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Don't Call Me Limey, Yank! Limey, Don't Call Me Yank!
September 25, 2011 9:26 PM   Subscribe

Last summer the BBC did a series on "Americanisms," or how American English was "infecting" the Queen's English. Ben Yagoda responds and documents how in fact it's the other way around. He documents "Britishisms" on his blog.
posted by bardic (204 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
I blame Doctor Who and Buffy. There's a big Something Awful thread mocking the old TV Tropes Troper Tales and it looks like I'm not the only one who used to drop Britishisms into my speech.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:27 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I blame my English husband and the creeping influence of yorkshire insults into daily use.
posted by The Whelk at 9:29 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yagoda blames Harry Potter, and he's probably right.
posted by bardic at 9:31 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh, ffs.

(See what I did there?)
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:33 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Does Something Awful do anything besides make fun of other people having fun on the internet?

Anyway, I find certain Britishisms almost irresistibly convenient in certain J-E translation contexts. I do my best to avoid them, not out of having any problem with Britishisms per se, but dropping them inexplicably into otherwise neutral-American text tends to raise eyebrows.
posted by pts at 9:33 PM on September 25, 2011


It's y'all's fault.
posted by item at 9:33 PM on September 25, 2011 [5 favorites]


I blame my dad the mechanic for import British cars, and my mother who drives an MGB-GT as her street car in Atlanta for the reasons I say petrol and boot even though I know it should be gas and trunk.

(Bonus point: my PhD Adviser is a Brit, and has been in the south long enough he says ya'll.)
posted by strixus at 9:34 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Those two claims are not mutually exclusive.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:38 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's some Britishism from Planescape that's actually part of Aussie English, but I can't remember what it is now.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 9:43 PM on September 25, 2011


French friend of mine said she knew the English inherently hated sex because of the awful words they used to describe it. For some reason "snog" and "rude bits" bore the brunt of her fury.
posted by The Whelk at 9:44 PM on September 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


I like the use of "ginger" for "readhead," and though I can't prove it, I'd bet my bollocks a lot if it was driven by the South Park episode "Ginger Kids."
posted by ronofthedead at 9:45 PM on September 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


So I'm sittin in dis Steak and Egger in Chicago and some dandy sits down at the counter next to me. Looks British, smells British. Wearing a freaking bowler and everything.

Da waitress comes overs and asks "Whatta want hun".

He adjusts his tie, leans forward and whispers - "I'll have the Lobster Thermidor aux crevettes with a Mornay sauce, served in a Provençale manner with shallots and aubergines, garnished with truffle pate, brandy and a fried egg on top and Spam"

Da waitress smiles and says "Comin right up squire". Had I known there was a secret menu and EVEN a secret society of British gourmands in Chicago - I would have ordered something much more continental. Sneaky freaking Brits.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 9:49 PM on September 25, 2011 [17 favorites]


I will never forget the war of 1812.
posted by The Whelk at 9:53 PM on September 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


As long was we can still use US pronunciation of urinal.
posted by birdherder at 9:54 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Went missing" is so much better than "was last seen." It has poetry.
posted by longsleeves at 9:55 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


anyway it's relevant cause I ask a MetaChat question about this like a day ago.
posted by The Whelk at 9:58 PM on September 25, 2011


As long was we can still use US pronunciation of urinal.

I was waiting for the men's room in a bar, this really does happen by the way, there was a guy at the urinal, guy in the stall and a guy at the sink. I'm peering in through the door with an Aussie guy peering over my shoulder. I look away for a second as a guy squeezes past me to leave the bathroom. The Aussie points into the room and screams in my ear "hurry up, there is a free your-eyenal", he was pointing at the sink.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:03 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


15. What kind of word is "gotten"? It makes me shudder. Julie Marrs, Warrington

A past participle. You know, like forgotten, as in The British have forgotten that "gotten" is not only entirely cromulent, but MORE cromulent than their lazy banket "got."
posted by Sys Rq at 10:05 PM on September 25, 2011 [14 favorites]


blanket
posted by Sys Rq at 10:06 PM on September 25, 2011


I'm still mildly angry at the history TA in college who marked me down an entire grade on a paper for using "whilst" because she claimed it wasn't a real word.
posted by scody at 10:07 PM on September 25, 2011 [23 favorites]


As long was we can still use US pronunciation of urinal.

Those 'gaols' of theirs must be jammed full of crim-EYE-nals.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:07 PM on September 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


Ben Yagoda responds and documents how in fact it's the other way around.

Oh, my arse it—

*recoils, stares at own hands*

Bollocks!
posted by cortex at 10:08 PM on September 25, 2011 [12 favorites]


Sheesule for schedule, Aluminium for Aluminum, etc.
posted by Jumpin Jack Flash at 10:12 PM on September 25, 2011


I think the Buffy theory may be a good one. I was just recently watching Downton Abbey and I was shocked to hear a character say, "As if."
posted by lesli212 at 10:15 PM on September 25, 2011


Cookies are called biscuits.
posted by birdherder at 10:15 PM on September 25, 2011


"Britishisms"

I'll bet a tube and a lorry that that's not even a real word.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:16 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a sneaking suspicious that Edmund White was right ans the native accent for a gya male American is trans-alatantic from about 1945 with british vocab, or yes, we all sound like Katherine Hepburn.

It would explain my over-expressed t's in any case.
posted by The Whelk at 10:16 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Germany* they call Urinals "Pissbuckets"

*Or maybe not German, but some language that sounds kind of like German
posted by delmoi at 10:16 PM on September 25, 2011


In Germany* they call Urinals "Pissbuckets"

*Or maybe not German, but some language that sounds kind of like German

I think it was French. As presented by Duchamp.
posted by Bighappyfunhouse at 10:31 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think we can all agree that English needs a separate word for second-person plural, and that it shouldn't be youse.
posted by infinitewindow at 10:35 PM on September 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Cor blimey, say it isn't so.
posted by unliteral at 10:38 PM on September 25, 2011


I think we can all agree that English needs a separate word for second-person plural, and that it shouldn't be youse.

I propose yuthers, taking inspiration from vosotros and vous autres.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 10:41 PM on September 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


I just wish Yorkshire pudding would hurry up and become the hip new food trend. I mean, it has to happen sooner or later.
posted by meese at 10:42 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


you know despite is various and many attacks and reputation for being pretensions and mannered, the "One does" construction fills a gap in the english language and serves a purpose.
posted by The Whelk at 10:43 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]



I just wish Yorkshire pudding would hurry up and become the hip new food trend. I mean, it has to happen sooner or later.


Me too, I can tell people how much better it is if you put in more butter and never ever use oil.

Oh and a pinch of nutmeg. I can make em in my sleeps now.
posted by The Whelk at 10:44 PM on September 25, 2011


"Ugly and pointless new usages appear in the media and drift into everyday conversation:

Faze, as in "it doesn't faze me"
Hospitalize, which really is a vile word
Wrench for spanner
Elevator for lift
Rookies for newcomers, who seem to have flown here via the sports pages.
Guy, less and less the centrepiece of the ancient British festival of 5 November - or, as it will soon be known, 11/5. Now someone of either gender.
And, starting to creep in, such horrors as ouster, the process of firing someone, and outage, meaning a power cut. I always read that as outrage. And it is just that."


What monstrosities have entered your life. Guy.
posted by longsleeves at 10:45 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Related story!

I studied literature abroad in England for a year. The classes there were all basically 1-to-1 tutoring sessions mixed with a ton of self-motivated research, so I got to know each of my professors really well. One of them was absolutely fascinated with language and dialects (he's a playwright/screenwriter). There were so many times where he distracted from the work I was doing to interrupt me with comments about the way I talked as compared to British English. I remember clearly him going on about the American habit of turning nouns into verbs (i.e. "I googled that") with a mix of interest and disdain for sloppy language. But most of the time he'd just stop me in mid sentence and question my use of a unusual word, strange pronunciations, or mixed up phrases - all in an effort to learn more about my regional dialect.

Little did he know that most of those Americanisms were just idiosyncrasies I carried over from having a speech impediment as a kid and being afraid to use new words in my speech. My friends tease me about my awesome ability to mangle words and phrases, but in England I totally pulled it off as, "Oh yes, in New York we always say it this way."
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 10:45 PM on September 25, 2011 [16 favorites]


As an American from the midwest living in the UK and with friends from the South Carolina and Canada who I (until quite recently) spent the most time in the pub with, my dialect has been utterly tainted.

