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I'd like to table this post on Americanisms.
July 13, 2011 12:09 PM   Subscribe

"I accept that sometimes American phrases have a vigour and vivacity. A relative of mine told me recently he went to a business meeting chaired by a Californian woman who wanted everyone to speak frankly. It was 'open kimono'. How's that for a vivid expression?" The BBC explores Americanisms, but they're not the first: The Telegraph, Daily Mail, and the Economist have also weighed in on the debate. (Somewhat previously.)
posted by reductiondesign (223 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
For the record, old timey North Carolinians still call it the "boot" of the car, not the trunk.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 12:12 PM on July 13, 2011


American here. I have never heard anyone use the term "open kimono", ever. If I heard someone use the term in a business context, I would think they were a major creep AND I wouldn't want to do business with them.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:12 PM on July 13, 2011 [31 favorites]


I have heard the term "open kimono" in a business setting. I thought it was creepy and made me not want to do business with the person using it, yes.
posted by feckless at 12:14 PM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


I've heard variants of "open kimono" used in a business context. I think it was a phrase like "We're opening the kimono, here" meaning "I am revealing the intimate details of our business process." This was in technology on the west coast of the US. (A mix of bay area and seattle folks)
posted by rmd1023 at 12:15 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Open the kimono. One of the many business phrases featured on Unsuck It.
posted by quadog at 12:15 PM on July 13, 2011


Native Californian here, and I've never heard the phrase, "open kimono", either. But being a Californian, it wouldn't faze me in a business context.
posted by 2N2222 at 12:16 PM on July 13, 2011


As an American, this rubbish story has my knickers in a knot!
posted by The Deej at 12:16 PM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Brilliant.
posted by The World Famous at 12:17 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It makes me picture some real '80s go-getter with big hair and shoulder pads and lots of sleazy deals, kind of like the guy loquacious describes here.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:18 PM on July 13, 2011


I prefer the term "hospital gown" instead of "open kimono", but I work with a bunch of asses.
posted by Challahtronix at 12:18 PM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Has anyone told him that Americans also call a walk in the country a hike?

And, to add to St. Alia's point, I know a few out-timey North Carolinians that also say "cash machine" instead of ATM.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:18 PM on July 13, 2011


I think that a good deal of catchy "edgy" phrases originate in business settings, and spread from there. You can't blame Americans on the whole for "open kimono."
posted by filthy light thief at 12:20 PM on July 13, 2011


Anyone who isn't open kimono isn't bringing anything to the table. It is what it is.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:20 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's part of the secret of its success. It has triumphed where Latin, French and the artificial language of Esperanto all ultimately failed,

Please god, someone with better academic credentials than I have, demolish this claim, because it strikes me as idiotic.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:21 PM on July 13, 2011


Eh, they've been moaning about American slang ever since we unleashed dude and escalator into the wild.
posted by The Whelk at 12:21 PM on July 13, 2011


I prefer to think outside the kimono.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:23 PM on July 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


This article seems awfully arbitrary. Why is hospitalize vile, exactly? What's wrong with outage? Did I miss the part where the author explains this?
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:23 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Wrench for spanner

I had to look up spanner. At first I thought the author had randomly thrown in an endorsement for a guy named Wrench who was running for a position called "spanner."
posted by mullacc at 12:23 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Has anyone told him that Americans also call a walk in the country a hike?

It's interesting to me how many of the Britishisms would make sense in the US, but many of the Americanisms don't work outside of the US.
posted by reductiondesign at 12:24 PM on July 13, 2011


It is what it is.

I hate, hate, HATE this. Unless you're Parmenides I'm going to insist you use your words.
posted by DLWM at 12:26 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


It is what it is.

I hate, hate, HATE this. Unless you're Parmenides I'm going to insist you use your words.


I've heard some hate for this phrase on Metafilter before. I picked it up when I worked at a Public Defender's Office, as short hand for "everything about this sucks, there's nothing we can do it about it, and the client is probably going to jail." Is this the sense elsewhere?
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:28 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I could hear his monocle popping in astonishment all the way over here
posted by danny the boy at 12:28 PM on July 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


That article was both trite and wrong in the details. 'ouster' is much more than just firing someone. 'pointless new usages' is exactly how languages change over time. And so many of the differences between British English and American English are just arbitrary, e.g. 'life' versus 'elevator', 'wrench' versus 'spanner'. I don't see how the British choice is more 'gloriously nuanced, subtle and supple'.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:29 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why is hospitalize vile, exactly

Some people are annoyed by the verbing of nouns and the nouning of verbs.
posted by empath at 12:30 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Catchword: open the kimono
Filed under: English
Part of speech: v. phr.
The part of speech reflects that used in the full entry, and not necessarily the part of speech as it is used in the quotation below.
Quotation: It was believed that the wolf was shameful of sexual things, having no strong sexual instincts. He would never disclose his organ, but hide it behind his hanging tail. Should a person perchance see his sexual act, he or she would have to open the kimono and disclose his or her own organ, so as not to shame the wolf.

Article or Document Title:
“The Goblin Fox and Badger and Other Witch Animals of Japan”
Author:
U.A. Casal
Article, document, publication, web site:
Folklore Studies
Date of publication:
1959
Page number:
84
Volume: 18
http://www.doubletongued.org/index.php/citations/open_the_kimono_3/

(via quadog's Unsuck It link.)
posted by sebastienbailard at 12:31 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


'life' versus 'elevator'

I saw that scene in one of those Final Destination movies once.
posted by kmz at 12:31 PM on July 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Webster was attacked by the British press for including the horrible, vulgar, totally made up word " lengthy " in his dictionary.
posted by The Whelk at 12:31 PM on July 13, 2011


So, I'm an Englishman, and I'm OK with most Americanisms. But I really hate it when people open sentences with "so". So annoying.
posted by hnnrs at 12:32 PM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Hospitalize is vile because verbing nouns is vile. I nominate "impact" as a verb as even worse.

"In hospital" still bothers me, though, but that's because I'm not British. Same with "At university."
posted by emelenjr at 12:33 PM on July 13, 2011


Browsing through that Unsuck It site reminds me why I moved from finance to academia.
posted by kersplunk at 12:33 PM on July 13, 2011


If the gentleman in question wanted to call it e-post, perhaps he should have invented it first?
posted by superfluousm at 12:33 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I've heard some hate for this phrase on Metafilter before. I picked it up when I worked at a Public Defender's Office, as short hand for "everything about this sucks, there's nothing we can do it about it, and the client is probably going to jail." Is this the sense elsewhere?

Yeah, I understand it normally as "there's no point in discussing whether or not X should be the case, because X is the case, and that's that." Normally it seems to be used in situations where people are unwilling to consider that reality could ever be any different.

But I really hate it when people open sentences with "so". So annoying.

So... you did that on purpose, right?
posted by DLWM at 12:34 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


It is what it is.

Thanks to Day 9, this phrase fills me with hilarity every time I hear it.

The It Is What It Is. story.
posted by empath at 12:34 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I hate "maths"
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:34 PM on July 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


A couple of my friends just moved to the Silicon Valley for work and they told me of the horror that is "Let's open the kimono!"

We then proceeded to start coming up with equally horrific phrases to use instead:

"Everyone, we're going to Pee Wee the alley!"
"Get the children out the trunk!"
"Let's goatse this project!"
posted by yeloson at 12:35 PM on July 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


The gist of the articles appears to be:

1) English is great because it is adaptable and open to change.
2) We should protect the one and only True English and protect it from change.
posted by vacapinta at 12:35 PM on July 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


Bert Cooper used "open the kimono" on Mad Men. Given his Japanophilia, I like to think he invented the phrase.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:35 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I prefer zed, it sounds so cool.

on this:
Some people are annoyed by the verbing of nouns and the nouning of verbs.


