As someone who finds language and etymology fascinating I'm really looking forward to this series. I shall be particularly interested in what Stephen says about American English - at least, I'm hoping he's going to comment on this.
I recently returned to England after living for several years in the Caribbean. Although the island had been alternately British and French during its colonial history and the official language was English, I was disappointed to see how very Americanised it was becoming. Considering the shameful way that Britian treated the sugar producing Commonwealth countries when we joined the EEC, they don't owe us any loyalty but it was still sad to see how firmly this little country is now oriented towards America.
I was a long way from friends and family and my sense of isolation was increased by the use of American, rather than English spelling. I assume that American spelling is an attempt to simplify the language. It may well do this, but in the process an enormous amount has been lost. 'English' English is a rich and beautiful language in which the different cultures that have contributed to it can be clearly seen. It is also possible, with much of our language, for anyone with a smattering of Latin or Greek to make a good guess at the meaning of an unfamiliar word.
The Americans have chosen to remove all traces of linguistic heritage, getting rid of diphthongs, replacing 'c' with 'k' and replacing 're' at the end of a word with 'er' in a way that makes me feel that they are deliberately stamping out any evidence of etymology. This feels almost sacrilegious - and certainly makes life harder for the cultured reader. For example the English 'paediatrics' is obviously to do with children. The American 'pediatrics' could just as easily be to do with feet! What is going on here and why do they feel it necessary to do this?
America is a different country, widely separated from England and it is natural for its language to evolve separately. I don't have a problem with that. But that language is NOT English and I get very cross when Americans insist that it is!
America is not a cultural desert; it has produced some wonderful artists, writers and musicians. I don't understand, therefore, why they have chosen to descrate our language in the way that they have, and hope Stephen will be including some commentary on this.