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Old 27th Jul 2011, 1:40   #5
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Join Date: 12 Dec 2007
Location: USA
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Default Re: Annoying Americanisms? A rebuttal

Well, this has been hugely interesting to me, and I'm very..."flattered" seems wrong, but happy, anyway, to see so many of you defending my homeland's specific "language dealies", as I like to call them. I feel like I have a lot to say, and shouldn't try to say it all (for space reasons only), but here are at least most of my thoughts, in the style popularized by gil:
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.

I have to say, I've never heard "least worst" used by anybody in America. If I had, I wouldn't like it any more than Mike does, to be honest. "Least bad" means something, whereas "least worst" doesn't, as far as I can tell.
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'?

Also, when a spouse or significant other has been cheated on, they've been "two-timed." Outside of that, your sports example is the only time I've heard it, and it makes sense to me.
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.

Again, seems fine to me. I see T. Balinski's point, but I also can't understand why they should care.
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!

My wife doesn't like this phrase, but I think it's very useful. It cuts through a lot of unnecessary fat.
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...

Yes. This is just a thing Lisa wishes Americans wouldn't say to each other, for some reason.
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.

Again, yes. It's an American sports phrase associated with a specifically American sport, so why shouldn't Americans use it? And anybody else who'd like to, for that matter!
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'.

I'll use this example to express my bemusement regarding lots of these. Why should this really bother anybody so much? Although, then again...see below for further thoughts on this general idea (if you care to, anyway)...
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.

For years, when I used "gotten", which I often do, I thought it was wrong, that it must not actually be a word. It does sound clumsy. But it is a word, I eventually discovered, and a useful one. 

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?)

I say "I'm good" and would never say "I'm well" in this context, even though I'm diligent about correctly using "well" instead of "good" in all other appropriate situations. Sort of odd.
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.

See below.
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'.

Neither have I. Bob from Edinburgh is just making shit up.
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.
Yes, you're right, ono, and R is wrong. And I didn't even know about the sports origins.

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'?

If it's not "train station" in the UK, what is it?
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.

We use both, if that makes Chris feel any better.
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?

I hate "my bad". I have no idea where it originated, but I've always assumed it started in the US, since that's the country I was in every time I heard it. And yes, it started as a terrible young person thing, but as is often the case (or as oftentimes happens) it has graduated to adult usage and abuse. Although these days, I think it's usually used ironically, because the phrase is now considered unhip.
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.

I like that you've researched these. Did you post any of these responses under the original article?
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.

It's used everywhere, not just in New Orleans. It's just a plain old Americanism, I guess, and I don't see the problem.
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.

I, too, enjoy the old-fashioned feeling of "oftentimes".
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'.

This is just bizarre. For one thing, this isn't an Americanism that has infected the UK -- this is an Americanism used by Americans in America that Ami simply doesn't like. Jesus, get over it! I mean, I know that this all stems from the fact that the British used English first and therefore know better, but come on. You're not even playing by the rules of the article! Also, we don't "need" to use "bi-weekly". We just do, because that's the word we use. Jerk!
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?

I hear "alternative" at least as often as I use "alternate". But I suppose this is similar to my new most-hated thing, which is using "genius" in place of "ingenious". This appears to have been an instant global epidemic, but I hate it so much. My hatred of that would apparently force me to give Catherine a pass on her displeasure.
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'.

Yes. This is just obnoxious. Ric is going out of his way to be a smug dick, and he's succeeded, with the bonus of appearing foolish, as well.
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.

Yes to this, and all like it. All such words are terrible business jargon, never used by regular people anywhere.
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.

Nothing to add to this strangeness because you said it all, ono. The only reason I didn't leave it off completely is because it is so weird I wanted to highlight it.
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.

The only time I've ever heard this used is when someone has become disconnected from their friends and family for some sort of sad reason, and one of those friends or family members suggests that someone should "reach out to" that person. Or when you hear that someone you've drifted away from due to common reasons -- moving, someone got married and had kids and you didn't, etc. -- has suffered a loss, and you are moved to "reach out to them." I'm not aware of any other use of the phrase.
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.

"Maths" has always sounded weird to me, but it's none of my business, so I've never mentioned it. No offense to anyone.
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.

This is only used, as far as I know, when someone is being intentionally ungrammatical for the sake of humor. Usually very mild or low-key humor, as it's become a cliche' by now.
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.

I hate "where's it at", too, but it's just basic bad grammar that shouldn't be associated with one country.
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'.

In fairness, I also hate "winningest".
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.

Again, in fairness, I hate this one, too, but I've long wondered about your generous take, Col, that those, or some of those, who say "I could care less" are being sarcastic. If so, I wonder at the chicken-and-egg-ness of it all -- did someone once mishear "I couldn't care less" as "I could care less", and from the context deduced that the phrase was used sarcastically, leading us to now having two similar but completely different phrases that mean the same thing based on the tone in which they are delivered? Interesting.

Okay, as for all my "see below" comments: I understand this comes from being annoyed that Americanisms are creeping into the UK and obliterating (hyperbole, but still) specific Britishisms. Which I understand. But what's curious to me is the reverse, in other words, all the Britishisms that Americans keep trying to adopt, and how badly, in my view, that has failed. And it hasn't failed because the Britishisms are so bad or obnoxious or stupid or anything...I happen to love British English. It's that I don't think it works in American mouths. "Take the piss", "bloody", "gobsmacked"...I've heard all these and more coming from Americans, and it always sounds, or reads, as the case may be, as some awful affectation, as if the speaker/writer is trying to solidify their hipness by sounding like a cool British person. And they're good phrases! I hugely prefer "Cheers" in place of "Thanks" (don't know why, I just think it sounds friendlier), but I could never bring myself to say it, because it would just be me trying hard to be pointlessly different, like wearing a fedora to draw attention to myself. Fedoras look good on people who look good wearing fedoras, by which I mean, men from the 1940s. They look stupid now, because the people who wear them now are not from the 1940s. Don't ask me how this works, it's just how it is. Similarly, "Cheers" doesn't work when I say it, because I'm not British.

Also, when I hear a British person use a word or phrase that I'm only used to hearing from an American, it sounds similarly strange. For example, "guys", as in "Hey you guys, come over here" (or whatever)...has that always been common over there? Maybe it has been, but when I hear it coming from a Brit, I tilt my head in confusion.

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Last edited by bill; 27th Jul 2011 at 13:15.
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