Americanisms In England Essay

3813 words - 16 pages

Americanisms in EnglandMore than once, during our original days, we encountered Americanisms that had gone over into English, and English locutions that had begun to get a foothold in the United States. Such exchanges are made frequently and often very quickly, and though the guardians of English, still attack every new Americanism vigorously, even when, as in the case of scientist, it is obviously sound, or, as in the case of joy-ride, it is irresistibly picturesque, they are often routed by public pressure, and have to submit in the end with the best grace possible.For example, consider caucus. It originated in Boston at some indeterminate time before 1750, and remained so peculiarly ...view middle of the document...

It has a disparaging significance over there, almost equal to that of our words organization and machine. Moreover, it has given birth to two derivatives of like quality, both unknown in America--caucusdom, meaning machine control, and caucuser, meaning a machine politician. 2A good many other such Americanisms have got into good usage in England, and new ones are being exported constantly. Farmer describes the process of their introduction and assimilation. American books, newspapers and magazines, especially the last, circulate in England in large number, and some of their characteristic locutions strike the English fancy and are repeated in conversation. Then they get into print, and begin to take on respectability. "The phrase, 'as the Americans say,' " he continues, "might in some cases be ordered from the type foundry as a logotype, so frequently does it do introduction duty." 3 Ware shows another means of ingress: the argot of sailors. Many of the Americanisms he notes as having become naturalized in England, e. g., boodle, boost and walk-out, are credited to Liverpool as a sort of half-way station. Travel brings in still more: England swarms with Americans, and Englishmen themselves, visiting America, are struck by the new and racy phrases that they hear, and afterward take them home and try them on their friends. The English authors who burden every west-bound ship, coming here to lecture, have especially sharp ears for such neologisms, and always use them when they get home--often, as we shall see, inaccurately. Dickens was the first of these visitors to carry back that sort of cargo; according to Bishop Coxe 4 he gave currency in England, in his "American Notes," to reliable, influential, talented and lengthy. Bristed, writing in 1855, said that talented was already firmly fixed in the English vocabulary by that time. All four words are in the Concise Oxford Dictionary, and only lengthy is noted as "originally an Americanism." Cassell lists them without any remark at all; they have been thoroughly assimilated. Finally, there is the influence of American plays and moving pictures. Hundreds of American films are shown in England every week, and the American words and phrases appearing in their titles, sub-titles and other explanatory legends thus become familiar to the English. "The patron of the picture palace," says W. G. Faulkner, in an article in the London Daily Mail, "learns to think of his railway station as a depot; he has alternatives to one of our newest words, hooligan, in hoodlum and tough; he watches a dive, which is a thieves' kitchen or a room in which bad characters meet, and whether the villain talks of dough or sugar he knows it is money to which he is referring. The musical ring of the word tramp gives way to the stodgy hobo or dead-beat. It may be that the plot reveals an attempt to deceive some simple-minded person. If it does, the innocent one is spoken of as a sucker, a come-on, a boob, or a lobster if he is...

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