I frequently hear fellow Brits complaining that American parlance is taking over from proper English, as if our language is an inviolable preserve, free of adopted words, like bungalow or shampoo, or phrases, like “carpe diem”. It probably contributed to the divisive disaster which has become known universally as “Brexit”.
But as it happens, there are a number of phrases condemned by purists as “Americanisms”, sometimes even “vulgar Americanisms”, which are actually English.
The term commonly used to denote autumn in the US, is “fall”, a leftover from the term used by their forefathers, who after fleeing England over differences of religious belief, used the word as per most English people of the time, autumn replaced both fall and harvest some time in the 18th century, and was considered the proper English term, fall being relegated to the “Americanism” category, when in fact, its use is perfectly correct.
As an avid listener to BBC Radio 4 podcasts (among others), I’ve recently learned that other words written off as American, are actually Shakespearian in origin. The two words specifically discussed being “gotten” and “trash”.
English is a language of variety, and is flexible enough to accommodate new words from all over, Arabic words like “alchemy” and “alcohol”, a cursory search of French words in the English lexicon is mind bogglingly huge, to venture no further than words beginning with “a”, there are hundreds of entries, hardly surprising, given 1066 and all that, ambiance being a fairly obvious one, but I would never have guessed that artists was French.
It’s fairly obvious why Americans call trousers “pants”, it’s a shortened version of “pantaloons”, which is a slightly extended version of the French word for trousers, “pantalon”. I still stubbornly refuse to use this term, as far as I’m concerned, pants go under your trousers and that’s the end of it. Each to their own.
But there’s one thing bugs me above all else when it comes to US English and UK English. Aluminium. It has two letter i’s in it. Count them, they’re right there!
You can pronounce tomato as toe-may-toe, you can wear pants over your pants, but please Americans (and Canadians), please, it’s al-yoo-min-ee-um.