Archive for the ‘Americanisms’ Category

I took an extra year in Spanish in high school because I loved my teacher.

He was a former Army guy, ascerbic but witty, coach of the junior varsity boys’ basketball team and to correct my behavior would have me stand in a corner and contemplate the “transcendental dot of meditation” (though still requiring me to read my vocabulary assignment aloud like the rest of the class).

He also kept a container on his desk labeled “Potted Possum.” He loved perpetuating the naive belief among students that it was real.

In the end, I have to thank him, because he taught me valuable life lessons about how to deal with difficult people (meaning me) and helped test me out of foreign language in college (though I can’t say the same about having take remedial math).

In any case, I find today, almost two decades later, that his legacy continues.

I wish I could say that it meant I could speak fluent Spanish. I can’t, though I can generally make out basic written communication.

What I’m certainly left with is the ability to pronounce Spanish words.

When I read the name “Roberto” out loud, I say, “Roe-BARE-tow,” instead of “Ruh-bur-tow.”

I’m sure Roberto appreciates that.

But ancillary legacy is pronouncing English words – or in many cases, Americanized proper names for companies — as if they were Spanish words.

I just can’t help it in my mind when I read the sponsor name – an insurance company – given to the Seattle Mariners’ professional baseball stadium.

“Safeco Field.”

It’s “SAFE-coe.” And that’s the way I say it out loud.

But I doubt there will ever come a time when I don’t hear it in my head as “Sah-FAY-coe.”

Thanks, Coach McIntyre!


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I don’t like the term “deputies.”

I like “police.”

I don’t like “investigators.”

I like “detectives.”

So the detectives determined that Justin was smoking his bong in the wilderness after police said they heard a group around a campfire playing Wu-Tang covers with a sitar.

The investigators and the deputies just stood around sounding stupid.

Which is generally what pigs do.

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This is one I used to struggle with regularly in my day-to-day work, until I got used to it.

Someone pled guilty or pleaded guilty?

The rule for us in journalism is pleaded. The lawyers like pled.

I imagine this goes back to the good ole English court terminology somewhere in history.

In any case … I like pled.  It sounds more natural.

You don’t say you “saided” something.

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I remember thinking some years back about one of my cousins back home and how she has such a deep Southern accent that she almost sounds British.

And when you think about it, it almost makes sense. At one time, not too long ago when you really think about it, everyone spoke that way here.

And with the isolation of the rural South, it’s logical to think that the Southern accent might not have Americanized like others have.

Which goes to show that the South, in some far, remote locales, can resemble its own country.

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In Your Eye

Sports terms.

They're so enlightening. So overused. So curiously appropriate.

In basketball, we refer to shooting and hitting a three-point shot while someone guards you closely, "Popping a three in your eye."

You can also "blind them."

Or "light them up."

You can also "flush" the ball when you dunk it. Or "yoke" it.

Put a good move on someone and you might (though not literally) "break their ankles."

"Splash." "Tickle the twine." "Nothing but the bottom of the net." All ways to describe a shot that goes perfectly through the hoop.

They just never seem to end.

Baseball is famous for this.

"Did you get to second base with her."

"Way to step up to the plate and get that deal done, Bob."

"Boy, they sure threw me a curveball with that proposal."

"Three strikes and you're out. You're sentenced to life in prison."

Why is it that these resonate with us so much? 

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When we talk about writing letters, us Brits have a certain…overly long way about asking people to send us mail:

“Send a letter to me.”

“Write me a letter.”

Whereas some other nations are somewhat more economic with words:

“Write me.”

Call me old fashioned but I like the long-winded approach:

“Go forth and reproduce” is sometimes a better way of saying “Fuck off.”

But then, this is where I get incongruent…because it can be just as good to say “Go forth” and leave it at that…well, you could add the middle finger in just for good measure. After all, body language is just as important.

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The people of North America (possibly South America and Canada as well, I’m not sure) have it figured out. They use what I’d call imperial measurements: good old pounds and ounces.

Here in Britain, it’s a different matter. There’s some confusion as to what we use.

Here’s a packet of out of date bacon I found festering at the back of the fridge:


There are 385 grams of bacon in here. But I asked for a pound of bacon. The lady behind the counter isn’t supposed to weigh in pounds, but she does her best to weigh it as close to 500kg as she can, which is as near enough to a pound as she can get with the way the bacon is cut. Actually, I got 0.85 pounds of bacon. Still, I’m not fussy when it comes to food.

Shops here aren’t allowed by the law to sell in pounds and ounces any longer, thanks to the the EEC (European Economic Community)

But a lot still do, and they can get fined pretty heavily for it.

Soon we’ll lose our precious pint and have to buy half a litre of beer instead, which is a con. A pint being 0.585 litre, we’ll lose 85 millilitres yet the price will stay the same which is actually increasing it, if you know what I mean.

So, stick to your pounds and ounces if that’s what you use. It’s much easier and probably why we still weigh in imperial when we shouldn’t.

But just one thing: what does this have to do with economy of words?

“My cousin weighs two hundred and eighty pounds.”

“My cousin weighs twenty stones.”

See how better the second quote reads. And the unit of stone works with pounds (lbs) There are four syllables less in that second sentence.

Of course, you could just say, “My cousin weighs two-eighty.” But that confuses us Brits.

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