July 26, 2011

"Train station. My teeth are on edge every time I hear it. Who started it? Have they been punished?"

That's not from someone who hates trains. It's a British person complaining about "Americanism" that are infecting the speech of British folk. From a list of 50, some of which amuse me no end:
11. Transportation. What's wrong with transport? Greg Porter, Hercules, CA, US...

13. Does nobody celebrate a birthday anymore, must we all "turn" 12 or 21 or 40? Even the Duke of Edinburgh was universally described as "turning" 90 last month. When did this begin? I quite like the phrase in itself, but it seems to have obliterated all other ways of speaking about birthdays. Michael McAndrew, Swindon

14. I caught myself saying "shopping cart" instead of shopping trolley today and was thoroughly disgusted with myself. I've never lived nor been to the US either. Graham Nicholson, Glasgow...

23. To put a list into alphabetical order is to "alphabetize it" - horrid! Chris Fackrell, York...

31. "Hike" a price. Does that mean people who do that are hikers? No, hikers are ramblers! M Holloway, Accrington...

36. Surely the most irritating is: "You do the Math." Math? It's MATHS. Michael Zealey, London...

44. My brother now uses the term "season" for a TV series. Hideous. D Henderson, Edinburgh...

46. I hear more and more people pronouncing the letter Z as "zee". Not happy about it! Ross, London
To add to the hilarious language sufferings of the Brits, it turns out that most of the examples of irksome Americanisms are "neither particularly American nor original to American English."

112 comments:

Original Mike said...

""You do the Math." Math? It's MATHS."

No. It's not.

chickenlittle said...

This thread cries out for vbspurs.

Perhaps a chant would summon her.

E.M. Davis said...

I do this in reverse. I was just in Dublin, Ireland and London, England for business for a week.

I was referring to lifts and rubbish bins in no time.

Didn't faze me a bit. They're just words.

But they're fucking nuts if I'm going to start mispronouncing aluminum.

E.M. Davis said...

On a side note, one of our clients on the trip is from New Zealand.

He was giving a presentation on market situation and used "misunderestimated."

It was awesome.

Paul Zrimsek said...

Wankers.

Rumpletweezer said...

This comes from people who think the front end of a car is covered by a woman's hat.

Hagar said...

I have read that when Noah Webster wrote the first American dictionary, he took some pains to give priority to variant spellings from 'Standard English." Then when the English lexicographers found out about that, they in turn took special pains to avoid or brand Brother Jonathan's spellings as secondary colloquialisms.

G.B. Shaw - Two nations separated by a common language.

And it is jarring to read the late P.G. Wodehouse stories, written after he moved to New England, and find one Americanism after the other.

Original Mike said...

"Didn't faze me a bit. They're just words."

Yeah, it's usually pretty darn obvious. I spend a lot of time on an astronomy forum with a lot of Brits and it's pretty rare that I have to puzzle over a meaning. Context helps, of course.

Sixty Grit said...

That crap flows both ways - people go missing now, they are in university, and so on. The Brits are ruining our language.

MarkG said...

Trying to stop a popular language from changing is like trying to stop time.

I'll bet a dying language doesn't change so much. It just slowly gets absorbed into something else, like English. The Brits should be flattered.

Paco Wové said...

Resistance is futile, old bean.

Joshua said...

John Hockenberry had a very funny radio interview with the author of the article. When the reporter talked about the internet, Hockenberry let him finish, and then:

"Internet. See, buddy, that's an *American* word. One of ours. You're just renting it."

Curious George said...

"Brilliant!"

Jason said...

AL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US.

Sixty Grit said...

Zed's dead, baby!

Paul said...

When England is a world power again then they can add to the language like we do.

Maguro said...

Crikey. They're a sensitive lot, what?

Bob said...

The Brits are losing more than their language.

Scott M said...

You know who's more pissed off about this sort of thing than the Brits? The French. HATE it.

I love watching the odd contemporary Japanese flic with subtitles and it's always amusing to hear them sprinkle their sentences with Americanisms like "cya" and such.

Original Mike said...

"When England is a world power again then they can add to the language like we do."

I'm brushing up on my Chinese.

Carol_Herman said...

When I was young (and lived in Brooklyn). I visited relatives who lived in Boston.

