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Thursday, October 11, 2012

British words

Alex just wrote a funny article about how Americans, more than ever, are adopting British words in conversations (think: "rubbish," "mates," "cheers"). It made me laugh out loud. Do you say British words? I, for one, am totally busted.

Read the full article here.

(Illustration by Adam McCauley for the NYTimes)

162 comments:

Amanda said...

I love this. After all my years of reading Harry Potter, I think my favorite is "rubbish".

J+H @ Beyond The Stoop said...

so funny! i write "cheers" at the end of every blog post, and 'most' comment posts... i find that it's easier to use british colloquial words in our american writing than in ACTUAL conversation though. interesting article!

cheers :P

www.beyondthestoop.com

Erin said...

One side of my family is British and still lives in England, so I've adopted some of their phrases. But more so the intonation/inflection in the way I asked questions. I'm guilty of overusing "quite" and "well" as adverbs.

Lindsay Meyer-Harley said...

Yes! Totally, I say bring on the phrases, the more the better!

Loo
Brolly
Lift
Flat

Having grown up in Hong Kong (British ruled for part of the time I was there) I also spell colour, theatre and a few others the British way.

Xx

Love this post Joanna!

katylux said...

I do all of the time. We lived in London for three years recently, and when we moved back, it has been a hard habit to break! Conversely, when we first moved there, it was difficult to fall into their speech patterns. It felt very unnatural to say, "Cheers" instead of "Thank you," for example.

Justine said...

I use British words all the time, but then I'm British and live in England, so I can't relly help myself... However, I do find myself US words and phrases such as 'Whatever', and 'Enough already' (they are American, right?) because I find US words/phrases can sum up some situations so perfectly!

Kelly R said...

I lived in London for 3 years and with my British ex for 4 and a half so I'm totally guilty of this and I hate it. Although, I do maintain that bin is so much easier than saying garbage can.

agapelife said...

I do say Brittish words! Especially since I became OBSESSED with Downtown Abbey

agapelife said...

and by Downtown, I mean Downton, dumb auto correct

Charlotte said...

I do, but that's because I'm british. i didn't realise we had so many words that no-one else uses. Isn't 'cheers' used worldwide?? Mind. Blown.

Although I do have to say, some british-isms that people use when trying to imitate the british are just completely random.. I have never once in my 23 years in this country heard anyone say "bumbling toff" or "crikey" in a way that wasn't a joke, or refer to anyone as "old chap" .but that's how we're shown in the media. It's all very strange!

good article though, welcome to the dark side ;)

Katie said...

Been living in England for almost 3 years after marrying my husband (who is british) and whenever I visit my family and friends they think I'm turning into Madonna or something. I just can't help it after being surrounded by it 24/7. Favorites I've picked up would be picking up the "post" or "parcel", "proper", "ffs...", "chune!/tune", "sweeties" for candy and wow the list just keeps going. It sounds better when he says it though!x

myheartscontentblog.com said...

As a Brit living in California, I loved this article!! I use Loo all the time, and 'rubbish' is one of my favourite words but it never fails to make people laugh here. My favourite US words are 'badass' and 'frickin'. But I feel like a fraud whenever I use them.

AVY said...

Whenever I say "oh dear" it always sounds a little too Brittish.


/ Avy
http://MyMotherFuckedMickJagger.blogspot.com




Jay said...

I've been living abroad for a couple of years and have had more British friends than North American thus am finding myself picking up and using British words all of the time!

Maggie said...

Recently, my husband has been using the word "indicate" rather than "signal" to describe using car blinkers. : ) He gets so annoyed when we are in the round-about (that americans can't seems to get right) and people don't "indicate". I think he got it from his co-worker whose English. He started using it as a joke about a year ago, and now he says it all the time.

Mallory Recor said...

Oh I'm so guilty of this. I'm a total anglophile, and have been trying to move to England for years. I was cracking up at the entire article... especially the progression from using "lads" to using "tallyho." So funny.

Nadia Ivanova said...

I live in a British Overseas territory so no comment there... ;)

Here the question is not whether you use British words but how much Spanish you manage to mix with the British English ;)

Info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gibraltar

Betsy said...

Such a funny article! Though my husband and I watch British TV shows all the time, I can't say that I've lapsed into British-speak. Never thought about it, actually- but we aren't New Yorkers or New Englanders :)

isabelqn said...

I love Britishisms! I have been living in the UK for 4 years and really felt British when I said I am going to the 'loo' for the first time. Other favourites include brilliant, bloody anything, ace, and brolly (that's umbrella to you)

This is a great article!

xxx

Brigette Olmos-Arreola said...

I do this all the time! I was lucky enough to live in London a while back and I just didn't want to let go of some of the wonderful words.

Little Rus said...

I do it every day due to location (am UK-based), but I noticed that a lot in movies recently and not only British-made ones or US with British actors. So funny! Always reminds me of the episode from Friends when Amanda returns to the States and uses "mobile" instead of "cell" and... (insert here) for the bottom. :D
x

Angloyankophile said...

I'm an American living in London (have been for the past six years) ... I try desperately hard NOT to use British words unless absolutely necessary and I work really, really hard to retain my American accent. There's nothing worse than hearing Americans try to adopt a British accent, although I agree it's really hard when you work AND live with Brits. I cringe when I hear my own intonation and how it has changed. Even more hilarious however, is the fact that my partner (who's British) sometimes pretends to use an American accent - and it's AWFUL! I know he does it just to mock me ...

sumslay said...

