginning with "sch". Pronouncing schedule with a soft c is now common in British English today. Conversely to your reaction, and without wishing to be offensive, I find the pronunciation of schedule with a hard c to be reminiscent of "finger-nails scraping down a blackboard".

Eleanor from Warrington
'Ahead of' Where did that come from? It is continually used in place of 'before' on the radio and in the press. Why? Is it an Americanisation? Does anyone know why it is used so much now?

Kate from Wales
It's "sitting on" not "sat on" - thank you, now I've got that off my chest!

Jennie from Chesterfield
Some of the uses of language mentioned above do annoy me as I speak fairly standard English. However, lifes too short to worry about someone saying should've or could've instead of should have or could have. As long as you can communicate with those you wish to, it doesn't matter how you speak (or write).

Lee from London
I detest those who say "should of" or "could of" instead of "should have" and "could have". Many people do not even know that the former expressions are completely incorrect! This is often confused by people when it is abbreviated to "should've" and "could've", although I am pretty sure that these people would never have seen these words written incorrectly in books or newspapers, so why many people continue to write such things is a total mystery to me!

Colin Hall from Dundee
It's interesting to see how many people have stopped writing adjectives of nationality with capital letters. Is this because of the influence of French and German? At the moment this is wrong in English, but I presume it will become correct, just as spring, autumn etc. are no longer written with capitals as I was taught as a boy.

Nick Russell from Herefordshire
If children at primary schools are called 'students', what do we call young men and women who are studying at university? On the subject of which, when I was at university, 25 years ago, no-one had ever heard of the word 'uni'. Can it really have entered British English from an Australian soap opera?

Cathy, Surrey UK
In response to Thomas from Philadephia - I believe that the British pronouce schedule 'shedule' because I think it originated from german, like 'schnell' which I think is pronouced the same in the UK and US. However, having said this, the word 'School' which might be from the german 'schule' isn't pronouced using the same rule - it just goes to show, the pronunciation rules of our language are mad!

Barbara M from Prestatyn
People saying zero instead of O (like the letter) when quoting telephone numbers. What is worse sometimes you will hear both used in the same number. How about quick instead of short - many television presenters seem to be fond of announcing that they are about to have a quick break when they about to go to commercials - most irritating.

Mark S from Durham
By far the most annoying linguistic change has to be the use of southern dialect pronoun "Mum" in north eastern newspapers. It's not 'wrong' (no dialect term is) but it is simply not reflective of the dialects of the region. Its use may erode my favourite dialect term - "Mam".

Helen, Glasgow
The americanisation of our dates annoys me! Even the BBC newreaders have started doing it! For example, 'July 4th' instead of 'the 4th of July' or 'July the 4th'. Really really irritating...

Mark from Birkenhead
What is this new black influnced acent that youngsters are taking up? Presumably they thinks it makes them sound cool but saying 'fink' and 'aks' instead of think and ask just makes them seem desparate to be cool. There's a difference. Also, how many americans have trouble with the word 'understand'. Here's a clue, there's no 'h' but there is a 'd'. It's understand, not unnershtand. Rant over.

anthony ,UK now Germany
I share many of the frustrations expressed above (particularly annoying for me is the dropping of pronouns) ... but the English (Americans neither for that matter)no longer own the english language. It is being shaped by all those whose mother tongue is not English. I work in an international environment where constantly i have to listen to 'nails scraping on a blackboard', and where if i don't understand what someone has said i'm seemingly, the one at fault. So watch out .. it will get worse... i mean worse, not different!

XiaoMa from China
I've been taught American English as my second language since I got to study English.Yet, at the time I landed at the British Isles I started to find British dialects more articulate and be saving my tongue out of rolling to intonate that difficult "r" sound

John, Gosport
I used to get upset by Americanisation of 'British' English, but I find it less distressing now. As I moved around the country I realised that there are many English dialects that were different to the 'British' English I knew. Then I met some Australians and some West Indians and discovered that they have different ways of saying things as well. But it wasn't until I did a little research into the origins of words that I really realised what a 'living' language is all about. English IS a live language, it is growing and changing. It WILL acquire different words, pronunciation and grammar. We have been getting 'new' words from different countries for years - ever since 'Brits' started traveling the globe. Now America has taken over the mantle of world leader and language spreader - so we get Americanisms. There is nothing that we can do about that, except sit back and enjoy the language as it is and marvel at the way it changes. That is much more fun that trying to kill a living language. After all, its only dead languages that remain constant.

