Briticisms Are Jumping the Pond

Rob Kyff on

What is it about those Brits? We Americans made our Brexit from their empire in 1776. But we can't stop importing their lingo.

As King George III sings knowingly to us newly independent Yanks in the musical "Hamilton," "You'll be back."

And how. The long lines of British soldiers waiting on the beach for evacuation in the movie "Dunkirk" might as well be Brit expressions waiting for transport to the U.S. Consider the barmy army of Briticisms that have recently invaded our news outlets:

A New York Post headline announces that the stodgy hobby of needlepointing is getting a "twee update." A Chicago Tribune headline declares that criticism of the NBA playoffs just might be "spot on."

The New York Times reports that a magician was "keen to" impress his audience, and a Los Angeles Times editorial, perhaps with LA's own artful Dodgers in mind, suggests that testimony given in a hearing was "dodgy."

And when news writers need terms that mean time, they now import phrases from the land of Greenwich Mean Time: "run up" to the war, getting "ahead of" the trend, tracking the "follow on."

In fact, some of the cliches we Yanks find most annoying are as American as, well, steak and kidney pie: gone missing, vet, suss out, gobsmacked, one-off, take a decision, baby bump, ginger (for a red head), "bored of" instead of "bored by," and "called" (for named), e.g., "a man called Jack."

There doesn't seem to be any sell date on these trendy expressions, and, yup, "sell date" and "trendy" are Anglican imports too.

Remember how we used to fume when insouciant waiters responded to a "thank you" with "no problem"? Now they answer with the Briticism "No worries." Arrrrgggghhhh!

Ben Yagoda, who tracks this British invasion in his delightful blog at, demonstrates that these limeyisms come not as single spies but in battalions.

Many are abbreviations: advert for advertisement, bril for brilliant, journo for journalist. Some are weird adjectives: stroppy (unruly), naff (vulgar), peckish (sort of hungry), wonky (unstable), while others are odd prepositional phrases: on holiday, in hospital, on offer (for sale).

Frankly, we Yanks aren't keen on barmy mates who pop over to our flat just because they fancy a coffee. What really cheeses us off are those stroppy chaps who try to chat us up on our mobiles. We don't want to cause a row, but they're kind of, well, cheeky.


Rob Kyff, a teacher and writer in West Hartford, Conn., invites your language sightings. Send your reports of misuse and abuse, as well as examples of good writing, via e-mail to or by regular mail to Rob Kyff, Creators Syndicate, 737 3rd Street, Hermosa Beach, CA 90254.

Copyright 2017 Creators Syndicate Inc.


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