The complains strikes me as silly; if said often "to be put in the hospital" becomes cumbersone, why not verbalize? What's the "cost" ?
posted by oblio_one at 12:36 PM on July 13, 2011


I hate "maths"

It's an abbreviation of a plural, it needs an s. There's no such thing as a mathematic.
posted by kersplunk at 12:37 PM on July 13, 2011 [13 favorites]


Business speak normally makes me want to kill, but I find the phrase 'open kimono' to be devilishly arousing.
posted by The Discredited Ape at 12:38 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those damn Knights Hospitaller must have started it all. They should be verbed right up the noun for that.

I must admit, though, that I detest "architected" as a substitute for "designed".
posted by XMLicious at 12:38 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also, treating bands, sports teams, etc., as singular drives me up the wall.
posted by kersplunk at 12:38 PM on July 13, 2011


The It Is What It Is. story.

Woooooooow...
posted by DLWM at 12:39 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's an abbreviation of a plural, it needs an s. There's no such thing as a mathematic.

Mind blown.
posted by reductiondesign at 12:40 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Don't get me started on "I could care less".
posted by kersplunk at 12:40 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]



Also, treating bands, sports teams, etc., as singular drives me up the wall.


Not familiar with this practice, is this like saying "The Rolling Stones IS playing here tomorrow?"

Where do they talk like that?
posted by oblio_one at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2011


It is what it is.

I first noticed this phrase when it was used at least a dozen times in a single conversation by a doctor who was giving me bad news. It horrified me that using the phrase was actually part of his beside manner.

I really hate that phrase.
posted by gurple at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2011


Funny how that BBC article is a complete rewrite of the Daily Mail article, with exactly the same examples.
posted by monospace at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2011


I could care less. Irregardless, you've got another think coming.
posted by kmz at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's an abbreviation of a plural, it needs an s. There's no such thing as a mathematic.

An econs professor of mine once made the same point, but all the lings students in the class reminded him that language is what it is.
posted by DLWM at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2011 [31 favorites]


I work in an open kimono workplace.
posted by maxwelton at 12:43 PM on July 13, 2011


Not familiar with this practice, is this like saying "The Rolling Stones IS playing here tomorrow?"

Where do they talk like that?


When the band name is a plural term, nobody does that. But when talking about say, Pink Floyd or U2, it's easy to use singular instead of plural.
posted by kmz at 12:44 PM on July 13, 2011


I was going to remark on that, monospace, when I noticed that it was the same author. Still kind of odd, though.
posted by darksasami at 12:44 PM on July 13, 2011


empath, I had never seen that story before, so thank you very much for that. Made my day.

I think it's probably a lot funnier if you've watched the Daily so you know how he tells stories and you can hear him telling it in your head.
posted by IAmUnaware at 12:44 PM on July 13, 2011


The phrase "the truth will out" makes me want to punch someone in the face. The truth will COME out, you fucking fucker. It's like "I accidentally the whole thing" except people use it seriously.
posted by desjardins at 12:44 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


As an Englishman living in the States, I don't have much problem with "Americanisms". Indeed, I think the BBC article sucked. Rather than "Americanisms", what I really don't like is buisnessspeak, copspeak, etc. Things like: "Please action that" and "Sir, please utilise the exit". Such ways of speaking aren't restricted to one side of the pond.
posted by ob at 12:46 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, treating bands, sports teams, etc., as singular drives me up the wall.

And, yet, you just referred to them as "bands" and "teams". Not "bandmemberseses" or "teammateseses". There's only one team in a team, not several. Hence, "Chelsea has lost the match".

I'm sure I just gave at least one person screaming fits.
posted by gurple at 12:46 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


empath, I had never seen that story before, so thank you very much for that. Made my day.

Yeah, he deleted the post on the team liquid forums, but not before someone saved it for posterity.
posted by empath at 12:46 PM on July 13, 2011


The alarming part is that this is starting to show in the language we speak in Britain.

In articles of this sort, the author always seems to throw out an assertion like this without making any effort to back up the assertion that this is alarming in any way. It's always just a list of words or phrases the author personally finds annoying.
posted by nickmark at 12:46 PM on July 13, 2011


Hospitalize is vile because verbing nouns is vile. I nominate "impact" as a verb as even worse.

I sympathize with you, emelenjr, but it seems we lost that battle a long time ago.
posted by Rangeboy at 12:47 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've heard some hate for this phrase on Metafilter before. I picked it up when I worked at a Public Defender's Office, as short hand for "everything about this sucks, there's nothing we can do it about it, and the client is probably going to jail." Is this the sense elsewhere?

Yes, it works in any situation where matters are out of one's control. I used to hear it a lot on film sets in relation to weather/ losing a location/ having the director melt into an angry puddle. I only find it objectionable when someone is using it as an excuse to avoid responsibility or invoking the pathetic fallacy as an explanation for their failure; rather like 'it needed to be said' in the wake of a needlessly offensive remark, as if the words had somehow forced themselves out through the speaker's larynx. Anyone no drowning in their own blood is disqualified from using this particular excuse around me.

Webster was attacked by the British press for including the horrible, vulgar, totally made up word " lengthy " in his dictionary.

Indeed. I have often wondered what is wrong with 'long', much as I have wondered why Americans like to say 'at this time' when they mean 'now'. Other pet hates of mine include 'valorize' (instead of 'encourage') and of course this year's favorite: 'demagogue (verb)'.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:47 PM on July 13, 2011


The phrase "the truth will out" makes me want to punch someone in the face. The truth will COME out, you fucking fucker. It's like "I accidentally the whole thing" except people use it seriously.
Actually, it's not quite so simple.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:47 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I have often wondered what is wrong with 'long'

"Lengthy" sounds ruder.
posted by ob at 12:48 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hate it when people sing "The truth will come out tomorrow".
posted by gurple at 12:49 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: I hate it when people sing
posted by ob at 12:50 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


emelenjr and Rangeboy, guess you're more with the stuffed animal then the sadistic child on this debate:
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_I0JyZiMKuh0/R0SsGMbc7qI/AAAAAAAAAEM/wadQnwbHbJ4/s1600-h/verbing-sm-01.jpg

I cannot sympathize ( nor feel sympathy) for your position.
posted by oblio_one at 12:50 PM on July 13, 2011


Actually, it's not quite so simple.

Well, Shakespeare was wrong.
posted by desjardins at 12:51 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh man, I'm guilty of "it is what it is" and I can totally relate to how much people hate it.

Sometimes I like to see if I can slip "it's more like it is now than it's ever been" (modified Ike) past people.
posted by nanojath at 12:52 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I greatly prefer "so it goes" to "it is what it is", where appropriate.
posted by gurple at 12:54 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


we are letting British English wither

Maybe something to distract the English Defense League with?
posted by everichon at 12:55 PM on July 13, 2011


Sometimes I like to see if I can slip "it's more like it is now than it's ever been" (modified Ike) past people.

Well, you gotta do what you gotta do.
posted by DLWM at 12:55 PM on July 13, 2011


hé biþ riht
áwendednes biþ bealofull
posted by villanelles at dawn at 12:55 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just wait 'til the limey's get a load of "deliverables" and "action items." Deliverables is like a shadow creature that exists only when cast by another. Action items highlight how much of the day is devoted to passive bureaucracy.
posted by 2bucksplus at 12:55 PM on July 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Number of linguists consulted for the writing of this typical vapid BBC piece: 0. The best part is how he wants to go back to the 'original' English language.
posted by TheTingTangTong at 12:58 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Actually, it's not quite so simple.

