Americanisms: irritating invaders of UK English or welcome visitors?

This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 at 6:14 PM

I enjoyed Matthew Engel’s article, ‘Why do some Americanisms irritate people?’ which ran yesterday on the BBC News website’s News Magazine.

Engel says, that while we accept some words from across The Pond, others are more irritating. For instance we use words such as lengthy, reliable, talented, influential, and tremendous without a second thought but they are all US imports.

As he says, “American usages no longer swim to our shores as single spies, as “reliable” and “talented” did. They come in battalions.” And it’s true that some really do grate on British ears!

Engels hates, “the sloppy loss of our own distinctive phraseology through sheer idleness, lack of self-awareness and our attitude of cultural cringe. We encourage the diversity offered by Welsh and Gaelic – even Cornish is making a comeback. But we are letting British English wither.” And I agree with him.

I like the fact that British English evolves – it adds to its richness. And like Engels, I do appreciate the ‘’vigour and vivacity” of some Americanisms. But I find others pointless. Why, for instance, do we need ‘expiration’? What’s wrong with ‘expiry’? And ‘burlarize’? It just sounds wrong. I also loathe the use of ‘event’ as in weather event.

I don’t think such words add any value; they just smack of change for change sake.

Here are some of Matthew Engel’s pet hates with his comments:

“Faze, as in “it doesn’t faze me”

Hospitalize, which really is a vile word

Wrench for spanner

Elevator for lift

Rookies for newcomers, who seem to have flown here via the sports pages.

Guy, less and less the centrepiece of the ancient British festival of 5 November – or, as it will soon be known, 11/5. Now someone of either gender.

And, starting to creep in, such horrors as ouster, the process of firing someone, and outage, meaning a power cut. I always read that as outrage.”

The News Magazine followed the article today with a list of 50 of our least favourite Americanisms

My pet hates, ‘expiration’ and ‘burglarize’ are there. As are ‘season’ rather than series when referring to a TV programme, ‘leverage’, and ‘heads up’.

Are your pet hates on the list?




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Hello. I'm Elaine, I'm a copywriter and this is my blog.

It's mostly about words and writing - things that inspire me, entertain me, and make me smile. Sometimes it's about things that horrify me so much I want to scream and shout!

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