Last week, after finishing up my work day and heading home I uttered the following nuggent unthinkingly and non-ironically: "Cheers y'all."

I still have a tendency to say pants instead of trousers, though.
posted by ursus_comiter at 10:46 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I think we can all agree that English needs a separate word for second-person plural, and that it shouldn't be youse.

'Ye' is widespread in most of Ireland outside Dublin.
posted by kersplunk at 10:47 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


In California, it's Guys. Guys is th3 gender-neutral second person pular, you guys.
posted by The Whelk at 10:50 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


I like the use of "ginger" for "readhead," and though I can't prove it, I'd bet my bollocks a lot if it was driven by the South Park episode "Ginger Kids."

Only a ginger can call another ginger "ginger."
posted by GooseOnTheLoose at 10:51 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yagoda:
There exists in our country a perfectly good word for the smaller dish that is consumed before the main dish, and it's appetizer.
This is, of course, just wrong. 'Appetizer' is a stupid, overlong and hectoring word*, the terminological equivalent of here-are-the-eight-specials-today, and if it's driven into exile by 'starter', you will be glad of its absence every time you go to a restaurant.

Less polemically, Yagoda's right to make the distinction between different words that describe discrete, specific things, now fighting it out in a shared linguistic space, and forms that can be drawn upon to reflect shades of meaning or provide some stylistic diversity. (The British aren't likely to abandon 'full stop' for the punctuation mark, but they may draw upon the emphatic American 'period' when they mean 'and that's final'.) He's protective about the former case, and I understand his sympathies, but it's completely normal for alternative terms to fight it out in public when juxtaposed, with territorial winners and losers.

I think we can all agree that English needs a separate word for second-person plural, and that it shouldn't be youse.

That'll mean bringing back thee and thou, and using them properly. I'm looking at you, America: especially the RenFaire crowd.

* though in mitigation, it's the root for Tizer.
posted by holgate at 10:52 PM on September 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Who says "whilst" unless they're wearing a silly wig? "Torch" is dumb for a flashlight, too. Otherwise, this is bloody brilliant.
posted by Camofrog at 10:53 PM on September 25, 2011


I think we can all agree that English needs a separate word for second-person plural, and that it shouldn't be youse.

EXACTLY. That is what I said to my mother, who laughed long and heartily the first time she heard me say "y'all."
posted by louche mustachio at 10:56 PM on September 25, 2011


Merde.
posted by three blind mice at 10:57 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love how big English is, the available vocabulary is huge, you can manner your speech is so many different ways and still be understood.
posted by The Whelk at 11:00 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


granted because of that, English is a bitch to learn cause it has ALL THESE BORROWED WORDS and pronunciation is largely improv and the written letters give you NO CLUE.
posted by The Whelk at 11:02 PM on September 25, 2011 [8 favorites]


In Germany* they call Urinals "Pissbuckets"

And German urinals have a little shelf so they can examine their piss before it drains away.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:04 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I'm still mildly angry at the history TA in college who marked me down an entire grade on a paper for using "whilst" because she claimed it wasn't a real word."

I had a philosophy TA give me a C on an otherwise good paper for, not kidding, "using words that are in the dictionary."

I said, "You mean like all of them?"

I had to transfer out of his section.

I think really he was mad he had to look up phylogeny.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:04 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Top Gear has beaten several car related terms into me:

Gearbox instead of transmission
Boot instead of trunk
Bonnet instead of hood
Saloon instead of sedan
Estate instead of station wagon (I really despise "station wagon")

But I won't change my pronunciation of "coupe." Really... "coo-pay" sounds too silly.
posted by Mister Fabulous at 11:05 PM on September 25, 2011 [4 favorites]


Who says "whilst" unless they're wearing a silly wig?

Uh, people outside the US on occasion? It's extremely common in legal writing, for example, even among people who've learned English as a second language.

"Torch" is dumb for a flashlight, too.

I assume because the portmanteau "flashlight" evokes a lightsource more readily than "torch"?

I might as easily say that "dumb" is "dumb for "stupid", because it has a second meaning of "mute" and that's confusing. But since you learned American English, you naturally attach the correct meaning. Just like I do with torch, damn your hide!
posted by NoiselessPenguin at 11:06 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Me too, I can tell people how much better it is if you put in more butter and never ever use oil.

You don't use butter in Yorkshire Pudding. You use beef dripping.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:08 PM on September 25, 2011 [9 favorites]


You don't use butter in Yorkshire Pudding. You use beef dripping.

I'm willing to bet that my father, who's British, is feeling an overwhelming urge to scream out "LARD! IT'S THE LARD!" right now, without the slightest idea why.

I've brought up how traditional it is to use beef drippings, but he's always insisted on the lard.
posted by meese at 11:11 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]



You don't use butter in Yorkshire Pudding. You use beef dripping.


Beef dripping who do you think we are the Queen?

chips and bread freid in drippings is one of te best things ever
posted by The Whelk at 11:11 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think we can all agree that English needs a separate word for second-person plural, and that it shouldn't be youse.

Too late!

(In school, my German teacher heartily advocated the use of 'youse' because it made his job easier. I just advocate it because "y'all" makes my skin crawl).
posted by pompomtom at 11:12 PM on September 25, 2011


besides everyone knows you use the fat from cooking brekfast to make a pudding, sheesh.
posted by The Whelk at 11:13 PM on September 25, 2011


Last week, after finishing up my work day and heading home I uttered the following nuggent unthinkingly and non-ironically: "Cheers y'all."

I say that all the time.

I learned recently that I have friends who absolutely HATE it when people say "Cheers!"

And I know several people who despise "y'all."

So not only does the phrase convey a nice, friendly sentiment, it also makes certain people squirm with discomfort. Wins all around.
posted by louche mustachio at 11:16 PM on September 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


I say "y'all" now and hope people don't realize it's wrong for where I'm from.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 11:18 PM on September 25, 2011


The explosion of the rave scene in the late 90s (which was basically a wholesale importation of London Club culture to the east coast) contributed a whole bunch of british slang, too..
posted by empath at 11:29 PM on September 25, 2011


I think we can all agree that English needs a separate word for second-person plural, and that it shouldn't be youse.

Y'uns?
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:31 PM on September 25, 2011


Also, I'm really surprised that "wait for it" is a Britishism. I thought it was a Mel-Brooksism.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 11:35 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


If it can be used to make chips (fries) you can use it to make yorkshires. That's my understanding. Butter, no. Lard, yes.
posted by seanyboy at 11:44 PM on September 25, 2011


As someone whose first language is English but is neither American nor British, every word is fair game. I didn't even realise "truck" is 'American' and "lorry" is 'British'.

Correct me if I'm wrong - but is the use of "would of" in place of "would've" an exclusively British error, or do Americans do it too?
posted by WalterMitty at 11:46 PM on September 25, 2011


I'm willing to bet that my father, who's British, is feeling an overwhelming urge to scream out "LARD! IT'S THE LARD!" right now, without the slightest idea why.

Lard is pork fat. Yorkshire pudding is traditionally served with roast beef. Both would have a similar impact on the pudding (you need to be able to get the fat hot enough to make it puff, which you can't do with butter) but other than that, it's a matter of taste.

Perhaps your father likes yorkshire pudding with his roast pork? Perhaps he buys lean joints of beef like topside and silverside, that don't have enough dripping on the meat to cook his yorkshire puds?

Beef dripping is canonical though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:46 PM on September 25, 2011


f it can be used to make chips (fries) you can use it to make yorkshires.

But Harry Ramsden's chips have been shit since he switched from using beef dripping to vegetable oil, and my wife's yorkshire puddings are shit when she tries to pull the same trick.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:57 PM on September 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm from Yorkshire, where Yorkshire pudding is still often served with gravy before the main beef course to fill you up first. I agree about the need for beef dripping rather than lard though.
posted by joannemullen at 12:02 AM on September 26, 2011


PUDDING COMES IN A SNACK SIZED PLASTIC CUP AND DOES NOT CONTAIN GRAVY
posted by Sys Rq at 12:03 AM on September 26, 2011 [43 favorites]


The truth is that American English has retained some forms of speech that British English has dropped, and vice versa. American idioms, spellings and phrases sometimes make more sense than British ones, and vice versa. We've grown apart in different directions. Bill Bryson wrote an entertaining and fairly well-researched book on this.