After all, all he did was string together a lot of old, well-known quotations.
-- H. L. Mencken, on Shakespeare
posted by benzenedream at 12:58 PM on July 13, 2011


If backlashing is acceptable here (both as a usage and a phenomenon), I'd like to point out as a Canadian that the British use of "proper" to mean "in the way we English have decided sometimes quite arbitrarily to do things" makes me want to whack the user upside the head.

Most loathsome ever was the Englishman I once heard griping, in India, over the lack of a "proper curry." Self-righteously oblivious to the fact that the dish you call curry has no direct Indian analogue and curry powder was a thing invented by your colonial ancestors because they couldn't handle the full intoxicating strength of a real masala. Eh, guv? Wot?

I'd take "it is what it is" over that "proper" twatage any day of the week. If I could impact the right demographics. Going forward.
posted by gompa at 12:58 PM on July 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


I picked it up when I worked at a Public Defender's Office, as short hand for "everything about this sucks, there's nothing we can do it about it, and the client is probably going to jail." Is this the sense elsewhere?

Yes, but unfortunately no one here ever goes to jail. :(
posted by mullacc at 12:58 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I loath any feature of language that fails to make sense when I try to apply logic to it, because language is created by mathematicians, and it is completely intentional.

I also loath most things that I understand, because there are so many things that I will never understand.

The word loath is derived from the Frankish work for ugly.
posted by hanoixan at 12:58 PM on July 13, 2011


A couple of my friends just moved to the Silicon Valley for work and they told me of the horror that is "Let's open the kimono!"

We then proceeded to start coming up with equally horrific phrases to use instead:

"Everyone, we're going to Pee Wee the alley!"
"Get the children out the trunk!"
"Let's goatse this project!"


The girl and I worked together on the university newspaper eons ago, and that place was a hotbed of freshly generated euphemism, to the point that if you hadn't been in the office for a few days, you might find that a previously innocent phrase had skidded into the gutter.

"So, what did you do this weekend?"

"Not much. Watched the game Saturday. Sunday I helped my sister clean out her garage."

"With your sister?!? Dude, that is sick!"
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:02 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Hospitalize is vile because verbing nouns is vile.
emelenjr

I take it you never paint or photograph anything, then? This sentiment is just silly.

Also, treating bands, sports teams, etc., as singular drives me up the wall.kersplunk

Because they are collective units. They should be referred to as singular, for the reason gurple gives. Referring to them in the plural is the wrong way. A band is a single group, not 5 or however many individuals.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:02 PM on July 13, 2011


Most loathsome ever was the Englishman I once heard griping, in India, over the lack of a "proper curry."

Once, when my wife and I were in Istanbul, we overheard a guy at our hotel say something that was either literally or close enough as makes no difference, "Oh I say, have you had any of this beastly tea?" It was very, very hard not to laugh at him to his face.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:03 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh gosh does this article suck. I wouldn't take this seriously except for the part where he perpetuates ridiculous stereotypes about English, Americans, languages in general, language change, ugh, I could go on, but definitely won't bother.

But to say that there is a large amount of sociolinguistic research, data and analysis (off the top of my head, Bert Vaux and colleagues) suggesting that British – rather than American English – linguistic features still dominate on the world scene.

More generally, English is not going to hell in a handbasket (see: Language Myths by Peter Trudgill and Laurie Bauer). There's no magic year of the language's perfection that we're trying to crawl back to (see: the entire history of the English language). And American English is not taking over (see: actual research).

Sorry I'm not linking to the actual stuff/cites/whatever...maybe another MeFite could dig around...I'm swamped with work, have limited internet, but just couldn't let this sh*t(e) go.
posted by iamkimiam at 1:04 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Also, your favorite band sucks.
posted by aramaic at 1:04 PM on July 13, 2011


Hospitalize is vile because verbing nouns is vile.

Hmm... would you consider verbing an adjective?

I loath any feature of language that fails to make sense when I try to apply logic to it, because language is created by mathematicians, and it is completely intentional.
posted by DLWM at 1:04 PM on July 13, 2011


At the end of the day, bandmemberseses is a great word.
posted by desjardins at 1:04 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Who the hell came up with "shit the bed"? Can we put that genie back in the bottle?
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:04 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your favourite band suck.
posted by darksasami at 1:05 PM on July 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


Who the hell came up with "shit the bed"?

Well, you can't say it's not evocative....
posted by IAmUnaware at 1:06 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wait...So Bob is not, in fact, your uncle? I am gobsmacked.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 1:09 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


"It is what it is" came to me from my ex-gang friends growing up.

It mostly referred to an unfixable situation - either out of bad luck ("My mom's work decided not to pay her, so we ain't got no lights." "Fuck." "It is what it is.") or unfixable people ("My cousin's back on coke." "Shit." "It ain't like he gonna change. It is what it is.") Mostly used in situations of extreme powerlessness, which, you can't do shit and getting angry won't even help.

It's really weird to me to hear it being used in the mainstream.
posted by yeloson at 1:10 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


2bucksplus: "Who the hell came up with "shit the bed"? Can we put that genie back in the bottle?"

I had a housemate who did that (very drunk) when spending the night at his girlfriends. What really amazed me is that she didn't immediately dump him.
posted by dunkadunc at 1:10 PM on July 13, 2011


Most loathsome ever was the Englishman I once heard griping, in India, over the lack of a "proper curry."

On a related note, Mrs. Example and I were once in an Ethiopian restaurant in Denver. The guy at the next table got his delicately cooked, exquisitely spiced and seasoned entree, which is meant to be eaten with the hands and pieces of injera bread...

...and immediately asked for a knife, fork, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. I wanted to punch him in the dick.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:10 PM on July 13, 2011


Bill Bryson's Made In America has a whole chapter on American slang and neologisms being lamented by Britishers, I think my favorite was all the hate piled on the word "pants" cause it was a useless, affected way of saying "pantaloons"
posted by The Whelk at 1:15 PM on July 13, 2011


"Open the kimono" is sexist AND racist, and is a phrase which needs to die. I have heard it before in business contexts, and it's always appalling.
posted by ErikaB at 1:15 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It's an abbreviation of a plural, it needs an s. There's no such thing as a mathematic.

There is no rule that says an abbreviation of a plural needs an S. For example, British motorsport enthusiasts and commentators do not refer to aerodynamics as "aeros," but as "aero." Moreover, it's not a normal plural, since, as you point out, it has no corresponding singular form. The term "mathematics" is, in usage, singular.

I do have to say, on the general topic, that it's sort of funny to see the British complaining about cultural imperialism, as if they didn't practically invent it.
posted by The World Famous at 1:16 PM on July 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


The English language, in whichever of its national and/or regional variants, is just plain weird. I mean, this is a system of communication in which flammable and inflammable mean the same thing.
posted by Rangeboy at 1:16 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I could care less. Irregardless, you've got another think coming.
posted by kmz at 12:42 PM on July 13 [+] [!]


One of these thinks is not like the other...
posted by newmoistness at 1:17 PM on July 13, 2011


All language is weird. And, therefore, it is not weird for a language to be weird.
posted by The World Famous at 1:17 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


...and immediately asked for a knife, fork, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. I wanted to punch him in the dick.

WTF? I sincerely hope his demands were not met. Just as a proper Chicago hot dog stand should offer no ketchup, a proper Ethiopian restaurant should not have utensils available.
posted by kmz at 1:18 PM on July 13, 2011


And, to add to St. Alia's point, I know a few out-timey North Carolinians that also say "cash machine" instead of ATM.

That's just silly, everyone knows they are called Tyme machines.
posted by quin at 1:18 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ye knowe eek, that in forme of speche is chaunge
With-inne a thousand yeer, and wordes tho
That hadden prys, now wonder nyce and straunge
Us thinketh hem; and yet they spake hem so,
And spedde as wel in love as men now do;
Eek for to winne love in sondry ages,
In sondry londes, sondry been usages.

