Wednesday, July 20, 2011


The BBC News Magazine recently published a piece on Americanisms and then posted UK readers’ comments online. Some I’d never thought of as American, others I abhor as much as anyone in the UK. Here are a few I found interesting.
When people ask for something, I often hear: "Can I get a..." It infuriates me. It's not New York. It's not the 90s. You're not in Central Perk with the rest of the Friends. Really." Steve, Rossendale, Lancashire
LBH: Not sure why this is offensive. I understand that “May I have” is grammatically correct, but infuriating?

The phrase I've watched seep into the language (especially with broadcasters) is "two-time" and "three-time". Have the words double, triple etc, been totally lost? Grammatically it makes no sense, and is even worse when spoken. My pulse rises every time I hear or see it. Which is not healthy as it's almost every day now. Argh! D Rochelle, Bath

Train station. My teeth are on edge every time I hear it. Who started it? Have they been punished? Chris Capewell, Queens Park, London
LBH: Gee, and what should it be called? I spend a lot of time in England and with English friends and I had no idea the expression was wrong…nor do I know what is “correct”!

Take-out rather than takeaway! Simon Ball, Worcester

I'm a Brit living in New York. The one that always gets me is the American need to use the word bi-weekly when fortnightly would suffice just fine. Ami Grewal, New York
LBH: We don’t say fortnight in any context, Ami. In fact, I doubt most Americans can tell you what a fortnight is. We consider it archaic. Welcome to the New World.

The most annoying Americanism is "a million and a half" when it is clearly one and a half million! A million and a half is 1,000,000.5 where one and a half million is 1,500,000. Gordon Brown, Coventry
LBH: Point taken. Blame the press.

My favourite one was where Americans claimed their family were "Scotch-Irish". This of course it totally inaccurate, as even if it were possible, it would be "Scots" not "Scotch", which as I pointed out is a drink. James, Somerset
LBH: I’ll admit, this one irritates me, too. A lot.

Surely the most irritating is: "You do the Math." Math? It's MATHS. Michael Zealey, London
LBH: Yeah, yeah. You say maths short for mathematics with an s, we shorten it to math. Let’s agree to disagree on abbreviations.

"Reach out to" when the correct word is "ask". For example: "I will reach out to Kevin and let you know if that timing is convenient". Reach out? Is Kevin stuck in quicksand? Is he teetering on the edge of a cliff? Can't we just ask him? Nerina, London
LBH: YES!!! I hate this expression sooooooo much I want to lash out viciously at anyone who uses it. It doesn’t sound friendly and sure as hell doesn’t sound professional. It sounds stupid. Whoever started it should be punished. Oops. I guess I understand these Brits’ pet peeves better than I thought.  

Are there any expressions, word usages, or grammatical atrocities that make you crazy?


Jennifer McAndrews said...

love it! I'm in total agreement with you on "reach out to...". Makes my skin crawl. (and, yeah, I'd like to know what else I'm supposed to call the train station, too.)

Lark Howard said...

Think if figured out that a train station is called a railway station as opposed to an underground station.