Funny, I read the BBC article about this a few weeks ago: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19670686

I was a fan of british music since the 90's (that I read about in magazines pre-internet), and I remember getting points deducted for using "advert" in a paper. :P

Mina said...

I never thought I was... but now that you point it out! I guess I do! Okay... gotta go. I need to get to the loo!! lol! : )

Priscilla said...

I was in London last week and I loved observing these differences! So fun :)
I think the trickiest one for me was:
fries = chips
chips = crisps
crisps is just difficult to say! hahaha
and that they say cheers instead of thank you. but I liked that one :)

Rincy said...

Love this post. I was born in India, raised in Michigan and live in Dublin, Ireland. Dated a guy from Singapore, was best friends with a British/Welsh-man, my work colleagues are Irish. And I'm dating a Jordanian! You should hear me around friends from Trinidad. I am an absolute mix of everything and my American accent is the one thing that stays true. But I definitely do what Alex talks about in the article. Awful. Mobile, cheers and flat are all in my vocabulary on a daily basis. Cringe.

Meredith said...

I lived there really briefly so I consider myself entitled to throw in a British phrase now and then. I always think the funniest is "that's pants." I could never use that one myself without start laughing, though!

I remember being 16 and standing in line for the restroom at the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre and having a distinguished looking woman ask me, "Pardon me, is this the queue to the loo?" I must have looked totally dumbfounded for about ten seconds before figuring it out and saying "yes!"

Mariclare Cole said...

My boyfriend is totally guilty of this; he says "Cheers" and "mate on the regular.

Mariclare Cole said...

My boyfriend is totally guilty of this; he says "Cheers" and "mate on the regular.

Meredith said...

I had to answer the phones at work when I was living there, and NO ONE understood my Southern accent. Over time, I did adopt some intonations without even realizing it. I remember someone calling and launching into a conversation saying "Bella, I need you to..." (Bella was the name of the department secretary, who WAS British). I think it's almost impossible not to change slightly, no matter how hard you try! People ask me now why I have very little hint of an accent, and I think it's because of that brief period I lived in London, when I was trying to enunciate enough for the Brits to understand me, but not sound like an idiot American trying to adopt their accent.

K said...

I work in a university study abroad office, and I can't tell you how funny it is to have the students come back and say "aluminIum" like it's their birthright. Or "em" instead of "um".

Jessie said...

hilarious! thnaks for sharing! my hubby is a brit living in America and his dad talks the cockney slang. but hearing non Brit's saying things like "no worries" and "brilliant" and "cheers" is so obnoxious! cheers is the worse!

Lauren Cormier Taylor said...

Oh man, I am completely guilty of this! But, to be fair, my husband is from Scotland and many, many of my friends are UK expats as well, so I am surrounded by Britishisms on a daily basis. It's not intentional when I do it - just a reflection of what I typically hear. Personally, I love it, but who am I to judge?

Jessie said...

oh and alex forgot "bloody". that is totally a Britt word! my hubs uses that daily!

Elizabeth Lee said...

I use British words, but I'm an American in Britain now! :)

But they're just as guilty using Americanisms too, so it's a great thing! x

Maria said...

I am totally guilty! I lived there for 10 years and married a Brit so I have every excuse!

Maria xx
www.cheekypinktulip.blogspot.com

trinaenriquez said...

What trips me up is when Brits say they "chat to" someone, instead of "chat with" or "talk to." Or "at the weekend." Just yesterday I had to look up "dinky" after Duchess Kate called a baby "very dinky." I was pretty sure she didn't mean that negatively. :) It's funny about "twee," though, how there's no direct equivalent in American slang—and it's all English.

I taught English in Ukraine for a couple of years, and going over British slang was probably as much if not more fun for me than it was for my students.

MaxxSilly said...

We all refer to our posterior as our "bum".

My daughter watches Peppa Pig which is a British cartoon that runs on Nickelodeon. She asked us to take the stabilizers off her bike - I had to watch the episode to figure out she meant training wheels.

Brilliant.

Wendy said...

I'm guilty of speaking in Irish slang (wanker, bollocks, slag, randy and a lot of four letter words said with a smile) due to 16 years with my ex who's from Dublin. Also, we would get in may o' fights over proper pronunciation of words.

Kate @ Savour Fare said...

I am busted, but I come by it honestly -- from an avid consumption of British literature and movies. It was a long time before I realized that honour wasn't supposed to be spelled with a u (hence the spelling of my blog name - Savour Fare).

katilda said...

my best friend was raised (in America) by a French father and British mother (full-on thick accent and eccentricities -- she's amazing). Anyway, so my totally American friend (with no accent) frequently says any of the following: brelly (umbrella), GAIR-ij (garage), YAW-gurt (yogurt), ZEH-bra (zebra), proper, etc. She also eats beans and toast.

Southern California Chic said...

I am a Brit that spent most of her life growing up in Southern California, I grew up with English parents who didn't really push their English-ness on my sister and I. I do say some things that my Mom and Dad would say: boot (sometimes I can't remember what a trunk is called), rubbish, bollocks (dirty-dirty word), bloody-hell, "come on then". My Dad says "Gordon-Bennett!" I have never said cheers outside of toasting a drink with someone... Thats when I ALWAYS say cheers.

