English is a messy language. The roots of its grammar are Germanic, but its vocabulary comes mostly from Romance languages. And as a global lingua franca, hundreds of millions of people modify it, and invent new meanings and grammar. So how can any one culture lay claim to its proper use?
The Prodigal Tongue, by Lynne Murphy, comes out today from Penguin Books. In it she argues against linguistic snobbery, in particular between some of the most powerful speakers of English, Brits and Americans. The stereotype that British vocabulary is silly and over the top, and the stereotype that Americans are jargon-izing killers of proper English, are both unfounded, she shows.
The American-born linguistics professor and language blogger has lived in Brighton, England for nearly 20 years. In her new book she analyzes our many preconceived notions about what we believe is correct English, and by extension, what is “bastardized” English.
Drawing on Murphy’s research on Britishisms and Americanisms, Quartz has made a quiz to test your knowledge and challenge your biases.
Guess where each word or phrase came from originally, the US or the UK: