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Americanisms: 50 of your most noted examples

The Magazine's recent piece on Americanisms entering the language in the UK prompted thousands of you to e-mail examples. Some are useful, while some seem truly unnecessary, argued Matthew Engel in the article. Here are 50 of the most e-mailed. 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 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 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 4. Using 24/7 rather than "24 hours, 7 days a week" or even just plain "all day, every day". Simon Ball, Worcester 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 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 7. "It is what it is". Pity us. Michael Knapp, Chicago, US 8. Dare I even mention the fanny pack? Lisa, Red Deer, Canada 9. "Touch base" - it makes me cringe no end. Chris, UK 10. Is "physicality" a real word? Curtis, US 11. Transportation. What's wrong with transport? Greg Porter, Hercules, CA, US 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

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 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 15. What kind of word is "gotten"? It makes me shudder. Julie Marrs, Warrington 16. "I'm good" for "I'm well". That'll do for a start. Mike, Bridgend, Wales 17. "Bangs" for a fringe of the hair. Philip Hall, Nottingham 18. Take-out rather than takeaway! Simon Ball, Worcester 19. I enjoy Americanisms. I suspect even some Americans use them in a tongue-incheek manner? "That statement was the height of ridiculosity". Bob, Edinburgh 20. "A half hour" instead of "half an hour". EJB, Devon 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 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 23. To put a list into alphabetical order is to "alphabetize it" - horrid! Chris Fackrell, York 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 25. "Normalcy" instead of "normality" really irritates me. Tom Gabbutt, Huddersfield 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 27. "Oftentimes" just makes me shiver with annoyance. Fortunately I've not noticed it over here yet. John, London 28. Eaterie. To use a prevalent phrase, oh my gaad! Alastair, Maidstone (now in Athens, Ohio) 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

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 31. "Hike" a price. Does that mean people who do that are hikers? No, hikers are ramblers! M Holloway, Accrington 32. Going forward? If I do I shall collide with my keyboard. Ric Allen, Matlock 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 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 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 36. Surely the most irritating is: "You do the Math." Math? It's MATHS. Michael Zealey, London 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 38. My worst horror is expiration, as in "expiration date". Whatever happened to expiry? Christina Vakomies, London 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 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 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 42. Period instead of full stop. Stuart Oliver, Sunderland 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 44. My brother now uses the term "season" for a TV series. Hideous. D Henderson, Edinburgh

45. Having an "issue" instead of a "problem". John, Leicester 46. I hear more and more people pronouncing the letter Z as "zee". Not happy about it! Ross, London 47. To "medal" instead of to win a medal. Sets my teeth on edge with a vengeance. Helen, Martock, Somerset 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 49. "Turn that off already". Oh dear. Darren, Munich 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

A US reader writes...
JP Spore believes there is nothing wrong with English evolving Languages are, by their very nature, shifting, malleable things that morph according to the needs and desires of those who speak them. Mr Engel suggests that British English should be preserved, but it seems to me this both lacks a historical perspective of the language, as well as an ignorance of why it is happening. English itself is a rather complicated, interesting blend of Germanic, French and Latin (among other things). It has arrived at this point through the long and torturous process of assimilation and modification. The story of the English language is the story of an unstoppable train of consecutive changes - and for someone to put their hand up and say "wait - the train stops here and should go no further" is not only futile, but ludicrously arbitrary. Why here? Why not stop it 20 years ago? Or 20 years hence? If we're going to just set an arbitrary limit on language change, why not choose the year 1066 AD? The Saxons had some cool words, right? Mr Engel - and all language Luddites on both sides of the Atlantic, including more than a few here in the States - really need to get over it when their countrymen find more value in non-native words than in their native lexicon. I understand the argument about loss of cultural identity, but if so many people are so willing to give up traditional forms and phrases maybe we should consider that they didn't have as much value as we previously imagined.