XO Lucy

Unknown said...

Thanks, I will definitely read it.
Just wanted to let you know that I showed my spouse the article Alex wrote about making friends as a grown-up, and he liked it so much that he showed it to the editor of the Israeli newspaper he writes for. I hope you both will be happy to know that it was translated to Hebrew, and that it was very popular here also :)
Here's the link:
http://www.haaretz.co.il/magazine/1.1792170

Fancy Pants said...

You are busted...but having an English dad...I think you can say you came by it naturally!

Amanda said...

My boss for the last 15 months is British and I recently realized that somewhere along the way I've picked up a lot of his phrases. It cracks me up.

JESSICA said...

This is so funny and true! My boyfriend even calls his Chicago apartment a "flat." I think it's the cutest thing.

MJ said...

I spent 5 years living in Canada, and some of these are Canadianisms as well...I guess this relates to it being part of the Monarchy.

While living there, I started saying "five minutes to ten" instead of "five of ten" to indicate 9:55. Also, "her-bal" instead of "erbal" (herbal). "Zed" instead of "zee" for the letter 'z'. "Have a shower" instead of "take a shower". "Write an exam" instead of "take an exam". "Drinking fountain" instead of "water fountain". "Skipping rope" instead of "jump rope". "Icing" instead of "frosting". "Cutlery" instead of "silverware". "Sofa" instead of "couch" (some people called it a Chesterfield). "Chest of drawers" instead of "bureau" (nobody ever knew what a bureau was!). ....and there are so many more!

tamara said...

I see it as an annoying affectation, but maybe that's just me.

elliegoeseast said...

I've never lived in England but while living abroad in other countries I've encountered quite a few members of the British persuasion. I love the phrases and words that many of my Brit friends use. I've started using, "camp," "uni"-instead of college, and "mates" but as much as I've tried I've never been able to pull off "cheers" It seems like such a great multipurpose word, but with my obvious American accent it just doesn't work....

Chloe said...

As a New Yorker who has spent the last four years living in the UK, I couldn't help but absorb some of the language. My own mother says she sometimes can't understand me on the telephone because my inflection has changed a bit (re-SEARCH, for example).

The favourite expression I've picked up comes courtesy of my Scottish boyfriend. When things have gone terribly wrong, he mutters in exasperation: "bloody hell's teeth!"

Sometimes American English results in hilarious confusion in the UK. In British English "pants" means underwear. So when my American friend came to visit and declared how much she "loves men in red pants," my English friends decided Americans were even more forthcoming than they thought!

Cris said...

I thought "no worries" was more a laid back Cali surfer phrase. We say it here in LA all the time and people who are definitely not Anglophiles use it. I am a Valley Girl myself, and try to get rid of that type of speech because I feel it makes me sound immature, but its been with me for so long that it would really be a conscious effort to rid myself of it, and I don't have the time, haha.

I don't think incorporating Britishisms into American speech is necessarily a negative thing-unless maybe you are a hipster and are obviously trying to be cool. I think its fun. I love the UK and London, watch British TV, and am an avid British music fan, starting from when I was a teen in the 1980s (Duran Duran, The Cure, new wave, etc) And especially if you travel often or work in an industry (I work in the music/concert industry) where you work with people from different countries- you tend to pick up words and phrases here and there. I can understand when you live in another state/country, etc., you want to fit in a bit...its easier when someone who comes from another area to Los Angeles to understand when they adopt words that are used here. We know precisely what you mean. Again, its also fun :)

Giulia said...

Being raised with (& by) British parents/family...it's somewhat unavoidable for some of us...though I don't do full-out Brit-speak & find it silly when other Americans do...it rarely sounds right. But some words: flat, bloody, cheers...those are pretty common.

Bethie said...

He missed "fringe." ;)

As an American living in London, I found his article fascinating! My husband and I have relocated here indefinitely and are making an effort to assimilate (no fake accents, just trying not to sound over-the-top American). The most difficult part is when we talk to people back home. We make such an effort to fit in here linguistically (especially when using terms for baby items!) that when we go home we're full of "ums" and "uhs" as we try to remember which term we should be using!

Manda said...

I don't use them, that I know of, but I wish I did! They're bloody awesome! :)
Eat Cake

Sara said...

This is hilarious! Having an English husband in Texas causes me to do this! I actually had a Google stand off with a friend one night at dinner that did not know or think "stodgy" was a word. Apparently it was part of my married vocabulary! ha!

C. said...

I am British and the most irritating part of my daily life is having Americans speak to me in faux British accents and then calling me a "tosser" or a "wanker" then saying, "Is that okay to say?" The answer is a resounding "NO!"

Sara said...

I use "suss it out" or "suss out the situation". And I need to use rubbish a lot more. (As others pointed out, some of these are "Canadianisms" as well, which is where I'm from)

Chelsea MacMeekin said...

I work with a lot of Euros and before I realized it, their lingo had squirmed its way into my everyday. I am guilty of using brilliant, mobile, and rubbish, among others I am sure!

Chelsea
www.hautechildinthecity.com

melissa said...

Haha, poor C. I cringe on your behalf. My husband is British and ALL of my friends ask if that's okay to do. I yell "NO!!!!" And then more calmly say, "You know how you feel when someone does a really exaggerated version of what they think Texans sound like, and it's awful and embarrassing? ...that." We're plagued by stereotypes so that usually does the trick.

