Today is the anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death (April 23, 1616). It is also picked as the English Language Day. I’m blogging at InspyRomance about this day in the world of English-medium books.
The above blog at IR is an abridged version of my full blog post. Since the IR site is for readers of Christian romance, I think my original blog post is too general. I decided to post it here instead, and only sent an excerpt from the “Of Storybooks” section to the IR site.
The uncut long post…
Is English your first language? If not, was it easy for you to learn it? When did you start learning it?
There are some major languages in the world that celebrate their own days, such as English, Chinese, Spanish, Arabic, French, and Russian. Since I’m blogging in English, I thought it would be fun to talk about English Language Day, which happens to be today (April 23), the anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, that bard who gave us the word “courtship” in Love’s Labor Lost (1597) and “lonely” in Coriolanus (1623).
We all know that English is the lingua franca of the business world. It’s technically easier to learn English than Greek, for example. Historically, though, that version of English has been British.
These days, however, have you noticed that the world is using more and more American English? Thirty to forty years ago, I noticed that there was still a distinct difference between people speaking in British English versus American. These days, with the internet and social media, I’m seeing interchangeable phrases that some of us wouldn’t have used back in the old days. That’s my opinion anyway.
Due to Hollywood exports of TV shows and dramas and movies, most of the world understand American English. British and Australian actors working in Hollywood sometimes have better American accents than Americans. Truly.
British and European singers who want to make the charts in the USA sing in American English as far back as the 1960s e.g. Beatle songs. The other day, I came across an old song, “The House of the Rising Sun” and was stunned to find out that it wasn’t sung by Americans. It sounded like it could’ve originated from New Orleans.
A while back, I saw a video that said 1700s England speech was probably similar to American English today. Crossing the pond, we still say fall instead of autumn, trunk instead of boot, measure in feet instead of meter, and so forth.
Interestingly, some non-Roman languages also use English words in the modern iteration of their languages. For example, South Korea, India, Japan, and China, all use English phrases scattered into their languages. I saw at least a couple of hilarious videos in which the participants were told not to use any English words for the duration of their games, and they often failed, starting with “okay” and “yes” and “no.”
Incidentally, my dictionary says that “okay” originated from the USA in the mid-nineteenth century.
Questions for you: Are you multilingual? What languages do you speak? Are you so fluent that you can switch back and forth among the languages without any problem?
Some churches who read King James Bible are familiar with British spelling. And all of us who read Shakespeare understand British spelling, wouldn’t you say?
Even though Noah Webster dropped the ‘u’ in “colour” and ‘k’ in “musick” in his A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language (1806) for the sake of uniformity in American English spelling, all of us worldwide still understand “colour” (although my autocorrect keeps dropping the ‘u’ as I typed the word just now).
Somewhere in storage, I have a facsimile of Webster’s old dictionary. There were many Bible verses used as examples in that dictionary, and all of them had British spelling.
Questions for you: Do you read Shakespeare? What do think about the words he invented? Some of the words remained spelled the same way he had written them.
Of Social Media…
Oh, don’t get me started on how social media has probably changed, and worse, corrupted, the grammar and language of any language worldwide. Thanks to texting and messaging and tapping on phones with little screens and even smaller bandwidth, we see a surfeit of abbreviations and unconventional grammar floating around like debris in cyberspace.
Not only that, sometimes meanings are completely lost in software translations as people from many ethnicities try to communicate with one another. There are some idioms and sayings that are almost impossible to translate to other languages, let alone words. Take the word “love,” for example. How many Greek words are there for this one English word?
That is to say, IMHO when it gets to social media, caveat lector. The meaning of the words you see on social media might not be what it really is. On top of that, there are twists and turns in Social Media English. For example, there’s “tea” that doesn’t mean tea per se. I’ve also seen invented English words, or portmanteau of words, that fans created for their pop singers from a non-English-speaking country, using a combination of English and South Korean words, for example, to create new words with new meanings.
Yes, I have noticed a steady stream of new words in American English these days. That doesn’t surprise me. After all, America is a melting pot of the cultures of the world. So when American English sees a good word from another language, it uses it, and when it’s popular enough, it becomes a part of the dictionary. Why not, if it better describes something? For example, mukbang from South Korea. I love reading about the etymology of words!
Words also go in and out of use. For a while, I thought that “reckon” had fallen out of use. However, about ten years ago, I saw that people were starting to use it again on social media. But now, I don’t see much of it appearing in some social media circles any more. Some words are cyclical in use, I suppose. Or perhaps, I’m paying less attention to a common word.
What about words you from social media that make their way into novels?
Questions for you: Have you encountered social media influences in the written language in the books you read?
Today, we primarily see two main types of English in the commercial world of fiction books: American English and British English. From those two stem many variations and local dialects, idioms, sayings, colloquialism, and slang words.
I usually write in American English because most of my readers read in American English, even though some of my novels take place outside of the USA. Smile for Me (Vacation Sweethearts Book 1), for example, is set primarily in the Bahamas, and Once a Thief (a romantic suspense outside the scope of this blog) is set in Europe. I toggle between British English and American English, but since my readers are mainly from the USA, I use all American English grammar, spelling, and punctuation.
What about the novels you read? What are some American or British jargons that baffle you when you read a novel? I think that the more we read books written in a certain lingo or from particular regions of the world, the more we are used to the words and phrases. What say you?
I think it helps that I have watched movies and dramas set outside the USA. I think British mysteries are fun to watch (Poirot, anyone?) and I remember enjoying dramas such as A Town Like Alice, set in Australia. All these add to my understanding of the various types of English around the world.
Questions for you: Do you prefer to read novels written in American English or British? Does it matter to you at all? Does your mind automatically switch to a different mode of speaking when you read books?
Well, happy English Language Day to you! Prior to this blog post, I had no idea there was such a day. Did you know this day exists?
If you’re looking for new books to read in English (hehe!), I have two FREE ebooks that you can download, if you don’t already have them on your Kindle reader:
- Ask You Later (A Savannah Sweethearts Prequel) tells the story of a mixed-media artist and the gallery owner’s non-artistic daughter.
- Time for Me (A Vacation Sweethearts Prequel) takes us back to that same gallery with the story of an archivist and a bronze sculptor.