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The New York Skyline

Depending on who you talk to, our American cousins have either mangled our wonderful common tongue and spat it back into our culture in annoying gobbets – or they’ve made English much neater (in both senses). Here are ten efficient or extravagant Americanisms that really knock it out of the park for us.

“A whole ‘nother”

Any writer knows that sometimes flow is far more important than stuffy old grammar. Wince all you like at this cut’n’shut, spliced and stacked expression – it is as perfect as an Oreo, and it knocks it’s (rather confusing) parent “another whole” into a cocked hat.

“A couple hours”

That irksome excision of the “of” helps the phrase glide from your mouth like a snake down a sandbank. You can almost get the whole thing down to two syllables if you lay on a Southern state accent.

“I could care less”

Yes, it’s the big obnoxious enchilada of annoying Americanisms. “I could care less” truly trumps “I couldn’t care less” because it emphasises that you have chosen to give no damns about said question. Still not convinced? I could care less.

“I don’t know from…”

Again it’s a matter of flow and expeditiousness. “I don’t know anything about labradoodle haircare” is a mouthful and a half. But the Yiddish-derived “I don’t know from” is a much handier way to admit that you know squat. See also: “I know squat.”

“Step up to the plate”

Who even remembers the English equivalent of this baseball-based idiom? Of course, here the plate is made of fine bone china and covered in crustless cucumber sandwiches, but we all know what the expression means when we hear it.

“I guess so”

“I suppose so” isn’t significantly longer, I s’pose, but it sounds so much more grudging and reticent. The mild “I guess so” has the natural humility of expressed estimation, I guess.

“I wrote her”

Nothing to do with Angela Lansbury, but a niftier way to say “I wrote to her”. American English does cancel this one out by adding a “with” to “I visited with her”, but swing sets and carousels, huh.

“It’s named for…”

Aside from the economy of this expression, it doesn’t leave the room for correlative doubt that “named after” does. Think about it. You might as well just say “named later than”, mightn’t you?

“Restroom”

Euphemistic as all hell it may be, but this is a pleasingly neutral and elegant name for the humble loo. Whenever we have to ask for the “ladies/gents”, the “lavatory” or “toilet”, doesn’t a bit of us die?

“Son of a bitch”

There is no English equivalent for this delicious multi-purpose light swearword or insult. Used on its own or in conjunction with other swears, it sounds hilarious in the mouth of an Englishman or woman, and should be employed at every opportunity.

 

Sarah Bee

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