April from Illinois
My, my, my. Really tried not to respond (nitpicking and all). But, am English teacher, and hafta... "So not right" is hardly Newspeak (especially when there are other blatant examples of THAT--just watch my government). As for straight As, I never heard that as in contrast to A plus or A minus, just that you got As in all subjects that term. Probably will upset some, to respond to language change prompt with abbreviated English. It's not because I'm American--it's because I'm lazy!

Anthony - Oxfordshire
I cannot stand the "Twenty-oh-five" much beloved by radio four newsreaders, but very few others. What is wrong with "two-thousand-and-five?" or better still "This year!"

N.C. from New York State, U.S.A.
Peter from Oxford is incorrect in his interpretation of the American phrase "straight As." When someone receives straight As, it means that A is the only grade that person received in every subject on his or her report card: no Bs, Cs, Ds, or Fs. Many (not all) U.S. educational institutions do add plusses and minuses to letter grades, but most American students who had a few A- grades mixed in with the A grades would still claim "straight As."

Ella from Sussex living in Canada
this is to Peter Mackridge from Oxford - actually, saying that one received 'straight A's' means that one received an 'A' in every subject. Someone could receive 5 A grades and 2 A- grades and still say they had 'straight A's'. Also, split infinitives aren't particularly American (or British, or anything) - all English speakers have been using split infinitives since the year dot - that particular proscription is an odd leftover from Latin class.

Michael F from Lancashire
Further to Miles Davies' comment on the use of the word "like", I deplore the use of "I was like" to mean"I said".

Valerie, American in the UK
We forget that many English words are derived from French, German and Latin as well. In some cases, the Americans have it right, IE: lieutenant pronounced in the French way, rather than as "leftenant" as it is a French word. Many of the things people have said they, like, despise, are utterly wrong in the American form of English too. They're teenager-speak or regionalisms, not the way most Americans are taught to speak in school.

Emma, Kent
Like A. Sanders I was always annoyed at the Americanism of using 'Kid', until that is I found an old dictionary from when my mum was at school which stated that Kid is actually short for Kiddie or Kiddy, an old English word for child.

Laura Gudim from Croatia, formally UK
As a linguist and speaker of many languages, I am shocked at how my mother tongue English is deteriorating and becoming totally Americanised. For example, the majority of British sports commentators say kiLOmetre, instead of the correct KIlometere. This is one of many examples, why can't we just stick to 'film' like every other European language, instead of the 'cool' American 'movie'. And when you lose your job you 'get the sack' - you are not 'fired'.I totally agree that 'text-speak' is much to blame for the bad spelling, grammar and punctuation.

David Dewar from Cumbria
I am unsure how many of these originated from American usage, but they are always annoying: i. I am fed up of ..., rather than I am fed up with ... ii. I could of done ..., rather than I could have done ... iii. Split infinitives iv. Tautologies, for example: 'Foot pedals' - what other kind of pedals could there be? Hand pedals? v. 'Different than ...' when it should be 'different from ...', as should be apparent from the usage 'x differs from y'

Thomas de Witt, the Netherlands
I think that people who complain about the rising tide of Americanisms in the English language do so because they do not like Americans. English is fast becoming a universal lingua franca for the entire planet and it would not play that role if it weren't for the Americans. 70% of all native speakers of English live in the USA. I come across dialects in England that I find impossible to understand (Glasgow, Durham), I have yet to encounter the first American dialect that is incomprehensible. That has to do with the fact that British English drops more sounds than does American. So as a world language American English looks like being more suitable.

Peter, Seattle
No mention of the vanishing u in colour/color or favour/favor and the inverted er in litre/liter? Or the disappearing syllable in aluminium/aluminum? Whenever a conversation regarding English/American comes up these are always the first mentions.

Fiona from Devon
Americanisation annoys me, especially when Tony Blair does it!! I noticed him saying 'period' at the end of one of his sentences, as in thats it, no more to be said.

