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[Czechlist] The Empire Strikes Back (British English influencing US English)

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  • Petr Veselý
    Just discovered this at Proz.com, IMHO an interesting reading with a slightly imperialistic overtone, Jamie will surely like it :-) The Daily Telegraph, 17th
    Message 1 of 5 , May 18, 2005
      Just discovered this at Proz.com, IMHO an interesting reading with a
      slightly imperialistic overtone, Jamie will surely like it :-)


      The Daily Telegraph, 17th May 2005

      Americans learn how to speak English

      Melissa Whitworth on a campaign in New York to educate Americans...
      Snog, tickety-boo, chuffed, chinwag. It's no secret that our beloved British
      slang has Americans flummoxed. There's an impasse as wide as the Atlantic
      when it comes to understanding our colloquialisms.
      'The campaign is about wanting to be in the know in England'
      In an effort to help the thousands of American tourists who visit Britain
      each year, British Airways launched an advertising campaign in New York this
      month, aimed at deciphering some of our finest expressions for our American
      buddies.
      On billboards and bus shelters across Manhattan, "Brit-speak" can be heard
      loud and clear. Next to one of the city's busiest roads a huge billboard
      says: "This traffic is 'bonkers'! In London, 'bonkers' means 'crazy'." On a
      bus shelter in Greenwich Village a poster reads: "Avoid 'legging it' by
      taking the bus. In London, 'leg it' means 'to run quickly'."
      BA's campaign even includes an online "Brit-speak" dictionary at
      http://london.ba.com/index.asp?word=know . Amy O'Kane, BA's director of
      advertising in North America, says: "My husband is from London, and we spent
      the first few months of our relationship saying 'What?' because we couldn't
      understand each other. Well, actually, I said 'What?' He said 'Pardon?'.
      "The campaign is all about wanting to be in the know when you visit England.
      You want to get a sense of what real London is like and what it's like to
      live as a Londoner. The advertisements are about having a sense of humour,
      too."
      But some Americans believe the British already have too much influence on
      how Americans speak English. Timothy Kenny, an associate professor of
      journalism at the University of Connecticut, believes British-isms are
      already infiltrating America, especially in the media.
      "You Brits are so posh, so witty," he says. "We Americans swoon when you
      speak. Even the cash machine in my small Connecticut town has a young woman
      with very British tones urging me to 'enter my secret number', something we
      Americans used to call our PIN."
      Kenny feels the use of British expressions by the big American newspapers
      and television news organisations is getting out of hand. "Brit-speak is
      running amok in America. The use of British expressions has become a cottage
      industry within the elite, East Coast media."
      Americans, he says, are increasingly using phrases they never used to: "send
      up" is replacing "parody", there's "sacked" instead of "fired", "queuing up"
      instead of "getting in line" and "at the end of the day" instead of "in the
      end".
      Geoffrey Nunberg, of the department of linguistics at Stanford University,
      agrees: "We've always had a cultural inferiority complex with regard to the
      Brits, that they speak correctly and we don't. We even say 'use the Queen's
      English'. Why should that matter to us?"
      But it's in the romantic arena where most problems are caused by
      Anglo-American misunderstanding. A favourite new British word among young
      Americans is "snog", though it is often confused with "shag", as popularised
      in the Austin Powers films. This mix-up, not surprisingly, can lead to all
      sorts of embarrassment.
      So BA has also circulated helpful beer mats around hundreds of bars in New
      York. If an American bloke fancies his chances of pulling a British bird,
      he'd better learn some dating lingo. The mats say things such as: "I dare
      you to chat up the barman. In London, 'chat up' means to hit on someone."
      During the first six months of "dating" my American husband, Roger, it often
      felt as if we needed a translator to make ourselves understood. Now he has
      proudly assimilated many English words. His five favourites are "kip",
      "dosh", "lurgy" "blimey" and "roundabout". The latter is called a "traffic
      circle" in America. Roger thinks it's hilarious.
      David Howells, 37, a British photographer based in America, has had plenty
      of problems making himself understood. "I always call cigarettes fags," he
      says, "but that word has got me into a lot of trouble over here."
      Hopefully, the Americans will learn to love our slang as much as we do. Now
      we just have to explain why Marmite and HP Sauce are true delicacies, and do
      something about those darn accents.
    • Patrick Seguin
      Interesting article, though as a Canadian who speaks American TV English, I’ve grown extremely weary of American English vs. British English debates. At the
      Message 2 of 5 , May 18, 2005
        Interesting article, though as a Canadian who speaks American TV English,
        I’ve grown extremely weary of American English vs. British English debates.
        At the end of the day, it’s really a matter of six of one, half a dozen the
        other.



        Having said that, I’ve always been fond of Brit-speak, and unless asked
        otherwise I use British English in my translations.



