Sorry for the lousy English. (Our bad.)

Published by rudy Date posted on July 31, 2011

Listen up, Filipinos, because this concerns you. You have adopted bad English habits from us Americans for far too long. Yes, we Yanks are responsible. Our culture pushed our slangy ways upon you; we take full blame. Our version of the King’s English is sloppy, unkempt. It’s also very malleable and attracts more new words per year than Kim Kardashian does Twitter followers. But henceforth, you really should take your lead from the folks who invented the language itself: the English.

According to a BBC News Magazine web page, “Americanisms: 50 of Your Most Noted Examples,” these examples of language abuse have even learned to swim across the pond and infiltrate the speech of native Brits like free-range spirogyra! These weapons of mass destruction come in the form of slangy American phrases such as “You betcha” and “I’m good” and “24/7.” Sound innocent enough, but these are the kind of phrases that apparently drive the British up the wall. (Do they call them “walls” over there? Isn’t it something else, like “lorry” or “lift”?)

The British are not happy about this. No, not at all. It’s the kind of thing that inspired UK grammarian Lynne Truss to write the book Eats, Shoots and Leaves, a grammar guide that few Americans can even get through, because we don’t spell “color” as “colour” or put our quotation marks inside our periods. Plus we drive on the opposite side of the road. Most of the time.

Blame it on American TV, business self-help books or slangy politicians, but something about American English has always rubbed certain hides the wrong way. Back in 1921, noted journalist and curmudgeon H.L. Mencken defended our tendency toward slang (in the book The American Language), saying it expressed something vibrant and adaptable about our new nation. But really, no one should have to talk like the people on Jersey Shore. Nobody. So don’t.

Here are the 50 Americanisms that drive Brits up the wall, with some of their actual e-mailed comments.

1. “Can I get a…” (“It infuriates me. It’s not New York. It’s not the ‘90s. You’re not in Central Perk with the rest of the Friends. Really.”)

2. “Least worst option.” (“Their most best option is learning grammar.”)

3. “Two-time” and “three-time.” (“Have the words ‘double,’ ‘triple,’ etc. been totally lost?”)

4. “24/7” (rather than “24 hours, 7 days a week”)

5. “Deplane” (instead of “disembark”) (Me: Unless of course it’s Herve Villechaize announcing guest arrivals on Fantasy Island.)

6. “Wait on” (instead of “wait for”)

7. “It is what it is.” (“Pity us!”)

8. “Fanny pack.” (Me: What do they call it in the UK? “Booty pack”?)

9. “Touch base.” (“It makes me cringe no end.”)

10. “Physicality” (“Is it a real word?”)

11. “Transportation.” (“What’s wrong with ‘transport’?”)

12. “Leverage.” (“It seems to pop up in all aspects of work. And its meaning seems to have changed to ‘value added.”)

13. “Turn” (“Does nobody ‘celebrate’ a birthday anymore, must we all ‘turn’ 12 or 21 or 40?”)

14. “Shopping cart.” (“I caught myself saying this instead of shopping trolley today and was thoroughly disgusted with myself.”) (Me: Yet on, they put their purchases in a “shopping basket.” So WTF?)

15. “Gotten.” (“What kind of word is that? It makes me shudder.”)

16. “I’m good” (for “I’m well”)

17. “Bangs” (for a fringe of the hair)

18. “Take-out” (rather than takeaway)

19. “Ridiculosity.” (“Perhaps it’s tongue in cheek?”)

20. “A half hour” (instead of “half an hour”)

21. “Heads up.” (“I still don’t know what it means!”)

22. “Train station.” (“My teeth are on edge every time I hear it. Who started it? Have they been punished?”) (Me: Presumably they say “railway station” in more civilized climes.)

23. “Alphabetize it.” (“Horrid!”)

24. “My bad.” (“People say it after making a mistake. I don’t know how anything could be as annoying or lazy as that.”)

25. “Normalcy” (instead of “normality”)

26. “Burglarize” (Me: As opposed to “burgle”?)

