The BBC’s online article about not one-off Britishisms asked readers to send in their favorite examples, and the results of that exercise have now been published. Going through the list, I see I have already weighed in on quite a few of the nominated terms: bloody, bum (meaning buttocks), cheeky, cheers, fancy (verb), gobsmacked, holiday (meaning vacation), kit, loo, mate, mobile (as in “call me on my mobile”), proper, queue, roundabout, and suss out. (My God, I have been doing this for a long time.)
A few of the others are indeed common in American English, but I’m highly doubtful that they can be called Britishisms: autumn, an item (meaning a romantic couple), and frock (meaning a girl’s or woman’s dress). One reader suggests pop over, meaning to come by for a visit; am I nuts, or have Americans been saying that for decades? Knickers is used here exclusively in the expression knickers in a twist, never as an actual term for a woman’s undergarment. I have actually been working on a post about wonky, which, like snarky, has taken on a decidedly different meaning in the U.S. than it originally had in the U.K.
Here are the remaining terms (definitions are from the BBC post)
- Chav, n. Pejorative term to express young person who displays loutish behaviour, sometimes with connotations of low social status.
- Flat, n. An apartment on one floor of a building.
- Gap year, n. A year’s break taken by a student between leaving school and starting further education.
- Innit, adv. A contraction of isn’t it? Used to invite agreement with a statement.
- Muppet, n. A stupid person; from the name for the puppets used in the TV programme The Muppet Show.
- Numpty, n. A stupid person.
- Row, n. and v. A noisy or violent argument, a quarrel with someone.
- Shag, v. To copulate with.
- Skint, adj. Penniless, broke.
- Twit, n. A fool; a stupid or ineffectual person.
Bringing back a favorite feature from NOOB’s past (I’m talking to you, Hal Hall), I ask readers to vote on up to three of these expressions that they feel have actually taken hold in the U.S. It’s a free world out there, but I would ask those of you from the U.K, Oz, Canada, etc., not to vote, unless you’ve been observing American usage. I’ll announce the results tomorrow and get to work on posting about the winners.