David Cameron was blasted for referring to the cost of “a tank of gas” – as opposed to a tank of petrol – during Prime Minister’s Questions this week.
It could have been worse, of course – he could have gone into more detail and talked about the cost of that gas in dollars, rather than pounds – but the Prime Minister’s utterance was still, for many, an Americanism too far.
For once, however, we can’t completely blame David Cameron. George Bernard Shaw famously said that America and Britain are two nations divided by a common language – but these days, that’s becoming less and less the case. Americanisms are over here, over-used – and, often, over-familiar.
Here are just 20 American words and expressions that are now completely commonplace on our side of the Pond…
If your children still believe in Father Christmas, then well done. Not because it means they’ve maintained their childlike wonder, but because most kids these days believe in Santa Claus instead.
‘Have a nice day!’
As if the enthusiasm and friendliness of this expression wasn’t American enough, it has to be delivered while looking someone directly in the eye. Clearly a physical impossibility for a Brit.
Not a room in the house, but a euphemism for the toilet. No, you may not ‘use the bathroom’. But you may go to the loo.
It may be full of American fast food outlets, but it’s still not a shopping mall, fellow Brits. It’s a shopping center. Sorry, centre.
‘Can I get a…’
I don’t know – can you physically reach it? Then yes. Yes, you can probably get it. Ah, wait! I see what you mean now: ‘May I have..?’
As in: ‘Can I get a coffee to go?’ (Translation: ‘Could I have a coffee to take away?’)
The difference between ‘season’ and ‘series’? Easy. If it’s a TV show – it’s a series. If it’s winter, spring, summer, fall – sorry, autumn – it’s a season.
Come on, guys. We Brits are far too stiff upper-lipped for all this American over-familiarity, aren’t we? Aren’t we, guys?
In response to the question ‘How are you?’ and as opposed to ‘I’m well.’ (See also: “I’m doing good” – to which Tracy Jordan once memorably retorted in 30 Rock: “Superman does good. You’re doing well.”)
Remember when we used to call it ‘having other people’s kids over’ or ‘going to another kid’s house’? Happy days! As they don’t say in America.
In the beginning, there was the word, and the word was chips. And then the Americans came along and made them thinner and called them fries. And the British looked upon them, and saw that they were also good.
We used to call them matches. But Americans don’t have matches, they have games – and so now we have them, too. As well as matches. Confused? Don’t get us started on the whole ‘football’ thing…
And speaking of sports – sorry, sport – the ‘s’ that’s missing from ‘math’ appears to have made its way onto this word. (Don’t worry: BT Sport has no intention of bowing to the pressure. Yet.)
If you thought a little cake with icing on top was called a fairy cake, you are SO wrong. Or at least: SO 1980s. Wake up and smell the coffee (and have a cupcake, guys)!
‘But everyone says ‘train station’!’ you say. No. Every American says train station. Every Brit used to say ‘railway station’. The fact that we don’t even know this shows how far Americanisms have sneaked their way in. For shame!
Also known as mobile phones. So if someone asks you to can call them on their cell, they don’t mean give them a ring in prison. (Are mobile phones even allowed in prison?)
We admire our American cousins for their enthusiasm, but this word is now so ubiquitous that it’s lost its meaning and everything is, indeed, awesome – as The Lego Movie rightly pointed out.
Not the thing that airplanes taxi on, but the thing that models sashay along. They used to be known in Ye Oldene Englishe as ‘catwalks’. We blame the TV show Project
There’s an easy way to spot the difference between a truck and a lorry. If it’s on a road in America, it’s a truck. If it’s on a road in Britain, it’s a lorry.
And finally, the familiar form of ‘Hello’ or ‘Good day to you, fine fellow!’ or a dozen other, far more British, ways of greeting someone. ‘Hi’ has, of course, become so commonplace that it’s begun to feel more formal – hence the arrival of ‘Hey!’, which is the new ‘Hi!’ But, hey – who are we to complain? We’re British! We never complain.
Do Americanisms wind you up – or could you care less? Tell us in the Comments section below.