View Single Post
Old 26th Jul 2011, 17:04   #1
ono no komachi
Senior Palimpsester
has the freedom of Palimp City
 
ono no komachi's Avatar
 
Join Date: 14 Aug 2003
Location: Gloucestershire
Posts: 3,467
Default Annoying Americanisms? A rebuttal

No lesser an institution than the BBC recently published a list of 50 Americanisms that annoy some (clearly very easily annoyed) British people.
 
Me, I found the article itself highly annoying, to the extent that I had to get some of my objections off my chest. Please see below...
  
1. When people ask for something, I often hear: "Can I get a..." It infuriates me. It's not New York. It's not the 90s. You're not in Central Perk with the rest of the Friends. Really." Steve, Rossendale, Lancashire
 
Really, Steve? It's just a simple substitution of the word 'get' for the word 'have'. It's a perfectly meaningful substitution and if your only objection to it is that people shouldn’t use a new phrase in place of something they used to say, then we'd all still be speaking Anglo-Saxon.
 
2. The next time someone tells you something is the "least worst option", tell them that their most best option is learning grammar. Mike Ayres, Bodmin, Cornwall
 
I like this example. I think the reason 'least worst' has come into regular use is down to the satisfying repeated sibilance in the '-st -st' endings of the words. 'The least bad option' just doesn't sound as pleasing.
 
3. The phrase I've watched seep into the language (especially with broadcasters) is "two-time" and "three-time". Have the words double, triple etc, been totally lost? Grammatically it makes no sense, and is even worse when spoken. My pulse rises every time I hear or see it. Which is not healthy as it's almost every day now. Argh! D Rochelle, Bath
 
The only time I can recall hearing similar phrases is when people have won something more than once, e.g. 'Roger Federer, six-time Wimbledon champion'. What would D prefer? 'Roger Federer, sextuple Wimbledon champion'?
 
4. Using 24/7 rather than "24 hours, 7 days a week" or even just plain "all day, every day". Simon Ball, Worcester
 
But neither of Simon's alternatives is as economical as '24/7' - whose meaning is immediately clear to anyone who hears it.
 
5. The one I can't stand is "deplane", meaning to disembark an aircraft, used in the phrase "you will be able to deplane momentarily". TykeIntheHague, Den Haag, Holland
 
Hard to defend this one, as I do think it's an ugly word. However, yet again, it has the benefit of clarity of meaning. The 'momentarily' issue is simply a matter of different usage in different cultures - Fowler says that this usage dates from the 1920s in US English.
 
6. To "wait on" instead of "wait for" when you're not a waiter - once read a friend's comment about being in a station waiting on a train. For him, the train had yet to arrive - I would have thought rather that it had got stuck at the station with the friend on board. T Balinski, Raglan, New Zealand
 
Looks like a matter of personal preference to me. I agree that where one person is accustomed to one usage and his friend, another, this could cause confusion, but usually context would leave little room for ambiguity.
 
7. "It is what it is". Pity us. Michael Knapp, Chicago, US
 
Well, it clearly isn't what it isn't, so this looks like a truism to me!
 
8. Dare I even mention the fanny pack? Lisa, Red Deer, Canada
 
I don't really believe that this one has made it across the pond, due to the very specific meaning of the word 'fanny' in UK English...
 
9. "Touch base" - it makes me cringe no end. Chris, UK
 
Any opportunity for innuendo should be welcomed, Chris! Though obviously it's a baseball metaphor.
 
10. Is "physicality" a real word? Curtis, US
 
Yes, Curtis, according to the Shorter OED it has been so since the late 16th century.
 
11. Transportation. What's wrong with transport? Greg Porter, Hercules, CA, US
 
Nothing at all, Greg, which is not to say we should expunge the other word from the language. I would tend to use the two words slightly differently, transportation for the act of being transported, and transport for the means by which something is transported.
 
12. The word I hate to hear is "leverage". Pronounced lev-er-ig rather than lee-ver -ig. It seems to pop up in all aspects of work. And its meaning seems to have changed to "value added". Gareth Wilkins, Leicester
 
Oh Gareth, Gareth. Object to this not on the grounds that it is an Americanism, but that it is an ugly piece of business jargon.
 
