Thursday, March 2, 2006

Language Insourced

A number of literary types, including Oscar Wilde ("The Americans are identical to the British in all respects except, of course, language.") and G. B. Shaw ("We are two countries separated by a common language."), have commented in amusing ways on the differences between British and American English.

But in recent years, we've had some Britishisms glide into use here in the United States. Two in particular grate: "stand for" when describing an election campaign and "person of interest" when talking about someone who may or may not be a criminal suspect.

Washington Post Feb.25
Time Warner announced that Turner had decided not to stand for reelection to its board of directors at the annual shareholders meeting in May.

and, curiously

USA Today on the same story:
Turner, 67, said in a statement Friday that, "after much deliberation," he decided not to stand for re-election to the media giant's board at its annual meeting.

Denver Post March 1
Qwest board member Cannon "Cy" Harvey, the president of Anschutz Co., also will not stand for re-election to Qwest's board at the telephone company's upcoming annual meeting.

The St. Petersburg Times had an interesting piece back in 2004 on the use of this phrase, though it didn't identify it as British. As the Times notes, the police love this phrase but the rest of us should be careful because it is so vague and has no real definition. That may explain why TV people love it.

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