What’s In A Language?

My recent trip to the US to attend the Burning Man festival was my first visit since 2005 and it got me thinking about the differences between the North American and British dialects, some of which bother me, whilst much of them don’t. English, like many other languages, has far too many anomalies that break the general grammatical rules, so maybe it makes sense to simply things.

Having said that, it’s arguable whether dropping the u from colour and favour is an improvement. Bet then perhaps chopping ue off the end of catalogue and travelogue does make sense.

Although I say I’m not bothered by American English, I know I’m not alone in finding Microsoft dominated computer spell checks infuriating when they highlight correctly spelled words red, even when the UK option is selected, thereby misinforming us that we have made an error when we have not!

Whilst I use the ise suffix when spelling familiarise, others may use ize. No problem with that, it’s of no consequence. But then the Oxford English Dictionary denotes that magnetize is not spelt with the common ise. Make up your mind Oxford people!

What I find unfathomable is the American prevalence on creating new words when perfectly adequate ones already existed, such as normalcy instead of normaility, burglarize instead of burgle and eaterie, instead of restaurant. Before long they will be calling hotels sleeperies.

The worst offenders are the lazy and ill-informed people in the business world, who constantly look for nonsensical buzz words that sound impressive but are entirely ambiguous. I recently saw the ‘word’ mediatize on a company website. Quite how someone would mediatize something is beyond me. I actually discussed more of such words in My First TV Appearance; a particular favourite being imagineer.

And I recently read, in Time magazine no less, a news paragraph about a ‘winningest college football coach’. So as he’s also coached in a lot of games, should you refer to him as the coachingest coach? No. It sounds ridiculous doesn’t it?

In addition to pseudo-words, some of commonly spoken American English is simply grammatically incorrect. Anyways sounds weird to anyone outside of North America, as there is never a requirement to make an adverb plural. My bad is missing a noun at the end. Don’t leave me hanging… your bad what? You wouldn’t say my stupid would you? Even though maybe you should do.

I once had a discussion with a pharmacist who kept saying that she could care less, when she actually meant that she couldn’t care less. If you can care less, that must mean that you care to a certain degree, otherwise it wouldn’t be possible to care less. If you couldn’t care less, then that, by definition, is the lowest possible point. Yet even as a highly educated person, she just didn’t understand.

So, how can these differences ever be resolved to demolish any barriers to effective communication? Rather than adopting esperanto, I propose that we standardize [sic] English to resolve things once and for all. In this age of connectivity, it surely wouldn’t be long before all English-speaking countries could adapt to the new Standardized English; a modern English that has evolved to take account of practicalities such as ease of use and removing unnecessary grammatical anomalies.

One billion would mean 1000 million to everyone (rather than one million million), laser would stay the same, as it’s an acronym (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), so to change the s to a z makes no sense, and every other disputed spelling would be resolved in the most logical way.

In Standardized English, confusion over dates would end, as we would adopt the most logical format, with the most significant figure first: year-month-day; thereby nicely matching hour-minute-second. None of this jumbled month-day-year illogicality.

I’d still have difficulty making myself understood when speaking to some Americans though… They just can’t understand my Australian accent. 😉

9 thoughts on “What’s In A Language?

  1. OH, YES! I never understand how the Americans get the British and Australian accents confused! Amazing – the accents are nothing alike!

    As for the spelling – you may have both languages selected – you actually have to de-select American English!

    My stock, standard example of the difference in language is this: “Be a love, chuck a slab in the esky and throw it in the boot”. An American never has ANY idea what I am saying! 🙂

    I hate the dropped “u” – it is not an improvement! 😆

    • I’m not sure what a slab or an esky are! Looking up… Oh, so Esky is a brand of coolers, so I presume a slab is a crate of beer? So that phrase has a slang word and a brand name, so I’m not surprised that Americans can’t understand – you have to give them a chance!

  2. I love how rich and varied language is throughout the world, but I do wholeheartedly agree that some of it is just ridiculous.

    And speaking of accents, every now and then I’ll have customers at work ask me where in Australia I’m from. I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO AUSTRALIA IN MY LIFE. People are just as confused as everyone else, no matter where you are in the world! 😉

    • I agree variety is a good thing to a degree. It is only a problem when it causes communication problems.

  3. Using that pesky “u” in color or flavor gets me in trouble. I read so much British literature and so many British and Australian blogs, I add it without thinking sometimes. For an American to do that is pretentious. I guess we’re still bitter about that whole Revolutionary War thing.

    I’m with you on the made-up words, too. The absolute worst is when two slang words are combined to form an even more ridiculous non-word. Ex.) Chillaxin’

    Um, just out of curiosity, you know the gecko in the Geico insurance commercials? Could you tell me if he’s Australian or British? Because I certainly can’t tell the difference. 🙂

    • I just checked it out on You Tube and I can inform you that the gecko is English. Seemed a little cockney to me (like Michael Caine).

      Oh, and when you refer to a ‘British’ accent you actually mean English, don’t you? As Scottish is another distinct British accent which you will be familiar with.

      • Yes, English accent. Scottish, I recognize. 🙂 I actually knew the gecko was English. I was kidding, but obviously that doesn’t work if you’re not familiar with the GEICO commercials, does it?

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