One thing that really struck me after I'd lived in the States for a while is just how many more differences there are than the common ones everyone knows and jokes about (to-may-to, tom-ah-to). I became so used to writing zeds - I mean zees - instead of esses in words like "organise" that I still sometimes slip up and find myself doing it even though I've been back in the UK for three years.

Things I like about American English? Your obviously more sensible spellings for words like "plow", "color" and so on (that said, I find our bizarre spellings more charming for their eccentricity.) I also like the way that you've retained the more correct "gotten" whereas we Brits just use "got" all the time. That one actually now grates on me so much I have adopted "gotten" and don't intend to drop it.

Things I dislike about American English? The way you people seem to be determined to abolish the adverb. The true hideous extent of this really hit me when I saw an advertisement for an American college that said, "How bad do you want to be good?" A college, for God's sake! Oh, and the fondness for narrowing (and thus reducing the power and subtlety of) language by blurring distinct words into one (alternate, alternative) or shamelessly misusing them until the misuse becomes accepted ("We will be taking off momentarily").

But really, the point is that there is good and bad in both versions. Although ours is still better, obviously. :-)
posted by Decani at 12:06 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Things I dislike about American English? The way you people seem to be determined to abolish the adverb. The true hideous extent of this

Tell us how you truly feel.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:09 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I love the edition of this "Americanisms are British" fight that dates back to 1781. Phew, they barely gave America time to get off the ground!
posted by shii at 12:16 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wish I had some pudding. I'll take the gravy on the side for dippin' though. Mmmm tapioca au jus.
posted by Ad hominem at 12:22 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing I never tire of chuckling at is when the British speak of eating their tea.

That's mostly the type of thing that throws me off: Words which here in North America only ever refer to very specific things refer in Britain to something much broader, e.g. pudding, tea, biscuits.

It's just like how in Georgia, "Coke" refers to all brands and flavours of soft drinks.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:26 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Two things: cba will always be pronounced in my head as "can't be arsed", never "can't be assed". I have no idea why this occurs and I'd like to blame some anonymous British person for it. The other one is "shite". Shit is a perfectly wonderful word. So how did shite ever enter my vocabulary? Again, one of you Limeys step up and accept the blame for your brainwashing linguistic efforts.
posted by Purposeful Grimace at 12:32 AM on September 26, 2011


My mind was blown when I found out "candy" is a strictly American term, as opposed to "sweets."

Also, I should have included this video which explains how certain Americanisms are doubly weird for Brits, since settlers in America kept using British English that went out of style in England after a while.
posted by bardic at 12:33 AM on September 26, 2011


Shit is a perfectly wonderful word. So how did shite ever enter my vocabulary?

"Trainspotting."
posted by Sys Rq at 12:33 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Now Scottish -- we can all agree that that's a fucked-up language.
posted by bardic at 12:36 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


chips and bread fired in drippings is one of te best things ever

THIS

In t'Midlands, we say Dinner for Lunch and Tea for Dinner. It confuses everyone when I say it now.
posted by arcticseal at 12:36 AM on September 26, 2011


It is a two way street for sure, but British English has been massively influenced by US English. I think it's harder for Americans to appreciate because to them we sound like...Brits obviously, and also because Americans love to put completely unrealistic accents on their tv shows in order to satisfy some kinda craving.

I just remember the late 80's. I think that was probably the last generation of kids that really grew up speaking in a 'cockney' accent. Since then the US English has fed into some of the young people's speech pattern through black memes, and then pretty much everyone grew up on a diet of American TV and learned to speak through that. It's pretty hard to find someone with one of the accents you normally find on American TV. It may exist, but even middle class people don't really talk like that 95% of the time.

If you think about the 1970's there might have been a good case for British and American English being different, but as an English teacher and traveller I don't find many real differences.
posted by Not Supplied at 12:49 AM on September 26, 2011


Lovecraft In Brooklyn: "There's some Britishism from Planescape that's actually part of Aussie English, but I can't remember what it is now."

berk?
posted by idiopath at 1:05 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


posted this in the wrong thread, so I'll try again here.

What's interesting to me isn't the leeching of words between countries. (That's all countries BTW, not just US and UK), it's the fact that the main passing point for me is the internet, and this is also contributing to my vocabulary. Add to this the fact that words are still being created in all countries, and you've got a marvellous thing indeed.

So, you've got snowclones like {x} ALL THE {y} currently going mainstream. That is awesome. And then you've got Afro-Caribbean words like "bare" (meaning very/big/lots/many) still very much on my side of the pond.

God only knows how we'll be speaking ten years from now.
posted by seanyboy at 1:12 AM on September 26, 2011


One thing I never tire of chuckling at is when the British speak of eating their tea.

With a knife and fork, too. No spoons. We're fucking hardcore.

Yes, it takes a while.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:52 AM on September 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


as an American who's lived in the UK since 2003, the Britishisms infecting the US in recent years drive me absolutely mad. because, dammit, *i had to learn* all this! all this vocabulary, all these spellings, all these colloquialisms that i had never heard or been exposed to before.

i had to learn when and where to use them in proper context and with nuance, how to use them without sounding ridiculous in an American accent, how to write and speak and enunciate differently to be better understood, how to blend in... or at least stick out a little less. because when you already sound different, using the wrong word at the wrong time in a formal business meeting, or a new social setting... well, it clangs even more loudly. whereas dropping them randomly into American conversation is just seen as quaint

so i've come to feel quite protective of my adopted Britishisms, not only because they represent something about my own experience, but also because they represent something unique about the differences that do exist between the two countries - it's not just a matter of language, it's a matter of the culture the language originates from. and no matter how much changes over time, or how the internet blurs the edges, they are not interchangable, and i wouldn't ever want them to be. so, rationally or irrationally, it feels like the trans-Atlantic bleed diminishes or dilutes that cultural uniqueness.
posted by wayward vagabond at 1:56 AM on September 26, 2011


I'd noticed the increase in the use of "bloody" in the past few years, so I guessed something was afoot. Though you won't get any praise from me until you can use "love" correctly. I've known US folk living in England for some years utterly fail at this, like it was the most impossible word to learn. I figure it must take a good level of social understanding to get right, which you don't realize if you're brought up with it.
posted by Jehan at 2:04 AM on September 26, 2011


There's some Britishism from Planescape that's actually part of Aussie English, but I can't remember what it is now.

Aren't many Australianisms taken from a mixture of Cockney, Northern English dialects and Irish English?

"Berk", apparently isn't, though; it's apparently abbreviated rhymign slang, from "Berkshire hunt". Though apparently it's being replaced by "jeremy".
posted by acb at 2:08 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you think about the 1970's there might have been a good case for British and American English being different, but as an English teacher and traveller I don't find many real differences.
I took a job as a sub-editor on an English-language weekly here in Beijing. There were points when I was the only UK citizen in an ex-pat staff of three or four, everyone else being either native US or US-educated. It was surprising how often what I took to be entirely normal constructions in my prose flummoxed (heh) my colleagues, despite consciously generating what I took to be US-tinged 'international' English and being fairly word-aware.
posted by Abiezer at 2:20 AM on September 26, 2011


Checking I see 'flummoxed' is perfectly fine US usage. Still confused after all these years :(
posted by Abiezer at 2:24 AM on September 26, 2011


I was surprised to hear that 'Nowhere is safe' - a phrase used on posters for the last Harry Potter film in the UK - apparently looked weird to US eyes.
posted by Segundus at 3:05 AM on September 26, 2011


I think it's zany that when people from the UK fall ill they go "to hospital" instead of "to the hospital". I can only imagine that the elimination of that one word helped to lower healthcare costs.
posted by SteveInMaine at 3:44 AM on September 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Those 'gaols' of theirs must be jammed full of crim-EYE-nals.
Reminds me of an episode of Mad About You when the snooty British neighbor asked Paul to turn down his stereo because she had a "MEEgraine." He asked her if she'd like to borrow some "as-PYE-rin."
posted by Oriole Adams at 3:51 AM on September 26, 2011


Though you won't get any praise from me until you can use "love" correctly.

You can't just leave that there like that. Please explain.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:58 AM on September 26, 2011


I'd love to, love, but it'd be more than me job's worth.
posted by Abiezer at 4:12 AM on September 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


You can't just leave that there like that. Please explain.