Having said that - I have adopted a few things. My husband speaks very properly so most is actually a result of watching too much British TV (before he came along) - but the one I've picked up from him is "quite." Now instead of something being "really interesting" or "a lot of fun" it's "quite interesting" and "quite fun." I've also found myself referring to eggplant (his favorite veg) as aubergine (which is totally a better term for it) without thinking, so often does it come up in dinner conversation. Courgettes are right out, though--zucchini for life.

Prescott Perez-Fox said...

Having lived in Britain, and still harbouring a fond affection for that nation, I have no problem using a full complement of British words, phrases, and spelling in my New York life. I do take flack for it, but it's part of my story. So there.

Diana McNeill said...

my family is British so I definitely have some unconscious inflection and verbiage that comes from over there. for instance, I say internet, with the T in the middle, and straightener, with the T in the middle. I also have been caught saying, 'have a look', 'have a shower', 'spot of tea', 'pitch' for field, 'boot' for trunk of the car, etc. things i will never say though, Gare-age, for garage. my dad says that and it is so weird lol. i'm not too worried about it though. it's just who i am. so i don't think i'm being pretentious.

Meadow said...

I do, but I think I have reason to... I am half English!

Niki MyScandinavianHome said...

Since I am from London i certainly do. But I remember when I lived in the US for a year and everyone loved it when I said I was wearing a 'woolly jumper'. I still can't get used to americans saying 'nice pants' to me as i automatically think they're talking about my underwear!

Polly Rowan said...

I agree with Charlotte! I thought rubbish was a normal, wide-used word?! And cheers is totally normal, just a really casual way of saying thanks!

Allison McGregor said...

hahaaha I lovet it---I totally am an offender.
My best friend isn't that comfortable with expressing emotion so when a warm fuzzy feeling comes around she utters awkwardly "I love you Mate" that resembles more of Bruce the shark from Finding Nemo than a British accent. We laugh a lot about it!

http://two-leaf-clover.com

jenbeth said...

Since I started watching Top Gear years ago, I find myself saying "bonnet" and "boot" for the hood and the trunk of the car. Andother word I picked up when I nannied for an Australian family: nappy (such a cute word for diapers).

Lula said...

I'm British (well, Scottish!) and teach linguistics and English. I think your attitude to this depends on your attitude to language change - people who object to British-isms entering American English are similar to a lot of British people who object to Americanisms entering British English. In my opinion, it's part of the richness of language development. Language naturally evolves and changes and the influences on our personal language use are wide and varied. I lived in the north east of England for a long time, and use many phrases from my time there; my dad has lived in Scotland for nearly 40 years but was brought up in London, and uses many Scottish colloquialisms with a cockney accent. Although some people might think both of us sound odd, I think it's natural adaptation, and linguistically it would be strange if you didn't absorb some of the language peculiarities of the area you live or the people you are around. I also completely agree with Charlotte - lots of the so-called 'British' words would never be used by your average person in Britain...and we have such a diverse culture of language in different regional areas that 'Britishisms' are really hard to define. A really fascinating post, and Alex's article is great!

Shelley said...

While it's origin might be British, I certainly wouldn't call "cheers" a British word anymore but yes to the others I can be a bit guilty!

HeidiRob said...

Adorable article. I suddenly am worried my husband may not pronounce his "cheers" laconically enough! He spends about two months a year in England and has picked up on quite a few Britishisms, but really what I think we're seeing here is globalization. Sometimes I really do believe the world is becoming "flat."

friedapaula said...

It's also interesting from a second language perspective, I learned BE in school, then went to the US for quite some time, and by the end of my stay I was told that I spoke some sort of mid-Atlantic English. I guess my vocabulary now is similar, I watch both American and British TV shows on a regular basis to try and not forget the language.

Amanda said...

I'm totally busted too! My husband and I watch a lot of English Premier League Football (soccer) on the weekends and some of the words we constantly hear have crept into our vocabulary! "Rubbish" is definitely one of them!

Melissa Blake said...

This is great! I find myself saying "bloody" a lot! :)

The Modern Prepster said...

One of my best friends lived in England for most her life an I now say: trousers, rubbish, massive, slag, brilliant, cheers, flat, quite, and meant to. She makes fun of me quite a bit. xxx

Kate at M is for make said...

As a Brit, I only ever see it the other way with us adopting American words, I think 'Friends' started it off. Funny to think of it working the other way!

kalliejenn81 said...

i say "stegged it" when people trip all the time...and always get blank stares.

Kristen said...

I've definitely picked up several words and phrases (cupboard, corridor, and exhaust in place of bathroom fan being big offenders), but there's many subtle differences. For instance, I've caught myself saying, "I'm sat at the desk," and, "I'll have a look." He's ruined my grammatically correct American English :P Though I'll never understand the use of "well" in place of "very." Nor will I ever stop smirking (at least internally) when he uses chaps, blimey, or "I'll just pop into the shop." Bahaha.

Kristen said...

And let's not forget all the xxxxxxxxxx in emails, letters, texts etc. That's just not that common in the US.

jackie jade said...

Perfect! I lived in London for a little over a year and I also noticed that Brits usually say "Are you alright?" as a generic greeting. It took me awhile to realize that was their version of "How are you?" and that I didn't look as if something was wrong with me!

Mrs. P Vega said...

