Specifically, how did it supplant French as the international language? Even in the height of Pax Britannica, many English upperclassmen still saw French as the more romantic language. How was this status quo changed - was it Britain's empire and dominance of trade, or American dominance of trade and her soldiers being stationed in different parts of the world later on?

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    Most "English" that is spoken now is American and not British. Thus, I believe it might have started after WW2, when America became the world's top super power. Sadly, I have no strong evidence to back up opinions thus comment instead of answer. – Sardathrion - against SE abuse Aug 12 '13 at 13:19
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    This question is answered in wikipedia – Aaron Kurtzhals Aug 12 '13 at 14:02
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    Actually, I'd place the time at WW1 when the United States became generally recognized as a superpower. – American Luke Aug 12 '13 at 14:02
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    @Sardathrion - Is that actually true? There are a rather a lot of former UK possessions out there (eg: India, with nearly a billion people) where the English is either BE, or a local derivative of it unrelated to AmE. Additionally, I notice we AmE speakers don't seem to be much of a majority on the English stack. – T.E.D. Aug 12 '13 at 14:18
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    @Sardathrion - not really: most of it is localised English, neither American nor British. Americanisms are encroaching across the world, and have done for the last 40 years (including the UK) - but that's modern US media changing the way English is spoken, not the US causing the spread of the language. – Jon Story Feb 16 '15 at 15:14