I’m annoyed when global corporations can’t be bothered to spend a small amount of effort localising their products for the non-US market (Microsoft and Apple are both guilty of this) but, that kind of cynical indolence aside, I don’t see the influx of American pronunciations and usages into the British dialect as a bad thing per se. In fact, I find it fascinating to observe the evolution of language in progress.

For example, the pronunciation of schedule with /ʃ/ (like shed) rather than /sk/ is now archaic among those under 30. I did a small non-scientific study among my colleagues last year that established a fairly clear divide: eighties children are very unlikely to employ the /ʃ/ variant.

Over the past year or so, I’ve had a growing suspicion that airplane is supplanting aeroplane. I’ve noticed it on the radio, and even heard it in an announcement at Luton Airport. But I’ve never been entirely sure: there’s always been room to wonder if I really heard it correctly, or whether it was just a trick of my ears, a bit of schwa elision or some other artefact of fast speech.

So I was delighted to see this new usage attested in print yesterday, in no less a place than the letters page of the Times—still more or less the newspaper of record, despite the tarnish that Rupert Murdoch’s ownership of it has inevitably brought:

If Professor Angell is right about the inherent dangers of computer systems, why are not airplanes constantly crashing, as they rely on computers for traffic control?

This wasn’t written by some American immigré, you’ll note, but by Lord Young of Norwood Green, a Baron of the Realm!

Personally, I feel that airplane is a more natural—better, if you will—English word than aeroplane, so it seems like a natural development: I shan’t mourn the latter’s passing. After all, it’s not exactly traditional, is it? The things have only been around for a century and a half at most.