English As She Is Spoken

17 March 2008

I love the English language and particularly like the way that all English speaking countries have produced their own English words that mean nothing or very little in England.  For instance, in Australia, there is a word “furphy“, which is now used in perfectly normal or formal language, and I’ve never come across it before.  

We used to laugh at the way that the American language changed verbs to nouns. My mother told me that her generation couldn’t believe “hospitalise” but I think we all use that now.  “Burglarise” is one that doesn’t seem to have caught on in the rest of the English-speaking world.  In Australia, the noun “farewell” has become a verb. (“The Prime Minister farewelled the troops going to serve in Afghanistan”.)

In the Sydney Morning Herald a couple of weeks ago, I came across “McCain has not yet been coronated as the Republican candidate” (my italics).  Now that’s a new one on me.  Is it Australian/American/other, or just made up? 

I’m not totally pedantic about the language, as it evolves all the time.  We would have great trouble understanding an English person speaking the language of the Middle Ages (try reading Chaucer!).  I’m interested in how these changes come about and how long it takes for them to become perfectly acceptable to us. 

I’m still not crazy about “was like” meaning “said” (“My mum was like,  ‘You’re not going out in that’ and I was like,  ‘whatever'”).



  1. I’ve never heard “coronated” before. How weird. And nominating a delegate isn’t really like holding a coronation anyway. The SMH must’ve thought it was funny to use something so kingly-sounding.

    “Kingly-sounding,” on the other hand, I just made up myself.

  2. I’ve never heard that word either!

    How about ‘gift’ as a verb – as in “I’m knitting socks with the yarn I was gifted.’

    A an English as a Second Language teacher, the more I teach English the more I realise how difficult it is – being based in so many languages [Latin, Greek, German, Old English, Norse to name a few!!]

    Do you watch “Can We Help?” on the ABC [Friday 6.30]? There’s a linguist on there who talks about the meaing of words and how they’ve changed!! She’s very good.

  3. Now I am an English language pedant in that I despise bad spelling and grammar. But I do have to remind myself that English is a dynamic language and that we don’t speak like Chaucer or Shakespeare. So maybe not knowing the difference between there and their, or your and you’re doesn’t really matter…..except that it does, to me! It is a dilemma!

    And I loathe the way that verbs are adjectivised (oh no, have I just made up a new word!!!) or vice versa but maybe that is just part of the way that our rich, wonderful language is changing.

  4. Having lived in the US for years and having all my formal schooling here – coronated is made up if you ask me. Trust me – all our current political cantidates are a trip (as in trip to the nuthouse).

    If you can find the clip of the American comedian Galleger (sp?) doing spelling it’s a riot. Think about it – how do we pronounce tomb? What about bomb? Spelled the same….pronounced completely differently.

  5. Coronated? I’m so ashamed.

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