It's the same as how only an American can call someone 'buddy' without sounding a total berk.
posted by pompomtom at 4:19 AM on September 26, 2011


I will never forgive Harry Potter for "wicked" and "bloody".
posted by T.D. Strange at 4:30 AM on September 26, 2011


My dad always had a few britishisms because his grandparents were from Devon and he grew up in a tiny Pennsylvania mining town that was almost entirely populated by recent immigrants from Wales and southern England. To this day "Shed-Yule" sounds more correct to me than the American pronunciation of "schedule". He always said "Ad-Ver-Tis-Ment" for advertisement too.
posted by octothorpe at 4:30 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


from the article: "There exists in our country a perfectly good word for [...]"

you see, this is what confuses us Brits too. we don't understand why Americans had to go and make up new words for things, when there were perfectly suitable words in existence already. Plus changing the spelling of words, which just seems like a big 'fuck you, Britain', and has probably been happening since the Revolution. ;-)

I was doing some systems training over in Louisiana a few years ago, for a system that was due to go live in about two weeks time. So I used the word 'fortnight' many times during those sessions, until one of the managers pulled me to one side and said 'what the hell is a fortnight'???
posted by alan2001 at 4:41 AM on September 26, 2011


As an American who moved to the UK three years ago, I have both consciously and unconsciously altered my speech. It's natural. I want to be understood.

My voice has softened and I now say "I'm on holiday." instead of "I'm on vacation." I don't say "brilliant" but I am more likely to say "great" than "awesome." I use "quite" more than I ever did and I've started ending every other sentence with ", really" as in "I suppose I'm becoming more British, really."
posted by vacapinta at 4:47 AM on September 26, 2011


Plus changing the spelling of words, which just seems like a big 'fuck you, Britain', and has probably been happening since the Revolution.

Wasn't it the case that both the "British" and "American" spellings were considered acceptable in Britain until the 19thcentury, when "British" spellings were codified as shibboleths and/or ways of demonstrating superiority over the uncultured colonials?

It's interesting how many arbitrary and nonsensical rules become law out of snobbery. Take, for example, the injunction against splitting infinitives in English, which came from an 18th-century piece of snobbery, where those in the know would mark themselves out by treating English grammar as if it were Latin.
posted by acb at 4:50 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am more likely to say "great" than "awesome."

Awesome is very widely used here now though, which I find annoying as it sounds terrible in an English accent.
posted by Summer at 4:55 AM on September 26, 2011


Yes, I remember Vinnie Jones struggling to make Deborah Orr understand that when he said he had an 'awesome boat' he wasn't saying he had an "'orse and boat".


I believe most of the "American" spellings were introduced and popularised more or less single-handed by Noah Webster? I don't think his main motivation was nationalism, but by calling it "An American Dictionary of the English Language" I suppose he must have pretty much guaranteed no-one else would pick up his suggested reforms.
posted by Segundus at 4:59 AM on September 26, 2011


Awesome is very widely used here now though, which I find annoying as it sounds terrible in an English accent.

Have any Americans started saying "splendid" or "superb" yet?
posted by acb at 5:01 AM on September 26, 2011


I think we can all agree that English needs a separate word for second-person plural

It used to have one (eow), along with second-person dual (inc), meaning "you and only one other person". Then the Norse and the Normans came along, and everything went to hell.

On a related note, I'm an American who's been living in the UK for over four years now, and I still can't bring myself to say "Cheers!" to people. In the back of my head, I feel like I'd be one of those Tourists Who's Trying Too Hard...or worse, Madonna. "Oi'm English, oi am!"

I've only just now gotten used to greeting people with "All right?", which was really disconcerting when I first heard it--"Oh god, why are you asking? Am I bleeding?".
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:16 AM on September 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I once was bought many drinks in an LA bar in exchange for me putting on my best public school British accent and saying "That's some fucked-up shit, right there".

That was all I had to do.

I like this game.
posted by Devonian at 5:22 AM on September 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


"How bad do you want to be good?"

"How bad do you want to be well"? That's not right either.

I kid, I kid
posted by cotterpin at 5:31 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do we really say 'bloody' all that much? Bloody hell is still common I guess. Maybe I don't bloody notice.

I always assumed bloody came to prominence as a bottom of the scale swear you could get away with on telly in the 70s (hence legendary script editing discussions with people like Peter Cook or Johhny Speight that came down to haggling - "We'll allow the 'tit' if you cut out two 'bloodies'").
posted by spectrevsrector at 5:32 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Related: The Globe & Mail's John Doyle, who is Irish and seems to watch TV mainly to explain the ways in which it is not classical theatre, uses "jiminy" in a review. Of Terra Nova. Twice.

I'm not so big on being offended by the fluidity of language - though if I was, I would kill the self-centred, faintly imperial British use of "proper" with a proper goddamn flamethrower - but I draw the line here, Mr. Doyle. Many of our ancestors fled Victorian England to avoid a life of toil as lovable chimney sweeps. We will not go back. We will not, sir.
posted by gompa at 5:39 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Gompa - until you've heard John Lydon snarl 'This is proper music, for proper people' while laying into members of the audience at a gig who have failed to show the proper respect, you may not understand its full range.

And "Proper job, m'lover" is also a perfectly respectable Devon term of approval. The Devonian 'lover', which is a variant on 'love', presents its own challenge to those encountering it for the first time.
posted by Devonian at 5:55 AM on September 26, 2011


Correct me if I'm wrong - but is the use of "would of" in place of "would've" an exclusively British error, or do Americans do it too?

Oh, god no. My entire high school (and Facebook feed) made that ruddy error all the time.

I've been living in the UK for a year now and picking up new vocabulary fast. Some I pick and choose; I quite like saying 'bollocks' and I made the conscious decision to switch from 'pants' to 'trousers' after one too many giggles, but I will never refer to an evening meal as 'tea' - it is a drink. Others have just popped up in my speech... I find myself watching a 'DVD commontree' or eating 'strobrees' and 'blackbrees' in spite of myself.
posted by Gordafarin at 5:57 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Devonian: And "Proper job, m'lover" is also a perfectly respectable Devon term of approval. The Devonian 'lover', which is a variant on 'love', presents its own challenge to those encountering it for the first time.

Alright, my lover?
posted by Lleyam at 6:00 AM on September 26, 2011


Oh yeah, and I find 'cheers' an extremely useful expression, but the first time I heard a sales clerk say 'Ta,' I had to stop myself from laughing out loud.
posted by Gordafarin at 6:00 AM on September 26, 2011


I've only just now gotten used to greeting people with "All right?", which was really disconcerting when I first heard it--"Oh god, why are you asking? Am I bleeding?".

It could be worse, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire folk have a tendency to stick you with the temporal insanity of "now then" as a greeting.


PS: I'm not explaining "love" to anybody, you can learn the hard way.
posted by Jehan at 6:08 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Though you won't get any praise from me until you can use "love" correctly"

Me, a south-midlands lad, moved to Leeds for a spell in my youth. On my first shift working in a suburban pub, a hirsute and robust example of Yorkshire manhood ambled up to the bar, looked me square in the eye and said "pint of bitter please love".

It's not just Americans that struggle with the north's use of "love", I can assure you.
posted by fatfrank at 6:12 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm reading through this guy's blog now, and...

(which I remember being startled by in London circa 1996 when a newsagent [ NOOB alert!] took my coin and handed me a Guardian)

...I think he could have picked a better acronym for it.
posted by Gordafarin at 6:14 AM on September 26, 2011


That'll mean bringing back thee and thou, and using them properly. I'm looking at you, America: especially the RenFaire crowd.

I don't think either one of these indicate second person plural - "thou" is the nominative second person, and "thee" is the objective. Your point about RenFaire usage is valid though and you have my full support there.

As a Baltimore native, a heartily endorse "youse". Once I got over sounding like Bowser from Sha Na Na, "youse" became very useful, although the shortened - and more elegant - "yiss" works even better (e.g., "When'r yiss gun mow yer law-in?")
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:16 AM on September 26, 2011


At the bottom of the article on Slate.com there is a link to an article entitled "Spelling and Grammar mistakes that make you look dumb".



Really.
posted by beau jackson at 6:35 AM on September 26, 2011


In Germany they call Urinals 'Pissbuckets'

You can find them in a "pissort," or "piss place."


Plus changing the spelling of words, which just seems like a big 'fuck you, Britain', and has probably been happening since the Revolution.