--Some dead English dude with a better attitude about the drift of language
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:18 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


That's part of the secret of its success. It has triumphed where Latin, French and the artificial language of Esperanto all ultimately failed, and become the natural medium of global communication.

Please god, someone with better academic credentials than I have, demolish this claim, because it strikes me as idiotic.


The success or failure of a language is often judged upon grounds that are inherently non-linguistic, such as how many speak it, is it used for science or business, are great works of literature written in the language, and so on. The linguistic grounds for judging a language are quite different, if not entirely absent. Linguists would only ask, is it a language? If it is, then it's a "success" as a language. Everything else is relevant only to the social position of the language and the political or cultural environment within which it exists. Interesting stuff for sure, but linguists would never judge a language to be a failure just because it was unwritten or not used in corporate boardrooms. Non-linguists (like the person who wrote this article) aren't judging whether a language is a success or not, rather whether the people who speak that language have been socially, politically, culturally, economically successful according to whatever values they hold. The success of different peoples (or countries or any group) is dependent on a myriad of factors, few or none linked to language.

For example, while "flexibility" could be a tenuous linguistic description of how a language borrows or uses words (similar to the meaning in this article), flexibility wouldn't make it any more successful as a language to linguists. Icelandic is well known for not borrowing as many words as other languages, but the fact that it's only spoken on a cold semi-barren island in the sea is a good reason why, well, it's only spoken on a cold semi-barren island in the sea. English does have a considerable history of borrowing words (or "innovating" or being "flexible" or whatever), but the real reason why it's currently the top-dog of world languages is WARSHIPS, BIG FUCKING WARSHIPS, LOTS OF THEM. FROM THE ROYAL NAVY TO THE GRAND FLEET TO THE NIMITZ, IT'S WARSHIPS ALL THE WAY DOWN.

Seriously though, there are lots of non-linguistic reasons why languages are considered successful.
posted by Jehan at 1:19 PM on July 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


Trousers.

To trouse?

Attrousal?

Betrousal?

Troused, trousing.
posted by everichon at 1:21 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"It is what it is" is awesome, though. Because the phrase is code for, "There's nothing that can be done about it, so please for the love of Christ stop whining because you are driving everyone insane."
posted by ErikaB at 1:21 PM on July 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


"Open the kimono" is sexist AND racist, and is a phrase which needs to die. I have heard it before in business contexts, and it's always appalling.

While it's certainly racist, how is it sexist? I thought kimonos were worn by both sexes.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:22 PM on July 13, 2011


Oh, and the title of the article, "Why do some Americanisms irritate people?" ... I can't help but think that the tacit answer is, "BECAUSE AMERICANS ARE LOUD PUSHY AND ANNOYING AMIRITE?!"
posted by iamkimiam at 1:22 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Actual conversation I had with a British friend:

me: [blah blah blah]...on the sidewalk, and..
him: what do you mean by "sidewalk"?
me: on the side of the road, where you walk [said most condescendingly]
him: oh, right. the pavement.
me: pavement?
him: yes, what does "pavement" mean in America?
me: uh, anything that's paved...roads, streets...sidewalks...
him: ...
posted by zardoz at 1:22 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, "talent" was first used by Lydgate the best part of 600 years ago. "Talented" is a normal derivation of that word. So unless you're going to object to the canonicity of, you know, English grammar or Middle English poets, then just shut up and accept it.
posted by Jehan at 1:22 PM on July 13, 2011


And it's "drop trouS", not "drop trou", trousers being plural and all.
posted by newmoistness at 1:23 PM on July 13, 2011


"Open the kimono" is sexist AND racist, and is a phrase which needs to die. I have heard it before in business contexts, and it's always appalling.

In Japanese, the word kimono refers to a long garment worn by any gender. If the phrase were "open the furisode" it would be sexist (and rather creepy). It still strikes me as a bit racist, though.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:23 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's an abbreviation of a plural, it needs an s. There's no such thing as a mathematic.

Do you say "Mathematics are the studies of numbers?"
posted by kagredon at 1:25 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I sincerely hope his demands were not met.

Sadly, they were. I have douche chills to this day.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:25 PM on July 13, 2011


I suppose I wouldn't mind "It is what it is" so much if I had ever heard it used as a casual expression of powerlessness. But the problem was that the only time I ever heard it was from our lame principal at faculty meetings, telling us of some fresh new hell we had to go through.

"It is what it is" meant: Don't complain about this class load/schedule/paperwork/new protocol etc. because, well because I said so.
posted by kozad at 1:25 PM on July 13, 2011


Of course, now I'm going to start saying "lift the happi" in business contexts.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:27 PM on July 13, 2011


It's sexist because Americans tend to culturally associate the kimono with women, regardless of how the word is technically used elsewhere or what the denotation of kimono is (as opposed to the connotation). That, and opening a kimono is an invitation to sex, with the gendered cultural association of women dong the inviting in, and not the other way around. (Although, the other way around has a creepy interpretation too, but for entirely different reasons.)
posted by iamkimiam at 1:28 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm aware that kimonos are worn by both sexes by tradition in Japan. But that fact is not widely known among the white middle-class business and finance jocks who use the phrase.

When they say "kimono," they picture a demure female sex slave. That's why they like the phrase, because it's salacious, as well as implying control. The speaker is in control of whether or not the kimono is opened. It's never "Don't open my kimono" or "let's keep the kimono closed" or "the project opened its kimono."

But that's the fantasy of the geisha, isn't it? Sexual control. That's what the phrase leverages, regardless of issues of historical accuracy.
posted by ErikaB at 1:28 PM on July 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


"Well I guess it's time to slide a mirror under that kilt"
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:31 PM on July 13, 2011 [20 favorites]


Most loathsome ever was the Englishman I once heard griping, in India, over the lack of a "proper curry."

That's something I actually really like about the English. They travelled the world in the days of empire (and after), sucking up everything that seemed interesting or different, and then studied it and remade it for themselves. Exotic local dances were broken down to first principles, codified, then built back up into pure awesome. Food likewise. Music, technology, etc.

Almost all of the time, the result was a great improvement over the original, and a great addition to the world - at least, an improvement if you share English tastes, which obviously it seems that I mostly do. :-)

In some cases, the traditional original style is still either preferred by the originators, or necessary, and lives on, but in other cases, the English version is preferred by the originators too, and largely replaces the original.


Something even cooler is watching this happen multiple times to the same thing. Such as American pop-culture being re-made by the Japanese, and their version is so different and cool that it inspires other Americans (who often don't realise it has American roots), and their remake work drives another round of Japanese remake, and each time it bounces back and forth, it's so radically changed that it's appealing to different demographics, different artists/designers, and inspiring different areas of culture.
posted by anonymisc at 1:32 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just as a proper Chicago hot dog stand should offer no ketchup

Wait... What? Is putting ketchup on a hot dog some sort of sin that I was unaware of?
God I hate mustard so much

Also, as a Canadian, I have much fun with my (Irish) wife any time we run into words that are different between our cultures. If she asks me to get something out of the "press", I tell her "Sure, I'll grab that out of the cupboard for you". Likewise lift, boot, rucksack all get the elevator, trunk, backpack treatment.
posted by antifuse at 1:34 PM on July 13, 2011


But that fact is not widely known among the white middle-class business and finance jocks who use the phrase.

This is a claim you've made, with no evidence to back it up.

When they say "kimono," they picture a demure female sex slave. That's why they like the phrase, because it's salacious, as well as implying control. The speaker is in control of whether or not the kimono is opened. It's never "Don't open my kimono" or "let's keep the kimono closed" or "the project opened its kimono."

And, you follow up your claim with no evidence by telling me what other people picture when they say something. Congratulations, for giving us all a lesson on what the world the exists inside your head it like.

