Friday, 11 February 2011

Trending now - girl who cain't say no to Wills

ENGLISH language purists may be appalled, but I’ve gotten a soft spot for the things American usage does to what we still think of as our mother tongue.
Or, in some cases, the things it doesn’t do.
For instance, that “gotten” may have offended your ears as you read my first sentence. You may have thought it was a mistake. A ghastly Americanism.
But actually “gotten” is older than “got” as a past participle of the verb “to get”.
It’s just one example among many of America not having moved on as we have.
The USA may be proud of being a modern leader among nations. Yet in so many ways their outlook is still stuck in the 17th century, the era when their founders left Britain in order to pursue their quirky faiths in peace.
That reverence for cultic and fundamentalist religion is one survival. “Gotten” is another.
And, paradoxical as it may seem, the American ability to keep making the language may also be a leftover from that pre-dictionary age.
My favourite quotation on the subject, from an anonymous GI, is this: “Ain’t a word that cain’t be verbed.”
Beautiful. It demonstrates perfectly the freedom it describes by making the word “verb” – in English English a noun only – into a verb. While at the same time riffing delightfully on the good old English “ain’t”, which has fallen into unfair disrepute on this side of the pond.
One apparent example of verbing a non-verb is the current trend in the US media for using the term “trending”. As in: “Trending now.” Or, as we might put it: “Hot topics.”
Turns out, though, on consulting my dictionary, that “trend” was a verb before it was a noun. So maybe what sounds trendy and new is just old hat after all.
Except I don’t think that when Time magazine uses “Trending Now” to advertise its latest stories it means “turning, bending or winding”.
So what is trending now in the US press?
Egypt Turmoil: Well, no great surprise there. Any regime change in the world’s largest Arab nation – the third largest state in Africa – embodies both hope and fear for us all.
Super Bowl: Also no surprise. Absorption in faintly ridiculous games the rest of the world doesn’t play is somehow a key component of the American psyche.
The Oscars: Everyone, it seems, loves the movies. And nearly everyone, oddly, still seems to care about showbiz honours and awards. I even used to take an interest myself.
And finally - Royal Wedding: Oh, good grief.
From whether Kate Middleton’s wedding attire to whether she will take over royal duties at Wimbledon; from Kate Middleton condoms (I kid you not) to casting for a TV movie called William & Kate (I still kid you not), America is obsessed. With what must surely be the least interesting thing happening in Britain this year.
The dreary Beckhams, the talented Mr Firth (playing royalty, of course) and the pointless pageantry of a couple of toffs getting spliced – is that the sum of what Britain means to America? To the world?
Sure looks like it’s gotten that way. Which cain’t be good.

1 comment:

Suzanne said...

As for two weeks I watched Al Jazeera today.
I lived the joy in Egypt with the people.
My joy forces me to be optimistic. I hope I'm right.