Fifty years ago The Beatles flew into New York for the first time. They took their music, their charm and what was for their new audience a peculiar version of the English language.
Interestingly, this came across more in their spoken interviews than their song lyrics - the early ones followed the established 'American' style ('I want to hold your hand'). But success gave them the confidence to draw on cultural and linguistic references that were incomprehensible to American ears -
(‘Polythene Pam’), and British English vocabulary like ‘ring
my friend’ (‘Dr Robert’ again: Americans would say call), ‘time for
tea’ (‘Good Morning, Good Morning’: see sense 3 here), and
dressing gown (‘She’s Leaving Home’ – it’s a bathrobe in American English).
Not to mention those plasticine porters in ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ – the American equivalent Play-Doh doesn’t quite work here. source
see here for a linguistic analysis by Harold Somers.
The Beatles brought British English back onto centre-stage. They also joined British actors such as Michael Caine in breaking down class and regional prejudice against local accents.
More importantly suddenly injected a cultural confidence into a generation. As Hanif Kureshi has pointed out
By 1966 the Beatles behaved as if they spoke directly to the whole world. This was not a mistake: they were at the centre of life for millions of young people in the West.
The impact of this change was quickly apparent to advertisers and marketers across the world - suddenly everyone was striving to be cool, groovy and fab...
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