        I notice that while the difference between a British “fag” and an American
        “fag” is touched on, as well as the confusion that oddly occurs between
        “snog” and “shag”, Ms. Whitworth avoids that most potentially offensive of
        words: “fanny”. I can definitely see how “Let me get my wallet out of my
        fanny pack” can cause Brits to laugh. It does sound somewhat Cockney rhyming
        slang-y, doesn’t it?



        Patrick





        Catch hot blog on Prague action at Dog Eat Blog: www.prague-spot.com/blog



        -----Original Message-----
        From: Czechlist@yahoogroups.com [mailto:Czechlist@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf
        Of Petr Veselý
        Sent: Wednesday, May 18, 2005 2:32 PM
        To: Czechlist@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [Czechlist] The Empire Strikes Back (British English influencing US
        English)



        Just discovered this at Proz.com, IMHO an interesting reading with a
        slightly imperialistic overtone, Jamie will surely like it :-)


        The Daily Telegraph, 17th May 2005

        Americans learn how to speak English

        Melissa Whitworth on a campaign in New York to educate Americans...
        Snog, tickety-boo, chuffed, chinwag. It's no secret that our beloved British

        slang has Americans flummoxed. There's an impasse as wide as the Atlantic
        when it comes to understanding our colloquialisms.
        'The campaign is about wanting to be in the know in England'
        In an effort to help the thousands of American tourists who visit Britain
        each year, British Airways launched an advertising campaign in New York this

        month, aimed at deciphering some of our finest expressions for our American
        buddies.
        On billboards and bus shelters across Manhattan, "Brit-speak" can be heard
        loud and clear. Next to one of the city's busiest roads a huge billboard
        says: "This traffic is 'bonkers'! In London, 'bonkers' means 'crazy'." On a
        bus shelter in Greenwich Village a poster reads: "Avoid 'legging it' by
        taking the bus. In London, 'leg it' means 'to run quickly'."
        BA's campaign even includes an online "Brit-speak" dictionary at
        http://london.ba.com/index.asp?word=know . Amy O'Kane, BA's director of
        advertising in North America, says: "My husband is from London, and we spent

        the first few months of our relationship saying 'What?' because we couldn't
        understand each other. Well, actually, I said 'What?' He said 'Pardon?'.
        "The campaign is all about wanting to be in the know when you visit England.

        You want to get a sense of what real London is like and what it's like to
        live as a Londoner. The advertisements are about having a sense of humour,
        too."
        But some Americans believe the British already have too much influence on
        how Americans speak English. Timothy Kenny, an associate professor of
        journalism at the University of Connecticut, believes British-isms are
        already infiltrating America, especially in the media.
        "You Brits are so posh, so witty," he says. "We Americans swoon when you
        speak. Even the cash machine in my small Connecticut town has a young woman
        with very British tones urging me to 'enter my secret number', something we
        Americans used to call our PIN."
        Kenny feels the use of British expressions by the big American newspapers
        and television news organisations is getting out of hand. "Brit-speak is
        running amok in America. The use of British expressions has become a cottage

        industry within the elite, East Coast media."
        Americans, he says, are increasingly using phrases they never used to: "send

        up" is replacing "parody", there's "sacked" instead of "fired", "queuing up"

        instead of "getting in line" and "at the end of the day" instead of "in the
        end".
        Geoffrey Nunberg, of the department of linguistics at Stanford University,
        agrees: "We've always had a cultural inferiority complex with regard to the
        Brits, that they speak correctly and we don't. We even say 'use the Queen's
        English'. Why should that matter to us?"
        But it's in the romantic arena where most problems are caused by
        Anglo-American misunderstanding. A favourite new British word among young
        Americans is "snog", though it is often confused with "shag", as popularised

        in the Austin Powers films. This mix-up, not surprisingly, can lead to all
        sorts of embarrassment.
        So BA has also circulated helpful beer mats around hundreds of bars in New
        York. If an American bloke fancies his chances of pulling a British bird,
        he'd better learn some dating lingo. The mats say things such as: "I dare
        you to chat up the barman. In London, 'chat up' means to hit on someone."
        During the first six months of "dating" my American husband, Roger, it often

        felt as if we needed a translator to make ourselves understood. Now he has
        proudly assimilated many English words. His five favourites are "kip",
        "dosh", "lurgy" "blimey" and "roundabout". The latter is called a "traffic
        circle" in America. Roger thinks it's hilarious.
        David Howells, 37, a British photographer based in America, has had plenty
        of problems making himself understood. "I always call cigarettes fags," he
        says, "but that word has got me into a lot of trouble over here."
        Hopefully, the Americans will learn to love our slang as much as we do. Now
        we just have to explain why Marmite and HP Sauce are true delicacies, and do

        something about those darn accents.




