New year, new vocabulary

It is customary at New Year to reflect on important events in the preceding 12 months, and in particular to mark the passing of notable public figures during the year.

Many journalists and commentators have already done that, so I thought it also worth noting instead some of the words and phrases which died during 2016.

Specifically, I am referring to the changes in British English which are happening all the time. Often I notice expressions which were once American English but which have completely replaced their British equivalents. Not important in the grand scheme of things of course but, just as we generally feel the need to register the death of once famous people, I have an urge to recognise the disappearance of words before they are completely lost from our collective consciousness.

I fear that I am already too late for words such as peep which has been replaced by peek, and sideboards which are now universally referred to as sideburns. Yes they are both true, and if you don’t believe me then my point has been made.

I say these changes are not important, but I do feel that there should be some effort to record such transformations for the sake of historical accuracy in literature and drama. I know for a fact that I am not alone in spotting anachronisms in films, because the Internet Movie Database has many pedantic examples in the Goofs section. Such as this one about the 1994 film Forrest Gump:

The letter from Apple Computer, dated 1975, uses the ‘Apple Garamond’ font below the logo. Apple did not use this font before the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. Until then, the logo featured the Motter Tektura font. The Garamond font itself was only designed in 1977.

If you have an ear for detail then there are numerous examples of idioms which, because they are out of their time, are slightly jarring. The 17th century innkeeper handing over a foaming pint with a cheerful “There you go!” or a 1940’s RAF officer asking to “speak with” a person for example.

So, before they disappear in the mists of time, I should just like to record the following British English expressions which died in 2016.

  • Demolish (replaced by tear down)
  • Robbery (now heist)
  • Lorry (truck)
  • Stone (even small ones are now rocks)
  • Stand is now run (as in “The candidate decided to run for election”)
  • Have (get – for example “Can I get a tall latte macciato and a blueberry muffin?”)
  • Certainly (the barista’s reply would now of course be no problem)
  • Sir (mate as in “Can I see your driving licence mate?”)

Actually, this last example is clearly not one from our colonial friends who apparently use the word sir at every opportunity – whether or not they are a police officer.

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