Thursday, November 10, 2005

The President's English

On a forum of technical writers a Brit once corrected me, as though Americans are ignorant and making grammatical errors by using American English, which he arrogantly viewed as somehow "incorrect."

Thinking he would surely have to hear himself if I dropped a subtle hint that 400,000,000 people throughout North America say different than instead of different from, it made no dent in his obtuseness. He just had no idea why 400,000,000 people are so ignorant of the right way to speak "the King's English."

As I've said here, the language we use doesn't belong to any monarch or pedant: it belongs to the entire population of its native speakers. They do with it what they will.

No form of English is inherently any better or more correct than any other. But one form is becoming more prevalent by the day -- American English. (See The President's English by Prof. Paul Brians, University of Washington.)

That's largely because of the Internet and the sheer number of native speakers of American English. Also, today, most people who learn English as a second language learn American English, and it's what they come in contact with every day.

This is no moral issue and devious plot to impose American culture on the world: it's just a natural change. A hundred years ago, British English was the international standard. Who knows? In a hundred years, Australian English may be.

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