UK Politics

The Naming of Things

Paul Kingsnorth writing in the New Statesman about reclaiming Englishness doesn’t like what’s happening on the High Street:

It was Gap that made me snap. I was passing my local outlet, when my eye was caught by a poster in the window. It said, in giant script: “FALL SALE. 50% OFF!”

It took a while to sink in. Fall sale. What? This isn’t America, it’s England! We don’t have “a fall”, we have an autumn!

I found myself frothing in despair at this corporate colonisation of my language, my culture, my public space. I looked around. Nobody else seemed to mind – except for Lynne Truss and now John Humphrys, both of whom have turned their despair over the misuse of English into highly readable books.

The language used in this country is increasingly being influenced by the US variant of English. I used to watch films but some younger people talk about going to the moviesinstead. Whatever has replaced the much staider sounding Lets agree to disagree. Any number of other examples can be brought up, but Kingsnorth’s indignation sounds less acceptable if we transfer it to other targets. Take his second sentence and play around with it a bit:

It took a while to sink in. Pizza Restaurant. What? This isn’t Italy, it’s England! We don’t have “Pizza” we have dough smeared with tomato sauce !

or

It took a while to sink in. Balti House. What? This isn’t India, it’s England! We don’t have “Balti”, we have a metal bucket used for cooking spicy dishes in!

I’m not sure exactly how throwing out the burgers is considered a progressive sentiment when variations on the theme with different targets would rightly be considered racist.

I think I know what Kingsnorth is trying to say – that modern England is an increasingly soulless place without distinction from other places. That’s undoubtedly true and considering that a bad thing isn’t neccessarily wrongheaded, but he might want to consider more carefully where thoughts like his have led others in different circumstances.

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