Noah Webster published his first speller in 1783, the same year the Revolutionary War ended. "His most important improvement, he claimed, was to rescue 'our native tongue' from 'the clamour of pedantry' that surrounded English grammar and pronunciation. He complained that the English language had been corrupted by the British aristocracy, which set its own standard for proper spelling and pronunciation." He published A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language in 1806 and his landmark American Dictionary of the English Language in 1828.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:46 AM on September 26, 2011


Temporal insanity? How about the request made by a bus driver to someone who was refusing to exit the vehicle despite being told it was full: "Come on, get off."
posted by Devonian at 6:47 AM on September 26, 2011


I've only just now gotten used to greeting people with "All right?", which was really disconcerting when I first heard it--"Oh god, why are you asking? Am I bleeding?".

I had the same experience after moving to Britain from Australia (where, despite being closer to Britain's linguistic habits than the US, "are you alright?" is not used as a greeting). For a while I wondered whether I looked particularly dishevelled or deranged or otherwise in need of attention. Then I learned that "are you alright?", often abbreviated to "alright?" or "'aight?", is the standard British greeting, a modern, Blairesquely-informal version of "how do you do?").
posted by acb at 6:53 AM on September 26, 2011


I think you'd have to blame Monty Python as far as the British invasion goes.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:53 AM on September 26, 2011


I lived in a corner of SW Pennsylvania -- five miles down the road from Shanksville -- where we had "yens" instead of "y'all."

"Are yens goin' into Somerset on Saturday?"

Worked fine. Haven't heard it anywhere since. The only other place I lived in PA was Greensburg -- maybe 80 miles away -- where they didn't have it; so I wonder how common it was/is.
posted by mph at 6:57 AM on September 26, 2011


British anarchists always eat dinner with appetizers. Because proper tea is theft.
posted by Segundus at 7:11 AM on September 26, 2011 [10 favorites]


The got vs gotten thing is interesting to me because in the USA, we observe a semantic difference between the two. Compare the following:

I've got ten dollars: means "I am in possession of ten dollars."
I've gotten ten dollars: means "I have obtained ten dollars."

One emphasizes the state, the other emphasizes the action.

Growing up in Chicago, I never heard people use y'all in ernest (the plural is you guys on the north side and youse if you're from Bridgeport). Now that I live in the south, it's the default of course, and I've decided I like it better. Also, for the edification of our friends not acquainted with the usage, the plural of y'all is all y'all. Yes, we have pluralized the plural. Which kind of makes sense, considering what English did with thou/you about 500 years ago.
posted by adamrice at 7:32 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm still mildly angry at the history TA in college who marked me down an entire grade on a paper for using "whilst" because she claimed it wasn't a real word.

My creeping Britishism story: I didn't realise how much I use that word until I turned in my PhD dissertation and my advisor pointed it out. This is when I found out that dissertations written at US universities not only have to use American spelling (not problem with spell-check), but standard American English words too. It hadn't occurred to me that "whilst" wasn't standard. My advisor wrote: "WHILST: You do know that the word is "while" in US English, right? Still, "whilst" is so deliciously British, let's leave it in and see if anyone notices." No one noticed.
posted by ob at 7:40 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


One thing I never tire of chuckling at is when the British speak of eating their tea.

Tea: Working Class

Dinner: Middle Class

Supper: Upper Class

I couldn't remember where I read this, but found this link.
posted by ob at 8:01 AM on September 26, 2011


Tea: Working Class

Dinner: Middle Class

Supper: Upper Class


...with the added confusion that, if you're having tea in the evening, it's quite plausible that your midday meal might be dinner.

I heard Ian McMillan on the wireless recently, saying that 'lunch' had been the last big taboo word between him and his wife
posted by monkey closet at 8:17 AM on September 26, 2011


I think we can all agree that English needs a separate word for second-person plural, and that it shouldn't be youse.

I propose yuthers, taking inspiration from vosotros and vous autres.



Damn you for making me think of this.


Also, for the edification of our friends not acquainted with the usage, the plural of y'all is all y'all. Yes, we have pluralized the plural. Which kind of makes sense, considering what English did with thou/you about 500 years ago.

Yes, I remember being dumbfounded about 15 years ago when informed by a southerner on Usenet that the singular was y'all and the plural was all y'all. I still haven't been able to figure out how that might've come about. (Dialect arms race?) But then again, the origin of the British use of "brilliant" mystifies me, too. (It's used un-ironically so much that sarcasm doesn't seem likely.)

I've also picked up "whilst" quite consciously from my English friends and family (aunt & uncle, cousins.) Sometimes it flows better in a sentence than "while". Any TA downgrading a paper of mine for its use would face a bitter fight. (Here in Canada there's a bit more British in the language, though more in spelling (I like spelling "colour" and "programme") than in colloquialisms.)
posted by Philofacts at 8:19 AM on September 26, 2011


Of course, lunch should be lunch', as it's short for luncheon.

Whilst: it may be British, but it's horrible. People use it in print to give their text a phony classiness, which means it's used mostly by people with pretensions. I have a severe antipathy towards it, except as a signifier of the doltishness of its user.
posted by Devonian at 8:23 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Y'uns

Close, its Yinz.
posted by meinvt at 8:30 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dinner: Middle Class

Supper: Upper Class

...with the added confusion that, if you're having tea in the evening, it's quite plausible that your midday meal might be dinner.


In Québecois French, "dinner" is the midday meal, "souper", the evening meal (much as it is in Paris, I think.) (Breakfast is just "dejeuner" as opposed to French French's "petit dejeuner".) So I wonder how much the British usage is descended from the old upper class Norman French usage.

On a related note, I often ponder the radically different senses of words with a common Norman French root in English vs. French; 1000 years of divergence. Example: in French, "demander" simply means "to ask", a quite mild and neutral sense, whereas to demand something in English carries a strong connotation of superiority, urgency and/or anger towards the addressee. (I like to think it goes back to the first time a Norman noble asked an Anglo-Saxon farmer for the rent.) This and many other simliar cases make learning French trickier than it might otherwise be.
posted by Philofacts at 8:36 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whilst: it may be British, but it's horrible. People use it in print to give their text a phony classiness, which means it's used mostly by people with pretensions. I have a severe antipathy towards it, except as a signifier of the doltishness of its user.

Well, agree to disagree, YMMV, etc. The Brits I mostly picked it up from are working class blokes, hardly public school types. I suppose some Americans (or Merkins, as I've successfully gotten my Brit friends to say) do use it thinking they're being "classy".
posted by Philofacts at 8:43 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I say "nappy" and "trousers" all the time, but I spent a fair amount of time in England.
posted by clvrmnky at 8:46 AM on September 26, 2011


...with the added confusion that, if you're having tea in the evening, it's quite plausible that your midday meal might be dinner.

The midday meal in rural Pennsylvania is still often called "dinner". Instead of lunch pails, workmen bring their "dinner buckets" to work.
posted by octothorpe at 8:48 AM on September 26, 2011


I found myself if not emphasizing definitely reveling in my American accent when I lived in London. It's easy to grow up here with certain ideas about English accents picked up from those British shows or movies that get played on PBS that aren't exactly borne out when you're finally surrounded by actual English people. I think I softened my voice somewhat, like vacapinta upthread, but I took more pleasure than was probably warranted in speaking American in a sea of London accents. I also had the negative example of the embarrassing number of other American students who, whether they were from South Carolina or California, had gone full Madonna within a month.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 8:49 AM on September 26, 2011


Philofacts - I refer to its use in written form, in particular to its use in copy of the sort I've had to deal with, where it is a signifier of a more general lapse in style. See also: inanimate objects boasting, and thunking great 'this is the summary' flags like 'All in all'.
posted by Devonian at 8:54 AM on September 26, 2011


Sudden unconscious accent acquisition syndrome is a very real problem for Americans in the UK.
posted by The Whelk at 8:57 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sudden unconscious accent acquisition syndrome is a very real problem for Americans in the UK.

Oh, Christ, I have such a bad case of it that it only takes me being in the general presence of Brits to make lapse into it sometimes.

