The prodigal tongue : the love-hate relationship between American and British English / Lynne Murphy.

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    • Abstract:
      Summary: "An American linguist teaching in England explores the sibling rivalry between British and American English. "If Shakespeare were alive today, he'd sound like an American." "English accents are the sexiest." "Americans have ruined the English language." "Technology means everyone will have to speak the same English." Such claims about the English language are often repeated but rarely examined. Professor Lynne Murphy is on the linguistic front line. In The Prodigal Tongue she explores the fiction and reality of the special relationship between British and American English. By examining the causes and symptoms of American Verbal Inferiority Complex and its flipside, British Verbal Superiority Complex, Murphy unravels the prejudices, stereotypes and insecurities that shape our attitudes to our own language. With great humo(u)r and new insights, Lynne Murphy looks at the social, political and linguistic forces that have driven American and British English in different directions: how Americans got from centre to center, why British accents are growing away from American ones, and what different things we mean when we say estate, frown, or middle class. Is anyone winning this war of the words? Will Yanks and Brits ever really understand each other?"-- Provided by publisher.
    • Content Notes:
      The Queen's English, corrupted -- The wrong end of the bumbershoot : stereotypes and getting things wrong -- Separated by a common language? -- America : saving the English language since 1607 -- More American, more Ænglisc? -- Logical nonsense -- Lost in translation -- The standard bearers -- The prognosis -- Beyond Britain and America.
    • Notes:
      Includes bibliographical references (pages 299-343) and index.
    • Other Titles:
      Love-hate relationship between American and British English.
    • ISBN:
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LJ Reviews 2018 April #1

In this delightful and highly readable and informative book, American-born, UK-based linguist Murphy (linguistics, Univ. of Sussex) outlines the tug and pull, jealousies, and rivalries of the English language on both sides of the pond. Is American English corrupting the "King's English" or is America "saving" the language and enhancing it? Murphy's analysis of how "fall" came into American usage as an alternative to the French "autumn" is one of many detailed examples of the symbiotic relationship between American and British English. Filled with wit and amusing asides, this well-researched, well-documented text often shows that American English is actually preserving its British cousins' linguistic origins. The difference between the "Queen's English," "Proper" English, and "Received" English is contrasted to "Standard American English." Murphy's analyses are well argued and often very amusing; her investigation of British vs. American pronunciations are particularly insightful. VERDICT Highly recommended both to students of linguistics and general readers interested in language and culture.—Herbert E. Shapiro, Lifelong Learning Soc., Florida Atlantic Univ., Boca Raton

Copyright 2018 Library Journal.

PW Reviews 2018 January #5

Murphy, an American linguistics professor, longtime U.K. resident, and creator of the Separated by a Common Language blog, continues her investigation of the unique relationship between British and American English in this thoughtful, funny, and approachable book. Murphy frames the divide in terms of illness: the British are pathologically afflicted by "Amerilexicosis" (obsessive vitriol toward Americanisms in British English), while Americans neurotically suffer from "AVIC" (American verbal inferiority complex). Murphy uses the drama of these opposing anxieties to draw attention to grammatical minutiae and spelling differences and to explain esoteric linguistic concepts such as prototypes in terms of how bacon doesn't refer to the same thing in the U.S. and the U.K. because "the set of properties that makes something supremely bacon-y" is different in each place. She also shares surprising factual tidbits—Oxford University Press's British and American dictionary databases only overlap in 78% of their definitions—and revealing cultural divergences—saying ate as et is considered standard pronunciation in the U.K. but is often thought of as a trait of backwoods accents in the U.S. The book's momentum comes from Murphy's witty presentation, but its real power comes from its commitment to inquiry and its profound belief that "communication involves a million little acts of faith." Agent: Daniel Conway, DHH Literary Agency. (Apr.)

Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly.