- Over the last decade or so, an alarming number of traditionally British expressions have found their way into the American vocabulary. This page offers a growing list of Britishisms that have been widely adopted in the U.S.–that is, they are not “one-offs.” Each entry offers a definition/American equivalent, followed by quotes representing the first and most recent American usages I’ve found.
- Some entries include a link to a Google Ngram. This is a nifty tool that allows you to search for the frequency with which a word or phrase was used year to year. The link provided here compares the use of the Britishism and the traditional U.S. equivalent in the “American English” corpus between 1990 and 2008, with a “smoothing” level of 0. (Don’t ask.) In some cases–e.g., advert, bits–Ngram data is not applicable because the word or phrase can be used in two or more different ways.
- For each entry, readers are ask to vote on their opinion of the Britishism in an American context. By “over the top,” I mean that the word or phrase (still) comes off as mannered or affected. In my humble opinion, the key factor in this is whether there’s an equally good American equivalent.Thus, we already have the perfectly fine words “ad,” “advertisement” and “commercial,” so there is no excuse for “advert.” Same with “fire”/”sack” and “on vacation”/”on holiday.” On the other hand, we don’t have an expression that succinctly expresses the meaning “run-up” does. So if you use it, good on ya, mate. (At some point, I am going to have to start a blog about not one-off Australianisms!)
- Cheers!–Ben Yagoda (Please follow me on Twitter @byagoda)
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