First posted November 2012
I’m in physical pain writing this, but its time that I came to terms with the fact that British English is a dying language.
I’ve clung desperately to -our, -ise and -re endings for three decades, steadfastly doubled my l’s before controlling and labelling, refused to budge on catalogue and dialogue, place punctuation where it makes sense in quotes and maintain events happen on a day.
But you only need to open a multi-language tourist guide or menu to see the Stars and Stripes indicating English to realise the language is on its last legs. The spread of American culture – films, news, fiction and non-fiction, sport and even online games – and the country’s rise in the technology and business arenas are part of the reason.
The other is sheer weight of numbers: 75 per cent of native English speakers live in the US, so its logical to assume that the same proportion of people who have learned English as a subsequent language also use the US version. Now if there are roughly 1.5 billion English speakers on the planet, 1.1 billion of them are chattering away in American.
Not convinced, let’s Google it.
Flavour = 56 million returns, flavor = 155 million
Centre = 1.67 billion, center = 4.42 billion
Programme = 558 million, programme = 3.01 billion
It may be way too early to put UK English on the endangered list, but it seems inevitable that one day, perhaps when my grandkids are finishing school, that UK English will be a bit of a novelty.
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