Very shortly after returning to the United States after living abroad for five years, I was buying some new eyeglasses. The saleswoman asked me where I was from. I named a town a few miles away.
“No,” she said, “What country are you originally from?”
Without even realizing it, I supposedly sounded ‘foreign’, which amused me because I had just been trying to identify her foreign accent. So I paid closer attention to what exactly I was doing, and that’s when I heard it: subtly changing /th/ sounds to a soft /t/ (voiceless) or /d/ (voiced); saying ‘yah, yah’ instead of ‘yes’; clipping my diphthongs ever so slightly so they sounded more ‘pure’.
Oh! I was mimicking her. And apparently quite well. Continue reading
For the past week and a half, there has been a lot of fuss over the idea that the British don’t like the way Americans speak. This is not a new phenomenon. In fact, it’s a horse that has been well and truly flogged. The latest round of this game started on 13 July when the BBC posted an article about Americanisms that annoy speakers of British English. The author asked readers to send in their own examples.
While that was happening, plenty of others were weighing in on the issue. On the same day as the original BBC article, Dan at “The Blog Formerly Known as @SFX” posted a reply. Then, on 16 July, Mark Liberman wrote a post over at Language Log about how 4 out of 5 of the examples in the article were actually of British origin, not American.
On 19 July, the BBC published the 50 most emailed examples of hated Americanisms. The very next day, the Economist’s language blog, Johnson, posted responses to some of the examples that appeared on that Top 50 list. The author pointed out something that many of the examples have in common: Continue reading