words that shouldn't be?

Words That Shouldn't Be?

Sez Who?
Words that shouldn't be? It all depends on your perspective. Read essays and opinions on how Americans use English.

Track that Word!
Explore the origins and evolution of hundreds of words and expressions representing America's past, present and future.

Slayer Slang
Buffy & Co. changed how  teens talked (a lot), introducing new words into almost every episode.

buffy the vampire slayer, courtesy 20th century fox film corporation

Friction over the American propensity to coin words and phrases dates back to the American Revolution. Today, the transatlantic barbs continue to fly. In 2000, while speaking at an event promoting a massive effort to increase the export of British English teachers and English language curricula abroad, Britain's Prince Charles was asked by a reporter to comment on the rival form of the language spoken in the United States. Prince Charles sniffed that Americans:

invent all sorts of new nouns and verbs and make words that shouldn't be... We must act now to ensure that English, and that to my way of thinking means British English, maintains its position as the world language.

Prince Charles is likely aware that his warnings have gone unheeded. American English has become THE global language. And "words that shouldn't be" are everywhere. Americans invent more words and phrases in a month than other English speaking nations do in a year. Many believe it is this very inventiveness that has propelled American English past British English in worldwide popularity. But who decides what's acceptable? And how do words and phrases move from small groups to the national vocabulary? Learn more about how American English grows and multiplies!   

Sponsored by:

National Endowment for the Humanities Hewlett Foundation Ford Foundation   Arthur Vining Davis Foundations Carnegie Corporation

National Endowment
for the Humanities

William and Flora Hewlett


Rosalind P.

Arthur Vining
Davis Foundations

Corporation of New York