In my head, I hear that phrase used by a speaker about their own organization (which I take it is how the phrase is typically used), and I hear them using it about themselves by extension, not about a sex partner. So that the meaning is something more like "we're going to expose ourselves to the world." Of course, that's just what I think they're thinking, and I understand that that is basically meaningless, just like what you think they're thinking.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:35 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've never seen a really strengthy argument for why everyone should talk the same way.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:38 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I recommend that we anthropomorphise this problem and confiscate its pantaloons.
posted by vanar sena at 1:38 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


I know a few out-timey North Carolinians that also say "cash machine" instead of ATM.

I'm from Brooklyn and we say that all the time.
posted by griphus at 1:38 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


My degree is in mathematic.
Specifically, combinatoric and
probabilities. Now I teach statistic.
posted by madcaptenor at 1:40 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


When they say "kimono," they picture a demure female sex slave. That's why they like the phrase, because it's salacious, as well as implying control. The speaker is in control of whether or not the kimono is opened. It's never "Don't open my kimono" or "let's keep the kimono closed" or "the project opened its kimono."

Of course the speaker is in control; it's the speaker's kimono. You use this phrase in reference to yourself or your own organization. So if your hypothesis here is correct, isn't it a statement of submission, not control?
posted by IAmUnaware at 1:40 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


How about "the band is what it is"? 6 word aneurysm?
posted by merocet at 1:41 PM on July 13, 2011


TheWhiteSkull, for a bit I thought you wrote "Open the fursuit."
posted by adipocere at 1:46 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


At the end of the day
The bottom line is
It is what it is.
posted by scruss at 1:47 PM on July 13, 2011


anonymisc: "Such as American pop-culture being re-made by the Japanese, and their version is so different and cool that it inspires other Americans (who often don't realise it has American roots), and their remake work drives another round of Japanese remake, and each time it bounces back and forth, it's so radically changed that it's appealing to different demographics, different artists/designers, and inspiring different areas of culture."

Like a Translation Party!
posted by iamkimiam at 1:48 PM on July 13, 2011


Also, treating bands, sports teams, etc., as singular drives me up the wall.

Treating them as plural always bugs me.
posted by spaltavian at 1:55 PM on July 13, 2011


I know a few out-timey North Carolinians that also say "cash machine" instead of ATM.

In Wisconsin, many people call ATMs "time machines" because the logo on the unit was TYME, or "Take Your Money Everywhere," until the early 2000s.
posted by desjardins at 1:57 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


The only time I ever heard (read) "open the kimono" was on The Register, a UK website concerned with IT issues (implemented snarkily).
posted by zomg at 2:03 PM on July 13, 2011


I know a few out-timey North Carolinians that also say "cash machine" instead of ATM.

"Bank machine" is common among my friends/family here in the Toronto area, not sure if that's a local thing or not.
posted by antifuse at 2:03 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I hate "maths"

It's an abbreviation of a plural, it needs an s. There's no such thing as a mathematic.


It's actually an acronym that stands for Mathematical Anti-Telharsic Harfatum Septomin.
posted by Strizh at 2:04 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'd like to point out as a Canadian that the British use of

Hey, do you Canucks still call electicity "hydro"?
posted by goethean at 2:06 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


In Wisconsin, many people call ATMs "time machines" because the logo on the unit was TYME, or "Take Your Money Everywhere," until the early 2000s.

Cue the hilarity when I, the born and raised Wisconsinite, moved to Connecticut. Went to the shopping mall on a day off of work, and asked the nearest mall security guard for the 'Time Machine'. That...didn't go over too well until I showed him my ATM card, and he then finally knew what I was talking about. I, of course, wanted the MAC Machine!

Sure. Yes! OK! 11 months of Connecticut living beat that phrase into my head, when circumstances dictated that I move back to Wisconsin. And find that they still called them 'Time Machines'. That phrase took on a completely banal meaning; people would think nothing of standing on the street shouting "Lars! LARS! There's a Time Machine on Blount!", and no one else would blink. Because everyone knew what a Time Machine was.

That's probably the one place on the planet where The Doctor could land with his TARDIS and no one would care - because everyone has access to Time Machines.
posted by spinifex23 at 2:14 PM on July 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Relevant David Mitchell Soap Box rant... Dear Americans.
posted by generichuman at 2:16 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm a fan of "open trenchcoat"
posted by symbioid at 2:17 PM on July 13, 2011


Good way to get your dick punched.
posted by newmoistness at 2:18 PM on July 13, 2011


The phrase "the truth will out" makes me want to punch someone in the face. The truth will COME out, you fucking fucker. It's like "I accidentally the whole thing" except people use it seriously.

Tell that to Shakespeare.
posted by adamdschneider at 2:18 PM on July 13, 2011


spinifex23 - did you ask him for the bubbler, too?
posted by desjardins at 2:21 PM on July 13, 2011


goethean: "Hey, do you Canucks still call electicity "hydro"?"

Yes, yes they do.
posted by deborah at 2:26 PM on July 13, 2011


Exotic local dances were broken down to first principles, codified, then built back up into pure awesome. Food likewise.

I strongly disagree. More like things they only vaguely understood were reduced by a global bureaucratic elite of unrepentent, imperially entitled, often flagrantly racist snobs into whichever elements were most familiar to the English, encased in a template of the formal classical modes of "proper" European culture, and then disseminated throughout the empire as more "refined" versions of "native" or "indigenous" (implying inferior) cultural traditions.

And on the subject of food, I'd like to place a citizen's arrest on your tastebuds. They are clearly impaired and should not be permitted to continue to roam free. They are a danger to themselves.

Hey, do you Canucks still call electicity "hydro"?

You'll still hear this in the provinces where a single government-owned or formerly state-owned company provides almost all the power and all that power is (or used to be) hydro - Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba and BC. You've never heard it in places without large-scale hydro.
posted by gompa at 2:26 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

- James D. Nicoll
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 2:30 PM on July 13, 2011 [14 favorites]


Everybody knows the English word for a cash machine is "hole in the wall", a cell phone is a "mobile", and an ass is a hairy animal that brays loudly when unsettled.
posted by Jehan at 2:38 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


my favorite mathematic is lymph
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:38 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


From the Telegraph article:

But I don’t mean simple Americanisms like stroller (pushchair), diaper (nappy), ladybug (ladybird), Mom (Mum), entrée (main course), Santa (Father Christmas), takeout (takeaway), pre-owned (secondhand), mad (angry), chill (calm down), Santa (Father Christmas) etc etc

That one must really bug him.

One of the great differences across the Atlantic is "to table": in the US, it means to put away for later discussion, in the UK, to bring up for discussion. Apocryphally, during World War II, this caused consternation in Inter-Allied discussions: The Brits wanted to table a proposition, because it was important, while the Americans didn't want it tabled, because it was too important...

One thing that strikes me is the use of the word "brilliant" as a general adjective of approbation in the UK. I have heard British folks (or other Europeans who learned British English) refer to "brilliant cuisine", a "brilliant photo album" etc. I think in the US we would only use it to refer to actual luminosity, or to a particularly talented (heh) human being.

2bucksplus, I do know that French has a noun to describe people who are seen as careless or irresponsible, chienlit ("shits in bed"), which was attested in the 19th century but which made a comeback when de Gaulle used it to describe the 1968 protesters.
posted by dhens at 2:38 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


fwiw, the Spanish equivalent of "it is what it is" -"es lo que hay"- has been in use since... well I don't know, but it is used a lot.
posted by valdesm at 2:39 PM on July 13, 2011


"It is what it is" has been popular, often in the future tense...
posted by dhens at 2:42 PM on July 13, 2011


I always thought "It is what it is" arose at least in part from Popeye's "I am what I am."
posted by newmoistness at 2:44 PM on July 13, 2011


Something tells me all this outrage isn't really about some random American phrases at all.
posted by katyggls at 2:58 PM on July 13, 2011


@antifuse: Wait... What? Is putting ketchup on a hot dog some sort of sin that I was unaware of?