Back in those days women wore stockings. And, if one got a tear those tears were called rips.

But not in Boston. In Boston they were called "ladders."

Yes, I'd tell the Brit's. Shakespeare's, delightful. But you still need a dictionary to understand what once passed as typical street fare in London.

Take "hoisted by his own petard." Back in the late 1500's ... this was known by people in the audience that the guy referred to had just farted. Before whoopee cushions, I might add.

grackle said...

We don’t notice it much because we are fish in water but there will be historians of the future that will write of the “American civilization.”

If the Lefties hold sway it will of course be the “American empire.”

If Islam triumphs it will be “the Great Devil.”

john said...

Carol Herman said -
hoisted by his own petard." Back in the late 1500's ... this was known by people in the audience that the guy referred to had just farted
.

I didn't know that. I thought it referred to someone who accidently stepped in front of his siege mortar as it went off.

Hmm, I guess they are the same.

Palladian said...

These are people that call a flashlight a "torch" and call a portable heater an "electric fire".

I don't think anyone has a monopoly on silly words.

Why don't the British set up a council for protecting the language, the way the French have? Their entire society is sinking, why not worry about the curtains?

Curious George said...

Two of the people on the list said the American English "Sets my teeth on edge".

A)What the hell does that mean?
B)With the set of choppers you see on the average Brit it could only be an improvement.

Joanna said...

24. People that say "my bad" after a mistake. I don't know how anything could be as annoying or lazy as that. Simon Williamson, Lymington, Hampshire

THIS.


That one's not US/Brit. That one just sucks.

James said...

Some Brit-isms that have invaded the USA:

In American people used to disappear. Now they "go missing" which is pure Brit-speak.

Refrigerators have become "fridges" another Brit import. (Methinks it's a corruption of Frigidaire which was a GM trademark.)

Brits say "telly" for television and some Americans are too.

"Perks" for perquisites came from the UK.

I'm sure there are others.

Seeing Red said...

zeppelins


I despise "No problem."

rhhardin said...

Maths is hard.

Seeing Red said...

37. I hate the fact I now have to order a "regular Americano". What ever happened to a medium sized coffee? Marcus Edwards, Hurst Green



LOLOLOL

EFB said...

I came across this on the BBC web site too. Um. It kind of irked me. My thoughts:

*It's thinly veiled xenophobia.
*It confirms the stereotypes Americans have of Brits: arrogant, condescending, snobby and provincial.
*A lot of the Americanisms cited are not Americanisms at all. A grammatical mistake does not an Americanism make.
*How ironic that a nation that spread English by colonizing other parts of the world now complains about foreign influence.
*Language evolves and it's a beautiful thing.
*Here's one Americanism: Get a life!

The Crack Emcee said...

I remember the first time I heard The Clash's "I'm So Bored (With The U.S.A.)". Oh, man, how I laughed!

Get used to us, homies, 'cause nothing will ever be the same again,..

ricpic said...

The Brit all purpose term of derision is wanker or bloody wanker. Americans don't really have a single all purpose term of derision. Now prove me wrong.

edutcher said...

A lot of those come out of business colloquialisms or the feel good jargon of the 60s.

39. My favourite one was where Americans claimed their family were "Scotch-Irish". This of course it totally inaccurate, as even if it were possible, it would be "Scots" not "Scotch", which as I pointed out is a drink.

No, Scotch-Irish is the correct term, a somewhat derogatory description of the Protestant Scots transplanted to Ireland in the 17th Century, many of whom moved to America after about a century.

James Webb is trying to PC-ify it as Scots Irish, but he is wrong. There's no way to make hillbilly classy.

44. My brother now uses the term "season" for a TV series.

That's correct. A TV series runs for several seasons.

These English - can't even speak their own language.

chickenlittle said...

This thread cries out for vbspurs.

Perhaps a chant would summon her.


No, she deserves an incantation, at the very least.

PS chick, did I say something to tick you off?

Scott M said...

Better yet, "bollocks" is bad, but if something is the "dog's bollocks" it's good.

Original Mike said...

"The Brit all purpose term of derision is wanker or bloody wanker."

Is wanker related to the Canadian term "hoser"?

ricpic said...

You know who's more pissed off about this sort of thing than the Brits? The French.

The Brits are pissed about the invasion of Americanisms. The French are pissed about the corruption of Americanisms, or Anglicanisms (if there is such a word) for that matter. The Brits don't mind a bubbling living language as long as it's English english. The French are all hung up on a pure, correct language of logique, as ordained by the Academie Francaise or whatever the heck they call their central language authority.

ricpic said...

The Brits are pissed means they're drunk so I should have written, ala Scott, pissed off.

ricpic said...

In England the hood of a car is a bonnet. That kills me.

Palladian said...

"Now prove me wrong."

Asshole.

Palladian said...

I'm with Joanna, when I hear people say "my bad" (unless followed by a noun), it make me immediately assign them to my large category of "people I don't take seriously".

Geoff Matthews said...

I loathe "My bad."
May as well wear a sign saying "I'm ignorant."

LordSomber said...

Some of those I've never heard before. Regional, perhaps?

Methinks the poms have bigger things to worry about.

Seeing Red said...

My friend was in Merry Ole' in a pub.

The guy next to him kept telling him he's "pissed off" so he kept buying him drinks.

He didn't know.


biscuit crisps deviled kidneys bangers & mash bubble & squeak


Find a Brit/American slang dictionary, it's a hoot!


Mebbe someone should add "mendoucheness" to their vocab.

Seeing Red said...

bonnet & boot

Seeing Red said...

Titus could go to town with their slang for "tits."

Jennifer said...

A great many of these are business jargon, which annoys everybody - regional language differences aside.

@Joanna, I hear "my b" all the time now. Like my bad was too long to say!?

Scott M said...

May as well wear a sign saying "I'm ignorant."

You don't have to say "my bad" to cover that base. All you have to do is plaster the back of your peace of shit car with liberal bumper stickers.

Triangle Man said...

peace of shit

I LOLd.

Shanna said...

31. "Hike" a price. Does that mean people who do that are hikers? No, hikers are ramblers! M Holloway, Accrington...

Hikers are often climbing mountains, hence “hike”. Idiot.

Also, most of these are quicker ways of saying things. Short and to the point is always going to win out. And series for season doesn't make any sense at all.

chickenlittle said...

edutcher wrote: No, she deserves an incantation, at the very least.

Better verb choice by far. I did not mean to link her to the Wisconsin protesters in anyway. Yet I was trying to avoid a seance nuance.

Incantation has actually worked before on Twitter.

PS chick, did I say something to tick you off?

Of course not, edutcher! So odd that you would ask that...I think we're on the same page everywhere...did I say something nasty at Trooper's?

Original Mike said...

"Titus could go to town with their slang for "tits.""

I've always assumed "knockers" was British. Just sounds British.

Scott M said...

I've always assumed "knockers" was British. Just sounds British.

I thought it was Transylvanian.

ricpic said...

Palladian - I thought of asshole but it's more "naked" more raw than wanker. Wanker can be used in the drawing room as well as the barracks. It's more universally applicable.

LilEvie said...

Guess if the Americanism "sig alert" ever makes its way across the pond heads will be exploding. It started in LA and has begun invading SF traffic reports. Because traffic alert is just 4 letters too many.

Another "LA"ism, freeways are called "the 101", "the 405". Beware of anything that starts in LA.

Scott M said...

Crimso and I have a Brit in our online group that is very definitely accented, but as he hangs out online with Yanks, tends to sprinkle his Queen's English with various Americanisms. Too bad he's on our timezone schedule.

Chip Ahoy said...

Every time I hear this high crime against language, committed on both sides but sounds to me like British understatement, "other side of the pond," I think to myself, privately suffering in silence, "To the tower! It's an ocean goddamnit."

Chip Ahoy said...

OMG. Like I just now saw LilEvie's comment. My bad.

edutcher said...

chickenlittle said...

PS chick, did I say something to tick you off?

Of course not, edutcher! So odd that you would ask that...I think we're on the same page everywhere...did I say something nasty at Trooper's?


No, something in another thread here. It seemed aimed in another direction, but just being paranoid, I guess - it's so much fun

mishu said...

There are a lot of Britishisms I don't understand. For example, why would they say Amy Winehouse " had a well documented battle with drink and drugs"? What's drink? I could drink lots of water every day and not have to battle with the problem of drinking it. They should be more specific. Her problem was with alcohol and drugs.

And this one is not correct

11. Transportation. What's wrong with transport?

Transportation is a system of moving people and goods. Transport is a generic term for one specific movement of people or goods as in "The Japanese bombardment sank a troop transport".

MikeinAppalachia said...

edutcher-
I should point out that many are, in fact, Welsh and resent your remark.

Shanna said...

My favourite one was where Americans claimed their family were "Scotch-Irish". This of course it totally inaccurate, as even if it were possible, it would be "Scots" not "Scotch", which as I pointed out is a drink. James, Somerset

No, Scotch-Irish is the correct term, a somewhat derogatory description of the Protestant Scots transplanted to Ireland in the 17th Century, many of whom moved to America after about a century.

Exactly. Some of these brits just don’t understand the stuff they are criticizing.

My pet hate is "winningest", used in the context "Michael Schumacher is the winningest driver of all time". I can feel the rage rising even using it here. Gayle, Nottingham

I actually hate that one too.

Also, American’s have their own different little phrasings across the continent. I called something a “sac” one day and my yankee friends looked at me like I was crazy. I had no idea that was a regional word.

Scott M said...

All this time on this topic and nobody's mentioned the complete misuse of "decimate" by the sports and news media?

Gavin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gavin said...

As an Englishman in NY I have great difficulty keeping a straight face upon hearing that someone has been "burglarized." Which, frankly, sounds like someone is being oddly open about a drive-by buggering incident they've been involved in.

Still, nothing fills me as much revulsion to hear some pillock back home in Britain utter some dumb phrase like, "they should talk proper English like what I does."

Joan said...

35. "Reach out to" when the correct word is "ask". For example: "I will reach out to Kevin and let you know if that timing is convenient". Reach out? Is Kevin stuck in quicksand? Is he teetering on the edge of a cliff? Can't we just ask him? Nerina, London

This was my favorite, because whenever I hear this phrase, these same sorts of questions go through my head, too.

edutcher said...

MikeinAppalachia said...

edutcher-
I should point out that many are, in fact, Welsh and resent your remark.


No, they came later. You're talking about the Cousin Jacks and Jennies brought during in the 19th century for mining work all over the country.

PS The Blonde and I have an ongoing thing where she brags on the good ol' boys who bested the Redcoats and I remind of the Irish shopkeepers and gandy dancers and longshoremen who took their measure at places like Antietam and Gettysburg.

Sometimes you forget private jokes are just that and not everybody's in on them.

Rialby said...

Oh the pain of living through the decline of your empire.

As Mark Steyn likes to point out, never before and never again will we see the easy transition from one empire to another without major upheaval. And, no, WWII does not count.

reader_iam said...

Far from being at sixes and sevenses about this, I am delighted at the spice which is variety.

Gavin said...

Speaking of which, if anyone here wants to know what it's really like to live in a crumbling empire with rotting institutions, crippled infrastructure and an economy based on goods produced entirely in other countries, feel free to ask an Englishman like myself.

It's actually not bad.

Carol_Herman said...

Torch versus flashlight!

The first Harry Potter sold off the shelves in Britain before it was imported. You knew you had a British copy when Harry "took his torch" to bed to read a book.

Ankur said...

Neither is it Maths, nor is it Math. Its Mathematics - and the debate is simply about how to abbreviate that four syllable word. Apparently, neither culture is above the desire to trim three syllables, so complaining about how to abbreviate is simply silly.

Having said that - when it comes to common sayings and spellings, I can understand the change. But when it's names of things, it frustrates me. Its Alumin-I-um. its Tu-R-meric. Those are NAMES.

But Color/Colour doesn't bother me because I see that as languages evolving along different lines, and that is a good thing.

I do agree with the wait on/wait for distinction. I would like to wait for the train, I'd like to wait on the train platform. Also, the alternative/alternate distinction is important. I would like another alternative, or an alternative option. My mood swings alternately between happy and happier.

"Gotten" makes me cringe as well. And "My Bad" is, well, just simply bad.

As for "Where's it at?" : it is redundant because the "where" implies the "at" of the question. However, it is a great example of colloquial-speak, I love the expression - but I have a hard time using it myself. It doesn't roll of MY tongue easily - old habits die hard - but I love hearing it.

And does ANYONE say "That'll learn you" and "Winningest"? I suspect some of the items on that list are made up exaggerations that someone might have heard once or twice and imagined that it's a regular part of the american lexicon.
The weird thing about that list is - I live in America but I never hear ANYONE saying "least worst", or

Christopher said...

Oddly enough this somewhat came up earlier today as I was talking about how I've heard a fair number of English people complain about our love of turning nouns into verbs.


Incidentally aluminum is the original spelling of the word but the Brits added an extra "i" to make it sound more like an element. Or to quote the guy who did it:

""for so we shall take the liberty of writing the word, in preference to aluminum, which has a less classical sound.""

Ralph L said...

Wanker can be used in the drawing room
I don't think so. You do know what it means? Jackass used to be the American equivalent, now supplanted by the more vulgar asshole.

The Buick Lacrosse is called the Allure in Canada because "lacrosse" is French-Canadian slang for masturbation.

Ankur said...

..or..

..or..

...

Ralph L said...

When did "going forward" replace "in the future?" That one irritates me as much as "impact" used as a verb.

Christopher said...

Hadn't even caught that.

But what are you gonna do?

sydney said...

46. I hear more and more people pronouncing the letter Z as "zee". Not happy about it! Ross, London

How else would you pronounce it?

Smilin' Jack said...

Ungrateful yellow-toothed limeys. We should have let them find out how much they like speaking German.

Michael said...

They have cause for concern when they begin to say "on accident."

Michael said...

Sydney. The letter Z is pronounced zed. Look it up.

Paddy O said...

The Brits are so quaint! What with their alternative spellings and cheeky complaints. They're getting cuter and cuter by the decade!

Paddy O said...

"Concerning the American Language" by Mark Twain.

Shanna said...

And does ANYONE say "That'll learn you"

Mostly I've heard it said as a folksy joke.

The Brits are so quaint! What with their alternative spellings and cheeky complaints. They're getting cuter and cuter by the decade!

Heh. I do like the idea of "lift" as opposed to elevator since it's nice and short, but I don't use it.

sydney said...

"Zed?" I had no idea. Does that mean the rest of the English speaking world listens to music by Zed Zed Top?

Gavin said...

To add to the Twain recommendation I heartily urge everyone to read H L Mencken's The American Language.

And plenty of English people say, "that'll learn you" in a cheeky stupid way intentionally. It's like people ironically saying, "git r dun."

AST said...

Have they quit saying "lorry" yet?

I remember a program from the UK in which the host repeated referred to "ashfelt." It finally dawned that he was talking about asphalt.

I can't give any argument for preferring "truck" to "lorry," "hood" to "bonnet" or "trunk" over "boot." Why do airports have "tarmac" rather than pavement?

I love etymology with its twists and turns, and I love listening to British people in all their dialects, but they don't control the English language anymore, if anyone every did. It's an emergent thing. No single person or group can really control it, although I'd like to see Brits staying with their usages. They add colour to the language.

I saw a news report years ago about how British red squirrels were being out-competed by American gray squirrels and another about how the Ruddy Duck from North America had been introduced into Britain and was offending many of the locals. I would have thought they would call them ruddy ruddy ducks.

Paddy O said...

Michael, I beg to differ.

Thorley Winston said...

Sydney. The letter Z is pronounced zed. Look it up.

Heh, I didn't know that until I started watching "Stargate Atlantis" where the abbreviation for a zero point module was pronounced "zed pee em."

Phil 3:14 said...

Well they certainly have got their knickers in a twist.

They can all sod off

AST said...

What I find odd is Grant Barrett's use of the the word "peeving" to mean complaining or being peeved. I like the term "whinging" although "whining" is just as good.

AST said...

I've noticed the term "vacay" popping up for "vacation." I could do without that one. If you're that lazy, why open your mouth?

Cedarford said...

ricpic said...
The Brit all purpose term of derision is wanker or bloody wanker. Americans don't really have a single all purpose term of derision. Now prove me wrong.

