View Full Version : "Britishisms"

21st Jul 2011, 17:44
The journalist Matthew Engel recently broadcast a very amusing talk on "Americanisms" on Radio 4. This has elicited a wide response on the BBC website, with people emailing in the ones that irritate them most.

BBC News - Americanisms: 50 of your most noted examples (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-14201796)

Now I know this is a hardy annual on PPruNe, and has probably been done to death, but what about giving the cousins a chance to get their own back? If you live across the pond, what "Britishisms" if that's the term, irritate you, or maybe just plain mystify you. I suspect that you hear a lot less "British English" than we do "American English" but there must be a few expressions that get up your noses, so let's hear about them.

(That is, unless you could care less ;))

21st Jul 2011, 18:07
It's always a good idea to have a fag and then knock someone up in the morning over here.

21st Jul 2011, 18:17
And then have faggots for your dinner, eh?

21st Jul 2011, 18:21
Apparently the Americans seem to own the language anyway. When I told one of their customs officers that "knackered" is "English for very tired" she seemed quite unimpressed!

21st Jul 2011, 19:00
Apparently the Americans seem to own the language anyway. When I told one of their customs officers that "knackered" is "English for very tired" she seemed quite unimpressed!

She was probably too tired. :p

21st Jul 2011, 20:00
When you are drunk with a bunch of American Hells Angels, DO NOT tell them you are pissed. You may end up in hospital.

21st Jul 2011, 20:33
Sounds like the voice of experience Wholi!

Just be careful where you start poking if a 'Merican woman asks you to get something out of her fanny pack...

None of the above
22nd Jul 2011, 07:42
Not an exhaustive treatise, but of possible interest...

Talking Funny, or: Annoying Britishisms, Sorted (http://voices.washingtonpost.com/commons/2008/12/one_of_the_most_viewed.html)

22nd Jul 2011, 09:50
I have found it easy to disconcert the cousins....when asked by a fellow passenger on a tourist boat in Alaska if I was Australian, I responded with "I've been called worse, but not much". I tried to clarify the situation, given the look of confusion generated by that answer by adding. "I am from the United Kingdom" Result; even more confusion.

Anything less than absolute enthusiasm seems to be regarded with deep suspicion. Walking down the main drag in Jasper, Alberta in a shower, a passing yank pointed to the rainbow that had formed and asked me if I thought it was "awesome" (ghastly overused word).....I said that I thought it was "quite nice", which didn't go down too well, judging by the look of hostility I received.

22nd Jul 2011, 10:09
Very interesting link None of the above - thanks. Some of the Britishisms quoted are indeed very annoying, others I'm ashamed to say I use myself and never give them a thought.

Had a laugh at the guy who's got his mid-West friends using w**kers - hope they know what it means!

22nd Jul 2011, 10:22
Irony ?

message too short so this bit added

22nd Jul 2011, 10:24
An interesting one from the article was a complaint about 'gotten'. It is not actually an Americanism per se in that it was invented there, but it has just dropped out of use in England, being a fairly common word in Wessex in the 15 and 16th centuries.

'Train station' is also an inport from the early railway days in the UK: stations also had a 'train shed' when they had an overall canopy.

I thought you should knock some one up in the morning and then have a fag....

Of course, there's always 'black pudding' and 'white pudding' and 'haslet' as British terms unknown there.

22nd Jul 2011, 10:50
Explaining to the Cousins the categories of "Bollocks"

From "it's a load of old bollocks" through to "the aboslute dogs bollocks":ok:

Though I must say, twas not just the Cousins, many a Fish Head as well:E

G&T ice n slice
22nd Jul 2011, 11:08
It took my Dutch manager years to work out that when his British colleagues responded to his suggestions for improving the business with any sentence containing the word "interesting" (e.g. "well, that's an interesting idea") what was realy being said was "what a lot of old cobblers"

22nd Jul 2011, 12:36
In London I suggested a Canadian work colleague was being daft.

Asked to explain and without a dictionary to hand, I suggested 'whimsically or playfully stupid'.

For the next week I was in HR explaining why I should not be fired for grossly insulting behaviour by suggesting that she was stupid. I received final written warning and requirement to see a trickcyclist...

She received a promotion (now my boss), with a £5000 pay rise when she returned from 1 month off for emotional counselling.

Now I just call her a onanist. She hasn't the wit to refer to a dictionary.

Moral? put your head down, say nothing and die a protracted death. Do not engage in Britishisms at all.

