Four Thought, Radio 4, Wednesday
The Sinha Test, Radio 4, Thursday
It's just not cricket – nor is it baseball
Sunday 17 July 2011
How are you? "I'm good." You're "good"? Do you mean morally good? Good at a particular activity?
Oh, I'm sorry, you mean you're "well". No, I've never actually said that, because I don't want people to punch me. Instead I seethe inside, which is much healthier. In Four Thought, Matthew Engel addressed the ongoing infiltration of American English: hikes, heists, hospitalised, grow as a transitive verb, "ass" for "arse" – and speaking of which, Michael Gove (the Education Secretary!) on Today talking about something happening "right from the get-go".
I've even seen "ouster", as in elimination from a competition or removal from office; and twice recently "likely" instead of "probably" has cropped up, as in "if you use that Americanism again I'll likely have to kick your ass". Consider, however, lengthy, reliable, talented, influential and tremendous – all Yank invaders, now permanent residents. The fact is, old fools like me and Engel are paddling in the sea barking at the incoming tide. As he says, American English is vibrant and inventive, but with our "sloppy loss of our own distinctive phraseology ... we're letting British English wither". We need to wake up and smell the coffee.
Engel listed some of the baseball terms we use nowadays, like stepping up to the plate and taking a raincheck; as the comedian Paul Sinha observed in The Sinha Test, "cricket is the complete works of Shakespeare to baseball's The Only Way Is Essex". As an Englishman he's biased. In fact, as an Englishman who supports the Indian cricket team he's biased.
The programme's title referred to the famous Tebbit Test – which cricket team do Asian Brits support? Sinha made clear that for him, the team you follow has nothing to do with nationality: it's all about the sport. He supports England footballers, but because his parents supported India's cricketers, so did he.
There were good jokes and some nice stories. He remembered England vs Turkey at football, when the home fans struck up a chorus of "I'd rather be a Paki than a Turk". His dad started crying, and said: "Finally, after 35 years of hard work, we're off the bottom rung."
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