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        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • James Kirchner
        ... They didn t research well what is specifically British and what is used on both sides of the Atlantic. The word bonkers has been in use in the US for at
        Message 3 of 5 , May 18, 2005
          On Wednesday, May 18, 2005, at 08:32 AM, Petr Veselý wrote:

          > Next to one of the city's busiest roads a huge billboard
          > says: "This traffic is 'bonkers'! In London, 'bonkers' means 'crazy'."

          They didn't research well what is specifically British and what is used
          on both sides of the Atlantic. The word "bonkers" has been in use in
          the US for at least 30 years, as in the frequently heard sentence, "The
          guy went bonkers," or, "This washing machine is going bonkers." It
          always sounded Brooklynish to me. I wonder what country it originated
          in. Be funny if it's really Australian.

          > But some Americans believe the British already have too much influence
          > on
          > how Americans speak English. Timothy Kenny, an associate professor of
          > journalism at the University of Connecticut, believes British-isms are
          > already infiltrating America, especially in the media.

          Oh, baloney. He must just be noticing expressions that have been in
          use for a long time.

          > "You Brits are so posh, so witty," he says.

          I once heard some British celebrity claim that American comedy tends to
          be "more cerebral" than British comedy, and I was incredulous, until
          our Public Broadcasting System started showing British sitcoms late at
          night. I still don't totally believe it, though.

          > "We Americans swoon when you speak.

          I wouldn't say we swoon, but I once had an Australian boss who would
          use her Aussie twang when wanting to sound friendly, and then switch to
          throaty RP when she wanted to sound authoritative. The Americans fell
          for it, and when the RP came out they acted like it was the Voice of
          God. They usually would not debate anything this woman had proclaimed
          in RP.

          > Even the cash machine in my small Connecticut town has a young woman
          > with very British tones urging me to 'enter my secret number',
          > something we
          > Americans used to call our PIN."

          That's because the Charter One bank chain has been bought by the Royal
          Bank of Scotland. I went into my local branch and saw a bunch of oddly
          dressed guys milling about, with unusual mannerisms, and then I
          realized they were a bunch of Brits shooting an ad. Why they needed to
          fly Brits to Advertising Land to shoot commercials, I'll never know.

          > Americans, he says, are increasingly using phrases they never used to:
          > "send
          > up" is replacing "parody",

          In my lifetime, a send-up has always been a normal synonym for a
          parody. This is absolutely nothing new. It never struck me as British.

          > there's "sacked" instead of "fired",

          Same with those two words. They've always existed side by side, with
          "sacked" meaning something like a combination of fired, abused and
          humiliated.

          > "queuing up" instead of "getting in line"

          "Queuing up" was always here, but not used often. This may involve a
          problem with East Coast dialects, where people don't get IN line, but
          ON line. With the Internet meaning of "on line" having overshadowed
          the old usage, I suppose the Easterners have to find a new expression
          so as not to confuse people. Many of them are snobbish enough to turn
          east for the replacement expression, because consciously adopting an
          idiom from "the heartland" (aka "flyover country") would be just too
          humiliating for some of them.

          > and "roundabout". The latter is called a "traffic circle" in America.

          In states where we don't have traffic circles, we don't have a name for
          them, and we call them roundabouts in the rare case when one is built.
          I always though that states that have them called them rotaries.

          No tantrum. How about that!

          Jamie


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Petr Veselý
          No tantrum. How about that! Jamie Yeah, I expected more emotional arguments from you, to be honest. Never mind, maybe next time. To me, the article sounded as
          Message 4 of 5 , May 18, 2005
            No tantrum. How about that!

            Jamie


            Yeah, I expected more emotional arguments from you, to be honest. Never
            mind, maybe next time.
            To me, the article sounded as if the author wanted to make an impression
            that UK is still the big, wise brother who can give advise to its less
            civilised little brother and who indulgently smiles whenever he hears his
            little brother's "simple" language...I wonder how many people in Britain
            still believe in their supremacy over the US.

            Petr
          • James Kirchner
            ... Certainly not the editors of the OED. I have read several interviews with them over the past couple of decades, in which they said that the US is now the
            Message 5 of 5 , May 18, 2005
              On Wednesday, May 18, 2005, at 10:22 AM, Petr Veselý wrote:

              > To me, the article sounded as if the author wanted to make an
              > impression
              > that UK is still the big, wise brother who can give advise to its less
              > civilised little brother and who indulgently smiles whenever he hears
              > his
              > little brother's "simple" language...I wonder how many people in
              > Britain
              > still believe in their supremacy over the US.

              Certainly not the editors of the OED. I have read several interviews
              with them over the past couple of decades, in which they said that the
              US is now the "center" of the English language, and that most changes
              and new standards come from here.

              But the thing that bothers me about Europeans in general is that,
              despite the fact that the US has some of the world's top universities
              (thanks to the efforts of native-born Americans *and* immigrants), and
              despite American technological leadership in a lot of things, they
              persist in thinking of us as rustic.

              Jamie


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
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