Is British English disappearing?

A recent article in The Economist (20th July 2017) looks at the increasing globalisation of the English language, asking whether British English in disappearing under an American influence. Speaking with language expert Matthew Engel, the article details the ways in which Americanisms have crept into British English, and vice versa.

“English has always sucked up words from around the globe. Mr. Engel’s fear is that in the past half-century, one source has come to dominate: America, thanks to its cultural, technological and political heft.”

It is true that America is influencing the English language, but not to its detriment. The word “smart”, for example, is now used on both sides of the pond to refer to someone intellectually sharp, not just sartorially. However, the use of smart doesn’t replace “clever”, with the former implying a more savvy intelligence than the raw intellect of clever. What’s more, many of the ‘Americanisms’ that irritate British people – such as “gotten” instead of got, “Fall” for autumn; and “mad” for angry – are actually of English origin.

The article concludes that the “linguistic monoculture” Mr. Engel fears is unlikely. One of the benefits of globalisation is that it now allows many local dialects and colloquialisms to flourish – these local varieties are able maintain clear identities while also being accessible to a far greater audience.

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