A big sin. Only small, badly-educated children (whose parents don't love them enough to get them real hot dogs) put ketchup on their hot dogs. Even the president knows better.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 2:59 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


In The Crying Game, doesn't Dil the transsexual open her kimono to reveal a penis to Fergus? Maybe that's the origin of the phrase. I googled a bit to try to confirm that memory, but I couldn't come up with anything definitive.
posted by vibrotronica at 3:11 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Everybody knows the English word for a cash machine is "hole in the wall"

I thought that was a cutesy trademark of Barclays or some other bank.

"Cashpoint", incidentally, is a trademark of Lloyds TSB. "Cash machine", I think, is the unencumbered generic term.

Meanwhile in Australia (a Commonwealth country), Americanisation has advanced a bit further. Trainers are sneakers, nobody except for a few elderly Poms calls a truck a lorry, and cash machines are ATMs.

(For what it's worth, I favour the Italian/Swedish term "bancomat" for cash machine.)
posted by acb at 3:11 PM on July 13, 2011


Actually, I can see the phrase "Open the kimono" being a little confusing in international situations.


American Businessman: "I think we'll need to open the kimono before we can proceed any further."


Japanese Businessmen: muttering in Japanese


Younger Japanese Businessman: "Senpai, I think he wants to put cameras on his shoes and go out looking for shrine maidens."




Another phrase to avoid in Japan: "It's a little nippy out."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:22 PM on July 13, 2011


Ok, here's one Americanism I hate: referring to cities by their airport codes.
posted by adamdschneider at 3:23 PM on July 13, 2011


I thought "hole in the wall" referred to a small, sketchy-looking restaurant that you wouldn't think has good food but it does.
posted by madcaptenor at 3:25 PM on July 13, 2011


The best thing that can be said for the article is that it drove me to spend a happy couple of hours looking through the OED.
Hospitalize - first used in British English in 1901 (admittedly with an s)
Faze - derives from an English dialect word (feeze) used - with considerable variation in spelling - by such notable non-Americans as Ben Johnson, Beaumont & Fletcher and Shakespeare (twice). From Anglo-Saxon.
Wrench - W. Marshall's 'The rural economy of the Midland Counties; Including the Management of Livestock in Leicestershire and its Environs: together with minutes on agriculture and planting in the district of the Midland station' - hang on I'm just putting that one on my wishlist - published in London in 1790 defines a spanner as 'a wrench; a nut screw-driver.'
Rookie - British Military slang for a new recruit, first recorded in 1868. Appears in Kipling.
Ouster - For dismissal or expulsion from a position: first recorded use 1782 in Lord Glenbervie's Biographical History of Sir William Blackstone. The OED concedes that it is 'Now chiefly US'. In its original legal sense of eviction from a freehold, it is Anglo-Norman.

So perhaps Mr Engel should be thanking Americans for reintroducing us to parts of our language tradition that we have (through sheer idleness and lack of self-awareness) forgotten.
posted by HastyDave at 3:26 PM on July 13, 2011 [19 favorites]


Ok, here's one Americanism I hate: referring to cities by their airport codes.
posted


Is that an Americanism? I've only ever seen it as a Social Media Douchebagism
posted by Space Coyote at 3:26 PM on July 13, 2011


I like bancomat cause I get to say it like how Leelo says " multi pass"

BhA- nko-maaat!
posted by The Whelk at 3:28 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


So perhaps Mr Engel should be thanking Americans for reintroducing us to parts of our language tradition that we have (through sheer idleness and lack of self-awareness) forgotten.

Well, if the English can forget that they invented the word soccer, anything is possible.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:29 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ok, here's one Americanism I hate: referring to cities by their airport codes.

The US, unique in this regard, is big enough that we need to fly to get across the country in any decent amount of time, and people do fly back and forth; I'd guess that this is why we do that.
posted by reductiondesign at 3:32 PM on July 13, 2011


Never heard 'open kimono', and I'm a big fan of American Slang.
Seriously I've got an American slang dictionary at home. I'll look it up there. I'm not sure which of my expressions are Americanisms, which are regionalisms, and which are Simpsons quotes.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:38 PM on July 13, 2011


The US, unique in this regard, is big enough that we need to fly to get across the country in any decent amount of time, and people do fly back and forth; I'd guess that this is why we do that.

Canada as well. I dislike it when Americans do this, but I dislike it even more when Canadians do this, because Canadian airport codes are really hard to guess. (Seriously, how the hell do you get "YYZ" out of "Toronto"?)
posted by madcaptenor at 3:39 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


And on the subject of food, I'd like to place a citizen's arrest on your tastebuds. They are clearly impaired and should not be permitted to continue to roam free. They are a danger to themselves.

Millions would vapidly agree with you, and then obliviously, merrily return to their favourite - English-adapted - foodstuffs. While hipsters and snobs may turn their noses up at English taste because it's too widespread for them to be special for liking it, and new-agers might seek original ethinic versions for it's ancient wisdoms and healings, when people turn to food for the sake of food, many of the most treasured treats and staples of the western diet are the product of English adaption, and yes, refinement.

It might not be fashionable to say that, but it is what it is :)
posted by anonymisc at 3:42 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


It might not be fashionable to say that, because it is stupid.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:47 PM on July 13, 2011


Frankly, this article strikes me as pointless and snobbish.
As a neurotic person with a constantly catastrophizing mother being able to say 'it is what it is' is a massive victory. To admit that things go wrong and it's not my fault - not anyone's fault - means the mild slings and arrows of life can be bared with at least some stoicism. "So it goes" and "Such is life" also work.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:55 PM on July 13, 2011


Most people 'round here still call them MAC Machines instead of ATMs.
posted by octothorpe at 3:59 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I prefer zed, it sounds so cool.

Well, no one can argue with that.
posted by Zed at 4:01 PM on July 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


There's a certain kind of Australian that loves to pounce on and decry 'Americanisms' as proof that they're Uhstrayin, and you're Unuhstrayin, and that America is what's wrong with the world. They also almost always get it wrong.

And so, online:

>I heard Kev is in jail.
You mean 'gaol', right? What are you, a fuckin' Yank?


Or outside a pub:

"Let's just call a cab."
"Mnyuuuuhhrrrr, we're not in New York, ya fuckin Seppo wanker?"

*sigh*
posted by obiwanwasabi at 5:00 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I always thought "It is what it is" arose at least in part from Popeye's "I am what I am."

Also, YHWH.

In all cases—shitty situations, Popeye, and God—it refers to a situation so entrenched and unchangeable that the only thing you can say about it is reflexive.
posted by Lord Chancellor at 5:01 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Millions would vapidly agree with you, and then obliviously, merrily return to their favourite - English-adapted - foodstuffs. While hipsters and snobs may turn their noses up at English taste because it's too widespread for them to be special for liking it, and new-agers might seek original ethinic versions for it's ancient wisdoms and healings, when people turn to food for the sake of food, many of the most treasured treats and staples of the western diet are the product of English adaption, and yes, refinement.

Oh, I get it. It's a sly meta-argument on the article's thesis bemoaning the American adaptations to English, via a paper-thin defense of appropriation that would've sounded stunningly arrogant, tone-deaf, and ignorant any time in the last 25 years. It even has multiple layers, since Americans became, in so many ways, successors to the English tradition of cultural co-option.

...that is what you're doing, right?
posted by kagredon at 5:01 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm aware that kimonos are worn by both sexes by tradition in Japan. But that fact is not widely known among the white middle-class business and finance jocks who use the phrase.