A US reader writes...
Melanie Johnson - MA student in Applied Linguistics, now in the UK

The idea that there once existed a "pure" form of English is simply untrue. The English spoken in the UK today has been influenced by a number of languages, including Dutch, French and German. Speakers from the time of William the Conqueror would not recognise what we speak in Britain as English. This is because language variation shifts are constantly changing. Five years ago you might have found it odd if someone asked you to "friend" them, but today many of us know this means to add them on Facebook. The increased use of technology, in combination with the rise of a globalised society, means language changes are happening faster than ever, especially in places with highly diverse populations like London. Young people are usually at the vanguard of this, so it's no surprise to find London teenagers increasingly speaking what's been termed "multicultural ethnic English". Changes in word use are normal and not unique to any language. But English does enjoy a privileged status as the world's lingua franca. That began with the British, but has been maintained by the Americans. It's difficult to predict how English will next evolve, but the one certainty is it will.

touch base (with someone) to talk to someone; to confer with someone briefly. I need to touch base with John on this matter. John and I touched base on this question yesterday, and we are in agreement. touch base to talk to someone in order to find out how they are or what they think about something (usually + with ) I had a really good time in Paris. I touched base with some old friends and made a few new ones.

oftentimes ( f n-t mz , f t n-, f n-, f t n-) also ofttimes (f t mz , f -) adv. Frequently; repeatedly.

Principal Translations heads-up n US, informal (warning or notice of sth) aviso nm Just a quick heads-up: the boss is coming over later. Is something important missing? Report an error or suggest an improvement. WordReference English-Spanish Dictionary 2013: Compound Forms: slang, figurative (inform or give sb a heads-up v warn sb)

poner sobre aviso loc verb advertirle (a alguien sobre algo que puede suceder) informar a alguien de antemano loc verb

heads up n

US, slang (helpful pointer, dato, aviso nm notice) I just wanted to give you a heads up that your favorite store is having a big sale this week. Harry le pas el dato a Cedric: la primera prueba es con dragones y Cedric le pas el dato a Harry: el huevo tienes que abrirlo bajo el agua. fam noticin nm Te has enterado del noticin? Eva est preada!

Is something important missing? Report an error or suggest an improvement. 'heads-up' found in these entries Spanish: toque de atencin

30 of your Britishisms used by Americans

The Magazine's recent article about the Britishisation of American English prompted readers to respond with examples of their own - here are 30 British words and phrases that you've noticed being used in the US and Canada. Autumn, n. The season between summer and winter. "'Autumn' is being used a lot more now instead of 'fall'." Alan, New York, US Bloody, adj. and adv. An intensifier: absolute, downright, utter. Sometimes in a negative sense. "There have been several instances where I've heard the term 'bloody' in regular conversation. I understand the urge to say it in certain situations, but I react with a jolt when I hear it. It just seems so... indecent. The use of 'bloody', in my view, is iconically British. When Americans try to use it, I think they're trying to sound like Michael Caine. I feel it's a deliberate contrivance to associate themselves with some perceived prestige in sounding British. Some Americans think that by saying 'bloody' everybody will assume that they have four more IQ points than everyone else. It's understandable. And completely true." Marshall McCorcle, Dallas, Texas, US Bum, n. The buttocks or posteriors (slang). "I have seen an increasing use of 'bum' for a person's backside here, both from local friends and from Americans on the web. While I am still perfectly fine with sitting on my butt, everyone else is getting all fancy talking about their bums." Jim Boyd, Des Moines, Iowa, US Chav, n. Pejorative term to express young person who displays loutish behaviour, sometimes with connotations of low social status. "The word 'chav' is starting to catch on in the US, thanks to YouTube videos. I overheard someone say, 'Nah I'm not buying those sneakers man, they are so chavvy' at a sports retailer." Jeff Bagshaw, US "Chav is becoming rather noticeable as a few Americans understand that not 'all British people are posh'. Boston/Cambridge is rife with international college students, so it may just be a blip, but I've heard it in a suburban grocery store in reference to some hooligans outside the store." Elaine Ashton, Lexington, Massachusetts, US Cheeky, adj. Insolent or audacious in address; coolly impudent or presuming. "I have loved using the word cheeky for about 10 years now." Daniel Greene, Phoenix, Arizona, US "Sometimes the British expression just says it better. I particularly like 'cheeky monkey'." G Griffin, Wethersfield, Connecticut, US Cheers, sentence substitute. A drinking toast, goodbye, or thanks. "I am hearing people say goodbye to each other with the British 'cheers'. Since I have always had a fondness for the Brits and things British, I enjoy hearing it instead of the worn out 'later' or 'see ya

later'. Like it or not, the Yanks and the Brits are cousins, and that's that. Cheers!" Paul Phillips, Marblehead, US "Use of the word 'cheers' in place of 'thank you' is on the rise, perhaps among young people who have spent time with British people." Roddy McCalley, Joshua Tree, California, US Fancy, v. With reference to fondness or liking. "Our US friends really enjoyed fancied, as in 'she fancied him', and an item, as in 'are you two an item?'." David Fryer, Muscat, Oman "Fancy, as in I really fancy a pint." Paul W, New York City, US Flat, n. An apartment on one floor of a building. "Just as British people are increasingly calling (particularly posh) flats 'apartments', my American friends report that property developers are now selling 'flats' in order to make them sound grander than they are." Beth, London Frock, n. A girl's or woman's dress. "Until very recently, 'frock' only appeared in North America in British books. I first read it in the Narnia series. No-one ever said it, and noone ever used it in print. No-one outside of readers of British literature would even have known what it meant. Now I see it in print media about fashion all the time. This just started happening in perhaps the past five years, certainly no more than 10 years." Lee Boal, Toronto, Ontario, Canada Gap year, n. A year's break taken by a student between leaving school and starting further education. "We didn't do gap years much until recently, so we didn't have our own term for it other than 'year off'. The point of language is to communicate. If a new word or term fills a - sorry - gap, then it doesn't matter where it's from." Alden O'Brien, Washington DC, US Gobsmacked, adj. flabbergasted: struck dumb with awe or amazement. "I left the UK for the US more than 40 years ago. I first heard the word 'gobsmacked' about 10 years ago while visiting the UK. Perhaps because of the popularity of the programme Top Gear in the US, I now hear this used in the US." Duncan Connall, Rhode Island, US "I heard President Obama use the word 'gobsmacked'. How's that for a Britishism?" Stuart Hamilton, North Vancouver, Canada Holiday, n. A period in which a break is taken from work or studies for rest, travel, or recreation. "As a child I read Enid Blyton, and as an adult I was pleased to notice, at least in advertising, the use of the word 'holiday' to replace the less preferable, in my opinion, 'vacation'." Vicki Siska, Fort Collins, Colorado, US Innit, adv. A contraction of isn't it? Used to invite agreement with a statement. "I can't stop saying 'innit' - it's the perfect sort of ('sort of' in this usage is also a popular Britishism) ending to an informal declarative statement." Carolyn, Las Vegas, US Kit, n. A collection of personal effects or necessities. "I've noticed the adoption of the British term 'kit' for what athletes wear, in the place of what we Americans would

generally call a 'uniform' or 'gear'. I notice it among those who follow tennis closely. People will refer to a player's 'kit', which often changes several times a year depending on the surface." Ana Mitric, Richmond, Virginia, US Knickers, n. An undergarment for women covering the lower trunk and sometimes the thighs and having separate legs or leg-holes. "My American friend just recently said 'I got my knickers in quite a twist'. I was amazed she didn't say 'panties'." Nadine, Seattle, Washington, US Loo, n. An informal word for lavatory. "Many of my friends now call the restroom 'the loo', although they haven't converted to saying 'loo-roll' - it's still toilet paper. Funny, since most of us won't say 'toilet' for the American 'bathroom'." Heather Revanna, Colorado, US Mate, n. A friend, usually of the same sex: often used between males in direct address. "It seems that Yanks enjoy English swear words but I don't believe British people are using typical Americanisms. I've never heard a Englishman say 'dude' but I am hearing Americans say 'mate'. I also don't believe British people are so overtly conscious of foreign influence as much as Americans care to be, especially in the Midwest." Paul Knight-Kirby, Rockford, Illinois, US Mobile, n. Short for mobile phone; a portable telephone that works by means of a cellular radio system ('cellphone' or 'cell' in standard American English). "I think the use of 'mobile' is a consequence of more international travel and wanting to be understood. I use mobile while elsewhere and it is creeping into my US-based language as well." Stuart Friedman, Middlesex, Vermont, US Muppet, n. A stupid person; from the name for the puppets used in the TV programme The Muppet Show. "I am a Brit living in Idaho. One of the biggest Britishisms I see, and have helped perpetuate, is the term 'muppets' to refer to brainless individuals. I love this term as it conjures images of the loveable Muppets but in reference to a person it definitely conveys a lack of intelligence or substandard education. In this state there are plenty of 'muppets'." George Hemmings, Idaho, US Numpty, n. A stupid person. "I have heard 'numpty' many times in the last few years. I get the impression that our American interpretation is more good-natured than it might be in the UK. It's used when calling a friend a numpty when he does or says something silly. Perhaps this is because there is a 'cuteness' to the pronunciation of the word." Jeffrey Timmons, Mayville, Wisconsin, US Pop over, v. Come by for a visit. "Recently, I've heard the phrase 'pop over' used by several different people. ('Why don't I just pop over and pick them up?')." Susan Moore, Indio, California, US Proper, adj. Appropriate or suited for some purpose. "I picked up the British use of 'proper' (as in 'a proper breakfast') while completing graduate work at Oxford in the mid-2000s. I hadn't realised just how prevalent it was in my own speech until a coworker asked me this year if it was a North Dakota thing, as that is the state where I grew up. It's definitely not a North Dakota thing." Jacquelyn Bengfort, Washington, DC, US

Queue, n. and v. A line of people, vehicles, etc, waiting for something. "In the 'queue'. More online forms and automated voice responses to banking transactions say 'queue' instead of 'line'. I'm guessing that it makes more sense to use it because people aren't actually standing in a line if they're on the phone." Guy Hait, Chesterfield, Michigan, US "When I was in New York and waiting with an American friend to get into a bar, I called it a queue. She told me that in the US it was called a line. However, she commented that 'queue' was becoming more common because of the use of the term 'printer queue' in computing." David, Worcester Roundabout, n. A road junction in which traffic streams circulate around a central island. "'Roundabout' is the official word used to describe the traffic circle that was recently completed in our rather small city. Many feel that this sounds pretentious. I am originally from California where we used the term 'traffic circle'." Beth, Bartlesville, Oklahoma, US Row, n. and v. A noisy or violent argument, a quarrel with someone. "My husband and I often use the word 'row', most likely because we've heard it so often on public television. We think of it as a very common word among the Brits (like 'bloody') and we both assumed that most other people would recognise both the word and its meaning. Recently, my husband (who is very Southern and not bookish at all) used 'row' in a conversation with a buddy, only to learn that the friend had never even heard the word. We were astonished." Catherine Graves, Georgia, US Shag, v. To copulate with. "You guys missed the best one. 'Shag' is such a brilliant word and Brits cringe because of the vulgarity of it, while Americans don't realise exactly how rude it is and run around saying it like a toddler repeating Daddy's accidental swear word slip. I love it when you guys cringe over us picking up your words." Leona, Oxford "Thanks to Austin Powers, many Americans are familiar with the word 'shag', but don't seem to realise how truly coarse it is. It's used in polite society, and used to shock me, but now I accept the fact that usage differs in UK/US." Linda Michelini, Port Orange, Florida, US Skint, adj. Penniless, broke. "To hear terms like 'skint' for being broke, 'agony aunt' for opinion columnists, or 'yobbo' for upstart children has surprised me. Such words would never have been heard in this part of the world until only two or three years ago. There are only minor UK and Irish ex-pat communities over here, so to have this sudden and growing use of Britishisms is a linguist's delight." Anthony Hughes, Omaha, US Sussed, v. To work or figure out; to investigate, to discover the truth about (a person or thing). "My favourite Britishism has to be 'sussed' - 'I finally sussed out what he was talking about', 'leave them alone, they'll suss it out on their own'. I use it a lot and I always seem to have to explain it to people, then a few days on, I'll hear them using it and explaining it. It's a word/phrase that gets used often in my close circle of friends now." Bonnie Lee, Portland, Oregon, US

Twit, n. A fool; a stupid or ineffectual person. "It seems to me the word 'twit' - a Britishism heard on Monty Python - is being used more frequently here in the US." Rachel Newstead, Appleton, Wisconsin, US Wonky, adj. Shaky or unsteady. "Some Britishisms that I have used include 'wonky', 'bung', and 'snarky'. They're fun, innit? It's hard for me to notice hearing these words in the US, because I talk to so many Brits online, so they sound normal now." Anne E, Pittsburgh, US Definitions from the Oxford English and Collins Dictionaries.