No, not really

Should the Americanisation (or Americanization) of English worry us?

The use of the z there is archaic English which the Americans have preserved for example.

Me being me I’ve always been rather perverse about this of course. When at school I would deliberately use the z in order to annoy teachers, insist that it was just fine really. Which they would agree it was, if archaic. Now, writing largely for Americans, I insist upon using the s.

It’s the small things in life which produce the joy, no?

54 comments on “No, not really

  1. Good man.

    The OED, and Fowler, recommend the Z as it derives from the zeta in the Attic Greek verb termination. I used to go obediently along with this, but recently I have been revising all my books for republication and have changed the Zs to Ss, purely because I wish to distance myself from the Septics and their increasingly bizarre mangling our our beautiful native tongue.

    Kent: Thou whoreson zed! thou unnecessary letter! My lord, if you will give me leave, I will tread this unbolted villain into mortar, and daub the wall of a jakes with him.

    King Lear, II.2

    (PS for those who don’t know – jakes = privy)

  2. I was surprised to lean that gotten is also archaic English, although I suppose I shouldn’t have been.

  3. Thomas Fuller,

    I believe you’re an author of some experience! Do you write in in an American style, a British style, or a mix of the two? Would you write glamor or glamour? Which is better for marketing, you think?

  4. Funny thing is that Americans often don’t understand that their usage is US-specific. Like using “aught” or “ought” for zero instead of “oh”.

    Problem is, “aught” means the opposite of “nought”, which we island apes sometimes do indeed use for “zero”, albeit rarely.

    “Know you aught of this fellow?”…”No, I know naught of him”.

  5. BiND: “I was surprised to lean that gotten is also archaic English, although I suppose I shouldn’t have been.”

    But “Gaahtten” is certainly modern American :p

  6. The OED, and Fowler, recommend the Z as it derives from the zeta in the Attic Greek verb termination.

    A true pedant would observe: only for words derived from a Greek root. Words taken from Latin should use ‘-ise’, as ‘z’ didn’t occur in Latin (except in loan words from the Greek). I think there was an episode of Inspector Morse that turned on this observation to ‘prove’ that a ransom note was written by an educated hand (or an American, not that I’m trying to claim the two are necessarily exclusive, oh dear …)

  7. The thing I realised as I worked more and more is that no-one cares about this shit. Teachers will tell you that employers do, but an employer would rather have good ideas, badly spelt than bad ideas with good spelling.

    It’s like the difference between Guido and The Guardian. The latter is quite obsessed with things like this and style guides. Guido is just getting out there and finding original stories.

  8. BiS, an employer would rather have good ideas spelled correctly than good ideas spelled badly.

    Also, your employer may be a school.

  9. Turning Britain into Somalia isn’t a problem for the Guardian, but z replacing s? Good God.

  10. What is needed is wholesale spelling reform in the Phonetic direction. What is wrong with “frend”? We try to make English spelling as difficult as possible: early spellings of ” salmon” do not contain the silent letter. (At about the same school age we inculcate the ‘multiplication’ of fractions whereby the product is smaller than the original terms. For all the endless school reforms nobody ever looks at the syllabus!)

  11. Similarly I often wonder whose accent is closer to the English accent in 1620. I suppose both accents have evolved from a common ancestor.

  12. Someone did some work on this. I think the answer was Appallachian as being closest to Shakesperian English.

  13. @Tim Newman

    Fuck marketing – write as yourself. If they don’t like it there are plenty of other books out there 🙂

    So yes, I’m very English. The protagonist of one of my yarns even reproves himself for thinking of starting a game of computer solitaire – ‘or “patience”, as he kept reminding himself to call it; he wasn’t an American, thank heaven’.