Dan Ryan (Manchester, now Switzerland)
I love all accents and dialects of English, at home and abroad. Though I do find that US broadcast English can be strain where the intonation is concerned. It's flat and unvaried. I much prefer American regional speech, such as the "southern drawl" or New England dialects. New York/Brooklyn dialect is fun to listen to, too. But there's nought like our Lanky!

Peter Mackridge from Oxford
There's nothing wrong with American English in itself, but I get annoyed with British people who imitate American usage and get it wrong. This time of year everyone's talking about getting "straight As" in the A-levels. What are As when they're not straight? The answer is that in the US there's a grade called A- (A minus) which is below the top grade of A. So "straight As" means "all plain As with no minuses".

Liesl from Madison, WI
Someone wrote: The general replacement of "have you got?" by "do you have?" The latter and more American form is the ancestral one. The use of the newer past participle "got" instead of the original "gotten" (retained in the US) makes this fairly obvious.

Alec S from London
Someone's said it already but the misuse of 'literally' frustrates me to no end! You didn't literally turn green with envy. Your skin didn't literally crawl. Your mother would literally roll in her grave if she heard you saying so!

James Allen from Bristol
Estuary English - the way too many people under 30 feel they have to conform to speak. There are an infinite number of accents and dialects to take up if you don't like RP standard English. Be different from the herd and adopt something nicer -like Oxford!

Thomas from Philadelphia
In general a British accent is a soothing sound to my ears and is frequently used in American programming for authoritative naration. There's one pronunciation though that is like fingers on a chalkboard to me: the pronunciation of schedule as "shedule" instead of "skedule". Is that what is taught there in shools (sic) ?

Chris, Czech Republic
I don't get annoyed by language change, because it's always happened and always will. Language doesn't get "better" or "worse" over time - its ability to express things doesn't change, it just expresses them in changing ways. What is annoying, though, is unclear, cliched and jargon-ridden use of language - but that's nothing new either. By the way, your contributor Jack from Belfast objects to "the team have", but that's actually nothing to do with language change. It's a feature of British English rather than American English, and it's known as the "notional plural", because even though grammatically the word "team" is singular, it actually refers to a plural notion, because we're talking about more than one person. Just like in the sentence "the police are looking for the culprits". The opposite is the "notional singular", which can be seen in the use of "United States" with a singular verb (because it's a single country): "the United States has withdrawn its troops".

Margaret Cowling - Cambridge
I loath the term 'train station'. I think this is probably another American term. I prefer 'Railway Station'. I also hate '24/7' and when and where did we get 'bored of' instead of 'bored with'?

Jack H of Belfast
I hate to hear people use a pluarlised verb with a singular noun as in 'the team have' when it should be 'the team has.'

Paul Truswell from Macclesfield
Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that "right" and "wrong" has been almost totally been replaced by "appropriate" and "inappropriate". Now is that a comment on language or on society?

Guy Wise of Belfast.
To me the most objectionable changes in the language are those which come about via an incorrect use of words, often through ignorance. Consider today's use of the word 'dubious' when 'doubtful' is meant and the football phrase 'a cynical foul' when the word 'callous' is meant. The liberal acceptance, in the UK, of such usage undermines the semantic heritage of the language and its teaching to foreigners.

It really annoys me when people say"any fink" when they actually mean "anything!"This seems to becoming more common on all the T.V. soaps and not just locally.

Steve from Cheshire
"I was so surprised, I literally jumped out of my skin." No you didn't. Literally!

Steven from Cheshire
On a slightly related note, I'm often thrown when watching American news broadcasts upon hearing, "you can write us at the following address". I'm expected "write TO us...". But then I got to thinking: why is it we add the extra word over this side of the Pond? We don't say "phone to me", nor "email to me", nor "visit to me" - so why do we "write to me" ? It may sound odd to my ear, but give the Americans credit for at least being consistent.

Stephen, Cambridge
In common speech, the word "definitely" is over-used. Younger people will almost always say "definitely" to agree with something you said, or to acknowledge what was said. The word "excellent" is also over-used as a positive acknowledgement for the smallest of things. E.g. "I've just put your drink in the fridge" - "excellent". The word used to describe something of exceptional quality, but the over-use of the word in casual contexts is making it less powerful and less formal. And, get rid of "sort of", "like" ,"kind of", "kinda", "I mean", which all mean "ummm".

