Despite living 10 years in Britain, I pretty much haven’t lost my American — Californian — accent. Sure, if I haven’t been back to the US for a month or two, I’ll have a bit of a lilt, in particular going up with my voice at the end of sentences. That goes away after a few days of being home, fortunately. No offense to the Brits — I love the various British accents — but I don’t want to lose my own.
What’s harder to stamp out is making use of British terms instead of American ones. It’s gotten even worse in my view because I think you’ve got more British writers working in Hollywood making use of these terms in American shows, quietly infecting our vocabulary. In addition, I think you’ve got even more people from the UK and American going between different countries.
“Bit” is one of those terms. I hear more and more Americans using it. “Are you going to do that bit?” might be a typical usage. I can swear, in the past an American would have said something like “Are you going to do that part.” Bit seems to have replaced the word part in some usage.
“Chat” is an incredible change. I hear people saying they want to have a chat, they chatted to someone and the ultimate, that they were chatted up. Chatted up is a Briticisms that means to hit on someone. Now Americans seem to use it. I can understand why. Chatted up someone sounds a lot nicer than having hit on them. Meanwhile, chat seems to have replaced the term talk for a close, personal conversation. That makes sense — chat’s a friendlier sounding word.
“Sorted” I use all the time. “I’ll get that sorted out,” would be a standard usage, as opposed to a more traditional American phrase like “I’ll figure it out.” I simply cannot purge saying sorted from my vocabulary — nor do I want to. I like the word, and more Americans seem to as well.
“Proper” is a term that doesn’t seems to have come to America in force yet, but it’s another I can’t purge. The equivalent would be “real,” as best I can remember. For example, I recently bought a new camera, to take better pictures. So I said to a friend that I’d bought a “proper” camera, which caused her to look at me oddly. Proper? Proper! What’s proper?
I meant that I’d bought a better camera or a real camera, rather than using my camera phone. In Britishese, that’s proper. For example, if you’ve been traveling for many days, then finally get home and have a real sit-down dinner, you might say you had a proper meal.
One of my favorite British words remains “knackered,” which means you’re worn out, tired, exhausted.
I’m trying to keep track of more and more of the Briticisms that are creeping into American language, as I spot them. I’m not a linguist, but the main trend I see is that I think we tend to go for them when they sound more descriptive or especially if they are shorter than a corresponding American term.
In a somewhat related note, for whatever reason, we were talking with some friends at a dinner party this weekend and the topic of finger gestures came up. I ran to the computer, did a search and naturally slammed into the required Wikipedia entry. But then I was curious about how Wikipedia covered the insulting two fingered gesture you’ll see here in the UK. Now, it’s not someone giving you the piece sign, if their palm is facing you. It’s someone giving you the British equivalent of the middle finger.
We were appalled that the entry for the “V sign” on Wikipedia pretty much didn’t explain the insulting gesture well. So we updated that entry, to enlighten everyone. I’d always understood the gesture as dating back to when English archers in the Middle Ages would flick their fingers at the French, to show they could still attack. The French would apparently cut the bow fingers off the archers, if caught. But Wikipedia and a few other sources allege this is a myth. Maybe through the miracle of wikiality, we can make it truth.