My mother-in-law is british and i just adore her. Her vocabulary is so much fun and I must admit, I leave picking up a few new words every time we see her.

e2d said...

excellent article! loved it! "linguistic shoplifting"- aren't we all guilty of that?!:)

laura fox gill said...

It's weird "reading" these "comments" as a British person because it seems like "completely" random "words" are being picked out as "British" slang. Didn't know half of these were local!

Rebecca said...

Love this article--all too true! I've been married to a Brit for seven years and I heavily resist picking up the slang--sounds too pompous to do so. However, I really, really wish that "whilst" was in heavier rotation in American English. It's such a useful word! As a side note, we have two young boys. And apparently, mixing British English with West Coast American English produces two kids who speak New Jersey with a twist of Brit. It's bizarre. I mean, my brother went to speech therapy for this crap as a kid. And yet my husband actively teaches them to pretend the letter "r" is more a unicorn than a real sound.

Rebecca said...

Ha! Reading more comments I realize I'm totally an offender. I say trousers for pants, and pants to mean underwear. He's gotten to me after all. :)

Happily CF said...

Great article by Alex, but I have to say that I am really surprised that he didn't make any mention at all of Canada, the closest international neighbor for most Americans, or even New England. Canada (arguably a more likely place for Americans - particularly in northern regions - to have spent time) retains many Britishisms. Of course Queen Elizabeth is their monarch and on their money. They add the extra 'u' in words like colour, and they say "zed" for Z. Many of them have long said things like "dodgy" and "brilliant." Not only do they retain such Britishisms, but a surprisingly large number of my Canadian friends do have close ties (a grandparent or sometimes a parent) to England. If they don't have outright dual citizenship, as many do, they are still able to go on lengthy "working holidays" to England (and Australia) through programs not available to Americans.

New England (close to eastern Canada) has the highest concentration of people of English ancestry of any region of the US. Many "old timey" New England sayings are British sayings. (And, of course, traditional accents are non-rhotic, just like British accents.) I've long said "rubbish" (either to mean a noun of verb) and "bin,"and those aren't pretentious things to say, they're just Maine things. I used to live in Canada so I have also long said "mobile phone," instead of cell phone.

I definitely agree that this is a trend among those with tendencies towards pretension, though. I've noticed a huge uptick in the use of "spot on." But, I suppose this is also an inevitable evolution of language. Regional American language is watered down, as we all begin to sound alike. With the internet and increased international travel, it's also likely that people will pick up Britishisms and Europeanisms.

Happily CF said...

And by Brittish, you mean British, right?:-)

Missy said...

Whenever I travel with people from another country, I find myself adopting some of their words just to be reminded of our good times together. I love the Aussie "Good on you" and "full on" and the Scottish "See you Jimmy" and the French accent for cool = "coola." They make fun of Americans for saying "Yeay!" I thought that was funny.

Mardle Made said...

Love it! When I was last in America I bought some knickers and the cashier made me say knickers about a million times! It's was probably one of the most funny purchasing experiences I've ever had!

And when on Honeymoon there 6 years ago everyone made me say water when they found out I was English!....but that's an accent thing rather than an actual word.

xx

www.mardlemade.com

Happily CF said...

Great examples - I mentioned Canada in my comment below, before reading the rest of the comments. Although, I think sofa is probably the most common American word for couch, and lots of people in America say icing, and drinking fountain is pretty common. But when I was at university in Canada (as an American... and see how I picked up "at university?") I was surprised by them saying "write an exam" instead of take an exam. And they'd say things like "I'm done my paper," instead of done WITH my paper. Also I couldn't get over exam proctors being called "invigilators."

kimsukie said...

hilarious. i had no idea. i'm canadian (born british though) and been in london 9 years, desperately clinging to my canadian accent. who knew i was so untrendy? well, me, for one.

Happily CF said...

All the comments are interesting. After commenting above, I went through and read the rest of the comments. A lot of words which as far as I know are totally normal American words, like cupboard, corridor, cutlery, icing, sofa, chest of drawers, etc. are being picked out as Britishisms. I suspect that if any of these words/terms are foreign to the ears of some Americans, it's only because they are regionalisms not popular in certain regions of the US.

Belinda @ Wild Acre said...

Love this post because I love how diverse colloquial English is! I am a Brit and love that words I don't give a thought to like knickers and blimey are thought of as cute, while I wish I could use words like freakin', dang and badass without sounding like a twit (try saying dang with a british accenta!). Ahh, the special relationship lives on!:)

Lauren Darcy said...

I love this. Having grown up with an English dad, it "brilliant", "cheers", and "romp" are in my daily vocabulary. And while those translate well with other Yanks, I still get jeers and giggles when I call a sweater a jumper, or a bathing suit swimmers.

Gabrielle said...

As someone from NZ living in the US, I rarely hear Americans use British words and mostly get blank looks when I forget to "American-ify" my language and say nappy (diaper), trolley (shopping cart), boot (trunk), take away (take out), dummy (pacifier), togs (swim suit), jandals (NZ word for flip flops), mandarin (everyone here seems to call them by their brand name Cuties), gumboots (rain boots) and many other things.

Marie Frei said...

I've been working with British colleagues for the last two years, so all of my emails are now signed "cheers". I like it! It's a friendly way of saying "thanks" :)

eastcoastbird said...