  14. I can live with z or s and a wide variety of other differences, because after all, there are 318 million of them, and a rather smaller quantity of us (although the importation of third-world migrants by the million is letting us catch up). What gets to me is the debauching of words that already have a meaning. ‘Sketchy’ is the latest I have come up against. I’m really bothered by ‘momentarily’ as in ‘The plane will touch down momentarily …’ It makes me think: “Fuck me, I wanted to get off here! Where’s it going next?”
    But then aren’t we doing it too? ‘Gay’ for example. That was stolen from the female sex workers of ‘My Secret Life’ era, who it turn had debauched it, and I’m glad that it has been stolen again.

  15. BiS, an employer would rather have good ideas spelled correctly than good ideas spelled badly.

    True, but when I’m looking through CVs, one with ‘have’ spelled ‘of’ throughout will be quickly rejected. Unfair, perhaps, but life is short.

    OTOH, one of my best managers had the misfortune to go to primary school in the 60s, when the Initial Teaching Alphabet was trendy, and as a result was completely unable to spell anything correctly.

  16. It pays to advertize. Or payz.

    P.S. ‘Me being me’ really ought pedantically to be “My being me”, wot wiv the ‘being’ being a verbal noun. Shoulda gone to Ampleforth.

  17. The Guardianista left is not above using US forms of English (just as they have all of the vastly overrated Bruce Springsteen’s ghastly albums). For example, using “protest” as a transitive verb, but with no pronoun. You don’t protest Trumps visit, you protest against it.

    In my view, people who do that belong in gaol.

  18. @DBCR, I’d go for the phonetic thing, though it would bring all hell down. German and Italian kids have it easy: if you can say it, you know how to spell it (largely). Think of all the time you would gain to study stuff which is actually useful.

  19. AndrewK: Hear bloody hear. See also debate: one debates a topic or motion; one Benares with or against a person or persons.

  20. This proprietorialness with the English language is somewhat amusing. Where’s the geographic centre of the English speaking world? Off the East coast of the States or the West?
    It’s on a par with Portugal thinking it’s the focus of the Portuguese speaking world.
    “Shoulda gone to Ampleforth.” That an Australian supermarket chain?

  21. I recently read “Sherlock Holmes: The complete Novels and Stories Vol 1”, published by Bantam (USA). Their spelling of grey as gray irritated me, but I thought it possible that Conan Doyle may have been using archaic spellings. Then I found cheque as check, and I knew Bantam had gone through the book translating English into American for fucking linguistically challenged snowflakes.

    Why not add “London, England” for American readers of Victorian novels so they don’t get confused with London, Nowheresville? Also there was a distinct lack of differently gendered and people of colour. Bantam missed a trick when they had the opportunity to re-write Conan Doyle (old white man), set it in Los Angeles and add in in a few car chases.

  22. Cough
    Through
    Thought
    Bough
    Enough
    Though
    Borough
    Hiccough
    Lough
    are there any more pronunciations of ough?

  23. Phonetic spelling would be just fine if it were based only on my accent. At least English would become more mellifluous. But then you johnnies who can’t pronounce “r”, and drop your “h”s, would complain that it wasn’t phonetic at all.

  24. @ BraveFart

    I take it you already know
    Of tough and bough and cough and dough?
    Others may stumble, but not you,
    On hiccough, thorough, lough and through?
    Well done! And now you wish, perhaps,
    To learn of less familiar traps?
    Beware of heard, a dreadful word
    That looks like beard and sounds like bird,
    And dead: it’s said like bed, not bead –
    For goodness sake, don’t call it deed!
    Watch out for meat and great and threat
    (They rhyme with suite and straight and debt)

    A moth is not a moth in mother,
    Nor both in bother, broth in brother,
    And here is not a match for there
    Nor dear and fear for bear and pear,
    And then there’s dose and rose and lose –
    Just look them up – and goose and chose,
    And cork and work and card and ward,
    And font and front and word and sword,
    And do and go and thwart and cart –
    Come, come, I’ve hardly made a start!
    A dreadful language? Man alive!
    I’d mastered it when I was five!