-----------------
Asshole, universal since everyone has one. Or can be one. And we improved on the Old Brit "Arsehole" to make it easier to use.


1. Brits are wrong, IMO to call a shopping cart a shopping trolley. A trolley is something they put on rails. Do their supermarkets and stores have tracks installed? I think not.

2. The Brits & Euros need to brush up on their Pakistani and Arabic, the way things are going there. We need to brush up on our Chinese. In China "free trade" translates as "round eye #1 Sucka".

3. America has "blessed" itself with lots of black ghetto slang, or etymologically, "niggerisms", that in turn have gone global in their "blessing". Even in CHina.

4. I thought "zed" for Zee was a stupid Canadianism.

rcocean said...

The so-called response was incredibly Lame. He just states that most of the 50 aren't Americanisms. Really? Which ones? Maybe he could have discussed a few.

Instead he just blathers on about "we're a melting pot" and "God bless America".

Lame.

rcocean said...

Lets See:

Bee, Cee, Dee, Eee, Gee, Pee, Tee, Vee, Zed

Yep, makes perfect sense.

Jose_K said...

American and britons are two countries separated by a common language

Jose_K said...

If the Lefties hold sway it will of course be the “American empire.”
Surely we who are free Citizens in arms engaged in a struggle for every thing valuable in society and partaking in the glorious task of laying the foundation of an Empire,

E.M. Davis said...

I've noticed the term "vacay" popping up for "vacation." I could do without that one. If you're that lazy, why open your mouth?

It's On Holiday. Jeez.

E.M. Davis said...

Better yet, "bollocks" is bad, but if something is the "dog's bollocks" it's good.

In America, something that's shit is bad, but if it's The Shit, it's good.

mariner said...

Carol_Herman,
Take "hoisted by his own petard." Back in the late 1500's ... this was known by people in the audience that the guy referred to had just farted. Before whoopee cushions, I might add.

OK, I'll take it.

First, it's "hoist with his own petard".

Second, it means "blown up by his own mine (bomb)".

mariner said...

Palladian,
These are people that call a flashlight a "torch" and call a portable heater an "electric fire".

And a swimming pool is a "cement pond".

;)

Revenant said...

Another "LA"ism, freeways are called "the 101", "the 405".

It is a shortening of "the [number] freeway".

Titus said...

My husband is an Indian but from the UK.

Nothing hotter than some brownie that you expect to speak like Abu sounding British.

Also, blackie and muzzie's speaking British is really hot.

You expect the blacks to be all ho this and sheeeet that and then all of a sudden this beautiful British accent comes out. And some of them even have jobs. Immediate hardon.

Muzzies with a British accent are really hot too. You expect burka and shit and then they speak British. Total hardon. Especially, if they let you wear a suicide vest and they tell you they are going to cut your head off while doing it. I can blow it in like 5 minutes.

Methadras said...

It's math, you bulloxed poofta's.

Ralph L said...

Why do airports have "tarmac" rather than pavement?
In England, pavement means the sidewalk, not the street, regardless of paving.

reader_iam said...

I like the term "whinging" although "whining" is just as good.

I see those two things, now (since fairly recently), as different things, most particularly given the utter debasement of the latter.

Craig said...

Could we table this discussion?

Crunchy Frog said...

"That's what I'm talking about!"

No shit, really? I thought you were talking about something TOTALLY FUCKING DIFFERENT.

Thank you for clearing that up. My bad.

Clyde said...

I hate it when some talking head on the cable networks uses the word "effort" as an adverb, as in, "We are efforting to find out more details." Makes me want to reach through the television and smack them upside the head.

Sixty Grit said...

"Upside the head" is particularly annoying - what, are we all from the ghetto now? How about "on the head" or "on the side of the head". There is no upside to that phrase.

WV: mastr - yes, mastr...

Haiku Guy said...

48. "I got it for free" is a pet hate. You got it "free" not "for free". You don't get something cheap and say you got it "for cheap" do you? Mark Jones, Plymouth

I got bad news for Mr. Jones...

ken in sc said...

Tarmac is short for Tar Macadam, which is what Americans call asphalt pavement. Most air ports do not use real tarmac because it will not support the weight of large modern aircraft. They use concrete instead. Talking about waiting on the 'tarmac' is TV news non-sense.