Below follows Jan van den Berg’s first blogpost:
“American influence is busily eroding a valuable and once firm distinction in British speech and writing” (Amis 1997: 11). This is a quotation from Kingsley Amis’s usage guide The King’s English (1997). As we can tell from these words, Amis is concerned that the British English language is under attack by American influences and he does not seem too happy about it. Secondly, Amis states that certain Americanisms are driving out their British equivalents in British English . These concerns are shared by the Fowler brothers, who in their usage guide from 1906, which carries the same title as the one by Amis, also express their concern: “There is a real danger of our literature’s being Americanized, and that not merely in details of vocabulary – which are all that we are here directly concerned with – but in its general tone” (Fowler & Fowler 1906: Americanisms).
But is it truly the case that certain Americanisms are replacing, or are in the process of doing so, their British equivalents in the British English language? A quick look at two different examples given by Amis in his The King’s English (1997) produced an inconclusive picture. For example, when using Google Ngram viewer (set to English generally) we are able to see that the British noun fortnight (in red) is indeed in the process of being replaced by the American equivalent two weeks (the blue line).
Another example mentioned by Amis is that the British expression a different kettle of fish is experiencing serious competition from its American equivalent a whole new ballgame. However, Google Ngram tells us otherwise (blue for a different kettle of fish, red for a whole new ballgame):
When we take a look at this second example from Google Ngram, we find that the expression a different kettle of fish is hardly being threatened by its American counterpart. Consequently, it remains to be seen whether the American influence on the British language is really as great as is being presupposed by our usage guide writer around 1995 (the year of Amis’s death).
So what do you think? Do you as a reader of this blog post and native speaker of British English feel that ‘American influence is busily eroding the British English language’ as Amis claims? Please let me know by sharing your opinion in the poll below. If your answer is ‘yes’ than I am also very much interested in your thoughts on this.