Tag Archives: Americanisms

Damn these Americans and their screwed up English!

Notice how I couldn’t avoid two Americanisms in my title complaining about Americanisms! ;-)

This is the root of the problem, some Americanisms are darn fine ones but others just drive me completely bonkers crazy. Take the word “guess” for example. The way I use it it is a fine complement to the English version of “suppose”. I can say “I suppose you will be holidaying in Tuscany again this year?” meaning I don’t know for sure but there has been at least an element of deduction or calculation involved (say because the person has been to Tuscany the last five years in a row). I can also say “I guess not.” when I’m asked whether Obama will win the next election, giving the impression that whilst I still have an opinion, I really am guessing. Damn is a good, more widely known, alternative to sod in a similar way that screwed up works well instead of buggered up and there are many more Americanisms that I am happy to embrace and use. Should be said I’ve worked with Americans for a lot of my career so am more tolerant than others.

Where it goes horribly wrong is with phrases like “reach out” or the current favourite, “space”. I was listening to a podcast, I think Harvard Business Review, and the lady being interviewed was using space so often it was genuinely hard to follow what she was saying. I forget the details but she would say something like “We were testing atheletes who were operating in the basketball space.” instead of saying “We were testing basketball players.” and as the interview went on it was clear that the word space, in its new role, had almost unlimited applications. I might have let this go as a one-off nutty professor moment but it has been cropping up with annoying regularity so it would be great to head this one off at the pass!

The other example, “reach out” has been around for a while now and because of that has started to cross borders. What was purely an Amercian thing has now invaded the UK and shows no signs of stopping, hence the need to raise emerging dangers such as space at an early stage in the hope they don’t cross the Atlantic. Essentially, reach out is used to signify an attempt to communicate with someone but without being specific as to what method will be used. “I will reach out to him next week.” or “He reached out to me to discuss the situation in the Eurozone space.”. Saints preserve us!

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