To See Ourselves as Others See Us…

Students of history will no doubt recall that in or about 1776, those of us who lived on the Freedomy side of the Atlantic decided that we didn’t much like paying socialistic taxes on stuff like tea and Playboy and three cornered hats and those funny shoes with belt buckles for laces, while having no say in how those monies would actually be spent. So we sent an RSVP to good King George explaining, with much regret, that as much as we’d like to come to his birthday party, we would have to decline his invitation this year as were otherwise engaged in declaring our independence and booting his red-coated troops from our lands.

Flash forward some 235 years and the British are apparently still sore over this slight, as evidenced by their contempt (dare I say jealousy) over the startling thing of beauty into which the English language has evolved under Yankee care and tutelage, while back on the British isles it remains stunted, ossified, abandoned and lifeless, having acheived very little in the past 300 years beyond the dropping of thees and thous. As evidence I present to you, dear Stinquers, the following story from the BBC, entitled Americanisms: 50 of your most noted examples, in which readers were invited to send in their most hated expressions from this side of the pond,thereby displaying their ignorance and sad lack appreciation for the myriad poetic possibilities of the mother tongue, which have been laregly realized only on these shores. Some examples after the break (with scattered commentary throughout):

The next time someone tells you something is the “least worst option“, tell them that their most best option is learning grammar. Mike Ayres, Bodmin, Cornwall

“Touch base” – it makes me cringe no end. Chris, UK

The most annoying Americanism is “a million and a half” when it is clearly one and a half million! A million and a half is 1,000,000.5 where one and a half million is 1,500,000. Gordon Brown, Coventry

My pet hate is “winningest”, used in the context “Michael Schumacher is the winningest driver of all time”. I can feel the rage rising even using it here. Gayle, Nottingham

In that context, Gayle, I too am enraged, as clearly Dale Earnhart was the winningest driver of all time.

 I caught myself saying “shopping cart” instead of shopping trolley today and was thoroughly disgusted with myself. I’ve never lived nor been to the US either. Graham Nicholson, Glasgow

Well yeah Graham, that’s because a trolley is a funny little electric caboose that putters around San Francisco. So you were right to refer to it as a cart.

I’m a Brit living in New York. The one that always gets me is the American need to use the word bi-weekly when fortnightly would suffice just fine. Ami Grewal, New York

“Fortnightly?” Are you serious? Do people still talk like that anywhere outisde of Victorian era costume dramas? “Oh smashing, Chauncey, we’ve been given a room with a view! Let us stay a fornight!”

I hear more and more people pronouncing the letter Z as “zee“. Not happy about it! Ross, London

No doubt this fellah pronounces it “zed,” ignorant as most Brits seem to be that the word Zed can only refer to that gap-toothed redneck cousin of yours who alwyas greets visitors in on his porch, in his union suit, straw hat and double barrelled shotgun cocked and loaded with rock salt.

In a fitting bit of irony one particular respondent wrote:

Oftentimes” just makes me shiver with annoyance. Fortunately I’ve not noticed it over here yet. John, London

Ironic it is because another Brit, writing in the comments section noted:

[Oftentimes] is not an Americanism — Banquo uses it in “MacBeth”.

Which just goes to prove my long held theory that there is no grammatical infelicity so horrendous that one cannot find some attestation of it in the writings of The Bard.

(Via: The BBC)


Yeah… well…. what about the fact that they think nothing of smoking “fags”? And when they get “pissed”, they are generally on their knees puking in a gutter. And don’t get me started on “shag” carpet.

“At the end of the day.” I don’t know who started it but I wish they would stop.

I was waiting for someone to comment on the term “basically.” Which they, no doubt, heard mentioned somewhere on the telly.

@ManchuCandidate: To that end ::wince::, I vote “at the end of the day” be stricken from every book and tablet, stricken from all pylons and obelisks, stricken from every monument of monuments. Let “at the end of the day” be unheard and unspoken, erased from the memory of men for all time.

WTF is a fortnight anyway? Four nights in a row? A night holed up in a fort? Zed? That’s fucking Franch, innit? Fucking wankers.

And what the hell is a stone, as in “I lost a stone?” Stones are variable in weight, and small stones, the ones most likely to be lost through a hole in one’s trouser pocket are pebbles. Stupid fucks.

14 pounds or a forte-pound… if you will

@ManchuCandidate: Who came up with that silly shit? I’m still waiting for my metric skillz to be of use.