Case in point: so I was at the Cat & Fiddle pub in L.A. a few years ago (and before anyone jumps down my throat for saying "pub" and "L.A." in the same sentence: it is run by an ex-pat Brit and caters in part to the ex-pat Brit crowd) with a large group of people; we grabbed a couple of tables but were still one chair short. So I went over to a nearby table where a couple sat, huddled in the corner in gloomy silence, seemingly not using their extra chair. In the nanosecond between the time I opened my mouth and the time I actually began to speak, I realized it was Morrissey and a female companion (who was, inexplicably, dressed exactly like him, but I digress). I instantly became so over-conscious of being polite -- because Morrissey has been a punchline to me since at least my late teens, and I wanted to make sure I didn't offend him because we needed his chair -- that what should have been a perfectly normal, casual request came out of my mouth as "pahdon me, could we borrow this chair, then? Cheers!" And he looked at me like, you bitch. And my eyes got big when I realized what I'd done, and I said, "no, wait, wait --" But alas, it was too late. Morrissey had taken offense, and now he would take his leave, stomping out with his lady-clone slouching out after him.

Thus Unconscious Accent Acquisition Syndrome destroys another social interaction. Please, consider giving generously to help those afflicted in your own community.
posted by scody at 9:18 AM on September 26, 2011 [18 favorites]


@Devonian - point taken. A lot of my philosophy readings and thus citations are from the Anglo side of the Anglo-American sphere of philosophy (as opposed to the Continental), so "whilst" might not stand out so much in that context, and, truth be told, I mostly use it in informal written fora with my aforementioned Brit friends. But as the son of a journalist and grandson of an Anglophile editor (who joined Time Magazine during its affected phase of "backwards ran the sentences until reeled the mind" and did his part to rein in such abuses; he moved to England in his fifties), I "feel your pain".

@Whelk - re "unconscious accent acquisition": I wonder if this is just a function of adaptable youth. I remember being amazed at a friend's son in his early 20's, a kid who grew up entirely in the Seattle area, coming back from 9 months in NZ (which, btw, after 6 years in Canada I now have the habit of mentally pronouncing "En Zed") with a soft but distinct Kiwi accent. He'd only been back a few weeks, so it probably faded, but still...
posted by Philofacts at 9:23 AM on September 26, 2011


Though apparently it's being replaced by "jeremy".

Any particular reason, or am I being a berk?

It could be worse, Yorkshire and Lincolnshire folk have a tendency to stick you with the temporal insanity of "now then" as a greeting.

They do this in the west of Ireland too. The cashier sort of scowls at you, and says "Now." I found this disconcerting at first, but my wife, who's from Quebec, says it's because here in Alberta all the store staff are overly friendly and superficial.
posted by sneebler at 9:27 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Why do British people sign email "Cheers", I always feel like I should have a drink in my hand when I reply. Do people in England drink in the office all day ?
posted by Ad hominem at 9:29 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]



Though apparently it's being replaced by "jeremy".

Any particular reason, or am I being a berk?


You can get an idea here.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:30 AM on September 26, 2011


Morrissey had taken offense
*takes notes*
posted by jonmc at 9:41 AM on September 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


"unconscious accent acquisition"

There's also the opposite problem, where an expatriate resists accent acquisition to the point that their native accent becomes incredibly forced and fake-sounding—a condition known as Ruby Wax Syndrome.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:44 AM on September 26, 2011


Ad hominem: "Do people in England drink in the office all day ?"

Shlander!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 9:47 AM on September 26, 2011


Another note on accent acquisition: my now-English uncle, who went to university (yes, I see what I did there) in Canada partly to escape the draft, and thence to England for his PhD, has been there for over 40 years off and on (a decade or so in Zimbabwe as an professor), and is married to an Englishwoman, still has at most a mid-Atlantic accent, despite having been immersed in British English since his mid-20's. What's more distinctive about his manner of speaking is the tinge of wincing, oh-dear-let's-not-cause-a-fuss middle-class English politeness, only a tinge, I should stress, but nonetheless setting him apart from the average American speaker.
posted by Philofacts at 9:51 AM on September 26, 2011


(merde - edit window, etc.: "a" professor, not "an".)
posted by Philofacts at 9:53 AM on September 26, 2011


a condition known as Ruby Wax Syndrome.

A particularly virulent strain affects those English who apparently immigrate to America by way of Brideshead.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:54 AM on September 26, 2011


I will never forgive Harry Potter for "wicked" and "bloody".

"Wicked" is probably the most common (and useless) adjective in New England, and has been since well before Harry Potter was a thing.

And it stinks.
posted by atbash at 9:55 AM on September 26, 2011


Your obviously more sensible spellings for words like "plow"

But no. Glow, flow, blow, slow, plow. One of these things is not like the others, and as such, should be stored in the multiply-pronounced -ough drawer.
posted by holgate at 9:56 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do we say plow? Plow looks funny, and I'm sure we don't say plowshares. This is like when Eddie Izzard tried to tell me Americans spelled through thru.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 9:57 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


The farmer I worked for Saturdays as a lad would greet me with 'way up, wep'. I also have a job lot of 'mither' available at a knock-down rate for any interested US party.
posted by Abiezer at 9:59 AM on September 26, 2011


But no. Glow, flow, blow, slow, plow. One of these things is not like the others, and as such, should be stored in the multiply-pronounced -ough drawer.

Fair enough. Nough, hough would you refer to the bough of a ship?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:00 AM on September 26, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yes, I remember being dumbfounded about 15 years ago when informed by a southerner on Usenet that the singular was y'all and the plural was all y'all.

Not all Southerners agree on this though - I remember a few years ago my parents got in a HUGE argument over this, with my mom (Georgia) insisting that y'all can only be plural and my stepdad (Alabama) maintaining that it could be either. This remains a tense subject in my family. Personally, I only ever use y'all as a plural.
posted by naoko at 10:00 AM on September 26, 2011


...and does a cough say "moo"?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:02 AM on September 26, 2011


would you refer to the bough of a ship?

Or the prough?
posted by bonehead at 10:05 AM on September 26, 2011


Why do British people sign email "Cheers", I always feel like I should have a drink in my hand when I reply. Do people in England drink in the office all day ?

"Cheers" means "thanks".

I have an English husband and lived in the UK for a few years, and by the end of my time there I was saying "cheers" and "bloody" and "rubbish" and "or-uh-GHAN-no" like nobody's business. Now that we're in the States, he says "awesome" and "a bunch" and "trash".

We still argue about the right way to say all these things, of course.
posted by Specklet at 10:14 AM on September 26, 2011


But no. Glow, flow, blow, slow, plow. One of these things is not like the others, and as such, should be stored in the multiply-pronounced -ough drawer.

I vote for spelling these "glo, flo, blo, slo, and plow". Who's with me?

Also I lived in England for a year back in '89 and went home saying "down the pub" and things like that. It's mostly worn off except that I sign every email "Cheers, John". No one has ever commented on it.
posted by freecellwizard at 10:27 AM on September 26, 2011


I'm a proud American and an enthusiastic Anglophile. I say, let the cross-pollination continue. It's good for us. All of us.

And you guys1, too.



1 I'm from southern New Jersey (AKA South Jersey), just outside Philadelphia, and this is our second-person plural. But, given my love of Anglo-Saxon (the language), I should be using ye.
posted by grubi at 10:42 AM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


singular was y'all and the plural was all y'all

Y'all is plural but can refer to others not present. All y'all is even more plural.

Can y'all come over for supper = I am inviting you and your immediate family.

Can all y'all come over for supper = grandparents, cousins, and possibly hound dogs too.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:51 AM on September 26, 2011 [9 favorites]


I haven't picked up a London accent from my honey yet, but give it time. I picked up a bit of a Southern twang when I lived in Florida; I moved to Boston after that and everybody thought I was a real Southerner, not a transplant.

The expressions that always confused me are things like "Tuesday week" and the even-weirder "yesterday week." I always have to sit down and figure that out after my South African boss says it.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 10:52 AM on September 26, 2011


"You guys" is the second-person plural up in Canada, too. The trouble--aside from the potentally offensive gender thing--is making it possessive. Dear god, the language-mangling!
posted by Sys Rq at 10:54 AM on September 26, 2011


I propose yuthers, taking inspiration from vosotros and vous autres.

I've never heard anyone use "vous autres"; I've always thought the "vous" implied the plural "others"? (Granted it's been years since my last French class, so.) I lived in Virginia for a while and somehow ended up adopting "y'all"...though I get made fun of for that now that I'm in the Northwest, where "you guys" seems to be preferred. Yay regionalisms!

I never realized how many Britishisms I used and how often...especially since I sign off my emails with "cheers". That and my invective tends to involve plenty of things like "stop arsing around" and "bloody hell" (though I'm still more likely to say "Jesus Christ!").

