A sociolinguistic observation

In American English, when something is defective or not to our liking, we usually say that we plan to "get a new one." Likewise when we notice that someone has a different car or backpack or phone or something. We usually say, "oh, you got a new car?" which then inevitably leads to discussion of whether it is new or used, where it came from, why the change, etc.

In most Western European languages, the construction uses "change" rather than "buy" or "get a new." (Readers who are familiar with other languages than I am, please comment!) Speakers of these languages will then use the same construction when speaking in English, e.g, "my computer keeps crashing so I need to change it" or, "oh, you changed your car." I've also heard this construction in English from speakers from Africa and Asia, but I don't know if this is influenced by their native languages or by Western European English.

It's kind of interesting that the American construction of "get/buy a new one" seems to be an anomaly. Again, I'm working with a limited sample size here, and would love to hear from people who know other languages than I do. But it seems like the American construction focuses on purchasing something and tends to lead toward a discussion of how and why the person came to have a different item, while the constructions in other countries seem more neutral and less oriented toward consumerism and status. I'd love to know if there are even different constructions in other places (particularly places where making a living and having belongings is difficult) and/or if there are places where it's not polite to even bring it up.


1 comment:

katunia said...

what first came to my mind was, that if i say that i need a new something, that does not necesarily mean that the something is newly bought or has never been used before by another person. it merely means that its new to me and hasn t been with me/ my property before.

so the phrase "ich brauche ein neues handy" can mean both: i need a newly bought mobile phone OR i need another/ need to change my mobile phone. so some friends would reply "i know a store where you can buy nice mobile phones" and others would say "i ve got an old one at home, wanna use that?"