Stuart - London
What annoys me is people complaining about the way other people speak and about the way it changes. Language is change. Language is variation. Simple as that. Always has been, always will be. To sit there and complain about said changes and variations is akin to Canute trying to hold back the sea - no matter how much we complain those variations and changes will not halt and revert back to some other person's ideal for the language.

Rich M ex Wales now USA
Hate the US version of English. Drives me absolutely mad. I do hope, probably in vain, that the British version does not become too saturated by it's linguistically poorer cousin in the US. The US version just does not have the scope or breadth of the British version. Burglarize! Really! What sort of idiot thought that up? My first language is welsh and I am very proud of the fact that I learned a reasonably good form of standard British English - it has opened many doors for me over here.

Christine from East Lothian
I don't know if I find this annoying or charming: the tendency of young children to speak in "American" accents when playing any kind of energetic imaginative game (cops and robbers, aliens from space etc). I assume it's because most of that kind of action they see on the TV is from American programmes or films.

Alastair Muirhead, Reading
The intrusive 'r'; "pacifically" instead of "specifically"; "lickorish" instead of "liquorice" with an "issss"; "graahs" instead of "grass"; ok, I'll own up - I'm Scottish and we do pronounce words very literally - but more clearly I would suggest?

Miles Davies
I really dislike the 'Americanisation' of our language - particularly the inclusion of the word 'like' after every other word. The other one is the inclusion of 'so' that makes a sentence completely wrong 'that is so not right' for example. All of this reminds me on Newspeak in 1984 - doubleplusgood!!!

Anna, Glasgow
Magazine writers are the worst culprits by far. They have started shortening words - bessie mate, boyf and worst of all fave - grrrr! I hate it, I hate it, I HATE IT. I've also noticed people writing "a good thing" as a sentence all on its own, for example "Busted have split up. A good thing." And lastly the word "so", always written in italics, and ALWAYS makes my skin crawl!

Maaurice Vizard from Wigan
It's no wonder pupils can no longer spell, when the media insist on corrupting the spoken word when one would expect them to be setting an example by speaking the Queen's English no matter which dialect is used. It's a matter of incorrect diction and it drives me round the bend when recently I even heard an Artist talking about a 'DRORING' for heaven's sake.

Peter J
The BBC have helped with the americanisation of the way we pronounce Iraq ( from I rark - ryming with dark to Eye Rack). I was absolitely horrified that news readers got away with it!

Chris Hole from Norfolk
Er...very little actually. Language changes as society changes , so to complain about the state of The English Language (and that seems to me bordering on arrogance - as though our little island has some sort of copyright on English!) seems to me to be the same as complaining how everything is going to the dogs, and we should bring back the birch. Far healthier to celebrate the diversity and range of our society, and acknowledge the seemingly limitless capacity English has for embracing subtleties and shades of meaning that reflect the society we have today.

A. Sanders
That the words "children" or "child" is never used and has been replaced by "kids" in every context.

Paul Truswell from Macclesfield
I agree wholeheartedly with Tony from Reading; or what too many would intonate as "..from Reading??" in that "just checking-that-you-know where Reading is" tone. AAAAGH - I know where Reading is, I've lived in the UK over 40 years!!

Michael Hales, Brussels
The written and spoken use of "an" before words starting with h (other than where the h is silent). The general replacement of "have you got?" by "do you have?". The scream-inducing "Me either". The pronunciation of "lingerie" as "lon-jer-ay" instead of "lan-jer-ee". "Twice as much than" instead of "twice as much as". Use of American stresses such as BAGHdad or COPENhagen. "Excuse me" instead of "Pardon". "To convince someone to" rqther than "to persuade someone to".

Tony from Reading
What language change annoys me? AQI! The habit of finishing a statement with a rising intonation and thus making it sound like a question. ugh.

Adam D'Souza from Exmoor
Further to Veronica's quote above, in Westcountry parlance it is perfectly normal to change vowel sounds at the end of words to include an -r. 'Law and order' would be pronounced in Somerset as 'lorenorder'.

Carol P from Surrey
I am worried by the effect of 'text-speak' (as used on mobile 'phones) on the ability to spell our words, whether in an American dialect or British. It recalls the dreaded Initial Teaching Alphabet of the 1970s.


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