[Ads-l] US slang with British origins?

Stephen Goranson goranson at DUKE.EDU
Mon May 14 06:04:17 EDT 2018


"Gear" surely did not catch on in the US, as far as I know, and maybe also "fab" by itself, though the "fab four" did likely influence the U Michigan basketball "fab five."


Stephen


________________________________
From: American Dialect Society <...> on behalf of Geoffrey Nunberg <...>
Sent: Saturday, May 12, 2018 2:47 PM
To:...
Subject: Re: [ADS-L] US slang with British origins?

I think I wasn’t precise enough here. I was asking for egs of Britishisms used in vernacular slang in the way that “you guys” and “awesome” are used in the UK. It was Lynne Murphy’s book that led me to think about this, and of course Ben Yagoda has been assiduously documenting the influx of Britishisms like “one off,” “spot on,” “dodgy” etc. But as best I can determine, these usages are pretty much associated with journalese or the speech of the PBS-subscribing classes. Take “brilliant.’ Ben Y cites examples of UK “brilliant” in a travel resource application, a NYT classicial music review (and to Alex Ibanez, a former MLB player who’s now an ESPN analyst). In the NYT, Alex Williams sees it cropping up in the speech of "Americans (particularly, New Yorkers) of the taste-making set who often have no more direct tie to Britain than an affinity for 'Downton Abbey.’” (He also ascribes these usages to the “chattering classes” and "smart-set Americans under 40.”) But however diffused it may be now, it hasn't made any inroads in the slang of young people who use “awesome,” which by contrast is ubiquitous among younger British speakers. (As Ben Zimmer noted in WSJ piece a couple of years ago, not even the Beatles could give “fab” or “gear” a foothold in American slang.)

 Similarly “one-off,” “early days” “put paid” &c., which are now more-or-less common journalese and in some cases may even have lost their accents, but  which don’t figure much if at all in the speech of Berkeley undergraduates, say. And where “you guys” is pervasive in vernacular British English, it’s unimaginable that young Americans would ever take to referring to one another as blokes or coves—after all, where would they pick it up from?

So I think Mencken’s point still holds, making appropriate adjustments for the changing social geography. Britishisms enter American via the upper strata, however they’re defined, and only occasionally precipitate into the everyday American vernacular (maybe I should call it Flyoverese?). So it may be misleading to equate the American adoption of theses words with the spread of Americanisms in the UK.

I have more on this but I should probably save it for a LanguageLog post.

Geoff
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <
> ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Geoffrey Nathan <geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
> >
> Sent: Saturday, May 12, 2018 12:37 PM
> To:
> ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
>
> Subject: Re: US slang with British origins?
>
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <
> ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
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> Poster:       Geoffrey Nathan <
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> Subject:      Re: US slang with British origins?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>
> Lynne has a large number of examples of recent borrowings from the left sid=
> e of the Atlantic to the right in her recent book. Here's a random set from=
>  page 278:
>
>
> gobsmacked
>
> knock-on effect
>
> run-up
>
> kerfuffle
>
> puckish
>
> one-off
>
> liaise
>
> bespoke
>
> getting sacked
>
> baby bump
>
>
> I know there's lots more, but since I grew up in in Canada in a British-spe=
> aking household I'm not a reliable judge.
>
>
> Geoff
>
>
> Geoffrey S. Nathan
> WSU Information Privacy Officer (Retired)
> Emeritus Professor, Linguistics Program
>
> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__blogs.wayne.edu_proftech_&d=DwIFaQ&c=imBPVzF25OnBgGmVOlcsiEgHoG1i6YHLR0Sj_gZ4adc&r=uUVa-8oDL2EzfbuMuowoUadHHcJ7pjul6iFkS5Pd--8&m=O5Yr-JBSuf5Hd4R1B27JGEyL98sWjeqXBbnA-JEa3lI&s=y9vJTtQV74LbpFRHigrbe0Xka7nw7RSN4p-aUKQ8uvc&e=
>


Geoffrey Nunberg
Adjunct Full Professor
School of Information
University of California at Berkeley
Berkeley CA 94720

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