Tuesday, March 14, 2006

British English and American English

(Imported from my old weblog January 8, 2005)

You know there are aberrations in all people's psyche. This is an aberration in mine! I just feel too strongly when I see American spellings getting into us. It brings in floods of thoughts about American Economic Imperialism and what not! The possibility that all this has something to do very strongly with people's acceptance of America's supremacy in all ways looms large in my thoughts. I feel unhappy that a country can affect our ways so subtly just because it's the richest country of the world. It affects how we work, how we think, how we spend our weekends, how we sell our products and how we buy them, and how we spend our money. All these have something to do directly with money. Hence, it's sort of easy for me to accept that such things are defined by America's culture.

But when I see that we let America decide even how we spell our words (especially against our having learnt and taught this foriegn language for decades), I get a sick feeling. It strikes me directly as how a rich man (nation or society) can force its way into people's grits and guts. Right from how we eat food to how we clean our a**.

Anyway, all this discussed in public would make me look very silly. I mean, 'doesn't this fellow have something better to think more strongly about!' kind of thing.


Anonymous said...

Well, here's a thought to ponder upon. English itself being a foreign language is accepted by Indians as a de-facto communication medium by business houses and academicians. If that doesn't sound like an aberration to a country who is quite capable in its own rights to have adopted one of its own language to be medium of expression, then I find the at the American English as a trivial and at times a little funny aberration.

Here is another point to think upon, in all its text of history, we as a country is known as culture that have accomodated cultures, languages, aberration etc from all over the world. So an American aberration should be quite amenable to generous folks like us whose a**es are used to be washed and not swiped.. :)


Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

Choice of English is driven (partly) by the requirement to have a common language of communication with the rest of the world. The fact that British once ruled the world, and hence propagated their language is just a secondary reason. Look at Christianity. It spread in India. But it didn't become the dominant religion, just become British people ruled our country. English gained grounds in India mostly because of its usefulness as an international language (which in turn might have been caused by Britain's past dominance, but that's not the point). When English came to popular use in India, there were clearcut reasons to accept it as language of regular use. It made sense.

Another point in favour of accepting English is that accepting it didn't mean dumping our own language. Hindi is growing stronger and stronger (though in its various incarnations) as a language of common use all over India, despite all resistence from an insignificantly small pocket of population who have been groomed by politicians to harbour anti-hindi sentiments.

Now, let me know one such reason for turning to American spellings, especially, considering the fact that in my school textbooks, I already had learnt a different set of spellings, and was quite profficient in using them. Hope you will not resort to saying that the missing 'u's in words like colour, odour etc. save effort and computer memory!

Another reason is that Microsoft Office is by default set to US English. But, we aren't working with Microsoft Office all the time, right?!

I do have a mindblock against a set of software tools being able to change the whole system of spellings I have been using all my life. I feel my association to my several decades long knowledge of a language (foriegn or desi) is more fundamental than my dependence on a set of proprietary software tools, and the underlying cultural dominance of a country which is stronger only economically.

I secretly resent people for being open-minded on this matter and modernly accepting the dominance of a language that's clearly the sign of a cultural dominance. We do bow to the dominance by powerful cultures when time is ripe. Only in case of this premature adaption of American English do I see this take a naked form of worldwide sycophancy towards USA!

But, you know! I'm a clever guy! I don't express my resentment in public! ;) ;)

Ayan n' Mrinalini said...

Well I am not quite sure how much the requirement for a common language is met English. Why not Hindi, it is ranked heigher than English for the commonly spoken language. Check the following link:

This link might also show you that spread of spoken English is most, geographically, for the American English.

I think its just a matter of your own personal comfort. I personally favour the British since I can use some sanity with the spellings that way. From the language stand-point I have no emotional attachment to English, it basically is language for the sycophants. We learnt English bacause the British ruled over us, so much so that started to pride the fact that we could speak like their Queen!!

Just notice in the table that there are two other languages, quite high their ranks too, which we can truely call our own mother toungues.

So don't get irritated over an American aberration, I rather enjoy the fact that the Britishers are struggling to save the identity of the language they founded themselves.


Ramanan said...

hi Sujit,

Nice to find a person who harboUrs (:D) similar thoughts on British and American English.

Well, I thought you would have made an elaborate blog on the subject. Anyway, never mind, you have inspired me to do one.