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Old 28th Jul 2011, 10:21   #10
ono no komachi
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Default Re: Annoying Americanisms? A rebuttal

Originally Posted by bill View Post
22. Train station. My teeth are on edge every time I hear it. Who started it? Have they been punished? Chris Capewell, Queens Park, London
What the blazes is wrong with 'train station'? Chris, do you catch the bus from the 'road station'?

If it's not "train station" in the UK, what is it?
Usual UK usage is 'railway station', but seeing as there's no ambiguity in 'train station', I can't really understand the objection to it, myself.
Originally Posted by bill View Post
25. "Normalcy" instead of "normality" really irritates me. Tom Gabbutt, Huddersfield
Originally Posted by bill View Post
Well, Fowler raises no objection to their interchangeability, Tom, so unless you claim greater authority on the subject, I suggest you attempt to swallow your irritation.

I like that you've researched these. Did you post any of these responses under the original article?
I didn't - I rarely post anything on 'media' websites like the BBC, or newspaper sites. And there were so many responses, it seemed a bit futile just to add another drop to the ocean.
Originally Posted by bill View Post
Again, in fairness, I hate this one, too, but I've long wondered about your generous take, Col, that those, or some of those, who say "I could care less" are being sarcastic. If so, I wonder at the chicken-and-egg-ness of it all -- did someone once mishear "I couldn't care less" as "I could care less", and from the context deduced that the phrase was used sarcastically, leading us to now having two similar but completely different phrases that mean the same thing based on the tone in which they are delivered? Interesting.

I'm not sure, I just did a bit of reading and this seemed a fairly commonly expressed reason for the difference. It seemed reasonable to me, especially if I imagined the person saying: 'I could care less? How?'

Originally Posted by bill View Post
Also, when I hear a British person use a word or phrase that I'm only used to hearing from an American, it sounds similarly strange. For example, "guys", as in "Hey you guys, come over here" (or whatever)...has that always been common over there? Maybe it has been, but when I hear it coming from a Brit, I tilt my head in confusion.

I'm guilty of this - maybe it's because I watch too much TV. My latest is using 'man' to express how extreme I find something, as in 'Man, it's hot today.'

Originally Posted by kjml View Post
I think #47 is worth another look: "to medal" is just one of (It seems to me) an increasing number of coinages of verbs from nouns for which there are already in the language perfectly adequate, and less deliberately odd, expressions (e.g. 'win a medal'). That is, they seem forced into being for emphasis, or just to be different. Sometimes these coinages, as you note above, are the products of business types who enjoy industry jargon, and sometimes it may be media spokesmen who ad lib, sometimes hilariously; but sometimes, I think, there is more behind it.

My favorite example is "reveal", used as a noun. What is wrong with "revelation"? My gut sense is that someone - likely in the writing programs, which now abound - decided that "revelation" carried too much of a religious/spiritual overtone to be generally useful, and opted for "reveal" as a neutral substitute. This may or may not be the history, but I think the tendency to alter words or adapt verbs to nouns for this kind of idiosyncratic accent is becoming quite common.(Maybe its a philosophical development: To each express our own individual 'truth' we need our own peculiar and idiosyncratic English!)

What part laziness or lack of proper grammatical education plays is still to be determined, but this much seems clear to me at least: people - whether American (only) or any other (as well) I don't know - are taking greater liberties with verb-noun derivations than they did previously. I am not saying that the phenomenon is new('To winter in the South is already old news.): but that it seems to me to be more pervasive than ever. It marks a subtle but, I think, intentional change in vernacular, the reason for which is a complete mystery to me.

I hope this has not taken us too far afield from your rebuttal. I thought someone with your obvious insight might shed some light on this, if you think it a real phenomenon and one that interests you. It may be a true Americanism!
Thanks again for the great fun and sharp insights, and best regards
Thanks for the kind words, kjml. I'm sure you're right about the tendency you highlight, i.e. that it is indeed an increasing phenomenon.

I've emboldened the specific phrases above, because I think they probably express, better than I could, some ways in which I think language evolves. The thing about requiring emphasis or difference in expression, for example, made me think of Shakespeare, who coined a vast number of the words and phrases we use today. Not that I necessarily think some of these instances are particularly Shakespearean, but new and different usages are not necessarily always to be censured.

I think it's one of the English language's great strenths that it lends itself to such flexibilities in usage. Certainly, sometimes the new coinages will be ugly, but sometimes they will be both useful and elegant. I suppose our challenge might be to attempt to make the distinction and try and encourage the use of the words we like through using them more often. Which I think we all do anyway! Win-win!

(By the way, a neologism I like is 'game-changer', which I heard for the first time just a few days ago, and seem to have heard several times since. I do love a phrase which makes its meaning so instantly clear.)

Last edited by ono no komachi; 28th Jul 2011 at 10:41.
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