Thursday, 31 January 2013

Been to the bin lately?

We have much to thank America for: McDonalds, Budweiser beer, Elvis Presley and bourbon whiskey, to name some random examples. I do not, however, feel moved to thank it for the corruption of our language.
When we were teaching English in China we were shocked to find that the course books which we were expected to use (but did not) were American. Hang on, we thought, we are here to teach English: surely that means British English not American English. We were wrong and that’s China’s choice of course.
Personally, I have no problem with Americans speaking their own form of the language – in fact I quiet like it, sometimes. I don’t even mind Americans saying ‘bin’ when they mean ‘been’. It’s just their way, I suppose.
In fact when I grew up in the Gloucestershire we said ‘bin’ when we meant ‘been’. But that was just our way, I suppose. We also said ‘sin’ when we meant ‘seen’ and ‘snot’ when we meant ‘it is not’. We spoke a sort of slangy dialect and I had to unlearn it as I grew older, particularly when I ‘nidded to spik’ to foreign folk or attend a job interview.
Funny you know, no one says ‘baked bins’ when they mean ‘baked beans’ or ‘grin’ when they mean ‘green’. Yet it has recently become very popular in Britain to say ‘bin’ instead of ‘bean’.
OK, I know what you are thinking: grumpy old man and all that; picky old sod, or peaky old cod; a latter day canny newt trying to hold back the tide of change.
But why, oh why do British people pick up these things from the USA? In particular, why, oh why, are people here saying ‘bin’ when they mean ‘been’ even at the BBC? Also why are they all saying ‘guy’ when they could say: man, chap, fellow, bloke, etc? Is it because they are deliberately emulating Americans, admiring Americans, being trendy, going with the flow, or just showing a liberality of spirit? Or do they genuinely enjoy confusing foreigners? I would really like to know.
I am not trying to hold back the tide of change: English is an ever-evolving language and that is one of the reasons that it is the second language of the world. But ‘bin’ when you mean ‘been’ is not an evolution, it’s a confusion. We do need new words to express new concepts. I don’t tweet much but I see the need for the word – any twit can see that. I couldn’t blog until the Internet, etc had matured sufficiently to allow me to so, and then we really needed a word for it. And so on.
Well there we are. Glad I’ve got this off my chest. It’s bin bothering me a lot lately.

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