Slate, the online magazine, asked me to write a piece about my experience doing Not One-Off Britishisms. I had been thinking I should really weigh in on What It All Means, so this gave me the opportunity to cogitate on the matter. It was a bit challenging, since in this and most cases, I’m a lot more interested in observing that and how than in speculating about why or (even worse) weighing in on whether the phenomenon is good, bad or somewhere in between.
But I wrote the piece and you can read it here.
Just a couple of things to add. First, while the headline (“The Britishism Invasion”) is spot-on, I did not write an am not pleased with the subtitle, “Language corruption is a two-way street.” “Corruption” is such a harsh word.
Second, the comments–342 at last count–are a trip. A few are dopey, but most are right in the spirit of this enterprise, adding interesting comments and suggestions for future entries. (Shag seemed to keep coming up.) Also, not a few pointed out that I made an embarrassing mistake–I had the plural of corpus as corpi, which apparently is not a word, rather than corpora. Hey, I don’t know Latin and I’m not a linguist. I don’t even play one on TV.
I heard directly from quite a few people with interesting things to say. One of them was Helen Kennedy, the first journo, according to my unscientific investigation, to use go missing to refer to Chandra Levy’s disappearance. Her e-mail had the subject line “You made my day!” and began:
I always knew I would amount to something, and having some small part in the downfall of American English – well, could one be more subversive? No, one could not.
I’m half-American and half Irish, raised in England and Italy. I am CONSTANTLY having to turn to my colleagues to ask if “advertizing” has a Z here, etc… I genuinely had no idea that “gone missing” was not regular Ammurican.
So “go missing” was (arguably) blown to these shores, like some exotic seed, by someone who learned it in the U.K. As has been observed before, the Internet sure is something.