Thursday, June 30, 2016

Brit terms gaining traction in US

                                    The Britishisms are coming


                                            Howard Richler

“I think it’s fair to say maybe some point down the line, but it’s not going to happen any time soon because our focus is on negotiating with the E.U… The U.K. is going to be at the back of the queue.”
Barack Obama. April 23, 2016
Obama’s use of queue was regarded as suspicious in some British quarters. Was the use of the non-American “queue” a sycophantic attempt to curry favour with the British public? Or even worse, did Obama hire some Brit to write the speech?
Truth be told, Obama has used the term queue previously (instead of “line”) on several occasions which might partially explain why many Republicans don’t believe he was born in the USA. In 2010, in a White House transcript, he stated, “There were several people who were still in the queue who didn’t have a chance to speak prior to breaking, The next year, we have hin saying “Could I just say that Chuck is the only guy who asked two questions  –  so far. So just  when I cut off here, whoever was next in the queue- I’m messing with you Chuck.”  In 2013, POTUS declared “We’ve got to make sure that we have a legal immigration system that doesn’t cause people to sit in the queue for five years, ten years, fifteen years – in some cases, 20 years.”
Actually, there has been an upswing in the usage of British terms in the US for many years, particularly in the northeast. Whereas at one point, employing a British accent was seen as classy nowadays the peppering ones speech with Britishisms in the US is seen as intellectual.
Here are some other examples of Britishisms that have become popular.
bespoke-   Bespoke is often used by Americans to refer to  high-quality items and services.  In the New York city area there are over twenty “bespoke” companies including “Bespoke Books,” “Bespoke Surgical,”  “Bespoke Barber Shop,” “Jasmine Bespoke” and at least one store simply called “Bespoke.” Also, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office lists over forty active registrations and applications for “bespoke” brand names with the majority of the patents being filed in the past eighteen months. If you have a USA bespoke product or service to offer you better act quickly. One person wanted to use as their web address but as this belonged to Bespoke Software, he had to settle for Bespoke Innovations.
chav- The OED defines chav as, “In the United Kingdom (originally the south of England): a young person of a type characterized by brash and loutish behaviour and the wearing of designer-style clothes (esp. sportswear); usually with connotations of a low social status.”
This term is increasingly being used in probably due to the insidious influence of You Tube videos. Here are two examples stemming from the U.S, that I spotted on the Internet:  “Nah I'm not buying those sneakers man, they are so chavvy.”   Someone from Boston posted the following on a language newsgroup:“Chav is gaining currency as Americans understand that not all British people are posh. Boston/Cambridge is rife with international college students, so it may just be a blip, but I've heard it in a suburban grocery store to refer to some hooligans outside the store.”
kit –When  American science-fiction author John Scalzi wrote on his blog some years ago that the latest IPad  was a “lovely piece of kit,” he was deluged by many followers who thought his using the expression was highly pretentious. Scalzi retorted:  “Apparently being an American, I should have settled on “Dude, this tablet is bananas,” or something else equally comporting with my nation of origin.” This usage appears to be popular with techies and tennis fans who might refer to a player’s “kit,” whose gear might change depending on the surface of the tennis court.
Similarly, the words “toff” and “gobsmacked” are being used much more in the US in recent years. “Toff” is a mildly derogatory term for someone with an aristocratic background or someone who exudes an air of superiority.” During the 2012 presidential campaign is was used by American journalist Daniel Gross who took pains in an article to declare that Mitt Romney was not the “bumbling toff” he was made out to be. “Gobsmacked,” is oft heard these days in North American circles and the person who seems to have popularized the word is singer Susan Boyle whose appearance on Britain's Got Talent in 2009 quickly went viral.

Richler’s book Wordplay: Arranged and Deranged Wit was published in May 2016.