American English

By Michael E. Andrews

During the 1960′s schools in The United States were obligated to teach that The United States was a melting pot. That phrase “melting pot” was supposedly an early intrusion into the well known and often spouted United States freedoms of religion and of race.

However, the melting pot concept was very real not in describing the absorption of religions and race but in the evolution of English in The United States. English spoken in The United States is a melting pot of dialects, translated slangs and cross cultural affectations of idiosyncratic intents of languages as is seen in reading the literature of the various groups that have made The United States their home.

What an outsider needs to understand in developing some formula to study English as spoken in The United States is that it can be called “American” English but is not really “American” since the meaning of “American” as used in The United States refers to non Spanish speakers living in The United States as well as to only Spanish speakers living in The United States and not speaking or even understanding a word of English.

If that idea is not cogent than the student of language, the linguist in other words, needs to do research into the very real split in The United States between Spanish and English. If that area of research is too broad for one’s study of the improbably American English, one can refine that ubiquitous allusion to English as spoken by native born citizens living in The United States who are not Spanish. The evolved term might be State Side English.

That term is more refined than American English unless one wishes to study the peculiar kind of patois spoken by South Americans and also referred to as American English. There are some French speakers of American English living in The United States whose birth tongue is French.

That reality of the conflux of immigrants in The United States has to be mentioned when one tries to talk about American English. The point is that there really is no American English but a States Side English that is used and understood by all peoples living in The United States whose birth language is English.

The situation as it exists between people who perceive The United States as a cohesive whole and try to use American English as a designation for a particular evolution of English much like the English spoken in South Africa or in any of the other countries that the English imperialized can be perplexing. An Englishman living in London may consider all speakers of his native tongue living in The United States as speakers of American English.

The problem occurs when he tries to communicate with someone in Miami who speaks only Spanish and when speaking in English has the sound of Spanish, the inflexion of Spanish and the idioms of translated Spanish with what might be loosely regarded as an English vocabulary.

That is why the simplistic use of the term American English can be hazardous in attempting to understand the type of English that is used for various purposes in The United States. There really is no such thing as an “American” so there really is no use in trying to study “American English”.

In The United States, the use of English suggests a person’s ethnic, intellectual and societal class. Those speakers of English who include phrases translated from their originally native Irish, Italian, African, German, Polish and other native land are ethnic speakers of English.

Each one of those ethnic speakers understands the other and can immediately determine to which original native country that person came from which allows him to know how to respond to refrain from offending that speaker or to get him to like him.

The evolution of language or of English in The United States can be compared to the evolution of the English language in England. The amazing uniform power of language to be used not only to communicate overt desires but to mentally signal connections of one speaker to another is a very real part of English as spoken by those speakers of English in The United States.

What happens to an ethnic speaker of English when he goes to school in The United States. His use of language becomes standardized by his books, his teachers and other students much like the dictionary standardized the spellings and meanings of words used in English.

As the student goes from school to school, his ethnic linguistic traits are worn away and his speech as well as his thinking are developed to include him in the intellectual class of speakers of English in The United States. These speakers are catered to and can find work in any area in The United States that needs an obvious intellectual speaker like advertising and the media.

Those speakers of English in The United States who are born to the middle class are expected to keep much of their ethnic background and to speak like their Pop or their Ma. Middle class people in The United States are easily distinguished as solid citizens whose Pop and Ma have good jobs, keep their homes looking good, take vacations and send their kids to college. Those who are born to blue collar workers in The United States are not expected to go to college but to get a trade. Speakers of English from blue collar workers use slang as if their only language.

If you don’t understand their slang, you are not one of them and are immediately recognized. A blue collar speaker of English uses a very unique English that can be easily learned by the serious student as their vocabulary is limited due to their station of living in The United States.

A speaker of English in The United States who is born into a wealthy family uses English fluently with complexity of thought and intent from the time he or she learns to speak because his family uses language in the same way due to their station in life while living in The United States.

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