The English… according to wiki, it was used to measure agricultural commodities.

I like the simplicity of the metric system, but I have to admit that I prefer imperial in two cases:
1) Running (for some reason I prefer miles over km)
2) Baseball as 160kph doesn’t sound right compared to 100mph.

Otherwise, it’s metric.


The metric system was invented for just one reason: so we could have awesome TV News stories about airliners being forced to land on crowded freeways because some schmuck at the hangar screwed up an imperial/metric conversion during refueling.

I actually quite like fortnightly, if only because it differentiates from the kind of bi-weekly that happens twice a week.

@Serolf Divad:

Not to mention enabling us to artistically decorate the Martian landscape with zillion dollar Mars Lander fragments.

@ManchuCandidate: Also “it remains to be seen.” Reporters should be forced to wear electric shock collars that will zap them if they use that tired expression.

I say we reduce them to melted glass and radioactive slag.

I hate it when people use “impact” as a verb.

@JNOV: At the end of the day, though, there isn’t really a better way to express that idea…

Dictionary says “physicality” dates back to the 1500s. . . .

As far as I can tell, that whole news article is made up of people who take everything far too literally. You’d think there were no British idioms at all.

Was that presentation impactful to you?

@JNOV: No.

Also “You don’t get something cheap and say you got it ‘for cheap’ do you?”

Yes, actually, we do :|

The man on the Clapham omnibus finds the BBC all mouth and trousers.

@JNOVjr: I don’t say either, kiddo. You’ve been hanging with those S. Jersey hooligans and picking up bad habits.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: Man, it’s never the end of the day when someone claims that [whatever] will be the eventual result at the end of the day. Pure speculation, and not worth the candle.

@JNOV: Speaking of Jersey (and New York also, I think), one stands “in line,” not “on line.”

A post abusing the English? Totes count me in, broheim.

I embrace enthusiastically all evidence of a language being spoken by living human beings. Except for absent when it’s supposed to mean without. That should carry five years with no chance of parole. Apart from that, carry on.

@JNOV: Fortnight = fourteen nights or two weeks. To use it correctly: Friday fortnight, meaning two weeks from Friday. Or Monday fortnight past. Meaning two weeks ago last Monday. And if you want to ban it then we have to give up weekend too.

The written language is different, however, and remains a minefield for those who, like me, can’t spell for toffee. Capitalizing days of week? Really? Towards not toward? Around instead of round? OK. Or, okay. And don’t get me started on the difference between stage right and left because I have no clue, invariably begin one way, get confused and forget by the end which way is up.

Oh. And the UK is now metric. No stones. No groats. No threepenny bits. And now no News of the World.

@ManchuCandidate: Miles have more heft than meters, somehow, even though technically they are smaller.

Some of these are just silly. “Burglarize” for “burgle,” that’s your chief complaint, really?

@JNOV: or worse, “more impactful”. Like “Use the bold font it is more impactful”.


And how about their odd use of the first person plural, as in “Her Majesty’s government are concerned about the press that Pippa’s bum is getting.”

A bunch of the list entries are just business speak terms, which are as likely to drive the typical American office drone crazy as a Celt Brit Englishman Limey bastard. They’re insidious, though–cringeworthy as they are, I catch myself saying to my colleagues that, going forward, I will circle back with them about actionable items. Ugh.

I do love the words that are time shortcuts, like fortnight. Georgian has an amazing one: zeg. It means “the day after tomorrow.” Cool, right? They also have a word that means “the day before yesterday.”

@mellbell: Yeah, we stand in line in Philly, too. Weirdest thing I heard from other parts of the the States: “I did it on accident.” O_o

@Benedick HRH KFC: Er. I’m still confused about forts and shit, but I’m not going to use it, so, okay. I’m totally with you on toward, forward, all sorts of ward. What I HATE are USMerkins saying whilst, amongst, betwixt, may (under certain conditions) and shit like that. It’s while, among, between and might (under those certain conditions).

@mellbell: I like burgle only because I imagine someone blowing a bugle to alert that they’ve been robbed.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: The only time impact gets an -ed is when it’s referring to one’s colon.

@mellbell: Back to “in line.” If people line up, you know, form a line, you’re standing in [a] line. If there’s a line drawn on the ground, then you’re standing on that line. I can see it both ways.

@Benedick HRH KFC: Stage right/stage left — surely you know left from right field, yes?

@Benedick HRH KFC: Disembarked, too?

