Monday, August 22, 2011

Is that English?

Recently, a friend of mine sent me the following link about Americanisms creeping (insidiously) into (proper) British English.


I find lists like this fascinating and amusing. The examples cited range from phrases that I never would have thought twice about to phrases that make me cringe and ask, "is that really an Americanism?" "Who says that?"

A few of my favorites:

2. The next time someone tells you something is the "least worst option", tell them that their most best option is learning grammar. Mike Ayres, Bodmin, Cornwall

Okay, that's just atrocious. Anyone saying "least worst option" has no excuse. Can we not label this an "Americanism"? Do people really say this? I haven't encountered it.

3. The phrase I've watched seep into the language (especially with broadcasters) is "two-time" and "three-time". Have the words double, triple etc, been totally lost? Grammatically it makes no sense, and is even worse when spoken. My pulse rises every time I hear or see it. Which is not healthy as it's almost every day now. Argh! D Rochelle, Bath
This one doesn't bother me. I feel like they serve different purposes.

4. Using 24/7 rather than "24 hours, 7 days a week" or even just plain "all day, every day". Simon Ball, Worcester

Really? Clearly you've never tried to write copy that has to fit in a certain space or that can be read within a certain amount of time. Brevity has its purpose.

21. A "heads up". For example, as in a business meeting. Lets do a "heads up" on this issue. I have never been sure of the meaning. R Haworth, Marlborough

I like the phrase heads up, but I agree that that is an atrocious use of this fun little phrase. There's something nice about such a physical, visual expression.

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

I think this complaint actually raised my blood pressure. Seriously? I don't think I could live if verbing weren't allowed. "Alphabetize" is an awesome word. What else would you call that?

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

I'm completely behind this complaint. Baristas often chastise me because I refuse to accept these ludicrous titles for sizes. If you have three sizes, then the smallest one is "small" - don't tell me you don't have "small".

38. My worst horror is expiration, as in "expiration date". Whatever happened to expiry? Christina Vakomies, London

Can't agree on this one. I picked up quite a few Britishisms while living in England, but I couldn't get behind "expiry". That word just bugs me.

My personal favorite British expression? "Oy!" I say it far too often for someone born and raised in California.

Don't forget, just because the American term is different than the British term it doesn't mean that the American one is newer. Sometimes we've actually kept the older word and the British word is the newfangled one.

What do you think? Have you noticed differences on one side of the pond or the other that set your teeth on edge?

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