Saturday 9 April 2011


Americans use our language and have the NERVE to speak and write it differently! They were our colony until they won their freedom and we lost the war - but we were still top nation! Except now we aren't and they want to take over the world. So let's fight back - by shunning all Americanisms! Yes, that's going to work. Or "good luck with that", as they would say.

America on the left, Britain on the right. And IN the right.
a few months back: ... ago
a while back: some time ago
advisory: hint, tip, warning, public service broadcast/announcement etc
after an elapse of years: a lapse of years
all of: all
alternate: alternative
around: round, about
aside from: apart from
atop: on top of, on, up

beat out: beat
besides: beside
birthing: giving birth

bucolic: pastoral (to me bucolic means large, fat, dim 19th century agricultural workers with amusing West Country accents, ghastly mumming plays and incomprehensible jokes about “turmuts”)
bumble: bungle

bundt pans: jelly moulds
burn ward: burns ward

canopy bed: fourposter
chichi: chic
chomping at the bit: champing
cobblestone: cobbled (if streets are cobbled, they always have to mention it)
cup cake: fairy cake with mounds of vivid icing and sprinkles

deadly: anything that makes people die (deadly force)
depthless: bottomless
deviltry: devilry
differ with: don’t agree with
done: carried out/on
down to: due to, up to
duplex: semi

ever-(fickle etc): always
face time: meeting in RL
fancy: elaborate, elegant
feckless: useless, powerless, lackadaisical, weedy
file cabinet: filing cabinet
finish line: finishing line
footless: inept or awkward (dates from 1398 according to Webster)
freight train: goods train
French: French people, the French (many French disapprove of José Bové)
from here on in: from now
full-fledged: fully fledged

get in trouble: get into trouble
give them the heads-up: tell them to look out
go belly up: fail, founder
graduate: unis graduate students, and students “are graduated”
guys in ties: suits

hall: corridor
happenstance: chance
has to be: is surely
Have a nice day: Goodbye
He talks a good game: He's all mouth.
He’s got game (He Got Game is the title of a movie)
heads up: advance notice, warning, hint, tip, advice
high-strung: highly-strung
hurt: harm, damage
hurting: suffering

I guess: I imagine
in hopes of: in hope of
is set to: will, is destined to
issue: problem

lease on life:
lease of life
light fixture: light fitting

any language or accent other than American English (critics complained Dodie Smith’s plays were written in a “bird-like lilt that is so British” and always mentioned teacups, teapots, drawing rooms or just tea)

MacGyver: jury-rig, cobble up

middle class:
lower middle to working class (in Britain “middle class” means posh or even smug, pretentious and uptight)

more nuanced: less obvious, subtle, underhand
nauseous: nauseating (but Charlotte Bronte used nauseous to mean sick-making)
neat (neat-oh!)
nuance: insinuation, euphemism, subtlety, weasel word

be obsessed with
on par with: on a par with
on second thought: on second thoughts
outcropping (used to mean islet): outcrop (only used for “land islet”)

pander (n)
parking garage: carpark
parse: interpret
persnickety: pernickety
pile into: crowd into, not criticize
plenty good enough: good enough
pocket/wallet: money, ability to pay
position: policy, stance
pry open: prise open
pushpin: map tack

rankled: disgruntled
restless: untiring
right now: now
rightfully: rightly
roil: upset
run scared

salt shaker: salt cellar
save out: save
say: for example
shooter: sniper, marksman, gunman

Americans use “skittish” to mean nervous, wary. We use it to mean arch, playful, unreliable, like a horse dancing about and shying at plastic bags, or a woman of a certain age slapping your wrist with her fan and screaming “La, Sir Percy!”.

sling: dispense (like slinging hash)
specter: threat, bogeyman
spin out: spin off

sport/sports: They wear a sport jacket, but talk about sports. (We wear a sports jacket and talk about sport.) They work in the missions, not mission, field. They say “legal protections” not protection. They change directions, not direction. They say brick-and-mortar, not bricks-and-mortar. They say “Everybody must use their brain” (not “use their brains”).

spotty: patchy
sputter: splutter
stomping ground: stamping ground
stop/prevent from: stop, prevent
strike down: They “strike down” a law or judgement instead of abolishing or overturning it.
substantive: substantial
the word on the street: rumour
tightly knit
topic A
toss out (or just toss): chuck out, throw out
track: add up “It doesn’t track”
tricksy: tricky

ugly: used metaphorically, as in an ugly action
under the hood: under the bonnet
vent: air, express (emotions)
wake up and smell the coffee: live in the real world
worked just fine: functioned acceptably

More here, and links to the rest.


  1. Sorry - typing at fault. I meant


  2. Some of the words you have listed aren't Americanisms and/or are used interchangeably with the "British version"

  3. Pretty much all of them, if I may reply for Anonymous. I've heard nearly all of them from Americans, and said nearly all of them myself.

    It would probably be easier to list the ones I definitely do NOT hear in the US -- and some are listed above as Americanisms:

    elapse of years
    jelly moulds -- just the spelling sticks out here; I've heard and used "jelly molds"
    fairy cake
    goods train
    salt cellar
    save out -- no clue what this even means
    bonnet (for hood), and boot for "trunk"

    Everything else, I've heard or said here. :-)

  4. You "save out" a document on your computer and "prove out" a theory. All the above were collected in the wild from real Americans.