  25. I remember hearing an irritated person complaining about the use of the word ‘Fall’ for Autumn, and why can’t they use the English word ‘Autumn’ instead. Giggle.

  26. How Confusing is the English Language?

    We’ll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes;
    but the plural of ox became oxen not oxes.
    One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
    yet the plural of moose should never be meese.
    You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice;
    yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
    If the plural of man is always called men,
    why shouldn’t the plural of pan be called pen?
    If I spoke of my foot and show you my feet,
    and I give you a boot, would a pair be called beet?
    If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
    why shouldn’t the plural of booth be called beeth?
    Then one may be that, and three would be those,
    yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
    and the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
    We speak of a brother and also of brethren,
    but though we say mother, we never say methren.
    Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
    but imagine the feminine, she, shis and shim.

  27. Here’s one from Hiragana (phonetic script).

    “Sumomo mo momo momomo momo momomo iro iro”

    Plum is peach family, peach is peach, peaches are various..

    (From my wife, who knows about these things)

  28. Here’s a difficult exercise for computer voice synthesis to pronounce correctly.

    I read the incident report while he watches me nervously.
    I read the incident report yesterday.
    I read the incident report every day.
    I read the incident report as instructed.
    I read the incident report tomorrow.
    I read the incident report on the 15th Febvember.
    I read the incident report.

  29. Thanks Bloke in Brum, I’ll keep that for class.

    FWIW, I was at the 1967 Div2 title decider between Coventry and Wolves. There were so many people in the ground (>50,000) that spectators were allowed on to the ground and lined the touchlines. No crowd trouble.

    We won. Take that Brummies!

  30. A Plan for the Improvement of English Spelling
    by Mark Twain

    For example, in Year 1 that useless letter “c” would be dropped to be replased either by “k” or “s”, and likewise “x” would no longer be part of the alphabet. The only kase in which “c” would be retained would be the “ch” formation, which will be dealt with later. Year 2 might reform “w” spelling, so that “which” and “one” would take the same konsonant, wile Year 3 might well abolish “y” replasing it with “i” and Iear 4 might fiks the “g/j” anomali wonse and for all. Jenerally, then, the improvement would kontinue iear bai iear with Iear 5 doing awai with useless double konsonants, and Iears 6-12 or so modifaiing vowlz and the rimeining voist and unvoist konsonants. Bai Iear 15 or sou, it wud fainali bi posibl tu meik ius ov thi ridandant letez “c”, “y” and “x” — bai now jast a memori in the maindz ov ould doderez — tu riplais “ch”, “sh”, and “th” rispektivli. Fainali, xen, aafte sam 20 iers ov orxogrefkl riform, wi wud hev a lojikl, kohirnt speling in ius xrewawt xe Ingliy-spiking werld.

  31. “Rob
    July 25, 2017 at 9:34 am

    Turning Britain into Somalia isn’t a problem for the Guardian, but z replacing s? Good God.”

    Apparently when the US simply makes its culture freely available to anyone interested that’s ‘punching down’ and must be resisted.

  32. Apparently when the US simply makes its culture freely available to anyone interested that’s ‘punching down’ and must be resisted.

    Indeed. If you don’t you’ll end up with Trump as PM.

  33. RJB

    Reminds me of this one (and variations thereof):

    The European Commission has just announced an agreement whereby English will be the official language of the EU rather than German which was the other possibility.

    As part of the negotiations, Her Majesty’s Government conceded that English spelling had some room for improvement and has accepted a five year phase-in plan that would be known as “Euro-English”.

    In the first year, “s” will replace the soft “c”. Sertainly, this will make the sivil servants jump with joy. The hard “c” will be dropped in favour of the “k”. This should klear up konfusion and keyboards kan have 1 less letter.

    There will be growing publik enthusiasm in the sekond year, when the troublesome “ph” will be replaced with “f”. This will make words like “fotograf” 20% shorter.

