There can be quite a lot of snobbery around the English language, especially when it comes to words that are considered ‘incorrect usage’. I must admit that I can be one of those snobs myself, although I tend towards the moderate end of the scale.
The main culprit behind such snobbery is Henry Watson Fowler and his book of Modern English Usage. It might be useful in many respects, but it also entrenched the replacement of perfectly good English words with others that sound much more formal.
A good example is the reader’s question in the paper today asking whether ‘gotten’ is correct English usage or an Americanism. The answer, of course, is it’s both.
Ordinary English people had been happily using the word for years as the past tense of got and even in the King James Bible in phrases like ill-gotten and only begotten.
Colonists took it across the Atlantic to America and Canada and carried on using it because they weren’t afflicted with clever people who decided that it was common and uncouth. (Note that ‘uncouth’ was okay, but ‘couth’ wasn’t.)
Fowler described ‘gotten’ as archaic and affected and we were taught to replace it with more acceptable alternatives, such as arrived or reached.
But ‘gotten’ is making a comeback, mainly through American films and tv, and that’s fine in my book because it means the language is returning to its roots. And also that I’m probably a bigger language snob than I thought I was.