Americans Are Barmy Over Britishisms? Bollocks.

For a British person living in America, today was like being the most popular kid in school, when everyone notices you and wants to be your friend and thinks that you’re awesome – and all because the New York Times ran a piece by Alex Williams about the spread of “Britishisms” in the American lexicon.

Crikey, Britishisms are everywhere. Call it Anglocreep. Call it annoying. Snippets of British vernacular — “cheers” as a thank you, “brilliant” as an affirmative, “loo” as a bathroom — that were until recently as rare as steak and kidney pie on these shores are cropping up in the daily 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.”

Well I’ve got another British word for you: bollocks.

I moved to New York from my hometown London at the end of July. And yet two and a half months later, I’m still separated from my new friends by a language barrier as wide as the Atlantic.

First, there’s the vocab issue. When I ask people for their surname [last name] I’m met with confused silence. When I talk about putting something on the hob [stovetop] everyone around me bursts into gleeful giggles. The other day, I mentioned to a friend that I was going to the toilet [bathroom]. She looked at me, aghast, before whispering, “That’s a bit graphic.”

I’m usually betrayed by my accent before any incriminating expressions can tumble out of my gob [mouth], and I am invariably met with the same response from the other person. Their eyes widen. They draw their head back. Then, in some kind of slow-motion take on the English accent, they say, “Ohhhh! Aaaare yoooou Breee-tteeesh?”

To which I smile, pretend it’s delightful [great] to me too and pray that invariable response number two doesn’t come next. But it always does.

The person then proceeds to have a whole conversation with me in this English accent. It happens for three reasons: some people genuinely believe they have an English accent as authentic as mine, others think it’s cute or funny to mimic how I speak and a small handful don’t even realise they’re doing it.

My flatmate [roommate], bless her soul and her well-stocked wardrobe [closet], has become so used to speaking to me in a faux-British accent from being in the second group of imitators that she’s now graduated into the third category and does it automatically – even when she’s chinwagging [talking] about me to someone else.

And that’s in my personal life, with friends and colleagues I speak to regularly. Out in the big bad world of New York City, I’ve sat in taxi cabs as they circled blocks wondering what on earth “Brordweh” is. (It’s Broadway, by the way, in an English accent.) There are the usual tomato-based difficulties. And God help me if I try to buy a bottle of water. I might as well be speaking Swahili.

I could just about handle being a charming little English oddity to my New York friends. But not only are my Britishisms not leaking into the American language; despite my best resistance strategies, Americanisms are slowly but surely creeping into my vocabulary. Like the adjective “super”, as in “that’s super awesome”, and the word “awesome”, as in “that’s super awesome.”

So call me an Anglocreep if you like. But, blimey, when you say it’s because my language is trickling into yours, I won’t believe you, and then you’ll be in for a barney. And in England, that’s not the cuddly purple dinosaur.

Cheers.

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