@flippin eck: Zeg. Wasn’t he one of those dudes Superman trapped in Lucite?

@flippin eck: German has similar, albeit longer, words: vorgestern (literally, “before yesterday”) and übermorgen (“beyond tomorrow”).

@flippin eck: We need to incorporate zeg into our everyday language immediately. Talk about a fantastic shortcut.

@Benedick HRH KFC, @JNOV: @IanJ: And then you have the Franch, who refer to a fortnight as “une quinzaine” or 15 days. Because they’re just like that.

My UK friends use kilos for weight, unless they’re talking about people, when they use stone. I guess “10 stone” psychologically sounds better than “63.5 kilos” or “140 pounds.”
If we really want to make the British suffer, we should introduce “fixin’ to” into their vernacular. As in “I’m fixin’ to go to town.” Is that just a Southern (and particularly Oklahoman) thing?

@JNOV: But when does anyone (baserunners excepted) actually stand on a line?

@mellbell: The first thing that comes to mind is lining up (falling into ranks) on painted lines drawn on concrete when I was in the military. There’s a starting line during track races. Toeing lines. Lines drawn in the sand. Stuff like that.

@Mistress Cynica: Have the French incorporated a version of “weekend” yet? If we said, “Le weekend,” Madame Arditi was a bit pissed (and not British pissed. Or maybe she was.).

@Mistress Cynica: Fixin’ to and finnin’ to will do the trick.

@JNOV: In track, standing/crouching on the line is a disqualifier, and I believe that’s where “toe the line” comes from, so that’s out as well. And the whole point of a line in the sand is that you’re on one or the other side of it, not on it. So that leaves baseball and the military.

@flippin eck: How does one get from “The day after tomorrow” to “Zeg”, I wonder?

@JNOV: If I recall correctly, there is no French word for the space created at the center front of your body when you sit down (in English we would say “lap”).

These peeps have watched English teevee, right?

@mellbell: Okay. I am all kinds of confused. I thought “toe the line” referred to politics or some sort of philosophical affiliation. I thought that as long as you didn’t cross a line drawn in the sand, you were on the good foot, but all I know about lines in sand I learned from Bugs Bunny. So, here’s a new one to muddy things: Back on the Breadline where they stand in line. (Sorry about the Fabio advert.) ;-)

@karen marie has her eyes tight shut: Georgian language. Everything else in their language makes things more complicated or difficult to say, except zeg. We loved zeg. It’s especially handy for text messages back when our cell phones all had numeric keyboards and character limits (but hey we had cell phones in the Peace Corps!).

@karen marie has her eyes tight shut: “Baisez-moi dur”, I think. Try that out next time you meet a French person.

***Walks away humming, butter not melting in his mouth****

@karen marie has her eyes tight shut:

More importantly, how does a French person invite someone to dance there?

TJ/ I’m seriously thinking about busking.

TJ/ Alternatively, anyone have suggestions for handmade knits to work on for the upcoming winter? I’m almost done a killer Alpaca sweater, but the yarn alone is ~$150, so I don’t see it selling. Hats, people. Gimme some ideas for hats and scarves.

@Walking Still: Voulez-vous danser sur mes genoux ce soir?

In Egyptian Arabic, “Neck nee” (pronounced phonetically) achieves the desired effect.

@JNOV: Darling, no. Though I could suggest a few stunts with kippers.

$300 for a hand-knit alpaca cardie does not seem outrageous to me. Have you tried approaching some of the better boutiques in Philly? (OK. I have to stop till the laughter subsides) But srsly. There is a joint in Woodstock that charges between $90 and $200 for hand-knit scarves. I bought one and left it in the fall of Saigon terminal 3 at Heathrow. I think you might be underpricing your talents. Also, knit to commissions. I know, easier said than done. But you just need one of Philly’s supermodels to wear one of your creations at one of the city’s hotspots to get the point across. Or see above re trendy boutique. Or craigslist? *ducking to avoid hurled bottles and imprecations.

@JNOV: Knit hats with bills? They seem to have been popular the last couple of winters.

Le weekend was used by Moliere and is therefore canonical.

Mr. Bean does talk.

Catt is a very bad man.

Stage left/right is extremely complicated and has nothing to do with reason. And don’t get me started on prompt/off prompt.

@mellbell: I am the only one on Earth who has not seen that movie. I need to, Dude. ;-)

@mellbell: I’ll look into it. Feel like scaring up a photo?

