Enough is enough.
Never mind that the reporter said my daughter Elizabeth was in the 5th grade (instead of 6th); never mind that she said I was pregnant when taking sculpture classes at the Corcoran (when actually I was having a nice little affair between marriages).
What got me was a quote. There, in black and white, in inverted commas, I am supposed to have said: "When we came back from England, housing prices had gotten too high . . ."
"Gotten?" I have never in my entire life used the word gotten instead of got. I have always lived by my high-school English teacher's rule: Never use a longer word when there's a perfectly good, shorter one available.
Also, "gotten" doesn't sound right. It doesn't sound, well, English. It is yet another reminder that Britain and the United States are two countries divided by a common language.
"Gotten," as listed in the Oxford Dictionary, means "obtained, acquired, won"; it is also, according to a note, "now rare." It is not only rare, it is obsolete. It is not a word used by people in England, low or high, educated or not.
There are other things that divide the classes: dropping aitches, for example, or using "mirror" instead of "looking glass," which, according to Nancy Mitford, is supposed to immediately label you lower class. (I do rather wonder what Miss Mitford uses when she drives a car--a driving looking glass?)
There are other things that divide the classes but use of the word "gotten" is not one of them. Nobody uses it, except in that reverberating cliche' "ill-gotten gains."
In the process of becoming Americanized, however, I have learned to say gas instead of petrol, cookie instead of biscuit and drugstore instead of chemist. If I wish to get an early start to the day I no longer ask people to knock me up at 7. Nor do I flinch when Americans ask how much I earn on a first meeting.
Adopting Americanisms, however, can lead to certain hazards when returning to England. On our last visit my husband decided to buy a pair of wool pants.
The elderly shop assistant looked perplexed. "For you sir?" he asked, then disappeared into the back of the shop and emerged a few minutes later with a pair of long woollen drawers of a most disagreeable shade of yellowish off-white. The word in England is trousers.
Women, of course, do not ask for panties in the underwear department. Instead, they coyly request "knickers," a word that to this day retains an overtone of naughtiness, especially when used as a mild expletive. "Oh, knickers!" is more or less equivalent to "damn!" when you stub your toe or trip on the sidewalk (pavement).
Another word Americans may have trouble with over there is "fine," as an adjective describing weather. You will find that Englishmen define a day as "fine" which may be cloudy, distinctly cool, even drizzly, or all three at once. Unless it's actually raining cats and dogs, it is a "fine" day.
But if it snows half an inch or so, newspaper headline writers and TV anchormen start flinging around such phrases as "Arctic conditions" and "England in grip of deep-freeze." A heat wave is anything over 65 degrees Fahrenheit; at 70 degrees your average Englishman will complain that it's too hot and start peeling off his clothes.
My parents tell me that I sound "awfully American" when I visit them, whilst American friends still gush over my "cute English accent." What my parents don't know is that for my visits I adopt an American accent as protective covering. Having an American accent automatically classes one as, well, a bit vulgar or pushy. But at least it rescues you from the predicament--described by Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady--of an Englishman not being able to open his mouth without some other Englishman despising him. The lower classes despise those who talk "posh" whilst the upper classes look down on aitch-droppers.
Certain things I will not give up even after 20 years, more or less, on this side of the Atlantic. "Whilst" is one (even if it si longer); "tomahto" another. I still serve a boiled egg in an egg cup. And I still make tea by pouring boiling water over tea leaves in a warmed teapot.
By the way, should you ever find yourself in an English tea shop or cafe, do not ask for an English muffin. You will get approximately the same thing (a vehicle for conveying melted butter to the mouth) if you ask for a toasted tea cake or a crumpet.
But under no circumstance ask the waitress for another "bit of crumpet" . . . that means something else again.