I say, let the cross-pollination continue. It's good for us. All of us.

I heartily second this. Cross-pollination is how English has evolved and developed as a language (by being a vocabulary kleptomaniac, that is. Not that there's anything wrong with this).
posted by clavier at 10:57 AM on September 26, 2011


"You guys" is the second-person plural up in Canada, too. The trouble--aside from the potentally offensive gender thing--is making it possessive.

Old sexism in new guise, says Douglas Hofstadter.

I've never heard anyone use "vous autres"; I've always thought the "vous" implied the plural "others"?

Vous autres is archaic French but I think still used in Canada. Or parts of Canada.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 11:00 AM on September 26, 2011


Parts of the parts of Canada that speak French, I mean.
posted by villanelles at dawn at 11:01 AM on September 26, 2011


Youse Guys is the second-person plural in New York
posted by Ad hominem at 11:02 AM on September 26, 2011


Whilst: it may be British, but it's horrible. People use it in print to give their text a phony classiness, which means it's used mostly by people with pretensions. I have a severe antipathy towards it, except as a signifier of the doltishness of its user.

I was reading a book of international science fiction recently (which was recommended here on metafilter a year or so ago) and throughout the book absolutely every "while" has been replaced by "whilst", even resulting on a few occasions in the use of "meanwhilst", which I'm pretty sure isn't even a word. And if it is it is the worst word.
posted by dng at 11:09 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Y'all" is plural but does not necessarily mean everyone present. "All y'all" is plural and includes everyone. For example "Do y'all want beer with your pizza?" is asking if anyone there wants beer. "Do all y'all want beer with your pizza" is asking if everyone wants beer. If some of the people do want beer but not everyone then the proper responses are "yes" and "no" respectively. But that's just one approach and I doubt it's universal among Southerners.

In all my years living in the South I have never heard anyone seriously use "y'all" in the singular.
posted by bfootdav at 11:12 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Y'all is plural but can refer to others not present.

Right. And y'all is appropriate when talking to the representative of a business establishment (as in "you and this business"), which I guess has an element of the you-formal that's preserved in other languages. So asking a waitress "Do y'all have sweet tea?" means "Does [this restaurant] have sweet tea?"
posted by stopgap at 11:18 AM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Close, its Yinz.

No, "y'uns" is a contraction of "you ones". Think "This'un" and "that'un". "Yinz" is a back-formation from "yinzer" which is how non-yinzers describe people who have the Pittsburgh accent. Of course, now many yinzers self-identify as such.

Although I live in Pgh now, I grew up in Maryland, and a lot of the kids I grew up with have Appalachian accents, which Pittsburghese shares a good deal with, but they're not totally the same.

Senior year of high school, a guy joined our class whose family had moved into the area from Mississippi. A lot of kids started making fun of him for saying "y'all", and he responded at one point with, "Well, at least I don't say Youins." Which was funny enough, because it really doesn't rhyme with "ruins", and I don't think anyone says it like that, but when things finally got to be too much for him, he shouted, "Y'all're simpletins!" Yeah, he said "simpletons" like that.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 12:52 PM on September 26, 2011


Whilst: it may be British, but it's horrible. People use it in print to give their text a phony classiness, which means it's used mostly by people with pretensions.

I was taught that 'whilst' was silly and archaic, so I've been erasing it from any copy I've come across ever since. Strangely enough, it's usually the least pretentious people who use it. I still don't know where I stand on 'whom'.
posted by Summer at 1:07 PM on September 26, 2011


...is the use of "would of" in place of "would've" an exclusively British error, or do Americans do it too?

It's not localized to one country: ignorant bumpkins the world 'round say it that way.
posted by wenestvedt at 1:18 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


I still don't know where I stand on 'whom'.

'Whom' is not an archaic word like 'whilst', for which there is an acceptable substitute. 'Whom' still has its place as the object form of the subject pronoun 'who'.

'WHOM' IS NOT OPTIONAL.
posted by grubi at 1:19 PM on September 26, 2011 [5 favorites]


I kind of wish that hither/thither/whither and hence/thence/whence weren't so out of fashion, partly because they're fun to use and partly because they're just plain handy as concise expressions of directionality.
posted by cortex at 1:19 PM on September 26, 2011


"Vous autres" is for sure used in Canada. In fact I'm surprised to learn that it's considered archaic.

In Nova Scotia it's not uncommon to hear "yous", but the "s" seems to be only tacked on to a "you" that is pronounced like in the phrase "How ya doing?". It sounds like "yuhz".

"Can I start yuhz off with some drinks?" I like it more than plugging "you guys" into a similar kind of sentence.
posted by beau jackson at 1:21 PM on September 26, 2011


whence

So long as you don't say the awfully redundant "from whence," you're good to go.

See, 'cause whence already means 'from where'...
posted by grubi at 1:22 PM on September 26, 2011


"Vous autres" is for sure used in Canada. In fact I'm surprised to learn that it's considered archaic.

Canada is itself considered archaic.

I keed, I keed!
posted by grubi at 1:23 PM on September 26, 2011


'WHOM' IS NOT OPTIONAL.

"I'm not going to tell you," the novelist Donald Barthelme once said to an interviewer who asked him to reveal a certain narrative strategy, "because it's a secret."

"From whom?" asked his interviewer.

"From youm," said Barthelme.

posted by villanelles at dawn at 1:26 PM on September 26, 2011 [2 favorites]


Things I dislike about American English? The way you people seem to be determined to abolish the adverb.

You share the island and history with people who can wear wool sweaters without a itch, yet are highly allergic to vowels.
posted by MiltonRandKalman at 1:40 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Metafilter's own-ish
posted by 7segment at 1:57 PM on September 26, 2011


Ummm... are we all really going to agree that "gone missing" is a recent addition to American English? Because few things I've read in recent times have made me feel as insane as that statement.

Anyway, as a kid in Houston I hated "y'all," because Houston is an actual city surrounded by Texas and growing up there one can easily feel the need to assert their differences from the "hicks" and "rednecks" of the surrounding areas. Picture the NYC attitude towards the "bridge and tunnel" crowd but far more dismissive, bordering on hateful.

Once I moved to Oklahoma, though, where I had no need to differentiate myself from anyone, I adopted "y'all" with vigor and passion. It's the perfect word for its situation, sound's lovely, and has the benefit of pretty-much already being grammatically correct. The only problem it has is that it comes from the South, and people are snobs.
posted by Navelgazer at 2:26 PM on September 26, 2011


Ummm... are we all really going to agree that "gone missing" is a recent addition to American English? Because few things I've read in recent times have made me feel as insane as that statement.

OED has a cite for "gone missing" specifically from 1958, but mentions "to go missing" as a primary example of the general use of "to go [state or condition]" forms going back to the 16th century, e.g. "their victuals went very low" of a siege, "let them [apricots] go cold", "a poet gone unreasonably mad", "her cheeks went scarlet", "suppose he goes lame", "going native", etc. Whether "gone missing" is specifically new to American English would take a lot more effort to make a case for or against, but given the old age of that general syntactic construct it seems unlikely to me.
posted by cortex at 2:36 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a container of Hobnobs next to my desk because my local Kroger has a British food section. In Texas.

I can't really add anything to that because I'm still completely confused by it. Who is buying Marmite in Texas? WHO?
posted by emjaybee at 2:50 PM on September 26, 2011


OK, this thread is too long to read now. That's what happens when you go out to the museum for an hour and sit by a river for an hour and then eat Indian food for a couple of hours (the latter is now pretty British: they order out for curry, not pizza). Oh, and then put in your eight hours. Here it is the next evening. Oh well. Metafilter is not my life, although I could think of worse lives.

But I was surprised when one of my high school students used the word cheeky in a paper the other day. I like some Briticisms: "one-off" is a great one. Now, when the gourmet grocery clerk around the corner used the word "brilliant" twice in 30 seconds...well, I could do without that. It's almost as annoying as the Americanism "awesome."
posted by kozad at 3:40 PM on September 26, 2011


This reminds me of the current radio commercials for McDonald's "English Pub Burger" (which among other things, has American cheese as one of the touted ingredients..) - of course they have a guy doing an over-the-top Cockney impression as part of the ad. Every time I hear it, I just cringe.

To people from the UK, it must be about as "authentic" as someone from Australia going to an Outback Steakhouse.
posted by mrbill at 3:45 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Who is buying Marmite in Texas? WHO?