@Benedick HRH KFC: Mme Arditi kept telling us how lucky we were that we didn’t have school on Saturday. Do they still do that: half days on Wednesday and Saturday?


@Benedick HRH KFC: But I have a heart of gold, so we’re all good here, right?

Well, gold painted coal, anyway….

As for stage right/left, if you put a safety pin in the director’s left ear and use a spotter offstage they can signal you using morse code with a mirror as to which way to move based upon a safety pin stuck in their right ear and using their cell phone map function to triangulate.

This is both simple and infallible, as most of my plans are.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: You’d get along famously with my teacher who pronounced “Fleur de lis” “Fleur de lit,” and that ain’t no flower bed…

@JNOV: What about cute little kid’s mittens with the words LEFT and RIGHT knitted on the cuff?

@mellbell: Is this too goofy?

ADD: Never mind the colors.

In Limeyland, stage left/right is done from the audience’s pov. So when the director say ‘Go left’, after everyone groans and all the cast huddled in corners mutter “What a spaz” to one another, the actor in fact moves in the opposite direction, i.e., right. Unless, the director is working from some post 1900 playbook and is doing it from the actor’s pov. In which case left means left and not right. And you never know if the director means left/left or left/right and even if she does can one abandon one’s principles and give in to some trendy new taxonomy just because it makes everything simpler? I don’t think so.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: Mittens are cool, but they are hellahard to whip up fast, especially if they have text on them. Don’t even mention gloves (teeny tiny needles). I wanted to make these: and some fair isle stuff, but they take forever. I’m thinking funky, bulk and fast for right now.

@Benedick HRH KFC: They should just have a red hanky pinned on one side of the curtain, and a blue on on the other. Then unless you have some colorblind issue, you go toward the blue or the red or whatever.

@JNOV: I like it. If it were a skosh more rounded at the crown it’d be even better.

@JNOV: Ooh! Yes! Hats! With matching scarves and mittens! The kind of mittens that you can peel back the finger end so you can use your fingers!

Several years ago an aunt gave me a bunch of books about knitting, but I crochet so they weren’t much good to me. However, there was a recipe for knitting hats that I was able to easily translate into crochet. I made a bunch of swell hats with matching scarves. I cannot for the life of me read a pattern though so I’ve never attempted mittens.

Hats are sooooo easy! And so useful!

Also, too, those headband thingies that skiers wear to keep their ears warm are very useful and can be made more delightful by being fanciful.

I made one that tied under my chin. Instead of making it long enough to wrap around my head and sewing the ends together, I made it long enough to go over the top of my head. I have a vague memory of having something similar in the early ’60s that was made of velvet. I used a double thread — plain white wool and fluffy wool together. Adorable!

Oh, also, too, in re hats. Using bulky wool, I made some really long hats that then got rolled up. They kind of reminded me of Russian Cossack fur hats. Others made out of regular wool I put a scalloped border on the bottom edge which could either be worn down or folded up.

The last two hats I made I used felting wool, crocheted them extra big and then ran them through the washer and drier to felt them. The one that I did with a single crochet came out deliciously dense and warm. The one I did with a double crochet didn’t felt as well, plus it’s yellow, so …

@karen marie has her eyes tight shut: Hats, yes. Scarves, maybe, but I’m not making mittens. Those things are a nightmare.

@mellbell: Yeah — I just reworked the pattern in my head — I can lose the dunce cap aspect I think.

ADD: Oh, and I a found variations on the paperboy cap you first linked to. I like those, and they look like fun to make.

@Benedick HRH KFC: Oh, I missed your comment. Yeah, I was selling stuff on Etsy (you know who you are, and THANK YOU!), and I was importing hand-dyed Welsh wool, Egyptian cotton, and other nice yarn. Good stuff. The exchange rate is teh suck right now for the British wool, and I want to do something new. Maybe not custom made anymore, but I like letting people choose yarn. I’m all over the place.

What’s this kippers business? Should I be afraid?

@Benedick HRH KFC: Those scarves look like fun to make. What I really wish is that I could get my hands on this stuff from Uruguay. Fair trade! I think Tommmcatt would look great in this.

@JNOV: Catt would look good in anything that takes the eye away from the hips. Think bold V shapes.

Benedick would look good in anything that tends to hide minor flaws in the physique.

Think burqua.

@JNOV: You should totally make dozen’s of those. The kids would buy them like hotcakes. How about black and red as well?

