Tuesday, July 26, 2011


In case you haven't seen it... here it is... the JSB Read Aloud Edition (just the same only extra gorgeous and big). The size of a picture book!

Zondervan wanted to make it bigger so you can read it to groups and everyone can see the pictures. Or just read it on your lap and enjoy it.

(It's gorgeous, has a beautiful binding, a reader's ribbon and looks somehow like it should always have been this big!)

(photos by Sarah Short and used by permission--thank you Sarah!)


Monday, July 25, 2011

Americanisms and The Queen's English


The BBC did an article all about why Americanisms are so irritating (here) and then did a column (here) where people in Britain were invited to write in with their least favorite Americanisms--their pet peeves.

The Economist then followed up with another one that showed that at least 20% of them were British in origin (here)

In the end it seems that what all of this really shows up is this: the anti Americanism in the UK that believes if something is ugly it must have come from the States...

Here's the text from the Johnson column in The Economist this week (LOVE it!):

...never let facts get in the way of a good rant. let the peeving being! The BBC published a top 50. The original peeve is in bold; I've removed the peevers' names and added my comments:

The next time someone tells you something is the "least worst option", tell them that their most best option is learning grammar.  

Besides the fact that the double comparative/superlative had a long life in English ("the most straitest sect of our religion", Acts 26:5, KJV, for example), this is obviously playful, not ignorant.  

To "wait on" instead of "wait for" when you're not a waiter - once read a friend's comment about being in a station waiting on a train.  

Yes, to "wait on" also means to be a waiter, but writers from Chaucer to Milton to George Eliot used "to wait on" in various senses including "to observe", "to lie in wait for", "to await" and more. 

Is "physicality" a real word?  

Yes, first noted in a book published in London in 1827. 

Transportation. What's wrong with Transport?

Nothing. What's wrong with transportation? Brist prefer "to orientate oneself", Americans prefer "to orient oneself". Not worse, just different.

What kind of word is "gotten"? It makes me shudder. 

It is the original past participle, from old Norse getenn, now obsolete in English English, but surviving in America. Participial "got" is the newcomer.

"I'm good" for "I'm well". That'll do for a start.  
That'll do what?  Linking verbs including "am" take adjectives, not adverbs. "I'm healthy," not "I'm healthily." There's nothing wrong with "I'm well", since "well" is also an adjective, but nothing wrong with "I'm good" either.
"Oftentimes" just makes me shiver with annoyance. Fortunately I've not noticed it over here yet.

The OED cites six hundred years of British usage of "oftentimes", including the King James Version and Wordsworth. 

"Hike" a price. Does that mean people who do that are hikers? No, hikers are ramblers!  

And words sometimes have multiple meanings!

 Going forward? If I do I shall collide with my keyboard.  

If you cannot understand metaphorical language, colliding with your keyboard is the least of your worries.  A visit to the neurologist may be in order. 

 The most annoying Americanism is "a million and a half" when it is clearly one and a half million! A million and a half is 1,000,000.5 where one and a half million is 1,500,000.   

By that logic, could "one and a half million" not be 1 + 500,000, or 500,001?


That's enough peeving on peeving. Many of these are truly Americanisms, and many are (to my eye) annoying, too.  But so many share one or more of these features: 

1) selective hyper-literalism: refusal to understand idioms as such

2) amnesia, or else the " recency illusion": A belief that something quite old is new

3) simple anti-Americanism: the belief that if something is ugly, it must have come from the states

Since Matthew Engel and the Beeb's readers had so little trouble spouting dozens and dozens of "Americanisms" they dislike (the BBC closed comments after 1,295 had arrived), and since such a high proportion seem to be false Americanisms, I propose that this is a common thing, and thus deserves its own count noun. We all know what Americanisms are. From here on, Johnson will refer to false Americanisms used to take a cheap but ill-aimed transatlantic shot as "Anti-Americanisms". 


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