HEB's "foreign foods" aisles are tons better than the tiny section that Kroger has.
posted by mrbill at 3:46 PM on September 26, 2011


Aha, apparently Houston is a test market for the burger.
posted by mrbill at 3:50 PM on September 26, 2011


"Vous autres" is for sure used in Canada. In fact I'm surprised to learn that it's considered archaic.


Actually, now we're getting into a different area of cross-pond snobbism: that of the French towards Québec. Québecois has a lot of older - I suppose "archaic" - forms in it, I've been told (and thus, ironically, is probably "purer" than modern Parisian French, which, despite the intentions and fulminations of Jacques Lang and the Académie Française, has a lot of loan words now incorporated into it), and that plus the accent(s) here (e.g., "oui" is generally pronounced "way" here - I keep waiting for someone to make a "no way" joke - and you haven't heard a slurred dialect until you've heard Joual), causes some French to regard the Canadian French with roughly the same kind of amused condescension with which many British regard Americans' use of English. One of my childhood best friends (from the States) has lived in Paris for several decades, is married to a Frenchwoman, and tells me that the French folks he knows regard the Québecois as their "little cousins", with more than a hint of derision. (This makes me wonder about the attitudes of Castilian Spanish speakers towards their Latin American cousins.)
posted by Philofacts at 3:55 PM on September 26, 2011


Who is buying Marmite in Texas? WHO?

That was me. I claim no responsibility for the English Pub Burger.
posted by arcticseal at 5:14 PM on September 26, 2011


My husband was telling some fellow Brits about a trip to Disneyland:

"I was looking forward to it, but it was a bit pants."

Eh?
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 5:42 PM on September 26, 2011


pants = bollocks.
posted by ob at 6:13 PM on September 26, 2011


I always took pants = rubbish.
posted by arcticseal at 6:43 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


'Whom' is not an archaic word like 'whilst', for which there is an acceptable substitute. 'Whom' still has its place as the object form of the subject pronoun 'who'.

'WHOM' IS NOT OPTIONAL.


Are you sure you've thought that through? I mean I think I understand whom and if we were to use it correctly as the object all the time it would mean

'I don't know whom is better suited for the job' 'Whom did you talk to yesterday'

I mean if you like those you're entitled to your opinion, but they sound off kilter to me. I can see that it's a shame to lose subtleties in language sometimes, but that one doesn't do anything for me.
posted by Not Supplied at 7:30 PM on September 26, 2011


'I don't know whom is better suited for the job' 'Whom did you talk to yesterday'

But "I don't know whom is better suited for the job" isn't correct; it should be who. You can test this by paraphrasing the sentence and seeing if you can substitute him (or her) for whom; if you have to substitute he or she, then who is correct. (e.g., "I don't know if he [not him] is better suited for the job, or if she [not her] is.")

"Whom did you talk to yesterday" is strictly correct, but beginning a sentence with "whom" has long fallen out of favor, and no one except the strictest prescriptivist will care.

When in doubt, it's not particularly a big deal to go with who by default. But that doesn't mean that whom doesn't serve an appropriate grammatical function as an objective pronoun: "John is the candidate with whom I just met." "The dancers, two of whom have just arrived, will be performing at 8:00."
posted by scody at 8:07 PM on September 26, 2011 [4 favorites]


Yeah, pants (Br.) = shitty (Am.)
posted by bardic at 8:08 PM on September 26, 2011


Except when pants (Br.) = underpants (Am.)

Basically across the pond they're obsessed with shitty underwear.
posted by cortex at 8:25 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


Touching cloth?

(Watching that for the zillionth time, it's occurred to me: "Agreed the loan"? Is that a legitimate British phrase, or did David flub that line?)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:02 PM on September 26, 2011


But "I don't know whom is better suited for the job" isn't correct; it should be who.

Gotcha, because it's the subject of the second clause right. I suppose you do need whom for formal writing.
posted by Not Supplied at 9:05 PM on September 26, 2011


Basically across the pond they're obsessed with shitty underwear.

To be unreasonably fair to my husband, it was "Wear Your Underwear on the Outside Day" at the Magic Kingdom.

As my Latin teacher used to say, "Semper ubi sub ubi."
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:32 PM on September 26, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suppose you do need whom for formal writing.

You don't need it if 'who' makes the meaning perfectly clear. But really, it's all equal to me.

English pub burger? What?
posted by Summer at 1:20 AM on September 27, 2011


This reminds me of the current radio commercials for McDonald's "English Pub Burger"

That's funny, because a few months back McDonalds was doing a series of 'American burgers' around here.

One of my clearest memories of the first time I visited the UK was when we had just spent a long day out in London, caught the train back to Reading, and grabbed our dinner at the Burger King, fully decked out in 'American' decor - pictures on the walls of a NY taxi cab, a football, and the Statue of Liberty.
posted by Gordafarin at 3:52 AM on September 27, 2011


"Whom did you talk to yesterday" is strictly correct, but beginning a sentence with "whom" has long fallen out of favor, and no one except the strictest prescriptivist will care.

No, "Whom did you talk to yesterday" is not correct either. It would be "Who did you talk to yesterday?" Whom doesn't operate by itself, generally speaking. You need a preposition. "To whom," "for whom," "with whom," etc. that would indicate it is an object of the sentence.
posted by grubi at 6:39 AM on September 27, 2011


You don't need it if 'who' makes the meaning perfectly clear. But really, it's all equal to me.

No. Who and whom are not interchangeable. Ever. They are separate words for separate purposes, just like he/him or she/her.
posted by grubi at 6:40 AM on September 27, 2011


Well, practically speaking, they are separate words for separate purposes within the realm of usage where whom actually gets used and understood, and outside of that context who does both jobs without a problem. That may be a bummer if you really like the who/whom distinction, but in most casual discourse (read: by far most discourse) it just doesn't come up at all.
posted by cortex at 6:45 AM on September 27, 2011


I refuse to wallow in the ignorance of the masses. WHOM IS A SEPARATE WORD.
posted by grubi at 6:50 AM on September 27, 2011


No, "Whom did you talk to yesterday" is not correct either. It would be "Who did you talk to yesterday?" Whom doesn't operate by itself, generally speaking. You need a preposition. "To whom," "for whom," "with whom," etc. that would indicate it is an object of the sentence.

Yes, but it wouldn't be "Who did you talk to yesterday?" either; the problem here is that the dangling preposition needs to be moved to its proper place before the "whom": "To whom did you talk yesterday"? The presence of "yesterday" at the end of this sentence obscures the "dangling-ness" of the "to", but dangle it does, nonetheless. Part of the problem is that we've started to view constructions like "talk to" as if the verb form included the "to" as part of itself, rather than the "to" being part of a separate clause. (I know: whaddaya mean "we", kemo sabe?)

Which is not to say that strict enforcement of this no-dangling rule can't be overdone, as in Winston Churchill's (apocryphal?) quip about his overzealous secretary's corrections of his prose: "This is the sort of thing up with which I will not put!"

"...sort of thing with which I will not put up" might be OK, but sounds only slightly less awkward than Churchill's quip. The problem behind this construct is that there are two words to be moved, "up" (which is part of the verb construct) & "with" (which belongs to the the object "[this] sort of thing"), which really should be kept together, as they have an important relation to one another, which is made less clear when they are separated.

Moving both of them together to where they sit in Churchill's quip preserves the second word's relation to the object (by using "with which", where "which" stands in for the object "sort of thing), but obscures the first word's relationship to the verb "put". Saying "This is the sort of thing I will not put up with!" (presumably the kind of sentence corrected by the secretary) keeps the "up" and "with" together at the expense of the relationship of the "with" to "this.. ...sort of thing".

This should be a clue that the entire structure of the sentence needs to be revised, not merely the position of the "up with": something like "I will not put up with this sort of thing!" What is lost with this solution is the rhetorical emphasis on "this sort of thing" which is created by beginning the sentence with "This is the sort of thing". (Alternately, one could avoid the entire "up with" problem, and preserve the desired emphasis, by using "tolerate" as the verb instead: This is the sort of thing I will not tolerate.")

(My godfather was a professor of English at Pace University in NYC; his highest form of praise was "You said that correctly.")
posted by Philofacts at 7:50 AM on September 27, 2011 [3 favorites]


Philofacts.

I...

Um...

Not sure how to say this, but...

Uh...







I think you're my new best friend.
posted by grubi at 8:02 AM on September 27, 2011


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