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Ten Americanisms

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Talli Roland - a Canadian living in the UK - has posted an affectionate list of her ten favourite British words over on her wonderful blog. It's an entertaining read.

As a Brit currently on holiday - sorry vacationing - in the USA, I thought I'd post a list of some Americanisms that have caught my eye by way of a gentle riposte. Some I like a lot; some, I have to say, make me wince. I wonder if you can tell which?

  1. Gas. An obvious one. American for petrol, of course, and petrol is, you know, kind of a liquid at normal temperatures. I know, I know, it's short for gasoline, but even so I find it amusing when the guy asks How much gas do you want? I'm always tempted to hold up my hands and say About this much.
  2. Apparel. Clothes shops (sorry, stores) don't sell clothes, they sell apparel. I guess it sounds a bit grander. Same with saying Entrees and not Starters at restaurants.
  3. Winningest. The team or player who has won the most is sometimes referred to as the winningest. Problem is, I can't actually think of a better word to use instead ...
  4. Rotary. The first time I came across a road sign saying this I thought, briefly, that it was maybe advertising some sort of spit-roast or barbecue or something. Not sure why. Then I realised I'd driven onto a roundabout. They do call them roundabouts too, though.
  5. Restroom. A weirdly elliptical way of saying toilet. Sometimes bathroom too. But I don't want a rest, or a bath, I want ...
  6. Pissed. Much scope for misunderstanding. In America, if you're pissed, you're angry, not drunk.
  7. Thru. Let's face it, actually a much more sensible way of spelling through.
  8. Liberal. Seems to mean dangerously radical in the USA, which will be amusing to anyone British.
  9. Vegetarian. The USA is one of those countries where they can't believe you actually mean it when you say you're a vegetarian. A bit like France. They generally offer you just a bit of chicken or tuna or something to add ...
  10. Live Free or Die. The slogan of New Hampshire, which is where we're staying. New Hampshire is about the most polite and lovely place you can imagine, but it's motto sounds like something from a Hell's Angels chapter ...
I could go on! Any others you like?


    1. Much as I love Talli, this was utterly hilarious and much needed. Thank you!


    2. I was wondering where you were vacationing. N.H. is clearly not anywhere near the great American west where I am. How about cookie for biscuit? And biscuit for...what? In the U.S. a biscuit is a small bread with baking powder as the raising agent instead of yeast, so it's not a roll it's a biscuit.

    3. Jane,

      Thank you! Have a nice day!


      No, a long way from you. Ah, so that's what a biscuit is! I did wonder. It sounds like the whole crisp/chip/french fry confusion ...

    4. I like the American pronunciation of 'herbs'. We pronounce it, well, 'herbs', but they for some reason pronounce it 'erbs'.

      Why is that? It's got an 'h'!

      I prefer their pronounciation of 'oregano', though. Sounds much more exotic :-)

    5. I didn't know all of those.

      I love your comments on restroom but to be fair, in some posher places in the UK they call a loo a cloakroom. And I never seem to have my cloak with me.

    6. Lots of fun here. I think I'd find 'winningest' impossible to say let alone use.

    7. Talli's was a great read.

      I have so many US friends and we are constantly at crossed wires over language. It is very funny. "Pissed" always has us confused - especially when we are drunk and angry!

    8. Talli's Canadian!! :-) I think! But she is fab so we forgive her - LOL!! I'm kidding, I'm kidding - I love Canada!!! Hello Canadian people!!

      Anyway - restrooms - I can't get over restrooms. Winningest is fab.

      Take care

    9. AlphaChick,

      As in oREGano? Yes, I like that too. Apparently that's the proper way of saying it in the UK too?!


      Yes, I always make sure I go out wearing my cloak ...


      The teams I support rarely are the winningest so I'm usually OK. Not heard anyone say "losingest".


      Yes, I can see that would get confusing fast!

      Old Kitty,

      She is? Eek, what a slip! Sorry Talli!

    10. Ha! Glad I've inspired you! :)

      I absolutely love the 'slogan' on New Hampshire's license plate. And apparel? Hmm. I never thought of it as weird but maybe it is!

      Love this post, Simon!

    11. Talli,

      Thanks for the inspiration! Slogan is the wrong word isn't it? Motto?


    I'd love to know what you think.