Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Strange words

From time to time I’ve talked about language usage in New Zealand, often when I’m talking about something else. After more than 14 years, I’ve pretty much become used to Kiwi English—though sometimes they surprise me with some slang.

Over the years, I’ve adjusted to people saying “in hospital” rather than the American “in THE hospital”. But one related thing that continues to grate is when the media talks about someone being “seriously ill in hospital” to describe someone who’s been injured or been in an accident.

I’m pretty sure that this usage of “illness” is of British origin, and it may be a media thing, even a holdover from when New Zealanders on radio and TV were forced to ape British elocution. I’ve never heard an ordinary person in New Zealand use that phrase except to describe someone who’s sick, not injured (if then).

I suppose after all these years, it’s kind of refreshing, and maybe a little reassuring, that I still find some things about the language here to be odd. This time, at least, it’s not just me who’s odd.


Roger Owen Green said...

You might find the blog separated by a common language of interest. It's an American woman in the UK, but she and her followers sometimes delve into other brands of English besides those two. In fact she recently had a post about sick and ill.

What's odd is that our ministers use "in hospital"; they're from Minnesota and Virginia.

Arthur Schenck said...

Fascinating blog—thanks, Roger!

I wasn't aware that "in hospital" was a regional thing in the US, but I suppose that nothing much surprises me.