My word for the many, many (, many) comments that have come in since BBC.com featured NOOBs in Cordelia Hebblethwaite’s excellent piece about Britishisms in American English. I have to approve them all before they’re posted, and they are so generally clever and well-written that I don’t want to rush the process–that it, I read them all and comment on some. I’m only about halfway through, the redundancy (not in the British sense) is my fault, not the commenters’.

26 thoughts on ““Brilliant”

  1. Great piece, Ben. You need to come to New Jersey, though, to get the full teenage glottal which certainly pre-dates any NOOBicity,

  2. I’m British. I rmemeber when I went on holiday to Canada and Alaska everybody loved it when we said ‘brilliant’ to mean ‘good’, they thought it was so over the top!

  3. Linked from the Beeb myself, I doff my cap to you sir, the intricacies of language have always fascinated me and I have found your blog also provides incite into American English and culture that I am certain were not the original function of this blog.

  4. Have just thought of another Britishism now being used more in North America … “breast feeding” (a.k.a. “nursing” a baby). When home in Canada earlier this year I heard a number of people describe it this way and today I read a post by an American who also used the Brit term.

      1. “Breastfeeding” is perfectly acceptable in the UK. Either your hosts were being over-sensitive or, perhaps, they were bottle feeding the infant and were embarrassed to admit that they did not subscribe to “Breast is Best”.

  5. You make the mistake of not distinguishing between spoken and written language, and thus relying on nGrams and quotes, mostly from pretentious writers. I’ve never heard an American English speaker use the words “argy-bargy,” “arse,” “a proper,” “advert,” “amongst,” or “athletics.”

    Which kind of makes your site useless.

    1. If you bothered to read the blog you would note that, when making comparisons, he compares like for like usages of the word e.g. the incidences of a given word in *written* British English versus the incidences of the same word in *written* American English; thereby comparing the usage of words by the “pretentious writers” you mentioned on *both* sides of the pond. Instead you decided to post a snide comment.

  6. Ben – Thank you for alerting me to the article in the BBC News Magazine online. I’ve just read it, and left this comment:

    I’ve been participating in (following and commenting on) [Ben] Yagoda’s blog since the beginning of the year. Plus, I occasionally send him leads on candidate terms. I would make but two points here.
    1. As an old person, I’m sometimes at odds with views expressed, both by Ben and by presumably-younger commenters. Example: I’ve been using “fortnight,” now purportedly out of vogue, for half a century, having learned it in school. But one is never too old to learn. I have commenters on Ben’s blog to thank for introducing me to “sennight”.
    2. I watch a lot of British programmes on American television (PBS and BBC America), and I can say with confidence that, whatever our vocabulary differences, neither of us has a monopoly on bad grammar. I refer specifically to my pet language peeve, the nearly universal swapping of subjective and objective pronouns, “I” and “me” in particular. (The TV exception would be historical dramas.) I wonder if and how Ben will address this in his forthcoming book, for which I have you to thank for my awareness.

  7. “Brilliant” is the only one I can use (Boston) without raising too many eyebrows. But I live in a pretty much working class area where people don’t know who Dr Who is. These Britishisms are NOT gaining ground here, not even “shag” or “snog” or “twit”.

  8. Found your site thanks to the Beeb.I’ve been looking for something like it ever since I went on the Net. It must be very well hidden!.
    We Brits get very miffed at the seemingly endless flow of Americanisms across the Atlantic. (No surprise there then!). If nothing else, your site shows it is not entirely a one-way traffic. In the interests of good Anglo-American relations I suggest you employ a good advertising agency! 🙂
    All the best, T.K.

  9. I read over the BBC’s writ … and they’re wrong. I expect better research from the BBC than this. “To book” meaning “to reserve” is not a Britishism. It’s common thruout the US.

    Anent the four “Britishisms” that they cite noting ngrams for proof. One only need to switch the tab to British English to liken them to one another. Then one sees that:
    1. Ginger (red hair) … shows up in both AmEn and BrEn about the same time way back near 1860. Hardly a Britishism.
    2.”Sell-by date” shows up 10 years earlier in Am. English
    3. To “go missing” shows up in American English about 30 years BEFORE it does in Britspeak.
    4. “Chat up” doesn’t even show up on the ngrams under British English.

    1. I suspected a little research would turn up something like what you have found.(I commented on “sell-by date” myself.) Still, the subject of current British usages beginning to show up (anew, maybe) in the US is interesting.

  10. I’m curious about something. That bloke Geoffrey Nunberg complained in the article about British expressions being used more often in America. I’d be interested to know his views on the reverse – what would he think about Americanisms used in England? I think he’d probably not be bothered about that, which might make him a hypocrite. It’s a shame the BBC didn’t ask him about that in the article, because it’d be interesting to hear his take on the matter.

    Also of note, I heard the phrase “can’t be arsed” spoken by an American on a Youtube video, although he actually said “can’t be assed”, which is a version I’ve not heard before.

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