13. Does nobody celebrate a birthday anymore, must we all "turn" 12 or 21 or 40? Even the Duke of Edinburgh was universally described as "turning" 90 last month. When did this begin? I quite like the phrase in itself, but it seems to have obliterated all other ways of speaking about birthdays. Michael McAndrew, Swindon
 
I think I stopped 'celebrating' my birthdays after my 21st. Again, I think to claim it has obliterated all other expressions relating to birthdays is a slight exaggeration. Michael probably didn't notice all the people saying 'the Duke of Edinburgh has his 90th birthday this week' because he was being particularly sensitive to the other phrasing and listening out for it.
 
14. I caught myself saying "shopping cart" instead of shopping trolley today and was thoroughly disgusted with myself. I've never lived nor been to the US either. Graham Nicholson, Glasgow
 
Graham, kicking a puppy or eating an entire Sara Lee chocolate gateau might be a reason to be thoroughly disgusted with yourself, but you should go a little easier on yourself for using a perfectly acceptable phrase. Besides, going to 'hell in a handcart' sounds like much more fun than 'hell in a shopping trolley'.
 
15. What kind of word is "gotten"? It makes me shudder. Julie Marrs, Warrington

It's an old past participle of 'get', Julie, which has fallen out of use in the UK (though can still be found in the term 'ill-gotten gains'). There's really no need to shudder at its use.
 
16. "I'm good" for "I'm well". That'll do for a start. Mike, Bridgend, Wales
 
But Mike, in the phrase 'I'm well', 'well' is simply an adjective meaning the opposite of 'ill'. We frequently substitute 'fine', so why not 'good' as *well*? (see what I did there?)
 
17. "Bangs" for a fringe of the hair. Philip Hall, Nottingham
 
Again, just another difference in terminology between the US and the UK. In my many many trips to the hairdresser's, I've never in my life heard them actually use the word 'Bangs', unless talking about loud noises or Ricky Martin.
 
18. Take-out rather than takeaway! Simon Ball, Worcester
 
What about carry-out, as enjoyed by our scottish cousins, Simon? Does that cause you equal apoplexy?
 
19. I enjoy Americanisms. I suspect even some Americans use them in a tongue-in-cheek manner? "That statement was the height of ridiculosity". Bob, Edinburgh
 
I enjoy them too, Bob, I really do. But I have never heard anyone use the word 'ridiculosity'.
 
20. "A half hour" instead of "half an hour". EJB, Devon
 
I think you'll find 'half-hour' should be hyphenated, EJB. Have you never taken off a 'half-day' from your work?
 
21. A "heads up". For example, as in a business meeting. Lets do a "heads up" on this issue. I have never been sure of the meaning. R Haworth, Marlborough
 
R Haworth, I think you may have come across an unusual (not to say wrong) usage of this phrase, it's usually used in someone giving someone else a 'heads-up', meaning alerting them to some useful information. It seems to be yet another sporting term, where an attitude with heads up is required before the players burst into action.
 
22. Train station. My teeth are on edge every time I hear it. Who started it? Have they been punished? Chris Capewell, Queens Park, London
 
What the blazes is wrong with 'train station'? Chris, do you catch the bus from the 'road station'?
 
23. To put a list into alphabetical order is to "alphabetize it" - horrid! Chris Fackrell, York
 
I'm not sure that anyone with the same 'Fackrell' is in a position to complain that a word sounds horrid, but yet again, the meaning of 'alphabetize' is one that cannot be mistaken, so it least has the advantage of usefulness.
 
24. People that say "my bad" after a mistake. I don't know how anything could be as annoying or lazy as that. Simon Williamson, Lymington, Hampshire
 
Simon, you genuinely cannot think of anything more lazy and annoying than 'my bad'? Your lack of imagination astounds me. Besides, I think this is a yoof thing, rather than an American thing, no?
 
25. "Normalcy" instead of "normality" really irritates me. Tom Gabbutt, Huddersfield
 
Well, Fowler raises no objection to their interchangeability, Tom, so unless you claim greater authority on the subject, I suggest you attempt to swallow your irritation.
 
26. As an expat living in New Orleans, it is a very long list but "burglarize" is currently the word that I most dislike. Simon, New Orleans
 
I have no argument for this one, since a perfectly good verb 'to burgle' already exists. All I can think of is that the illustrious brass players of New Orleans kept getting it mixed up with 'to bugle' and wanted a new word to avoid confusion.
 
27. "Oftentimes" just makes me shiver with annoyance. Fortunately I've not noticed it over here yet. John, London
 
John, I shiver with apprehension at how easily annoyed you must be. To me, 'oftentimes' simply sounds a bit old-fashioned, and in its way, rather sweet.
 