Great article by Alex! I am married to a Londoner and definitely, without meaning to, have picked up a few of his sayings. One is using the term, "next door" to refer to the next/adjacent room. As American's typically save that statement for the house next door it's really confusing to guests when I say...." the baby is next door"...when I am really just saying in the next room! Also, another word my husband uses is "toss" which is sort like the American word for jerk or twerp....you would say something like...." that guy is such a toss". I am totally guilty of using both of these.

Bakehouseblog said...

I do but then I am
:)
We say"cheers" however, only when toasting our drinks. Even my 2 year old lifts her beaker to say "cheers"
Toodlepip!

Jocelyn Pascall said...

My husband is English and I have totally adopted a lot of his terms. I love how he still occasionally busts out a new one now and then, which makes me laugh.

kel said...

guilty as charged!

keen -- mobile -- wonky -- queue -- loo -- no worries -- wanker -- these have all been in my everyday vocabulary for years...oh, and "crikey!" but only in jest :)

MissLilly said...

well I do, but I've learned english UK in school, and I read english books and now I live in London, so I guess that helps :)

Suzanne Gerrior said...

Growing up in Nova Scotia, I found that most people used this terminology, then again I had an English mother and what do you expect growing up in "New Scotland".

Charlotte said...

It's nice to see it going that way for once. We've had proms, cookies and sure for ages!

Charlotte said...

It's nice to see it going that way for once. We've had proms, cookies and sure for ages!

Ashley Williams said...

Oh my goodness! That article cracked me up! I recently worked for the BBC here in the US - and let me tell you, "cheeky" was a favorite among the American crew.

Samantha Blackmer said...

As a linguist, this article (and all the responses) are super interesting! It's fun to have meta-pragmatic conversations about things that impact our daily lives, and language is one of the most prevalent among those. If you consider the history of the English language, you'll see that that language we speak today is a division of the Germanic branch. I'll spare all the boring dates and history, but many of the words we speak today are "borrowed" from German, some from French, some from Latin, and lots of our personal pronouns are from Norse. It's natural and even beneficial for us to borrow from other languages, even British English, because it can help provide accuracy and variety to our native vocabulary!

Borrow on, my friends!

Breanna said...

I always use stereotypically "British" words. And I have since I was a kid. But, then again, I'm a Canadian, so maybe it isn't as weird?

Y said...

Oh my goodness, whenever my friends and I get together we always always always speak in a British accent, like it's totally normal and not weird at all....not in a mocking type way but because it's the cutest accent ever! And we love saying rubbish and such words that was in the Harry potter movies! Hahahah

in dreams said...

i find myself saying things my dad always says (he's british) that make me sound like a total jerk (or "ponce," shall we say?) to other people...hopefully at least until they find out i'm 1/2 british! you can usually tell when someone's just saying something because it sounds cool, though, rather than saying something that they use in their everyday conversations.... :)

brian and amanda said...

i slipped, once. it seemed to fit perfectly, though. i was talking to my husband and said "he is mad." he said "oh really? why do you think he's so angry?" i said "no, mad as in crazy." puh! came from my husband. it just seemed to fit so well!

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Bec said...

Even though they are our "Mother country", as an Australian I can't help but claim "mate" as our own!

Kate Uhry said...

Literally had this conversation at lunch with my sister & father yesterday: My favorite is "skulking".

eLIZabeth Floyd said...

Yep, I use British words all the time, however I also lived in South Africa for a year and picked up the British phrasing there... and some phrases just are better at describing a situation or thought.

Sara said...

Yep, I'm guilty of it. Been doing it for years ever since I lived in London. I agree with other commenters about the British phrasing sometimes just being better.

Elle Ramirez said...

I read this last night! Yes I've only had flight layovers in London and I think that qualifies me enough to use: "bloody hell" "shotty" "mobile" and many others in my daily conversations. Right mate? ;)
Lovelovelove, Elle from English bELLE

sara. no h. said...

I am an American, who met my British husband in Holland where we both spoke Dutch. Our household speech is a blend of slang from all three cultures. We lived in England as my daughter was learning to speak, so our family has three different accents- midwestern, scottish, and english. I am sure people who over hear us think we are taking the mickey.

Julia said...

Ever since I got back from studying abroad in London, I've started working "cheers" into my vocabulary. My sister hates it.

[PS I love coming to your blog to find out that the author of the cool, interesting, hip NYT article I just read is your husband! So rad.]

sara. no h. said...

I am an American, who met my British husband in Holland where we both spoke Dutch. Our household speech is a blend of slang from all three cultures. We lived in England as my daughter was learning to speak, so our family has three different accents- midwestern, scottish, and english. I am sure people who over hear us think we are taking the mickey.

Lulu said...

As a South African, we basically speak and write "British" so to us, you Americans use funny words. Lol.

Cheer up, Old Bean! said...

I'm married to a Brit so I can't help but adopt British words- I often forget that other people don't know what I'm talking about!! I love it!!
Leah from
cheerupoldbean.blogspot.com

Minnie Kitchen said...

Bloody yeah!

Candace said...

OMG I read this article this morning at work and I didn't realize it was Your Alex. I studied in the UK and it was astounding how many American students had an "accent" after just a few weeks. Some things are easily picked up, but some certainly are just feigned.

Sara said...

Haha, this is perfect! My husband is sooo guilty. And, it's rubbing off on me! His favorite defense when I tell him he's said something entirely hilarious is: "They say it that way in England, where my ancestors came from. It's my native language."

Rebecca said...

These terms and phrases aren't necessarily only British, they're pretty much used in all English-speaking countries outside of the US :P (says a South African)

elizabeth said...

I'm American and moved to South Africa (which has a strong British influence) a year and half ago. I find myself forgetting what American English word I would use in certain situations. For example: In South Africa, if you fell and broke your arm, people would say "Oh shame!". I hated the phrase when I first moved here, but now I say it all the time and I can't remember what I would say to an incident like that if I was back in the States. Funny how words and phrases just creep in.

Kit said...

This is a great article! I'm American but moved to England when I was 15 with my family and have lived here now for 12 years. I consider myself a mut now and all those words in the article sounded everyday and normal to me. I admit to using some of them, but also tend to speak (and apparently write) with a more English style- though not the accent. I've heard English-isms slip into some American tv shows I watch and am always a bit shocked. I like that different cultures have different slangs or turn of phrase and wouldn't want that to change.

janinejackson said...

So funny to read this article as an Australian. We use all these words too and I actually have no idea what the American equivalent would be for all the words in inverted commas! What are they?

Lindsay McKenzie said...

Loved the article, fascinating to read from a British perspective, I had no idea we used so many exclusively 'british' words. We're so exposed to Americana, the lines are pretty blurred for us I think. I'm waiting for The Only Way is Essex to cross over, seriously you would totes love it babe, shut up!

today for jane said...

Hi Jo, this article cracked me up! I am an Australian living in London and have certainly fallen victim to this problem. I only realised I was doing it after I read this. I have just posted about all of the substitions I have found myself making: http://todayforjane.blogspot.co.uk/2012/10/read-of-week-americans-are-barmy-over.html

The list is absolutely endless. How tragic!

Jordan said...

This is great! I am an American student studying at Oxford this year and I have loved learning about the vocabulary. In fact, I named my study abroad blog "Trolleys and Brollies" to showcase my fascination with the new terminology.

wanderlynn said...

Oh dear! (Ha!) As an American living in England, I'm constantly catching myself using very British phrases completely unintentionally. I've become more self-conscious of how "American" my accent sounds now that my nearly-2-year-old son and I are participating in more activities with locals. He's already picking up some British-ese; today he called his pants "trousers." It will be interesting to see what sticks with him when we move back!

mymorningcoffeeblog said...

Haha.. I totally use almost all of these words.. Some of them I didn't even know were rooted in Britain. It's all English!

shoegirl said...

After moving to Europe, we spend significantly more time conversing with people who speak British English (Brits and Europeans alike) than American English and it has definitely started to infiltrate our speech. When looking at the world as a whole, more people speak British English than American English, so it just makes sense to adopt more widely-used terms. Sounding more posh while speaking is just an added benefit.

Frankly, I feel like my British friend and I have more 'English' communication fails than we do in German (which we're not even fluent in!) because of these different words. I now know that after a day out in the muck with my dog, the last thing I want to communicate is how I must change because I've got 'muddy pants'(ewww). Oops.

Samantha Green said...

this article is brilliant!! i'm english but my boyfriend is american and he has picked up so many words from me but then i have picked up lots of Americanisms from him too. i love learning the differences between the two forms of english :) xx

Kimberly said...

I love using British words! They sound so great. Rubbish is one of my favorites.

Dana DeVolk said...

Hmm, nope I don't do that.
<3 Dana @ This Silly Girl's Life

laura kinsey said...

i love the word "knackered", and have been guilty of using it. i like it because it's a word that just sounds exactly like what it means.

c.a.h. said...

haha how funny! I just read this yesterday and didn't realise he was your husband (loooong time reader, never comment!). I am UK-born, Seattle-raised and have been back in London for 4 years after about 20 years away - talk about a cultural identity crisis! I am often told that I sound Canadian as my American twang has definitely softened and I've had to switch out overly-American phrases like "whoa, that's totally awesome man!". Also, some words are just better over here! "Squidy," for example, how good is that?! At the end of the day, I don't think I'll ever get my English accent fully back, but it's nice to know that I can use some words on visits back to the States without sounding completely barmy :)

c.a.h. said...

Oops, mean "squidgy" above, not "squidy", although that's pretty funny too. x

Haley Doolittle said...

I'm guilty of of using British words. I like to imagine I have a good excuse though. I spent five months studying in Wales this year, and I now have a long-distance relationship with a handsome British man. I found that when I was over there, it was easier to use their slang when talking, if I didn't do that I always had to explain what I meant afterwards (especially being a southerner, y'all). Since being back home, I found that old habits die hard.

Maria Ramona said...

i'm from s.f but married someone from the uk and but am careful not to use his brit slang around anyone but him. mainly because it would just sound inauthentic, like a british person saying "dude" (which some of his british friends now living in s.f. have a tendency to do. i cringe internally everytime :)

Chloe said...

How funny! I loved the article and didn't realise so many of those words were unique to us Brits! x

Meandering Design said...

Oh dear, I do this. I don't do it on purpose but I absorb other languages like a sponge. (Written while faffing about.)

Emily said...

Ha ha that's brilliant! As a 'Brit' I am often shocked at the amount of Americanisms we have picked up. I'm really happy it is working both ways. Also you lot really should stop calling trousers pants, it's very strange. ; )

jean goddard said...