22nd Jul 2011, 13:57
Been away from Blessed Albion for 25 years, firstly worldwide, then Netherlands, now Canada. So:

Canadians think I'm South African.

Americans think I'm Australian.

Australians think I'm American.

Brits think I'm slightly retarded.

And wherever I go I get "you're not from around here!"

22nd Jul 2011, 14:34
From that Washington Post article - Crimbo - definitely :yuk:. Although as referred to in the same piece, I can't stand the American 'happy holidays'. Are they afraid to use the Ch****mas word?

I have also instructed Mrs SSK never to refer to lipstick as 'lippy'

22nd Jul 2011, 14:54
Brief explanation about the game of cricket, for the cousins. :O

You have 2 sides; a team that's in and a team that's out.. two men in the team that's in go out and when one of the men who's in is out; the next man goes in until he's out. When they are all out; the side that's out comes in and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in; the men who are out are trying to get him out; and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out; and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.

That's the wonderful game of cricket. Clear? :E Good. :}

22nd Jul 2011, 15:04
"Now I just call her a onanist. She hasn't the wit to refer to a dictionary."

If they do question it, I always tell them go read the Bible, Genesis 38.

It still goes over most peoples heads.

22nd Jul 2011, 16:01
Don't ever tell an American you're going to produce your torch, when you really mean "flashlight".
They will immediately go for a fire extinguisher, thinking you're an arsonist on the loose.... :suspect:

Sir George Cayley
22nd Jul 2011, 18:00
Ever tried asking a hire car desk for an 'estate car?'


23rd Jul 2011, 01:29
Ever tried asking a hire car desk for an 'estate car?'

No, but I've asked for a four-door at a rental car counter and got funny looks.


23rd Jul 2011, 11:08
I do recall being in a meeting with another Brit and some Muricans. The other Brit was writing up some notes and, having decided a correction was needed, asked me if he could borrow my rubber.

I looked up to see several very startled looking Americans (thinking:- 'what is he doing over there?'; 'they're so poor they've only got one between them?') so I threw him the appropriate object and said "he means eraser".

And there was the time when I mentioned, in an e-mail to an American, that I would be away from my desk for a while because "I'm just popping out for a fag". Again, caused an interesting reaction.

23rd Jul 2011, 11:36
My late mother-in-law (when in her late 70s) was visiting the cousins in San Francisco when she wanted a post-prandial ciggie, went "I could murder a fag". Consternation all round.

23rd Jul 2011, 11:43
.... Can I bum a fag off you?

Once advised an American colleague, who had just failed his accountancy exams, to "keep his pecker up". :\

They're so rude, these Americans ... see smut everywhere. :p



Ancient Observer
23rd Jul 2011, 13:48
In a rather large Corporate, Global CEO (a Brit) says to USA boss (an American) about the project that the USA boss wanted to pursue, "That's interesting".
In Brit speak he meant "You must be off your rocker, do not ever pursue that". The American boss, however, thought the brit was expressing enthusiasm.

In said Corporate, the American ex-pats to the UK found "Cheers" to be the Brits most annoying word. Our worst habit was taking them to CAMRA pubs where they could only buy warm, flat beer.

In one of our many Org changes, we took lots of power and decisions away from the General Managers around the World. The Asians stayed quiet, the Americans fumed, and the Australians loudly complained. Brit CEO responded to outraged managers, "Oh, we are just tilting the balance a little"

23rd Jul 2011, 14:22
Sorry, must just pop outside and suck on a fag, old chap.

El Grifo
23rd Jul 2011, 16:32
La Grifa just loves a little squeeze of the fanny on a morning :}

She sports a fine one even if I say it meself :ok:

None of the above
26th Jul 2011, 09:09
The original article appears to have caused some fluttering in the dovecotes...

Viewpoint: American English is getting on well, thanks. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-14285853)

26th Jul 2011, 09:16
The smutty thing works both ways. Once in Miami, I helped up a girl who'd tripped on the pavement (sidewalk!) as she stood, up she said, 'I just about fell flat on my fanny!'

Cue much sniggering & arf-arfing from us that she could not get at all. Two nations divided by a common language eh?

26th Jul 2011, 11:11
also likely to cause alarm:-

just going out to smoke a fag :E

26th Jul 2011, 13:37
If you want an example of well written English, you could do no better than read anything by John Steinbeck. "The Pearl" is a good starter.