27. “Oftentimes” (“Just makes me shiver with annoyance.”)

28. “Eaterie.” (“To use a prevalent phrase, ‘Oh my gaad!’”)

29. “Bi-weekly.” (“Fortnightly would suffice just fine.”) (Me: Sorry, no one in the history of America has ever said “fortnightly.” It’s like the metric system: not gonna happen.)

30. “Alternate” (instead of “alternative.”)

31. “Price hike.” (“Does that mean people who do that are hikers? No, hikers are ramblers!”) (Me: Ah! That explains the hidden meaning of Led Zeppelin’s Ramble On.)

32. “Going forward.” (“If I do I shall collide with my keyboard.”)

33. “Deliverable.” (“Used by management consultants for something they will ‘deliver’ instead of a report. Ugh!”)

34. “A million and a half.” (“Clearly, it’s ‘one and a half million‘!” )

35. “Reach out to” (instead of “ask”) (“As in ‘I will reach out to Kevin and let you know if that timing is convenient.’ Is Kevin stuck in quicksand? Is he teetering on the edge of a cliff? Can’t we just ask him?”)

36. “You do the math.” (“Math? It’s maths! Maths!”)

37. “Regular” (in coffee shops) (“What ever happened to a medium-sized coffee?”)

38. “Expiration date.” (“Whatever happened to ‘expiry’?”)

39. “Scotch-Irish.” (“Americans claim their ancestors as such. Even if it were possible, it would be ‘Scots’ not ‘Scotch,’ which is a drink.”)

40. “That’ll learn you.” (“The English — and more correct — version was always ‘that’ll teach you.’ What a ridiculous phrase!”)

41. “Where’s it at?” (“It just sounds grotesque and is immensely irritating.”)

42. “Period” (instead of “full stop”)

43. “Winningest” (“As in ‘Michael Schumacher is the winningest driver of all time.’ I can feel the rage rising even using it here.”)

44. “Season” (instead of TV series) (“Hideous.”)

45. “Issue” (instead of “problem”)

46. “The letter zee” (instead of the proper British “zed”) (“Not happy about it!”) (Me: And I’m not happy about people using the phrase “Not happy about it!”)

47. “Medal” (as a verb instead of ‘win a medal’) (“Sets my teeth on edge with a vengeance.”)

48. “I got it for free.” (“A pet hate. You got it ‘free,’ not ‘for free.’ You don’t get something cheap and say you got it ‘for cheap,’ do you?”)

49. “Turn that off already.” (“Oh, dear.”)

50. “I could care less” (instead of “I couldn’t care less”) (“Has to be the worst. Opposite meaning of what they’re trying to say.”)

Clearly, American slang has struck a nerve among concerned British citizens, many of whom are driven mental by it. Our Yankee way of speaking even manages to evoke visceral responses — “disgusting,” “grotesque,” “hideous” — much as Americans react in the presence of blood sausage or kidney pie. Well, allow me to retort. Or rather, allow me to allow another BBC viewer to retort, with an eloquent defense of the impermanence of English language: “English itself is a rather complicated, interesting blend of Germanic, French and Latin (among other things). It has arrived at this point through the long and torturous process of assimilation and modification. The story of the English language is the story of an unstoppable train of consecutive changes — and for someone to put their hand up and say ‘Wait — the train stops here and should go no further’ is not only futile, but ludicrously arbitrary.”

I guess if the Brits take offense at how Americans use English, they might want to consider censoring Charles Dickens’ use of cockney next, or Irvine Welsh’s rendering of Scottish dialect, or Martin Amis — or hell, even Shakespeare.

In the same way that Filipinos can chuckle and allow local phrases like “major major” to enter the lingua franca (though for how long is another matter), we must make room for English that is descriptive as well as prescriptive. The train’s not stopping. You can get off anytime you like, though. And we do apologize for giving you Jersey Shore.

Sorry for leading you astray. –Scott R. Garceau (The Philippine Star)

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