28. Eaterie. To use a prevalent phrase, oh my gaad! Alastair, Maidstone (now in Athens, Ohio)
 
I suspect this may be a bit of frenchification. Cf. Boulangerie, Patisserie. And you can't beat a bit of french. *snigger*
 
29. I'm a Brit living in New York. The one that always gets me is the American need to use the word bi-weekly when fortnightly would suffice just fine. Ami Grewal, New York
 
I think that 'fortnight' is a much more specifically British word than you realise, Ami. And why would Americans use the word 'fortnightly' when they don't use the word 'fortnight'? Do you also object if they tell you they're going on 'a two-week vacation'? I see that you are happy to use the phrase 'just fine' instead of 'perfectly well'.
 
30. I hate "alternate" for "alternative". I don't like this as they are two distinct words, both have distinct meanings and it's useful to have both. Using alternate for alternative deprives us of a word. Catherine, London
 
You're right, Catherine, it is useful to have both. However, I really do think the predominant UK usage for the adjective is 'alternative', whilst US speakers favour 'alternate'. Is it so very hard to be sensitive to the background of the person speaking to you, Catherine?
 
31. "Hike" a price. Does that mean people who do that are hikers? No, hikers are ramblers! M Holloway, Accrington
 
Hikers are indeed ramblers, M. But let me introduce you to a new concept, i.e. that words may have more than one meaning. My Shorter OED has the second meaning of 'hike' as a transitive verb meaning 'shove, hoist, pull (also followed by up).' Who'd have thought it?
 
32. Going forward? If I do I shall collide with my keyboard. Ric Allen, Matlock
 
Goodness, Ric, do you never use metaphorical expressions in your everyday life? If someone tells you to 'pull your socks up', do you bend down and adjust your clothing? In the grand panoply of buzzwords (of which I think this is an example, rather than the Americanism you accuse it of being) this is surely less objectionable than 'blue-sky thinking' or 'picking the low-hanging fruit'.
 
33. I hate the word "deliverable". Used by management consultants for something that they will "deliver" instead of a report. Joseph Wall, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire
 
Joseph, I refer you to your own phrase 'used by management consultants' for an explanation of your dislike of this word. Besides, a deliverable is simply something which is to be delivered. It could take many forms, which is why it is handy to have a word to cover all possibilities.
 
34. The most annoying Americanism is "a million and a half" when it is clearly one and a half million! A million and a half is 1,000,000.5 where one and a half million is 1,500,000. Gordon Brown, Coventry
 
Dear me, Mr Brown, where was your keen grasp of figures when you were selling off the UK's gold reserves? Seriously, though, if someone were speaking to you of 'a million and a half acres of rainforest', your brain would interpret this as 1,000,000.5 acres? I have no argument against such wilful pedantry.
 
35. "Reach out to" when the correct word is "ask". For example: "I will reach out to Kevin and let you know if that timing is convenient". Reach out? Is Kevin stuck in quicksand? Is he teetering on the edge of a cliff? Can't we just ask him? Nerina, London
 
Number one, Nerina, I have never heard anyone say this. Number two, if I did, I would assume that the person speaking did not have easy and instant access to Kevin, therefore rendering the phrase more as 'I will try and get hold of Kevin'. I suspect this phrase has developed as a direct result of the slippery nature of most middle managers.
 
36. Surely the most irritating is: "You do the Math." Math? It's MATHS. Michael Zealey, London
 
Well if we're being that arsey about it, Michael, the word is MATHEMATICS - which in the UK we abbreviate to 'maths' and in the US they abbreviate to 'math'. Simples.
 
37. I hate the fact I now have to order a "regular Americano". What ever happened to a medium sized coffee? Marcus Edwards, Hurst Green
 
I have been to lots of coffee shops (coffee shops? Horrors! Surely they should be cafés? Or perhaps we should still be using the 1650s terminology, when we called them coffee houses?) where there are two sizes, regular and large. This usefully describes the case where if you order a 'regular' coffee, you will get a 'normal' sized drink, rather than an oversized bucket. 'Medium' is generally the middle of 3 options, so would force the coffee shop to offer more options, increasing their overheads and making that frappacino even more overpriced than it was before.
 
