Law Lore

Americanisms sullying the English language are rarely harmful — apart from when they insinuate that our politicians are all-powerful

Counterpoints Modern Life

To complain about Americanisms flooding our language is like protesting about the sun going down every evening. We must grin and bear it when the young come out with “I was like, whatever!” meaning “I said, whatever!” Or when a fellow customer in a coffee shop says, “Can I get a cappuccino?” where we used to say, “May I have a cappuccino?”

But there is a more insidious linguistic atrocity being foisted on us by the press, following blindly in the trail of the American media. This is the use of the US word “lawmaker” to describe a member of parliament. It has been much used recently to describe the Greek and Italian parliaments, whose members have been wrestling with governmental crisis after crisis — that is, when they are not wrestling with each other or filling in their ample expense claims.

British MPs don’t do much lawmaking either, as Chris Mullin’s fascinating Diaries reveal. When not nodding through European directives or grandstanding on select committees, they seem to spend much of their time dealing with constituents complaining about their benefits.

What is wrong with calling them by their traditional names, such as “parliamentarian” or “legislator”? Besides, we know that the role of actually making laws has been taken over by our (unelected) judges.