Friday, July 22, 2011

Please contribute your favo[u]rite Americanisms here!

There's a challenge below - please post comments with words and phrases that, unlike rock'n'roll, haven't made it to Britain yet!

The BBC just produced a reader-contributed list of most noted Americanisms. Dismal stuff - "take away" is correct and "take out" makes me want to faint without a scrap of a reason, film is better than movie because it's the language of Beowulf, and "gotten", with its couple of dozen appearances in the King James Bible and at least a handful in Shakespeare, is a cringeworthy American neologism. The Economist, bless its heart, has already published a scholarly debunking of many of these Anti-Americanisms.

Come on, folks, let's do something more fun! Britain's done really well from the New World in terms of music, entertainment, and crazy oversized consumer goods. Calling a movie after the film that used to be in the projector, or shortening refrigerator to fridge, these things just don't upset us here in the New World, and if the folks back in Blightly decided to call a big-ass TV a big-arse TV or even a big-bum TV, well, that would make us smile not grimace. And every time American music gets exported to the British Isles, it comes back with interest - we could fill a book with the wealth of blues and rock'n'roll guitar licks that have become cornerstones of British popular culture and returned to America as big hits. We couldn't be happier to share, we benefit enormously, e pluribus unum and all that.

But if the blokes and blokesses back in Blighty think modern British English is complete enough for Chaucer so it's complete enough for anyone, we should help them out. Many many of my friends and nearly all of my family have one time or another lived on both sides of the Atlantic. We know that sometimes there's a perfect word for something in Britain and there just isn't in the New World, and sometimes it's the other way round.

So please, all you transatlantic travelers out there, lend a hand! Instead of listing 50 words and phrases we hate without reason, let's try to gather a list of words and phrases we enjoy in North America that they might enjoy back in Britain, if only they knew! Just post them as comments below for now, email me if you have trouble, and in the unlikely event that this gets popular I'll try to find a more sustainable structure.

I'll start with a few to get the ball rolling and will add more as I think of them. Please please, if you think of anything send it in!