When they say "kimono," they picture a demure female sex slave. That's why they like the phrase, because it's salacious, as well as implying control. The speaker is in control of whether or not the kimono is opened. It's never "Don't open my kimono" or "let's keep the kimono closed" or "the project opened its kimono."

But that's the fantasy of the geisha, isn't it? Sexual control. That's what the phrase leverages, regardless of issues of historical accuracy.


yeah... this is complete projected nonsense, bearing no sensible relation to how the phrase is used contextually.
posted by stenseng at 5:09 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I swear Metafilter wasn't this Anglophobic before I signed up. Does that mean it's all my fault?
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 5:41 PM on July 13, 2011


Lengthy. Reliable. Talented. Influential. Tremendous.

All of these words we use without a second thought were never part of the English language until the establishment of the United States.


This got my bullshit detector humming, so I checked my OED when I got home this evening - and indeed: The first use listed for "tremendous" was in 1632, a mere 13 years after the founding of Jamestown, almost 150 years before the establishment of the United States.

If you're going to publish paragraph after paragraph of self-important hand-wringing dumb-fuckery, you could at least bother to get your basic facts in order first.
posted by nickmark at 6:01 PM on July 13, 2011 [10 favorites]


airport codes

Do you mean area codes? We're fond of that in the 313.
posted by BinGregory at 6:04 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


BinGregory: no, airport codes, as in referring to your city as "DTW".
posted by madcaptenor at 6:12 PM on July 13, 2011


I remember reading the Daily Mail article when it came out 14 months ago. He really needs to let this go.
posted by Put the kettle on at 6:14 PM on July 13, 2011


Do you mean area codes? We're fond of that in the 313.

Literally the only time I have ever heard someone do this before is, "Marcellus ain't got no friends in 818."
posted by adamdschneider at 6:22 PM on July 13, 2011


What, you never heard this song?

414 represent, yo.
posted by desjardins at 6:39 PM on July 13, 2011


In The Crying Game, doesn't Dil the transsexual open her kimono to reveal a penis to Fergus? Maybe that's the origin of the phrase. I googled a bit to try to confirm that memory, but I couldn't come up with anything definitive.

That is the origin I heard, as well. It makes more sense than any other explanation I've heard.
posted by deadmessenger at 6:40 PM on July 13, 2011


Electricity is never called hydro in Alberta. One might call hyroponically grown plants "hydro", though.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 6:41 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


The area code thing is something that seemed (to me) reasonably common in/around Los Angeles, probably for similar reasons to what reductiondesign said: you can expect to traverse or call multiple area codes in a day. Although it seems to have gotten less common with the advent cell phones, since a lot of people will just hang onto their number for years after they've moved out of the area code.
posted by kagredon at 6:50 PM on July 13, 2011


...that is what you're doing, right?

I'm bemoaning the culturally ignorant but ingrained-in-some-circles view that cultural appropriation is generally a bad thing, that older versions are naturally better, despite somehow... these things becoming better and better as time passes. The more people that refine something, the more experts and backgrounds (and laymen too) making their contribution, the more varieties you get, the more exploration of possibilities, the more intermixing, and the better the best of it becomes, and onward and upward we go.

Appropriation and modification is something done in all cultures from the dawn of civilization. It is one of the most massive engines of advancement for everyone, across both technological and cultural fields. Kneejerking against it based on this or that disliked example, suggests a wider lack of knowledge about the history of most everything else, taking the good things for granted.

Generally, kids like flavoured snow, and they also like ice-cream. Ice cream didn't come from nowhere. The world is better off for having ice-cream.

Great artists steal.
posted by anonymisc at 6:58 PM on July 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Limmy has chimed in on this and he's a bit less stuffy than the typical middlebrow language guardians. But the truth is that American English is a flattening, homogenizing, nearly irresistible force and that is sort of depressing. Wait...do I sound like a stuffy, middlebrow language guardian?
posted by Roachbeard at 6:58 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry. I'm beating a bit of a derail. I'll shut up.
posted by anonymisc at 7:04 PM on July 13, 2011


But the truth is that American English is a flattening, homogenizing, nearly irresistible force and that is sort of depressing.

How is it homogenizing? American English is incredibly dynamic.

One weird language quirk I've never seen explained: Americans refer to a season of TV shows as a season. Aussies and maybe Brits refer to it as a 'series'. Weird.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 7:19 PM on July 13, 2011


Don't know about Australia, but in Britain a TV series may have as few as 6 episodes. Hardly a season's worth.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:20 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


kagredon:
cultural appropriation of food = BAD
cultural appropriation of language = GOOD

...that is what you're doing, right?
posted by JustAsItSounds at 7:48 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


How is it homogenizing? American English is incredibly dynamic.

It can be both, no?
posted by the cuban at 7:50 PM on July 13, 2011


I don't think you can call Americans speaking American English cultural appropriation, but do enlighten me, JustAsItSounds!
posted by kagredon at 8:30 PM on July 13, 2011


(And no, that's not what I was saying, since you asked so nicely.)
posted by kagredon at 8:34 PM on July 13, 2011


Hey, do you Canucks still call electicity "hydro"?

The company is called Manitoba Hydro, what the hell am I supposed to call it?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:23 PM on July 13, 2011


Luckily, although aware of the phrase, I haven't heard "open the kimono" in actual practice, I'd agree that it sounds fairly sexist and that a lot of people in an American business setting would not know about men wearing kimonos. Also a quick Google of the phrase found lots of references to the term as a sexist phrase.
posted by sweetkid at 9:28 PM on July 13, 2011


The area code thing is something that seemed (to me) reasonably common in/around Los Angeles, probably for similar reasons to what reductiondesign said: you can expect to traverse or call multiple area codes in a day.

Why not use neighborhood names? Los Angeles has those, right? That's what we do in Chicago.

what the hell am I supposed to call it

Electricity? We don't say, "Turn off the light, you're wasting ComEd."
posted by adamdschneider at 9:37 PM on July 13, 2011


We don't say, "Turn off the light, you're wasting ConEd."

If your electricity was made out of consolidated Edison, it would be perfectly acceptable, though probably scientifically unethical and gross. My power is hydroelectricity, so hydro is what it is. I'm not going to pay an 'electric' bill, as the bill is made out of paper*, and an 'electricity bill' is an awkward phrase. So there.

*Actually I switched over to e-billing this morning, but never you mind that.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:47 PM on July 13, 2011


Jesus H. Christmas. How ignorant is the article? It's so ignorant that it calls open kimono an Americanism. The phrase is from Japan, where it has a very specific meaning in business negotiations and is neither racist nor sexist. It comes into American business speech from that very source through Americans doing business in Japan.

It's so not an Americansim that any American business person who takes one of those "How to at least make clumsy attempts to not look totally inept in Japan"-type business etiquette courses before going to Japan for the first time will likely be taught that phrase along with the acceptable tactics for reacting to it. Or rather, would have been taught as that style of business negotiation has faded in Japan.

If there are Americans using the phrase in a sexist manner, then it is out of ignorance of it's context. But that doesn't mean there isn't a valid context. To paint everyone using the phrase as racist or sexist is ignorant. To try to create an atmosphere where all uses of the phrase should be considered racist or sexist is stupid.

Also, lifelong North Carolinian here who has lived in every corner of the state. Nobody in NC young or old except British expats would refer to a car trunk as a boot. And an ATM is a cash machine while ATM is an acronym. Whereas the Britishism for mechanic is, wait for it, "spanner wanker."

Sheesh, this thread needs closing. It's an embarrassment. If you want to hear people who mangle English, then go watch Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels.

I take it back. The article isn't ignorant. It's a troll. Or should I say, it's trolling?
posted by 3.2.3 at 10:03 PM on July 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Commonwealth Edison, not consolidated*. ComEd.

