By 2120, British English will be dead, or at least it will be if we are to believe Matthew Engel. In his latest book ‘That’s the Way it Crumbles: The American Conquest of English’ Engel claims that by 2120, Americanisms will have completely absorbed the English language.
In 1935, Alistair Cooke estimated that the average Englishman used thirty or forty Americanisms a day. Fast forward to 2017 and that number has risen to over three hundred. We bemoan the arrival of ‘junk email’ as we move it into the ‘trash’ folder. University applicants visit campuses and discuss the different modules they will study each semester. The word ‘awesome’ is now used in conversation 72 times per million words, whereas ‘marvellous’ is used only twice per million.
But what drives this shift in the words we use? On one level, some American words are simply more glamorous than their British counterparts. We would rather say we live in an apartments than a flat. The word ‘movie’ embodies the glitz and the glamour associated with Hollywood and show business far more so than the word ‘film.’ Others have pointed out that some of these Americanisms were originally British English – they were exported, then imported back by us.
Modern Languages and English Literature applicants should consider how language differs between cultures and countries and can shift over time. They could further analyse whether this trend is evident in modern literature, and the impact this infiltration of Americanisms may have on future literary works.
The link between language and thought, and how one may shape the other, has been consistently investigated in Psychology. Thus Psychology students may consider how the words we use may alter our concept of an object. For example does the word apartment give us more positive images, than that of a flat?