One linguistic irritant that I see with increasing frequency is the American term “lawmaker”. Even when referring to the British House of Commons, New Zealand media now routinely refer to “lawmakers” as opposed to Members of Parliament.
It’s lazy form of journalistic shorthand that has gained currency because of the all-pervasive reach of American media. There are no MPs in the United States, so for the benefit of their domestic audience, American journalists writing about politics in other countries use the same term that they apply to senators and members of the House of Representatives. The word then finds it way into our news columns and bulletins via American news services.
There was a time when conscientious New Zealand sub-editors coming across “lawmaker” as a synonym for MP in overseas news stories would have changed it to conform to local usage, but media outlets no longer bother with such niceties. It’s probably only a matter of time before our own press gallery reporters, eager to appear ahead of the curve, start using the same terminology to describe our elected representatives (that is, if it hasn’t happened already).
The march of American vernacular is as relentless as that of American fast-food brands. Thus yachts become sail boats, walking and cycling tracks become trails, swimming tournaments become swim meets, biscuits become cookies, mates become buddies and trampers (a term that Microsoft Word doesn't recognise) become hikers. I’ve even heard the folksy “oftentimes” used as a synonym for “often”.
As I wrote in a column in 2013, New Zealand has developed its own rich, colourful and often highly inventive vocabulary – a variant of the English language that’s uniquely ours. We should do all we can to repel intruders.