I’ve written several times (most recently here) about the phenomenon of American characters in British novels using British expressions, seemingly because the writer didn’t realize they were British expressions. I’ve just read a book by an American novelist, with American characters, where Britishisms abound.
The book is The Plot, the author Jean Hanff Korelitz. In my view, some of the examples are nothing more than NOOBs — that is, British words and expressions that have become popular in the U.S., and hence an American character might use. Others are flat-out Britishisms that I’ve rarely or ever heard here. I’ll list them in order, from the most common NOOBs to the least likely. Examples in quotation marks are a character speaking, and the others are the author’s narration.
- in the fullness of time…
- “You were spot-on with all that.”
- … she straightaway found a job…
- “Would it kill you to do an avocado toast?” (That’s “do” in the sense of a restaurant offering a dish.)
- “who knows what else this Dianna Parker got up to?” (Instead of “got up to,” Americans would say “was up to” or “was involved with.)
- the guy … supported the Red Sox… (“Support” meaning root for or be a fan of.)
- Maybe the punters out there believed novels followed a visit from the muse …
- Jake opted not to correct this remarkable statement in any of the ways he might have done. (An American would end the sentence with “he might have.” This verb construction is actually one of the White Whales of the blog — something I have been hoping in vain to observe an American using. Until now.)
I mentioned that the author, Jean Korelitz, is American. But she studied at the University of Cambridge in the 1980s, and since 1987 has been married to the Irish poet Paul Muldoon. So she comes by her Britishisms rightfully. But that doesn’t mean that her editor shouldn’t have flagged “punters” or “might have done.”