Writing at Johnson, Robert Lane Greene mentions a BBC article on Americanisms infiltrating British usage. This is familiar reader bait. Nothing in Britain gets those empurpled wattles jiggling more reliably than alarums about Americanisms. Though it's usually done in something a little more downmarket than the Beeb.

Often, examination of the complaints will demonstrate that the despised expression (gotten rather than got used to be a favorite) is actually a British usage older than Gammer Gurton's grandam. 

Meanwhile, Ben Yagoda has been patiently cataloging British expressions that have slyly crossed the Atlantic to embed themselves in good American prose.  

Gone missing is the one he focuses on in Slate. I suppose it crept in under the radar as I was watching John Thaw as Inspector Morse on PBS or reading Reginald Hill's Dalziel-Pascoe mysteries. Nowt wrong with it that I can see; as a synonym for disappear, it's a little more neutral and less frightening, encompassing the range from wandering off for a little while to kidnapping. 

What's happening here is something that linguists, along with anyone who pays even casual attention to language, recognize: when two languages, or dialects, brush against each other, you find what the CSI operatives call transfer. It is how, what with the Anglo-Saxons, Celts, Vikings, and Norman French, and Latin-using clergy colliding in Britain over the centuries, we got English in the first place.

And as long as we continue to brush against one another, in person or in books or film and television, we will continue to see transfer. For concerned Brits, not to worry. For concerned Americans, whatever.


Addendum: A thoroughgoing, nuanced BBC article by Cordelia Hebblethwaite on the Britishisms enjoying a vogue in the U.S., with comments from Mr. Yagoda, the effervescent Kory Stamper, and others. Don't miss it. 

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad