Browsing on Whateverworks at the weekend, I was reading Maureen Holland’s take on American English, and was reminded that this can be far more serious than just knowing the differences between sidewalks and pavements, scones and biscuits or even crisps, chips and fries!. It brought back a long forgotten incident in a bar whilst a student. Our group were arranging a mountaineering trip, and as designated driver I was working out the order to collect people. “So”, I said, turning to the American exchange student sitting to my right “I’ll knock you up at 6:30 then?” Well did this get a reaction! She stood up and promptly slapped me across the face. To say I was angry was an understatement. “What did you do that for”, I shouted, than adding for emphasis “I was only doing you a bloody favour”. This last remark only added napalm to the argument until a mutual friend and climber separated us, and told me the differences between the British phrase for knocking-on-your-door-to-assist-with-a- lift, and the American usage meaning to get one pregnant.
I learned to be careful when speaking to Americans!
So I was delighted to find buried in the blogosphere, a site dedicated to explaining about how British English is now winning over Americans, even if power cuts and power outage’s above are still moot.
“Not one off Britishisms” has been set up and dedicated to spotting the growth of the use of British terms in American English. They find these using Ngrams – phrase usage graphic tools found in books digitised by Google Books and plotted against time. I commend it to you.
The comments following each entry are a diversion and education in themselves, and here you will quickly understand that “excuse me”, and “sorry”, are words which in English English have no sense of apology attached to them.
Here are new Baseball terms such as “ on the wrong foot”, “Dab Hand” to be good at something, “Toff” as in a slightly stupid upper class person like Romney or Prime Minister David Cameron, “Brilliant” as being clever, “Opening hours” rather than plain “Hours”, “Stroke” where Americans would say “slash” or “forward slash”. I was intrigued to see that “to have a pint” as in going out to the pub for a beer, was creeping in to American usage. Just don’t start about the size of a pint whether it’s the 16 fl oz version deriving from a Queen Anne gallon, or the 20 fl oz Imperial pint or you will be there all night.
Copyright David Macadam 2012