By Guy Keleny in the Independent here.
“…this column does not wish to sound like a choleric pedant holding forth in about the year 1950, so we do not go on about ‘Americanisms’.
“The simple truth is that there is more commerce of words eastward across the Atlantic than westward because American power, wealth and culture loom larger in the world than British. There is no point in resenting it. So the following, from a news story last Saturday, cannot be called an error, though it still strikes the ear as odd: “Sales of ‘green funerals’ – where the casket is made of cardboard, wicker or bamboo – spiked from £7m to £8m.” According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word “casket”, meaning a small box or chest for jewels or suchlike, dates back to the 15th century. Its use as a synonym for “coffin” is first observed in the US in 1870. But here’s the interesting bit. The word “coffin” itself has undergone a similar shift of meaning. It once meant a chest, case or casket; that obsolete meaning is last recorded in 1677. The modern meaning, a box for a corpse, dates from 1525. We may imagine choleric pedants about the year 1550 lamenting this corruption of the language.”
ED’S NOTE – Xenophobes will have observed with patriotic disdain and chauvinistic alarm recent deep incursions into Brit Eng by the ‘casket’ word, which looks likely, now, to displace our homely indigenous ‘coffin’. Is this something that irks you?