Back in April, I did some crowdsourcing, asking readers to vote on future NOOBs entries. The winner was twee, which I dutifully explored. Many of the (now more than 400) comments on my Slate piece last week nominated specific Britishisms for consideration, so I thought another poll was in order.
Following are some of the words most frequently mentioned, plus the runners-up from the previous poll–knackered and prat. Vote for up to three.
11 thoughts on “Make your voice heard!”
What does “switch out” mean? As a BrE speaker I don’t recognise it, at least out of context.
OK, having read the Slate article, if switch out is supposed to mean replace, then it’s not British at all! We’d say swap (a)round. Or swap out if you must. Unless it refers to operating a switch to take some component out of a circuit. Whatever, it’s not exactly an important idiom.
Just as the Brits do when discussing Americanisms, people tend to assume that any expression they find irritating is new and must come from the other side of the Atlantic.
In support of my vote for “prat,” here’s the first line of Maureen Dowd’s review of Roger Ebert’s memoir, “Life Itself,” from the Sept. 25 NY Times Sunday Book Review:
“Roger Ebert could be a cocksure prat.”
Thanks, Nancy–of course, I could probably do a whole blog based on Maureen Dowd’s Britishisms. I think she was an early and heavy user of “kerfuffle.” As for “switch out,” hmmm. I am not familiar with it myself, but I think some people nominated it. I will look back on the comments and try to confirm.
What about “baby bump” ? When I lived in the UK, ’93-95, that was a common expression. I remember thinking it was a little quirky. (American me was used to our pro-life conscious culture referring to the “bump” as a baby, at least publicly). We even got a Christmas card from a family expecting a 2nd child, “John, Sue, Emma and the bump.” If you search that term on Huffington Post alone you get a slew of articles just from 2011. That said, I have never heard any real Americans use the term, just tabloid-ish stuff regarding celebrities. (More influence of British tabloid journos flogging stories in the US?) “Throw” someone “under the bus” was something I often heard in the UK 15 plus years ago. When that started to get popular here (2008 campaign? Suddenly eveyone was using it and talking about it) I seem to remember the media sort of freaking out about it (what’s the significance of this new violent imagery??? What does that mean for politics??? ). That seemed to be just a fad, however, and maybe the sound bite people have moved on to seek more evocative imagery to get people’s attention; I don’t think I hear it so much. “-ish” to make an adjective is something I do hear Americans start to say “How about we come by around 9-ish?” Q “Did you wash that?” A:”It’s clean-Ish” (Full disclosure – that last one was my 7 yr old, whose dad is English, but I’ve heard others use it similarly)
As for the poll, I’m familiar with all those nominated expressions (again, my husband is English), but I don’t think I’ve heard them here, used and adopted by natives (just maybe on PBS imports or BBC America but I don’t think that should count.) I’m glad someone’s keeping track! I came by your blog via Slate; very interesting.
Baby bump and under the bus are Britishisms! Color me gobsmacked.
And that “-ish” thing, at least to refer to time, was a staple of New Yorker-ish short stories and cartoons in the ’50s and ’60s.
I am British and have never heard of “Switch out”, I wonder if you mean “Phase out”?
Judging (as I say) by the comments in the Slate article linked to on the right of this page, what’s meant is when you replace a component in a system by switching (i.e. swapping) it with another.
As for squash, it doesn’t just refer to any old “fruit drink”, it means a kind of sweetened liquid concentrate (not powder, not juice) that you dilute generously with water. Does that even exist in America? If not, it’s irrelevant to this poll.
I feel so proud reading that list *wipes a tear*.
PS – I’m British and don’t know what ‘switch out’ is either.
PPS – May I also suggest ‘Cuppa’ as in a cup of tea.
I remember my mother telling us that “orange squash” was common and we should say “orange juice” (even though squash was all you could get back then). (common = low rent, wrong side of tracks etc)