American English – is it really?

By Rohini Mohan

I’m a Wren & Martin kind of girl. Good grammar, perfect punctuation, the Queen’s English. That’s how I was brought up. So I had a different kind of culture shock when I moved here. If I were to describe American English I would say it is very ‘fit for purpose’. Pithy, funny and bordering on the hyperbole. But it communicates. 
For the last year I’ve been listening to my son say “Heckagood” which is just a cool way of saying “great” which of course is American hyperbole for just plain Good. But why say Good when you can say Great? In fact why say Good when you can say Cool? And why say Cool when you can say ‘Way Cool’?. I remember a decade ago when ‘Chill Out’ was the new relax. That morphed into Just Chill. I’m sure there’s a new mutation out there somewhere, but out of the reach of my poor befuddled mind.
Whadever and Totally – two one-worders that have a wealth of meaning in them. Accompanied by a slight tilt of the head and the ever so subtle lift of the eyebrow, their actual intent and meaning can change dramatically every time they’re uttered.
The one word that has stood the test of time is ‘Like’. Illogically inserted multiple times into every sentence, why this word was picked for this honor is beyond my ken. ‘Dude, I’m like cruisin’ the 880 & this guy like totally rear ends me. There’s all this rubber neckin’ going on and next thing you know there’s like a buncha ambulance chasers’ on the scene.’ The necks stretch like rubber, hence rubber necking. ‘Ambulance chasers’…?     
‘Lookit’ – that’s one that has had me scratching my head for a while. If someone knows it’s origin, please, I am waiting for enlightenment.
‘Sound bytes’, ‘Brain Dumps’. “What part of no do you not understand? Are we on the same page? Ok, George, whatever floats your boat. InvenTORY, obligaTORY.   
English? That ain’t English! But whaddaya know, it’s all there in the dictionary. My son says so. It’s not gourmet, it gormet ; it not boo-ffet it’s ba-ffay. Wake up and smell the coffee, mom. Ok, Ok, I live here now, I’ll change my speak. To quote Hilary Swank in ‘Freedom Writers’ – my badness!    

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