Thursday, September 27, 2012

Brits and Americans speak a common language - or do we?

My regular readers know that English as she is spoke is the ongoing cause for much amusement as I try to edumacate my American friends on the nuances of the English language.  In turn, I learn much on an almost  daily basis about words that Americans use - which they claim are legitimate words! - that I have never heard of.

As part of my ongoing efforts, I offer the following observations which comes courtesy of the BBC:

Britishisms and the Britishisation of American English

There is little that irks British defenders of the English language more than Americanisms, which they see creeping insidiously into newspaper columns and everyday conversation. But bit by bit British English is invading America too.

"Spot on - it's just ludicrous!" snaps Geoffrey Nunberg, a linguist at the University of California at Berkeley.
"You are just impersonating an Englishman when you say spot on."

"Will do - I hear that from Americans. That should be put into quarantine," he adds.
And don't get him started on the chattering classes - its overtones of a distinctly British class system make him quiver.

But not everyone shares his revulsion at the drip, drip, drip of Britishisms - to use an American term - crossing the Atlantic.

"I enjoy seeing them," says Ben Yagoda, professor of English at the University of Delaware, and author of the forthcoming book, How to Not Write Bad.

"It's like a birdwatcher. If I find an American saying one, it makes my day!"

Last year Yagoda set up a blog dedicated to spotting the use of British terms in American English.

So far he has found more than 150 - from cheeky to chat-up via sell-by date, and the long game - an expression which appears to date back to 1856, and comes not from golf or chess, but the card game whist....

The Beeb has much more to say on the topic, and offers these examples:

  • Do the washing up - British for "wash the dishes"
  • Keen on/ keen to - a British way of saying "to like" or "be eager to"
  • Barman - bartender
  • Bit - as in "the best bit" of a film... Americans would usually say "part"
  • To book (eg a hotel) - Americans would say "reserve"
  • Called Joe - Americans say "named" Joe
  • To move house - a British way of saying "to move"
Go read the rest here.

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