Economist Debates: Should the English-speaking world adopt American English?
About the debate:
More than 1 billion people are believed to speak some form of English. For every native speaker there are at least three non-native speakers. English has become the universal language of business and commerce. Jacques Chirac, a former president of France, famously walked out of a 2006 EU meeting because someone, a fellow Frenchman, insisted on speaking English “because that is the language of business”. English, it seems, has even invaded football pitches. The Brazilian referee for the recent England-United States match at the FIFA World Cup reportedly studied a lexicon of English-language obscenities.
With so many people using English, we wonder whether it is time to streamline English spelling. Might it make communication easier? Would it help avoid confusion? The Australians, rather maddeningly, spell “labour” as the British do, but their Labor Party is spelt without a “u”. Should the world adopt American English or British English? “Center” or “centre”? “Favorite” or “favourite”? “Defense” and “offense” or “defence” and “offence”?
Whilst the debate has now closed, you can still comment. The majority of participants voted against the motion, with comments ranging from the bizarre to the personal to highly intelligent.
Being British, I am slightly appalled at the notion of adopting American English. Having lived in a few different English-speaking countries around the world, from New Zealand to America, I can say that the differences make each place unique and it would be a shame to impose a single standard on this – if this were even possible. Sometimes British English won’t have the right expression for what I want to say, and it’s nice to be able to pick a new phrase to suit from overseas.
What do you think?