Sunday 23 September 2018

Mary Kenny: No kidding!

If Ireland represents English speakers in the EU, are we closer to Boston or Bath?

Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny, writer and author. Photo: Tony Gavin
Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny

'How are you?" "I'm good." To which the correct answer is: "I was enquiring about your health, rather than your moral character." But the Americanism "I'm good" - instead of "I'm well" (or "fine", or the nice Hibernicism, "I'm grand") - is already so engrained that there is no hope of erasing it. It is probably derived from German "Ich bin gut": it's certainly not old English practice.

But is traditional English practice - the language originating in England - now gone for a Burton (1940s RAF slang for annihilation)? We used to say "the railway station": now it's "the train station". Until recently, we said "in the future": now it's "going forward". We used to say "enjoy it" - speaking, say, of a food dish. Now waiters exclaim "enjoy!", like New Yorkers.

People were sometimes "denounced": now they are "called out". We "hang out" with friends, and go "partying". And when we die, we favour a phrase coined by Evangelical Christians: "we pass away", or even, we just "pass". It's not a departure from life: just a transition.

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