38. My worst horror is expiration, as in "expiration date". Whatever happened to expiry? Christina Vakomies, London
 
Goodness, Christina. My worst horror is the idea of being buried alive, but whatever pushes your buttons. I happen to prefer 'expiry' myself, but I'm not going to dissolve into fits of incandescent rage if someone uses 'expiration' as an alternative.
 
39. My favourite one was where Americans claimed their family were "Scotch-Irish". This of course it totally inaccurate, as even if it were possible, it would be "Scots" not "Scotch", which as I pointed out is a drink. James, Somerset
 
Gosh, James, what a delightful social occasion that must have been! Did you discount the possibility that perhaps their family were Irish but enjoyed a tipple of aqua vitae from across the water? Perhaps they were under the misapprehension that you were a normal human being who would take the phrase to mean that they had some Scottish ancestry and some Irish. Well you showed them, huh?
 
40. I am increasingly hearing the phrase "that'll learn you" - when the English (and more correct) version was always "that'll teach you". What a ridiculous phrase! Tabitha, London
 
Well, yes, Tabitha, this is straightforward misuse, but I do not see that it has any more prevalence in US usage than in UK usage. Perhaps your acquaintances have discovered that this annoys you and are doing it deliberately? Just a thought.
 
41. I really hate the phrase: "Where's it at?" This is not more efficient or informative than "where is it?" It just sounds grotesque and is immensely irritating. Adam, London
 
Steer clear of Wales, Adam. People there say 'Where's it by?' and 'It's over by there.' If 'Where's it at?' infuriates you, I suspect the Welsh tendency will lead you to have a coronary.
 
42. Period instead of full stop. Stuart Oliver, Sunderland
 
Yet again, just a difference in preferred terminology. I think the full stop will be with us for a little while yet.
 
43. My pet hate is "winningest", used in the context "Michael Schumacher is the winningest driver of all time". I can feel the rage rising even using it here. Gayle, Nottingham
 
Indeed, Gayle, 'winningest' should, strictly speaking, be reserved for sentences such as 'All of the ladies had winning smiles, but Gayle possessed the winningest'. The correct term for the example you give should be 'cheatingest'.
 
44. My brother now uses the term "season" for a TV series. Hideous. D Henderson, Edinburgh
 
If the word 'season' supplanting the word 'series' is the price we have to pay for getting programmes like The West Wing, Six Feet Under and The Wire on our screens, D, I happen to think it's a price worth paying.
 
45. Having an "issue" instead of a "problem". John, Leicester
 
I think this is a symptom of a modern desire to use non-negative language, not an Americanism. Hence anyone now might refer to 'a person with mental health issues' rather than condemning someone as a raving lunatic.
 
46. I hear more and more people pronouncing the letter Z as "zee". Not happy about it! Ross, London
 
You're perfectly entitled to your unhappiness, Ross, but you have to concede that 'zee' sounds better at the end of The Alphabet Song.
 
47. To "medal" instead of to win a medal. Sets my teeth on edge with a vengeance. Helen, Martock, Somerset
 
I agree that this is unpleasant, Helen. I think one problem is that it sounds just like the word 'meddle', as in the following sentence: 'She meddled several times at the Beijing Olympics.' But it makes the Scooby Doo gang sound like high sporting achievers: 'I would have gotten away with it if it weren't for you medalling kids!'
 
48. "I got it for free" is a pet hate. You got it "free" not "for free". You don't get something cheap and say you got it "for cheap" do you? Mark Jones, Plymouth
 
OK Mark, you can hold this up as an example of sloppy usage if you like. It seems likely to me that it's a slightly ungrammatical substitution of 'free' for 'nothing' in the similar phrase, 'I got it for nothing'.
 
49. "Turn that off already". Oh dear. Darren, Munich
 
I think I would be persona non grata with Darren, because I quite like this. It has a clear implication that however soon you do the thing you're being instructed to do, it's not going to be soon enough, because for the person speaking to be happy, you would have to have done it already. It's an elegantly economical way of making this implication. Darren, stop being so picky already!
 
50. "I could care less" instead of "I couldn't care less" has to be the worst. Opposite meaning of what they're trying to say. Jonathan, Birmingham
 
Now this is quite interesting (and I use the word 'interesting' here in its loosest sense). It seems that the American usage is a sarcastic shorthand for saying 'As if there might be anything about which I could care less'. So it's really being used in a different way from its UK cousin. Evidently Jonathan could *not* care less about investigating this in any way.

Last edited by ono no komachi; 26th Jul 2011 at 18:25.
ono no komachi is offline   Reply With Quote