Faux Brits, or faux Britishisms?

I’ve been at this too long. That, anyway, was my reaction when I read the following in yesterday’s New York Times Magazine profile of Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia, an American who now lives in London:

He uses Britishisms that make him sound a little like the famous faux-Brits Gwyneth Paltrow or Madonna. He told me he had “a good ol’ time” at the Olympics, where he attended beach volleyball and an equestrian event as Boris Johnson’s guest. Living in Marylebone is nice, he says, because “we have loads of friends and people pop by.” Unlike in the United States, where politicians are remote Wikipedia subjects, in Britain he “literally” (pronounced LIT-ruh-lee) knows them.

The passage left me dazed and confused. Is “good ol’ time” a Britishism? Is “pop by”? (Or is the author referring to “loads”?) And what about that pronunciation of “literally”? I associate it with Rob Lowe’s character on “Parks and Recreation,” who is certainly not a Brit, even a faux one.

I wish I could look all that up on Wikipedia, but even that remarkable resource is no help here. So I’ll crowd-source it to you lot. Help?

25 thoughts on “Faux Brits, or faux Britishisms?

  1. “Good ol’ time”. Never heard anyone British say that, except in fiction set pre-1950. Possibly pseudo-Cockney, but, if anything, it sounds more like something from the American South (“good ol’ boys”, etc.).
    Overstressing the start of literally reminds me of posh twits from Chelsea called Orlando or Felix (see also “Gap Yah”); it’s not a general British thing.
    “Loads of” and, to a lesser extent, “pop by” are both ubiquitous, although I think enough British people would recognise “pop by” as a Britishism to think that an American saying it was trying too hard.

  2. Pop in not by
    good ol’ time? not in my version of Britenglish
    And I live in Marylebone too ( when not in New York) – maybe I can get myself on his ‘ ok to Pop By List’

  3. Well, “popping by” or “popping in” does sound British to this American. Having “loads of friends” does not sound British, but a version of posh American. One would expect “lots of friends” among “just us folks.” On the other hand, having “a good old time” is what we “good old boy” Southern Americans like to do, all the time.

  4. Good ol’ anything is a good ol’ USA southern-ism;
    LIT-ruh-lee is a Rachel Zoe-ism aka annoying So-Cal speak…(btw Zoe styles Paltrow, so make of that what you will)
    Re: loads? I hear “loads of” followed by many different words…but usually “crap.” Not even the Brits can lay claim to something that universal!

  5. “good ol'” ain’t a Britishism.
    “pop by” is – and not only do we “pop by”, but we “pop in ” as well.
    How else would you pronounce literally?

  6. As a New Zealander and long time resident of London, and having just explained this to some Polish relatives, “pop by” or “pop over” is definitely something I’m familiar with – as in come and or go to visit. “I’ve just popped by because I’m in Marylebone to do some shopping – you’re not busy, are you?”. Although, oddly, most Brits wouldn’t think of just popping by as they’re very into making appointments – even to see friends!

    “Good ol’ time” sounds more like Dukes of Hazzard to me though.

    London’s a melting pot of nationalities though – you’re more likely to have a non-British born neighbour if you live in central London (like Marylebone) than a local born one so other languages/dialects slip in easily.

  7. 1. Good ol’ time – not on this side of the Atlantic!
    2. People might ‘pop in’, but not ‘by’
    3. Loads of people say loads of things loads of the time. Completely Brit but probably used in loads of other places too
    4. LIT-ruh-lee. Oh dear. An unattractive but uncannily LIT-rul rendition of how we say this word

  8. Yes, ‘Pop by…’ definitely a Britishism. It means to go and see someone, such as as in “I’ll pop by later…” or “i’ll pop by your desk before I leave…”

  9. Face it. It’s just one language after all, with continual bleeding back and forth, whether between nations or across regional or class dialects within a nation, all accelerated by the speed of modern communications, with citizens, journalists, et al, free to adopt whatever terms they choose. No wonder your head’s in a spin.

  10. LIT-ruh-lee (or LITCH-ruh-lee) is the ill-spoken British way of contracting a four-syllable word into three. An American girlfriend surprised me by referring to the supermarket chain ‘Sainsberry’s’ whereas everyone British calls Sainsbury’s ‘Sainsbry’s’.
    Of greater interest to me is the new meaning that ‘literally’ is being given in Britain. Where no risk of a presumed metaphor is present, people are using it to add emphasis or surprise.
    “She literally walked past me without speaking.”
    “There was literally no way I was giving it to him.”
    “We were literally having such a good time.”
    Jimmy Wales had the context right but is this new usage happening in the US?

    1. Using the word to add emphasis is not new, but I literally explode with annoyance on its growing misuse.

  11. One thing that really interests me about the two languages is the way in which they evolve on parallel tracks and sometimes come up with very similar but also very different words for the same action or thing. Medicine evolved and people came to get injections; in the UK, people get “jabs,” while in the USA we get “shots,” for example.

  12. Popping in, not popping by – that’s how I know it, though it could be different elsewhere
    Loads of – sounds okay to my ears
    “Literally” is pronounced more “Litter-AL-lee” but that’s probably Irish pronunciation
    Good ol’ – no, that one sounds like falling between two stools of American and Brithsh

  13. The NYT Magazine writer needs to get out more. “Pop by” and “pop in” are both common in the Midwest (though I suspect “swing by” is probably more common) where I was born and raised. I’d wager that “Good ol’ time” is actually an Americanism.

  14. LIT-ra-li / LITCH-ra-li are both common British pronunciations, in contrast to things more like LID-er-a-li. British English often drops unstressed syllables from the middle of words. We use it as a technique to spot Americans.

  15. Also, I’d dispute the idea that dropping certain syllables is ‘ill-spoken’ or demonstrative of lower social class in the UK. The assumption that well spoken British people pronounce every syllable is definitely off.

  16. There is a domestic cleaning company in the UK called Daily Poppins, presumably because they pop in daily.

  17. I’m with commenter Martyn Cornell above. Throughout my entire time in the UK from the late 1960s to the mid-80s, I’ve heard literally thousands of times the words “pop by,” “pop in,” “pop out,” “pop over” and even “pop around” from the lips of the most British of Britons. I’ve heard or seen those ‘pop’ words in print, on the radio, on TV, in the movies, and even from myself.

    I’m also with Ed above about dropping certain syllables is supposed to be ill spoken. If memory serves (even weakly), I seem to recall that seminal work about “U and non-U” speech found many educated, upper-class, and both educated and upper-class British people drop syllables. The example that comes to mind is ‘primarily,’ a word that I in my own experience at least no upper-class/educated person would pronounce as ‘PRIGH-merrily.’ I could be wrong, but I’ve not heard that other than from Americans. Things may be different in the UK today, I don’t know.

  18. Why did “good ol’ time” immediately remind me of “gay old time” from the theme to the Flintstones?

  19. May I just add “pop along” to the list of British “pop” usages? I tend to tell people that I shall be popping along to see them. I think Derek Nimmo uses the phrase in the film version of One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing, if you’d care for a recorded example. There is perhaps a mild sense of it being a bit Bertie Woosterish – a well meaning unassuming posh usage, that these days could be perceived as mildly affected, though it seems natural enough to me.

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