This weekend I was listening to Four Thought on Radio 4, I know, it’s not exactly a surprise! (the link is to iPlayer and it’s only 15 minutes)

Matthew Engel talks about differences between British English and American English, making an argument for hanging on to British English spoken, written and signed!

Engel’s objection is not snobbery (as he said America is different, not better or worse, just different) but we are losing our sense of ourselves as we lose our language and adopt another that wasn’t made by us and so doesn’t really suit us. I tend to agree, I love some American phrasing it’s (like most Americans I know) open, expressive and inventive but British English has some great stuff in it too.

Words like ‘mardy’* or to telling ‘porkies’** are reflective of who we are and where we come from (although both of those reflect my peculiar heritage, mardy isn’t really a southern word but my grandmother was from Lincolnshire, ‘porkies’ is from rhyming slang and is more of a London thing.). Also gobsmacked, that’s a brilliant word and very English…

I’m fascinated but the different usages (I didn’t know that a boxcutter was a stanley knife for example and now so much stuff makes sense, I thought that they were secateurs) but I will always go to see a film or to the cinema never to the movies. I live in a flat not an apartment and eat courgettes and aubergines rather than zucchini and eggplants, letters arrive in the post not the mail and I wear jumpers and tights not sweaters and pantyhose. Suspenders will always be the things that hold up stockings, not trousers and certainly never pants! And so on…

*mardy means stroppy or sulky

** telling porkies is to lie, generally a white lie. So when I was about 3 and told my mum that I hadn’t been anywhere near her makeup (while looking like a clown from all the makeup). Ma’s response was to point out that I was telling porkies…

About nicdempsey

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