    In the 3rd year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be ekspekted to reach the stage where more komplikated changes are possible. Governments will enkorage the removal of double letters, which have always ben a deterent to akurate speling. Also, al wil agre that the horible mes of the silent “e”s in the language is disgraseful, and they should go away.

    By the fourth year, peopl wil be reseptiv to steps such as replasing “th” with “z” and “w” with “v”. During ze fifz year, ze unesesary “o” kan be dropd from vords kontaining “ou” and similar changes vud of kors be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

    After zis fifz yer, ve vil hav a reli sensibl riten styl. Zer vil be no mor trubl or difikultis and evrivun vil find it ezi to understand ech ozer. Ze drem vil finali kum tru!

  34. “He was gotten in drink: is not the humour conceited?”
    The Merry Wives of Windsor ACT I SCENE III

  35. The objection to the modern use of “gotten” by Britons in the UK is simply that it’s an affectation. The same objection holds for people drivelling about curve balls, stepping up to the plate and all that tripe. Just as endless use of latin tags is tedious, so is endless use of half-understood Americanisms.

    I think you’ll agree that I’ve just slam-dunked the puck into the end zone from left field.

  36. @abacab, July 25, 2017 at 9:06 am

    …which we island apes sometimes do indeed use for “zero”, albeit rarely.

    I’m British and always use “zero”, never “oh” or nought.

  37. @Rob, July 25, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    I remember hearing an irritated person complaining about the use of the word ‘Fall’ for Autumn, and why can’t they use the English word ‘Autumn’ instead.

    The American word is useful remembering clock change direction for the annoying & unnecessary GMT/BST pantomime.

    “Spring forward, fall back”

    Someday sanity may prevail and we stay on GMT permanently.

  38. Brave, Japan

    Odd thing is while -ough- has many pronunciations -augh- has few.
    aught, caught, haughty, taught etc.
    Exceptions come to mind; laughter, draught…
    but rare
    Nought and naught are distinguished by…?

  39. Speaking for myself, the ize has it.

    OED preferred as congruent with the Greek, and it actually looks like it sounds. Yes, English spelling is complicated and irregular – but that doesn’t mean we should turn down an opportunity to regulari*z*e it where we can.

    What the Yanks do is up to them. I seek neither to copy them nor to make a show of doing the opposite.

    I will make an exception for words to do with vision, e.g. supervise.

    To be honest I usually just write whatever form I have read most recently and ignore the spellchecker’s nagging.

  40. On phonetic spelling. Which is correct?

    sent cent scent
    pair pear pare
    wear where ware

  41. @RJB:

    Mark Twain was interested in spelling rationalisation (rationalization?) but there seems to be no evidence that he wrote the piece you quoted. Had he done so, there would have been hell to pay over plagiarism and copyright when W K Lessing, under the pseudonym Dalton Edwards, published a short story called “Meihem in ce Klasrum” in 1946 in “Astounding Science Fiction” magazine.

    You’ll find the text here if interested. Enjoy!

  42. On pronouncing ough: Dave Hitman did a nice skit on this and universities concluding Loughborough should be pronounced Lowbrow.

    Pcar: Never oh for zero? Really? Even on phone numbers? I’ve been specifically trained to use zeros when passing numbers, and do so when being careful, but when rattling one of quickly the near universal usage if the leading oh sometimes creeps back in.

  43. ‘I’m British and always use “zero”, never “oh” or nought.’

    I use each, on whim. Though, come to think of, I think I use “zero” in postcodes, and I think I tend to “oh” in phone numbers. So, semi-structured whim.

  44. Just watching printed captions on the telly News and “doubt” “losing” and “dialogue” followed in short order.
    The Mark Twain piece ( written in 1946 and showing no signs of his preference for a replacement phonetic alphabet over phonetic spelling with existing alphabet), exemplifies the usual over-the- top-ism.Nobody has any problem with hard “c” and soft “c”. You get hard “c” when its followed by ” a” “o” “u” (cat cut cot) and soft “c” when followed by “i” and “e” (cent civil etc).

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.