Here we go again: Americanisms

I’m almost out of things to say on the topic of the British obsessions with what they claim to be horrid “Americanisms” and how they are ruining the English language, but there were a few pieces of fantastic commentary out there yesterday debunking this latest, most pathetic effort by the BBC to stir up anti-American sentiment. So here are the links, in a sensible order, for anyone not bored by this and wishing to catch up:

I agreed, and nominated “willy”. I keep meaning to write an entire post on the British male’s obsession with their own genitalia, or at least with talking about their genitalia, but every time I think about sitting down and actually writing such a post I just sigh and move on to do something else. But for the record, “willy” immediately brings to my mind “limp dick”. So British males, when you keep using that word (all over Twitter, for some reason), that’s what you’re making me think about you. You’ve been warned.

In other news, my immigration situation hit a slight snag this week and I’ve spent some time on the phone with two different (British male) immigration lawyers and generally alternating between feeling hopeless about my future and feeling rather Devil-may-care about it. So basically I’m in shock and suffering from crazy visions of the future in rather starkly different scenarios. The bottom line point is a good one, in that the “try to imagine the worst case scenario” involves going back to America (as opposed to some place like Somalia) and perhaps writing that very snarky book about living 5 years in England while living off my savings and trying to find a job. And the best case scenario is that everything goes on just like it is now. So I’m not going to worry. This is not a life-or-death thing, it is a stupid-paperwork-and-bureaucrat thing. And I’m going to just keep telling myself that while I try to get through the next few months with my sanity intact.


13 responses to “Here we go again: Americanisms

  1. AH! My ILR sumbission goes in this week… TERRIFIED. Keep us posted!

    And as far as Americanisms – I’m just glad that after about 4 years here, my friends FINALLY stopped feeling the need to bring up American Football vs Rugby vs true FOOTball. As for the lists of pet peeves, I’m also surprised that no one complained about “Have a nice day”, as that’s one that’s been ridiculed by my friends fairly continuously. I do occasionally get greeted with a “Howdy!” or at least an over-emphasized “How aRRRRRe you”, as though we’re not Americans but… pirates?

    (What exactly is the appropriate use of “willy” for British men? Luckily I haven’t heard it much, if at all, as it holds the same connotations for me as it does for you…!)

  2. By the way, my nominations for worst Britishisms wound have to start with “missus” and “bird” as in – I hate being introduced as my husband’s missus. Ew. I guess I’m a snob, but that sounds so… I don’t know, tacky? And “bird” just seems derogatory. I’ve heard it isn’t, but the fact that only men use it lends me to disbelieve the theories. I also hate the need to give everyone a nickname. Caz, Daz, Ad (for Adam! Seriously!), etc. Maybe that’s just a Midlands thing, but I’d still nominate it!

    There are some confusing ones, like “get off” as in “I got off with a bird last night” which really twisted my mind a bit when I first heard them, but I tend to embrace the inherent confusion and culture reflection that those clashes tend to cause!

  3. From what I understand, it just means “make out”. Which is a far cry from the Prince definition I also assumed! I had one of those Indigo moments “I do not think that word means what I think it means… at least I hope not!”

  4. (Obviously a lot of these are “bar talk” that get thrown around when out with my husband’s friends-since-junior-school, so some allowances have to be made. However, I still don’t like them… not that I have room to talk with my fast-pasced, nasally Ohio accent! Husband’s 97 y/o Yorkshire grandfather insists he’s never understood a word I’ve said in my five years here!)

    I think you may have touched on this before, but do the xxxx’s at the bottom of texts and the INSISTANCE on texting, instead of calling, count as Britishisms? As those “get on my wick” too!

    And with that, I’ll try to stop hogging your blog! 🙂

  5. Yes, “getting off with” someone generally means making out, or snogging!
    We’re just about to rant, I mean comment, on this on the Pond Parleys blog on Sunday so I will link to this excellent (I mean “awesome”) post.
    I have come to the conclusion that the author of the BBC piece is more pissed off with Brits for adopting Americanisms if truth be known. I mean, it’s not like Americans are coming to the UK in droves, forcing everyone to speak their form of English.
    While I can be a stickler for grammar, since misuse can lead to communicaiton breakdowns, deriding a language that has been developed for use in another country (ie. American English) is just plain ignorant and arrogant.

  6. So a professor from Oxford writes an opinion piece, published by the BBC. It becomes “latest, most pathetic effort by the BBC to stir up anti-American sentiment”.

    When did we get so paranoid?

    Peter bond

    • Just because we’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get us!

      Seriously, the commentary was not mine. I was aggregating what others had said, as I was really busy worrying about my own problems. But I do stand by my original statement, and those of others here and elsewhere, that it’s become a really convenient and unfortunate thing that protectionism over language has become common in some circles of British English.

  7. People need very little excuse to sound off about expressions they don’t like. I think it often starts as a knee-jerk rejection of slang or jargon or some minor variation on a familiar idiom, and it’s allowed to develop over time into a fully fledged pet hate.

    It was sloppy of the BBC to label the whole thing “Americanisms”, and I was disappointed that they opted for web traffic over common sense or critical oversight.

  8. I’ve been thinking… I may be way off base here (heh), but I do wonder if complaining about American immigrants is the easiest way to vent frustrations about general immigration. It’s not p.c. to complain about those that are of an obvious different ethnic/religious/etc background, but Americans look the “same” as most Europeans, speak similarly, but have different ways of handling things that are easy to point out.

    That and Brits (although my experience is mostly with the English on this front, with a bit of Scottish mixed in) like to rib and complain and generally take verbal sparring farther than Americans would, even in jest. Although I do feel the frustration vented at Americans is real, it’s hard to believe that it’s all solely earned by the Americans and not simply “people who do things differently than we do, especially on our soil”.

  9. I’d observe that willy is a childhood term for penis – so referring to a penis as a willy is dropping into juvenile talk, like calling your stomach/abdomen area a tummy. It wouldn’t be considered swearing or an unacceptable slang term, it’s an almost polite, if somewhat babyish term.

    • To Doris – that’s what comes to mind immediately, but still – where is that appropriate context for “grown ups” to use that in conversation? Why not “junk” or “family jewels” if one needs a substitute to relate a comedic story? Then again, I’m the (American, science-minded) weirdo that insists on using the anatomical term for my son when disscussing potty issues.

      Which brings me to another question, yes, it is about Americanisms although, sorry NFAH, this conversation is leading toward the gutter… Referring to such childhood-term conversations, and never having had a baby (girl) while in the US, what is the American childhood term for girl equipment? In the UK it seems to be “front bottom”, which just reminds me of that scene from “Death Becomes Her”.

  10. Certainly “junk” is not a British expression at all, so that’s not going to be a natural form in conversation. And English people often use very babyish terms as adults, I frequently will mark frustration or slight hurts with words like “knickers” or “bum”, because it’s a lot softer than more traditional swearing, has an amusement factor involved that the terms are those utilised by five year olds, and is highly unlikely to cause real offence, i.e. it’s not impolite although the context is definitely that of using “naughty” words. Certainly the English man loves to identify with his inner mischievous child and revel in being juvenile. Hence the reason that they go “out with the lads” or “play with big boy toys”. Growing up is not necessarily seen as such an achievement, remaining childish has an appeal to it.

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