Saturday, 2 November 2013

Briticism - That's Proper English, Mate

Union Flag, Britishism, Briticism
A Union Jack that's a tad knackered looking, which is spot on in my book
(image by Csaga)


Noun. Also Britticism, Britishism. Mid-19th century.
[from BRITISH after Gallicism, Scotticism, etc.]

A word, phrase, or idiom characteristic of the English of Great Britain as opposed to the US etc.

For donkey's years, Brits have been chuntering on about dodgy Americanisms creeping in over here. We've been getting our knickers in a twist when mates want to touch base, or some muppet of a bloke says normalcy, or horribly mispronounces advertisement or privacy. And what about someone telling you to do the math? Nothing quite browns me off, however, like the High Rising Terminal (also appropriately known as the Moronic Interrogative). That's when the pitch is raised at the end of every damn sentence, making everything sound like a question, regardless of whether it is or not: "So he was all, like, krunky with me? And I was, like, no way dude? And he was all, like, urggh. So I was all, like ..." Etc, etc, ad skin-crawlauseam. When will the penny drop that it makes you seem like a right proper numpty?

But, Brits of the world - be browned off no longer! It seems we can dish out the old idioms too. According to a BBC report, more and more Briticisms are migrating westward and settling nicely into the American vernacular. Why? Well, no doubt the popularity of programmes (yes, programmes) like Downton Abbey and The Office helps, but there's probably a bit of snobbery lobbed in too. Just like a British youth might say something is gnarly because he thinks it sounds cool (whereas it actually makes him sound like a bit of a div), an American might chuck twee into a sentence, or say Autumn instead of fall, because they think it makes them sound a bit more cultured, which is spot on. Huzzah!

I, for one, couldn't be more chuffed at the cultural exchange of idioms, and the variety and colour of English in all its forms often leaves me utterly gobsmacked. So, if you're an American and you see British expressions popping up here and there, don't be a big girl's blouse about it - embrace them. And likewise if you're a Brit. Sure, we can drop the naff ones like gnarly and that'll learn 'em, just as we hope Americans won't adopt chav or minger, but we'd all be absolutely barking to reject every phrase or word just because it's from across the pond. Anyway, do tell some of your favourite Briticisms or differences between British English and the English of wherever you're from. And if you ever want to hear some bona fide right proper Brit-speak, do please gimme a bell on the blower and we'll have a good old chinwag.

What's your most pukka Briticism?

What Briticisms are utter cobblers?

Do let's have a proper natter in the comment box below.


  1. That's the ticket: be bright and breezy and keep our peckers up.

    1. Abso-bally-lutely! Bob's your uncle and Fanny's your aunt, wot?

  2. You do sound proper chuffed indeed. I could imagine myself tossing in a "twee" in the effort to sound more sophisticated, but old habits die hard and I don't imagine I'll be adopting that flouncy pronunciation of "aluminum" and I'm quite happy to keep the Americanism "pop the trunk," since "open the boot" just doesn't have that same ring to it.

    PS I couldn't help but hear Otto in A Fish Called Wanda saying the line "you English think you're SO superior..."

    1. Not that I'm one to engage in such trivial "You're-wrong-we're-right" debates (actually I am), but I've heard both Brits and Americans decry each other on several occasions for mispronouncing 'aluminium' when the spelling so "clearly confirms the correct pronunciation". But no! Not only do we pronounce it differently, but we spell it differently too, each pronouncing it as they spell it. So who really knows which is right? (although obviously it's 'aluminium')

    2. In all other Germanic languages (or at least the ones I know) it's "aluminium" so I guess this time the Brits win :P To me, it doesn't really matter. I'm already happy if I can think of a word that's somewhat understandable to the international public.

    3. Hooray for Bibi! I do remember Bill Bryson, in the Short History of Nearly Everything, giving a more scholarly reason why 'aluminium' is the more correct of the two, though I can't remember exactly what it was.

      Besides, 'aluminum' sounds like some shadowy New World Order type group: The Aluminumati. Creepy!

    4. I'm late to this, but after having debated the spelling/ pronunciation of aluminium since I came to Canada many, many moons ago, I finally came across this article which forever makes 'aluminium' the correct, and only, spelling/pronunciation!

      It's Aluminium - The Proof

    5. Spread the word, Jingles. Henceforth, every American will forever spell it 'aluminium'. Honestly. They will. Lexicolatry has a lot of weight, y'know.

  3. It is quite beneficial, although think about the facts when it reaches this target.