But it'd ok, you'd still never say "Turn off the ComEd" because ComEd turns it off for you. All the damn time.

*New Yorkers being provincial again! ;)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:03 PM on July 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ack, I thought it was a typo! I wasn't trying to be all jerky by 'correcting' the quote, I swear!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:07 PM on July 13, 2011


I always thought "It is what it is" arose at least in part from Popeye's "I am what I am.

Whereas I prefer to relate it to Robert Deniro's "This is this" line from "The Deer Hunter."
posted by ShutterBun at 10:10 PM on July 13, 2011


"It is what it is" can also be seen as a form of theology!
posted by dhens at 10:24 PM on July 13, 2011


"It is what it is" can also be seen as a form of theology!

Darkseid is.
I am he as you are he as we are all together.
Thou art God. All who grok are God.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 10:38 PM on July 13, 2011


Hydro in Toronto, but not in Alberta.
posted by PinkMoose at 10:59 PM on July 13, 2011


Late to the game here:

On the verbing of nouns (there I go); don't people "chair" a meeting, where a motion may be "tabled?"

Agreeing that the business-speak is as annoying as you can find. I was particularly amused by "back end," and would use it for comical effect whenever possible.

For me, though, the worst offense has to be over-correction. People who say "utilize" when they clearly could have just said "use." Another tip: there is almost no reason to say "myself" that is grammatically correct.
posted by Gilbert at 11:48 PM on July 13, 2011


Whereas the Britishism for mechanic is, wait for it, "spanner wanker."
I've never heard anyone say this in my puff.

On the whole ATM point, my favourite is 'Cashline'. I think it's a Royal Bank of Scotland brand for ATMs. It just seems to roll off the tongue better than anything else.

I used to work with someone who used differential rather than difference. It infuriated me.
It just seemed a way to fire in an extra couple of syllables when they were not required and could actually end up confusing the listener.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 12:50 AM on July 14, 2011


Bill Bryson's Made In America has a whole chapter on American slang and neologisms being lamented by Britishers, I think my favorite was all the hate piled on the word "pants" cause it was a useless, affected way of saying "pantaloons"

A strange part of this is that in the part of England where Bryson lived (i.e just up the road from me) pants is used in exactly the same way as it is in America.
posted by vbfg at 2:33 AM on July 14, 2011


This thread really does have a certain junny say qua.
posted by Sutekh at 6:57 AM on July 14, 2011


Another tip: there is almost no reason to say 'myself' that is grammatically correct.

Mainly as a reflexive pronoun: "Well, I woke up this morning and got myself a beer."
posted by kirkaracha at 7:18 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


We took your language and fixed it!
posted by Mick at 7:25 AM on July 14, 2011 [2 favorites]


One weird language quirk I've never seen explained: Americans refer to a season of TV shows as a season. Aussies and maybe Brits refer to it as a 'series'. Weird.

Yes, this always confused me when I was living in Ireland, watching British TV (though the Irish call it a series as well) - the "series finale" of a show, which was followed by the "series premiere" however months later. Dammit, people, a "series" is the collection of all of the "seasons" of the show! I actually don't know what word those folks use as the equivalent to the (North) American usage of "series" - don't think I ever heard one.

A strange part of this is that in the part of England where Bryson lived (i.e just up the road from me) pants is used in exactly the same way as it is in America.

My (Irish) wife (mentioned above) thinks it's hilarious whenever I use the word "pants" instead of "trousers" - since "pants" is apparently short for "underpants" in Ireland (I'm not sure if it's specific to female underpants, since I never thought to ask any of our male Irish friends). "Dress pants" in particular she finds quite humourous.
posted by antifuse at 7:48 AM on July 14, 2011


I actually don't know what word those folks use as the equivalent to the (North) American usage of "series" - don't think I ever heard one.

SHow maybe? That would be fun. "Leg hurting bad, as he sits to watch a showend."
posted by adamdschneider at 7:53 AM on July 14, 2011


I don't think that the problem is with language evolving, more that the American variety of English is scribbling over the British one. We're not saying there's anything inherently wrong with the other variety, just that many of us would rather not sound like rubbish versions of Americans.

This process has become all the more noticeable since we got more telly channels, many of which almost solely consist of American programmes.
posted by Quantum's Deadly Fist at 8:24 AM on July 14, 2011


My (Irish) wife (mentioned above) thinks it's hilarious whenever I use the word "pants" instead of "trousers".

I'm not sure if this phrase's meaning extends to Ireland, but ask a Brit about the term 'fanny pack' sometime. It's fun.
posted by benito.strauss at 9:50 AM on July 14, 2011


Do you mean area codes? We're fond of that in the 313.
posted by BinGregory at 9:04 PM on July 13 [1 favorite +] [!]

BinGregory: no, airport codes, as in referring to your city as "DTW".
posted by madcaptenor at 9:12 PM on July 13 [+] [!]


As someone who grew up in the 734 and later moved to the 313, I'd like to point out that DTW is in the 734 and DET is the airport for the 313.

More seriously, I've heard area codes more in rap songs and I hear airport codes from people who travel and text a lot. What traveling rappers do, I'm not sure.
posted by QIbHom at 10:30 AM on July 14, 2011


One of the great differences across the Atlantic is "to table": in the US, it means to put away for later discussion, in the UK, to bring up for discussion.

That explains so much. I'm American, but apparently have always been using the British meaning of the word. I thought I was just being ignored or brushed off. Guh. People really need to tell me these things. I blame Douglass Adams!

"I'd like to table a motion."
"Boulder a montion, you mean!"

posted by Garm at 11:25 AM on July 14, 2011


Another tip: there is almost no reason to say 'myself' that is grammatically correct.

I don't agree with that, myself.
posted by empath at 11:43 AM on July 14, 2011


A British friend visiting me thought "royal liquors" was a pretty hilarious name for a store
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 12:31 PM on July 14, 2011


Another tip: there is almost no reason to say 'myself' that is grammatically correct.

I avoid the issue by saying, "my own self".
posted by adamdschneider at 12:35 PM on July 14, 2011


Another tip: there is almost no reason to say 'myself' that is grammatically correct.

Thanks for the tip. I'll be sure to correct myself if I ever make that mistake.
posted by The World Famous at 12:44 PM on July 14, 2011 [5 favorites]


More seriously, I've heard area codes more in rap songs and I hear airport codes from people who travel and text a lot. What traveling rappers do, I'm not sure.

JFK 2 LAX, Gangstarr

I just chalk it up to people like to have nicknames for places. Area codes, airport codes, "the Dub", etc. For hiphop, it's a combination of following current slang plus having multiple ways of saying the same thing is useful for dense lyrics and rhyming.
posted by yeloson at 1:56 PM on July 14, 2011


In Canada the British and American versions of English are in most places considered correct.. this means spell-checkers provide a lot of unwanted assistance.
posted by Intrepid at 2:34 PM on July 14, 2011


Back when I worked at the Virginia Beach oceanfront, I kept getting asked about the mack machines. Huh? Oh. MAC machines. Huh? Oh. weird name for an ATM. Now I live in PA and say MAC machine.

As an ex-American resident, I remain a big fan of baseball. But I sit over here and listen to people who know nothing of the games talk about ideas coming out of "left field". They speak about "three strikes and you're out" or "stepping up to the plate" without the foggiest idea what these phrases mean. I think the country has started to lose its own sense of itself.

[shrug] So do Americans. Next?
posted by desuetude at 10:38 PM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure if this phrase's meaning extends to Ireland, but ask a Brit about the term 'fanny pack' sometime. It's fun.

Well, presuming the Brits use fanny to refer to the vaginal area, yes, it's the same in Ireland. But I guess, if you wear your fanny pack low and in the front (and you're female), it's still descriptive enough :P
posted by antifuse at 7:07 AM on July 15, 2011


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