For the first time, Metro Scene offers its readers a guest columnist. Last week, we reported on two Washington and Lee University students from Virginia who went to Great Britain and won a debate on the proposition that American English is superior to British English.
Yesterday's mail brought a letter of dissent on the letterhead of the Arlington Career Center, from Diana S. Lockwood, who signs herself as "an educationalist on loan from England." Her letter is both so charming and persuasive that, rather than printing excerpts from it, we offer it substantially in full as a guest column, with her spelling and punctuation kept intact:
As a Brit in Washington I really must protest at the out-come of the debate . . . . It is quite clear to me that your young people won the issue through sheer volume and persistence . . . .
But the Mother Tongue, our so-called common language, has been modified, simplified and bastardized by the melting pot of many nations . . . .
Why does 'regular' mean usual? And then there is the imprecision of all-embracing words such as 'truck' for (seemingly) any vehicle that is not a car; and 'school' to mean any regular (ugh!) school, college or university . . . .
A number of times I have used honest, well-used British phrases only to discover their meaning have undergone a complete metamorphosis. In Britain we still may ask a friendly neighbour, or leave a note for the milk-man, to knock us up in the morning (to be sure to be on time for work and whatever). And recently at dinner when I referred to myself as my boss's 'sleeping partner' there was a somewhat strained silence until my host translated this to 'silent' partner.
Your elevator is our lift. Our lift is your ride. And if we take some-one for a ride we make a fool of them. . . .
On top of this we have The Accent. And the regional variations. And the rapidity with which y'all speak, running consonants together . . . .
You Americans are certainly up-front and out-spoken but whether we have understood or not is another matter -- no-one sits around long enough to find out.
No, Sir, do not be convinced by the out-come of a single debate. Your talents lie in your positive attitude and unswerving belief in whatever you go for . . . .
Simplification of our language -- yes. But better? Never!