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: Whereas I look good in things that turn back the hands of time about 50 years – all downhill from age 4.

Think Time Tunnel.

@Benedick HRH KFC: Wonder if I could work up some assless chaps…

Oh! Manos del Uruguay has a US distributor now. The stuff’s not cheap, but fair trade never is. When I found Egyptian cotton yarn for $4/ball, I was like, “Um, so what are the folks in Egypt getting paid?” I don’t think most of us realize how expensive handmade items made of decent materials cost.

/on soapbox If you factor the cost of the materials (yarn, needles, if you need a size or type you don’t have, holders, closures, etc.), the time it takes to craft it (drafting/adjusting the pattern, paying yourself minimum wage for time spent researching, shopping around for materials, making the piece (How complicated is it? How thin is the yarn? How many colors are you using? How small are the needles? How many pieces do you have to attach/how complicated is finishing it?)), then you get your base cost.

Once you have your base cost, you use industry standards to translate the base cost into wholesale or retail prices. You don’t want to price yourself out of the market, but you also don’t want to undersell your work. Then you have to figure out how many of X you can make in a day or a week, even if you knit quickly. God forbid you make a mistake and have to rip out your work and start over. It’s damn near impossible to live like that, but I wish I could. /off soapbox

@Benedick HRH KFC: I like it that they go through the aisles selling snacks during intermission in English theaters. Reminds me of baseball.

@Dodgerblue: I just learned, via Jeopardy, that this great college ball player I’d always heard about, Lew Alcindor, is the same person as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. D’oh!

@mellbell: Congrats. Wait. Is he a tall black man?

@Dodgerblue: It used to be you could attend a matinee and order tea and biscuits for the interval which would be delivered to your seat in the dress circle on a tray.

It was a different world.

@mellbell: He was also in a damned good movie.

@Benedick HRH KFC: Dude. If they don’t have gravy or butter on them, they’re cookies.

@Dodgerblue: And there’s ice cream! Ginger ice cream!!

@Benedick HRH KFC: The Theatre should take a page from the C of E, where one side of the church is the gospel side, and the other is the epistle side, no there’s no confusion about left/right depending on one’s pov.

@Mistress Cynica: Do you have any idea what kind of consternation that would cause among actors? Having been one I can predict, with certainty, much grandstanding about the benefits of agnosticism, then recriminations in high dudgeon about the insensitivity of such grandstanding in the presence of actual members of a faith, however lapsed. Then some guy that acted with Sarah Bernhardt in her first three stage appearances would try make peace by regaling the spear-carriers with tales of his drunken youth in the arc-lights, which would just piss the principles in the matter off. The equity rep, all the time wondering how she got suckered into THAT position as well as her sucky little three-minute speaking turn, would make vague gestures toward peacemaking before getting immediately sick of it and slumping off for another quick nip, and the ingenue, sensing that attention had turned from her pretty ankles, would begin another informative screed on the subject of Pilates and a macrobiotic diet. And this would be just during the morning 15.

…I miss the theatre. What were we talking about?

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: There you go with those Anglishisms! It’s theatER. Sheesh.

@Tommmcatt Be Fat, And That Be That: Ingenue? You never worked musical theatre, did you? Boys in dance belts asking if their nipples looked swollen and would you rub some cream in them before you attended to the sore spot right above their crack.

@mellbell: Yep. Changed his name while attending UCLA. He is still hugely popular in Los Angeles except, for some reason, with LA Lakers management.

@Benedick HRH KFC: Do the English pronounce this “onnnn-jenue” ??

back to words…i have bangs. if you go into any salon in the world and ask for a “bang trim” they will fall on the floor laughing. it’s ‘FRINGE” you see, everywhere in the world except USA! kinda like the metric system.
and only in USA! do you stand on or in line. everywhere else you stand in “QUEUE.”

@Dodgerblue: Ahn-zhen-eeoo. Stress on 1st syllable.

@baked: One queues up to get one’s fringe trimmed. Bangtrim. Isn’t that in Ireland?

One word that needs to go in most conversational uses: “obviously.”

@JNOV: I do not even want to think of how much it costs me to devote a few hours hand loading ammo when I can buy a 50 found box of .38 special caliber pistol ammo for $20 or a box of 20 rifle cartridges for a deer rifle for $27. I don’t even reload 9 mm pistol ammo because I can find it for less then $15 for a box of 50 without looking very hard.

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