“That’s what this nation has been built on, proud men. Proud fucking warriors!” shouts Combo in one of the most well-known scenes from This Is England. What Combo would have thought of the recent report that the language of his beloved nation was becoming increasingly Americanised we can only imagine. But very few things have engendered as much debate as the language we speak – from Jonathan Swift’s concerns in 1712 that English would fall from use like Latin, and Samuel Johnson’s attempt in the mid-18th century to “preserve the purity” of the English language, to fresh claims that the “state of innocence” in which British English once existed has been “corrupted” by Americanisms. Perhaps we need to ask two questions: 1) What do modern anxieties about the English language say about us? 2) What does it mean to be English today?
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