The Beatles FAQ

Fun stuff about the Fab Four. Linked to The Beatles Teaching Pack



Saturday, 5 September 2015

How did The Beatles influence the English language?


The Beatles first flew into New York in February 1964 to find an adoring new audience. To American ears their new music came with a charmingly fresh approach to the English language. 

Interestingly, this initially 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 British cultural and linguistic references. Many were unknown to most American listeners.

the National Health Service (from ‘Dr Robert’) or the News of the World (‘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)



The Beatles also had a subtle effect on British English. Along with actors like Michael Caine, they began breaking down prejudice against working-class and regional accents. 

Perhaps most importantly they 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.....



See here  for a linguistic analysis of Beatles lyrics by Harold Somers.

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