That’s just like, so your opinion … Wallace Shawn and Alicia Silverstone in Clueless.
Do you hate Americanisms? Lots of people wince and reach for the green ink if they hear a British person speak of death as “passing”. Yet that euphemism is present in Chaucer and Shakespeare. What about “oftentimes”? It’s in the King James Bible. And even “the fall” for autumn is good old 17th-century English, a shortening of the traditional term “fall of the leaf”.
By contrast, some phrases that appear echt-British are, in fact, American. A “stiff upper lip” first appeared in a Massachusetts newspaper in 1815. Americans also coined the terms “commuter” and “teenager”, which don’t seem to prompt so much of a post-imperial cringe from those who want to take back control of our linguistic borders.
But the writer and Countdown dictionary guardian Susie Dent is heroically going further, with a forthcoming BBC Radio 4 documentary to celebrate the flood of lexical migrants, Americanize!: Why the Americanisation of English Is a Good Thing.
The fear of Americanisms is often based on a vague idea that they are incorrect, less grammatically pure, but this is prejudice. “Can I get” instead of “Can I have” in the coffee shop? Shakespeare probably would have loved it, Dent says. (“Gotten” is in his plays.) Much of the time, Americanisms are socially useful as well as fun: to greet people with “Hey guys!” is appropriately friendly because “guys” is now gender-neutral in its usage.
Those who fear our culture is being overwhelmed by US television, of course, will so not like this. Yet even that use of “so” as an intensifier is already in the draft next edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Resistance is futile. As it happens, the OED’s first citation for that usage – “Oh, thank you, Josh, I so need lessons from you on how to be cool” – is from Amy Heckerling’s script for Clueless, which is, of course, based on Jane Austen’s Emma. The whole history of British and US English is one of creative give and take. Economists say that globalised free trade makes everyone richer; that’s certainly true for language, and it’s totally awesome.