The Empire Strikes Back (British English influencing US English)
Thread poster: Jack Doughty
| | Jack Doughty
Local time: 22:53
Russian to English
The Daily Telegraph, 17th May 2005
Americans learn how to speak English
Melissa Whitworth on a campaign in New York to educate Americans...
Snog, tickety-boo, chuffed, chinwag. It's no secret that our beloved British slang has Americans flummoxed. There's an impasse as wide as the Atlantic when it comes to understanding our colloquialisms.
'The campaign is about wanting to be in the know in England'
In an effort to help the thousands of American tourists who visit Britain each year, British Airways launched an advertising campaign in New York this month, aimed at deciphering some of our finest expressions for our American buddies.
On billboards and bus shelters across Manhattan, "Brit-speak" can be heard loud and clear. Next to one of the city's busiest roads a huge billboard says: "This traffic is 'bonkers'! In London, 'bonkers' means 'crazy'." On a bus shelter in Greenwich Village a poster reads: "Avoid 'legging it' by taking the bus. In London, 'leg it' means 'to run quickly'."
BA's campaign even includes an online "Brit-speak" dictionary at http://london.ba.com/index.asp?word=know . Amy O'Kane, BA's director of advertising in North America, says: "My husband is from London, and we spent the first few months of our relationship saying 'What?' because we couldn't understand each other. Well, actually, I said 'What?' He said 'Pardon?'.
"The campaign is all about wanting to be in the know when you visit England. You want to get a sense of what real London is like and what it's like to live as a Londoner. The advertisements are about having a sense of humour, too."
But some Americans believe the British already have too much influence on how Americans speak English. Timothy Kenny, an associate professor of journalism at the University of Connecticut, believes British-isms are already infiltrating America, especially in the media.
"You Brits are so posh, so witty," he says. "We Americans swoon when you speak. Even the cash machine in my small Connecticut town has a young woman with very British tones urging me to 'enter my secret number', something we Americans used to call our PIN."
Kenny feels the use of British expressions by the big American newspapers and television news organisations is getting out of hand. "Brit-speak is running amok in America. The use of British expressions has become a cottage industry within the elite, East Coast media."
Americans, he says, are increasingly using phrases they never used to: "send up" is replacing "parody", there's "sacked" instead of "fired", "queuing up" instead of "getting in line" and "at the end of the day" instead of "in the end".
Geoffrey Nunberg, of the department of linguistics at Stanford University, agrees: "We've always had a cultural inferiority complex with regard to the Brits, that they speak correctly and we don't. We even say 'use the Queen's English'. Why should that matter to us?"
But it's in the romantic arena where most problems are caused by Anglo-American misunderstanding. A favourite new British word among young Americans is "snog", though it is often confused with "shag", as popularised in the Austin Powers films. This mix-up, not surprisingly, can lead to all sorts of embarrassment.
So BA has also circulated helpful beer mats around hundreds of bars in New York. If an American bloke fancies his chances of pulling a British bird, he'd better learn some dating lingo. The mats say things such as: "I dare you to chat up the barman. In London, 'chat up' means to hit on someone."
During the first six months of "dating" my American husband, Roger, it often felt as if we needed a translator to make ourselves understood. Now he has proudly assimilated many English words. His five favourites are "kip", "dosh", "lurgy" "blimey" and "roundabout". The latter is called a "traffic circle" in America. Roger thinks it's hilarious.
David Howells, 37, a British photographer based in America, has had plenty of problems making himself understood. "I always call cigarettes fags," he says, "but that word has got me into a lot of trouble over here."
Hopefully, the Americans will learn to love our slang as much as we do. Now we just have to explain why Marmite and HP Sauce are true delicacies, and do something about those darn accents.
[Edited at 2005-05-17 11:00]
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| | Textklick
Local time: 22:53
German to English
| What a wizard wheeze! || May 17, 2005 |
I favor this facilitization to leverage content from our colorful heritage center, thus empowering our cousins with a core competency upgrade that will optimize their linguistic ROI, while minimizing TCO in a global communicational scenario.
| | xxxIanW
Local time: 23:53
German to English
| That reminds me ... || May 17, 2005 |
When I was working in market research, I remember an American colleague who had just completed an internship in London telling me about the "culture shock" he experienced on his first day when one of his colleagues said "Hey, it's lunchtime, let's go and hit a fag" ...
| It's Karmatic! || May 17, 2005 |
Well, after Americans have influenced most other languages it is just fair that they suffer some of it for a while
How would one call that, Englishglish?
| Watch your P's and T's... || May 17, 2005 |
Pants and trousers, that is!