Do keep in mind that he was an American, though. ;)

Sir Winston was half American. The half with the wit, I assume. :oh:

26th Jul 2011, 16:23
Do the Americans object to being called 'luv', 'pet', 'hen' 'darling' at the end of a sentance in the patois of the market trader?

It's Not Working
26th Jul 2011, 16:38
Fairy Liquid is something you can't buy in the States.

Airborne Aircrew
26th Jul 2011, 16:40
Do the Americans object to being called 'luv', 'pet', 'hen' 'darling' at the end of a sentance in the patois of the market trader?

Most are such anglophiles they really don't care what you say as long as you speak...:E

26th Jul 2011, 20:54
The following will display my poor knowledge of English as she is spoke in the mother country.

In my generation, knickers were little boys outside wear until the age of 8 years or so. I think the British name would be knee britches, certainly not underwear.

An American vest (scarcely ever worn these days) might be a waistcoat to you-all. Again, not underwear.

I have never heard an American say whilst.

The term "awesome" is a generational thing ... only used by American persons under 30 years of age and most likely by females.

I once probably really offended an Irish fellow (not bloke) on a train in Italy by asking if he was British (or maybe even English).

The only people in the US who say "zed" for the letter "Z" are radio amateurs. It's "zee" for the rest of us.

It is my impression that you Brits are in the process of adopting many of the American names for parts of cars.

I suppose we both use the Ffrench names for many aeronautical things. Shall we work on the aileron in the hangar?

Gertrude the Wombat
26th Jul 2011, 21:02
Our worst habit was taking them to CAMRA pubs where they could only buy warm, flat beer.
And curry houses, when they ask for typical English food.

tony draper
26th Jul 2011, 21:04
According to Bryson a lot of words phrases widely regarded as Americanisms are nothing of the sort, they were exported there with immigrants in the seventeenth century,fell into disuse in England continued on in the Americas and are now being re introduced back here.
Fall for Autumn being the obvious example

Gertrude the Wombat
26th Jul 2011, 21:06
I once probably really offended an Irish fellow (not bloke) on a train in Italy by asking if he was British (or maybe even English).
One time girlfriend of mine was travelling in the USA, hitchhiking IIRC.

An American asked: "You English?"

"No," she said, "I'm from Scotland".

Very puzzled look. "Well, you speak very good English then."

To this day neither of us knows whether said American

(1) not having heard of Scotland, hadn't a clue that the first language of most people from Scotland was English, or

(2) knew this perfectly well, and was congratulating her on not having an incomprehensible Glasgow accent.

Airborne Aircrew
26th Jul 2011, 21:26

Logically it would be 2. Were she talking some exotic Glaswegian dialect he would not have recognized it as English.

26th Jul 2011, 21:47

Indeed, only the other day, Mr Jim Sheridan, MP (Paisley and North Renfrewshire), member of the commons culture committee, and scourge of the Murdochs, was being interviewed by CNN. One gathers his replies needed subtitles.

26th Jul 2011, 21:51
In Britain, pedestrians walk on the pavement (and selfish arrogant cyclists use it.)

In the US, pedestrians walk on the sidewalk and I'm told that cars use the pavement.

Krystal n chips
27th Jul 2011, 05:30
Some time ago.....at Karup....CH 53 land ands disgorges America's finest in PR mode...then comes the er, confusion. American pilot compliments us on speaking "real good English"....dryly informed that this is possibly because we, erm, are.

American unable to understand as to why RAF Brits are at a Danish AF base however...:p

Actually, American tech. English is much better in many respects....left / right start levers ./ thrust levers....rather than port / stbd LP / HP cocks etc, ad Empire....:E

As for the "luv / pet et" titles, fine...it's being called "duck" that really irritates and would probably upset a Yank as well..... along with the now inevitable phrases "happening any time soon"...and "not on my watch"....

27th Jul 2011, 09:33
Krystal n chips

Luv a duck, me ole china, you makes I larf:ooh:

P.S. Born within the sound of Bow Bells and who gives a toss as to what upsets a Yank.

27th Jul 2011, 09:49
Thought 'Duck' was confined to within the city ramparts of Nottingham. Only place I've ever heard it anyway. Maybe Leicester too, but who's counting?

27th Jul 2011, 09:50
I read an American news report this morning (on an aviation-related topic) which included the fine old English word ‘scofflaw’ – one who wilfully disregards the law. I was very impressed. They’re not all philistines.

