America’s favourite ‘Britishisms’

America’s favourite ‘Britishisms’

Poor weather, Jedward and suet puddings aside, Britain is pretty awesome. As Hugh Grant reminded us both forcefully and inspirationally in Love Actually, our little tea-soaked island has plenty to be proud of. So we weren’t really surprised to learn that Americans are paying homage to The ‘Bloody’ Brilliance of Britain by adopting our colourful slang.

We Brit’s might have a reputation for assimilating Americanism’s but now our word’s (including skint, proper, twit, numpty, sussed, knickers and roundabout) are easing their way into the US, and expat communities are a large part of the reason why.

President Barak Obama even used the word gobsmacked recently – a term usually relegated to British TV shows from the 1950’s.

Not long ago BBC News published a list of ‘Britishisms’ that Americans freely admit to using and we’ve created an Expathub version of the top ten for ya’ll.

Bum

Contrary to popular belief not everyone has a bum. Americans, for example, have a ‘butt’ or ‘fanny’. Or they used to at least. Apparently more and more Americans are using the British word ‘bum’ to refer to their derrieres – although some consider the word pretentious!

Fancy

In the UK to ‘fancy’ something is to like/desire it (e.g. cor blimey guvnor, I don’t half fancy a slice of that pie). Now the US seems to fancy the term itself and its usage in social situations is becoming increasingly common.

Chav

Apparently many American’s are learning with giddy delight that not all British people are posh. This revelation was largely enabled thanks to Jersey Shore and youtube/similar web wonders. Through such channels the words ‘chav’ and ‘chavvy’ are sneaking into American culture, particularly the youth culture. You’re welcome.

Muppet

In the US a Muppet is an irritating (or adorable, depending on your view) puppet. Possibly shaped like a frog or a pig. Possibly frolicking in Space or a Dickens’s novel. In the UK a muppet is a derisive term used to describe someone behaving in a stupid manner. ‘You muppet’ is a common cry in British streets, and according to reports it’s beginning to echo across the pond too.

Autumn

Ah that magical time between summer and winter. Not too cold, not too hot and pumpkins for everyone. In America however, the joyous time of year where dead leaves suddenly seem beautiful is known as ‘fall’. But with the word autumn on the rise across the US looking forward to ‘fall’ may become a thing of the past.

Holiday

In America a respite from work or school is usually called a ‘break’ or ‘vacation’ but in the UK such periods of recreation are known as holidays. Now, in advertising at least, the US has begun to adopt our term. Whilst they haven’t quite embraced the Enid Blyton inspired slang of ‘hols’ (or ‘jolly hols’) it’s a start.

Mate

Traditionally Americans hung out with a ‘dude’ or a ‘buddy’ while Brit’s would grab a pint with their ‘mate’. Gradually however the British colloquialism has become a part of the US social scene. Forget Friends, it’s all about mates.

Apartment

In the UK estate agents are increasingly using the word ‘apartment’ in a sneaky attempt to make less-than-impressive accommodation sound better, and the same is happening in the US, only in reverse. The British term ‘flat’ is becoming an established part of American property developer’s lingo.

Queue

We Brits LOVE to queue. Tea, queuing and complaining dominate our lives. We’ve always pitied Americans who have to join a ‘line’ rather than a queue. But, as studies have shown that being part of a line is no less annoying than being part of a queue the terms are slowly becoming interchangeable in the UK. Furthermore, with the majority of automated voice responses and call centres putting people in ‘queues’ the term is on the rise in America.

Mobile

Apparently the increase in American’s using the word ‘mobile’ can be attributed to the international business market and the desire to be universally understood. Despite this reasoning few Brit’s refer to their mobiles using the American terms of ‘cell phone’ or ‘cell’. Possibly because in the UK a cell is something you’re locked in when you’re naughty.

The Expat Hub
This post was written by
If you’ve already moved abroad, if you’re in the process of moving abroad or if you’re only thinking about it, the Expat Hub is here for you. For expatriates looking for advice, support and information, we’re the number one online stop.