Cripes, a bumbershoot!

Lionel Shriver:

Paperchase caused a kerfuffle in March by marketing British greeting cards printed, “World’s Greatest Mom”. It was bad enough that Mothering Sunday was morphing ominously into the more commercial “Mother’s Day” from across the pond. Now those wretched Americans were attacking the very institution of motherhood itself. “Mom” indeed! The Telegraph’s leader despaired, “Hollywood is corrupting the language”. Surely the American “slow occupation of British culture” was bound to reach its peak when “football games are rebranded as ‘soccer’”. The leader called drolly for a tariff on American English as a response to President Trump’s tariff on steel.

Yet the online comments section was full of sniffy Birmingham natives who call their mothers “Mom”, not “Mum”. A letter to the Editor objected that the Telegraph’s leader writers “betrayed their youthful age”; in the letter writer’s childhood, football was routinely called “soccer”, a British term that derives from “association football”. On the sidelines, the linguist Lynne Murphy must have been chortling. These excitable exchanges are the meat and potatoes – or mince and mash – of her work.