27th Jul 2011, 10:26
Actually, American tech. English is much better in many respects....left / right start levers ./ thrust levers....rather than port / stbd LP / HP cocks etc,

Coasting out over the South of France one fine day.

Co-Pilot - "what's that large town down there?"
Self - checking on map "port side?"
Captain (quick as a flash) - "must have a hell of a tailwind then!"

27th Jul 2011, 10:40
Also commonly heard down the West Country as in: "All right, my Duck, that be all right then".

27th Jul 2011, 15:12
Captain (quick as a flash)

We are getting slightly off thread but this was over the States. You will be pleased to hear Tankertrashnav that it is not only us demi-gods ;) that could be quick off the mark.

Running down the Eastern Seaboard, LHR - Andrews AFB. Cleared direct after crossing the pond. A little late with the PM on board. I asked to increase to 0.92. A voice from nowhere drawled, 'Gee wa kinda aircraft doas desimal naan too' My nav, 'quick as a flash', said, 'a very late VC10 old boy' :ok:

We made it onto the red carpet smack on time, again, thanks to the nav!

27th Jul 2011, 16:19
Parapunter, as a (n ex-) denizen of Nottinghamshire the 'Duck' designation also applied to the North of the county, not just within the city walls. i was born in Mansfield and my mother called me 'Duck' to her dying day.

Krystal n chips
27th Jul 2011, 18:34
The "duck" address is common across a broad area of the East Mids, inc Staffs and Lincs...not ventured very far in the UK then Para ? ...:p

27th Jul 2011, 18:39
In my line of business I go all over Krystal, but scurry home from the north fastest. It's usually piss wet, freezing & grim.

27th Jul 2011, 18:53
....re mutual misunderstandings.
Thrusting young Nimrod captain heaving the beast around towards a radar contact "See it co??"
"Aye aye skippper it's RED 35"
"FFS co, use the clock code"
"Three bells in the forenoon watch, capt'n" (or some suitable nautical equivalent)
Cue steam emerging from captain's ears in large quantities and lots of expletives.

Said co posts in here as oxenos (no, I can't decode it either and that was my job!!)
Said captain was heard on R4 the other day talking about Cornish mining history and miner's folksongs. Small world, innit?

The Ancient Mariner

27th Jul 2011, 20:04
One day at Terminal 4, Heathrow, Moley (in his later guise as an Immigration Officer) looked up from his desk to see an American in a T shirt which bore the words "Merchant Banker".....of course, this was his profession and he was proud of it.

Moley: "Have you ever heard of Cockney rhyming slang?"

The rest you can imagine......

27th Jul 2011, 22:30
'a very late VC10 old boy' http://images.ibsrv.net/ibsrv/res/src:www.pprune.org/get/images/smilies/thumbs.gif

Nice one, exascot :ok:

Talking about "me duck" etc, as a portly balding old gent it is encouraging to be addressed as "my handsome" (pronounced "my 'anzum") here in Cornwall, but I am realistic enough to know it has nothing to do with my appearance :( About the same as "bonny lad" in Drapes' neck of the woods.

28th Jul 2011, 08:33
As regards the use of "Duck": On Teesside the common name used by ladies such as shop assistants and bus conductresses in addressing their customers was "Chuck". Barmaids generally stuck to the more formal "Dear" or "Luv". Except in The Brown Jug.

I have been addressed as "Sweetheart" by the lady in the newsagents, but I think she may have fancied me. :O

28th Jul 2011, 10:46
Early morning supermarket shopping in Connecticut one time, jet lagged as hell having flown in the night before, I asked the supermarket trolley chap to put my stuff in the boot....

Confused chap.

Earlier to that I asked in the grocer's section for salad rocket, spring onions, aubergine and courgettes...

Confused chap.

At the end of a party in New Yawk asked an acquaintance for a lift home....

Confused chap.

During the 'ride' we were talking about cat's eyes and whether we needed some more petrol...

Confused chap. (Bott's Dots?!) :ooh:

Once I got home I asked him just to drop me off at the pavement....

Confused chap.

I asked my flatmate to pass me the tea towel and to cling film the supper leftover grub....

Confused chap.

I asked the hairdresser to trim my fringe....

Confused chap.

28th Jul 2011, 13:19
When the family first moved to Richmond, Virginia, someone offered to carry me somewhere. It seemed implausible. The offer was to give me a lift in their car. That seems to be a Southernism.

28th Jul 2011, 15:20
I asked the hairdresser to trim my fringe....Cough! Splutter! New keyboard please... :)