March 2016

Tidbits on the English Language - No. 3: A More Vigorous English

American English

In the last issue, we touched upon how American radio and television broadcasts boosted the influence of the English language around the world. Broadcasts allow the expansion of the Received Pronunciation (the accent everybody used to find so superb), and America observed in a similar manner the spreading of a unique accent sometimes called Network Standard, the typical speech of newscasters. Cherry-picked from the best elements of each regional pronunciation - in Southern Texas, and Brooklyn among others -, it was devised to present a clear, intellectual and neutral English accent.

Like in Great Britain, America too has its regional dialects (Texas, Florida, Brooklyn, Chicago, Wyoming, etc.). Only, as opposed to British English, these dialects have virtually no class connotations. Every American President spoke differently according to their place of birth: this applies to everyone - from Lincoln to Roosevelt, Kennedy and Carter - except Reagan who as an experienced actor and anchorman, is famous for using the Network Standard.

Before becoming president, he had been Governor of California, one of the three biggest states in the USA, boasting its largest population (37 million inhabitants in 2010) and a local economy rivaling that of single countries such as Italy. It is a cosmopolitan state that welcomes, in addition to Caucasians and African Americans, people from all ethnicities including Hispanic, Chinese and Vietnamese. This culture and lifestyle was the object of fascination from the 1960s onwards. The Golden State is the home to the main cutting-edge industries (nuclear power generation, petroleum, movies, space research, IT and top-class media), and its influence can be felt well beyond the American borders.

Silicon Valley

News and information largely originating from Los Angeles have an extensive reach, and California, the state where the future happens first, influences the world as its form of English the strongest influence and immeasurable power.

Silicon Valley's IT industry has also given birth to many new expressions over the last half century. These words could be a textbook example of how fast neologisms can catch on and spread within the English-speaking world. The Silicon Valley is located at one hour's drive from San Francisco and counts thousands of IT companies: from famous multinationals like Apple, Google and HP, to small businesses established by big firms ex-employees or prodigies having graduated from the nearby Stanford University.

This region is also a jargon factory for the English language. For example, although they are familiar to most nowadays, all the following high-tech slang initially came from the Silicon Valley.

computer hacker

Knowing these kinds of words is to be "computer-literate," and the younger generations who were born in an age when Internet and IT technologies were a given are referred to as "digital natives."