Love your gorge boyf!

jo said...

sounds very australian to this Australian, perhaps not the British influence you think but a down under one as well!

Francesca said...

that's so interesting joanna. i feel like we've been talking like americans for a long long time because american pop culture has been in our lives much longer than ours has been in yours. all the kids over here say awesome all the time, which is definitely not british and still sounds a bit odd with an english accent! i love to hear americans say 'lovely'!

kids here are now saying 'amazeballs'. did we get that from you or are you gonna get that from us?! if it's the latter, you can start spreading that one around nyc :-)

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slowdownapproaching30 said...

I read the BBC article and Alex's is a fab addition to the debate. I'm a Brit and love that our Britishisms are spreading to the US. I lived in NYC for a year post "uni" and soon started picking up American words, mostly because if I carried on using the British ones no one understood me! Total social faux pas came up when I asked for a rubber, which I now know is an eraser in the US!

My boss is an American in London and I'm sure he struggles some times, but where as if I said "10 bucks" in the US and thought I sounded cool, if he says "10 quid" I think he sounds like a complete wannabe! All fascinating stuff...

engquist said...

I use them more often than I'd like to admit, but mainly because I live in a former Commonwealth country. For me to find things at the grocery store or get my car fixed, I've had to pick up some of the lingo. It's just how it is (:

rebekah tatlow photography said...

I'm from the north of England, Lancashire to be exact. The thing about 'pants' is in the north it means casual trousers NOT underwear! My boyfriend is a southern boy and down there pants are generally accepted as underwear. Meaning confusion in the early days :) Also 'cheers' isn't said by us instead of thank you, we say thank you, it's just sometimes we say cheers.

Also 'Loo' is quite controversial, if I had ever said loo growing up I'd be scolded, it was the toilet/bathroom. However I believe in the south of england it was what you said instead. Once on holiday in canada where my aunt lived I mentioned I needed the toilet and this time was scolded that it was the restroom! I've stuck with bathroom.

rebekah tatlow photography said...

Oh no!! No one speaks like that anymore, not even the Queen! The phrases on Downton Abbey are nearly a hundred years old. I love Downton Abbey also but the language of the phrases are as foreign to me as a Lancashire girl (Downton set in Yorkshire, next door county) as they are to you!

For a good example of contemporary english language look at Paul Abbotts or Shane Meadows work. Quite a bit different (might be a shock) than Downton Abbey but a real portrayal of modern english language.

rebekah tatlow photography said...

For a good example of contemporary english language look at Paul Abbotts or Shane Meadows work. Quite a bit different (might be a shock) than Downton Abbey but a real portrayal of modern english language.

lovelydiggs said...

Just found your blog while looking for design blogs. I am an Interior Designer and photo stylist for interiors. My blog is Lovely Diggs and I have to say jolly good post. I used to work for some Brits where I designed furniture that they had made across the pond and I totally picked up the Brit Speak.

kika said...

I was just about to say the same thing. I am an American living in Australia and I think the similar language of Australia and Britian emphasizes a strong link between the two countries - one that died long ago between the States and England.

bones said...

As an Australian it's really weird reading this article because it's all part of our vocabulary but so are so many American phrases. When you mix that in with the weird Australian vocabulary we've got going on (like adding an 'o' to everyone's names) it all becomes very confusing. I wonder what Americans think of our cryptic language!

Kim Locsin said...

I have only lived in London for two months but it took me a week to find napkins - a poor chap brought me down the aisle for "womans needs" finally someone told me they are called serviettes....pants are underwear and trousers are pants...therefore never come out of a bathroom/loo stating "ugh, I just got some crap on my pants" - HUGE mistake - and if you have children who want to dress up for Halloween, costumes are called "fancy dress", so do not feel the need to put them in their finest, they should go in their own costume, because we have invaded the holiday Halloween here in London....

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Meryl said...

Hilarious! As long as people don't start referring to delicious food as "gorgeous", I don't mind Britishisms one bit.

DaiseyJayne.com said...

I love "talyho" and work it in as often as possible ;)

reginagiraffe said...

Brits complain about American words invading "proper British English". So when Brits use American words, it's the Americans' fault and when Americans use Brit words... it's the Americans' fault. Uh HUH.

BoMo Blogger said...

Didn't everybody's ?

BoMo Blogger said...

Didn't everybody's ?

Kerry Prochaska said...

I am not sure this is true or not but I recently read (and witnessed) that British think that an American accent is sexy. Anyway I work/lived in the London area for a few months back in the late 80's. I will say from my own experience the when one lives in England, works at a British company, drives in England, shops in England, watches TV in England, talks to all classes of Brits and goes to different dialect areas of the English speaking UK it unavoidable to pick up the rhythm of how the Brits speak as well as many 'Britishisms'. Believe me you aren't going to get a 'wash cloth' at a hotel unless you ask for a flannel. Yes I started to say 'ta', 'cheers', 'loo' (try asking for the bathroom and getting shown the bathing room rather than the toilet), 'queue' (a word I had been using since I got involved with IT anyway), 'tubes', 'boot' and 'bonnet' (I had a Ford Sierra 'estate car' that company let me use during my time there), pronunciations such as 'sh'edule instead of 'sk'edule (we were always talking about the project s'h'edule until I unconsciously started to say it w/o knowing it), and on and. Did I come back w/ a British accent? Sort of. Did I come back with a broader perspective on the world? Definitely yes.

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