American English is Awesome Dude

I recently got back from a trip to New Orleans for Christmas and a significant family birthday, it was my fourth visit to the Crescent City and my seventh to the States. When I’m there I always notice the difference between British and American English (I’ve written about it before in Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off!).

The thing is, this time I fell in love with the way Americans speak and their manners.

I had one exchange with a porter who was helping us make a connecting flight that went something like this (as he was about to leave us at the gate):

Me: Thank you so much for helping us.

Very Polite Man: You’re welcome ma’am.

Me: Cheers.

VPM: Merry Christmas!

Me: Thank you. Take care.

VPM: I will [looking surprised – maybe they don’t say that in America?]. You too.

Me: Thanks again.

VPM: Sure.

Me: Bye then.

VPM: You have a good trip ma’am.

Me: Thanks.

VPM: Happy holidays!

Clearly I wasn’t going to get the last word in and left it at that so we didn’t miss our flight.

Some people think that level of politeness is smarmy but I love it. And I never tire of Americans saying ‘excuse me’ when we’d say ‘sorry’ or ‘pardon’. I was saying it too when I got back for a few days, then I felt a bit phony – ah well, just have to wait for my next trip.

Here are some of my other favourite words from the holiday:

1. Burglarized

When I worked in finance many many years ago we used to add -ise and -isation to words for no reason (it’s strange what counts as fun when you sit at a desk from 7a.m. to 9p.m.).

Anyway, it seems to have caught on. While I was watching NCIS an unfortunate man hadn’t been burgled – he’d been “burglarized”!

2. Yieldamericanisms

Instead of “Give way” signs on their roads, US drivers are told to “Yield”. It’s so simple, it’s so concise, it’s so strong, it’s so… perfect.

3. ‘erb

Weirdly – but maybe because the French governed Louisiana for periods of the 17th and 18th centuries – people say “‘erb” instead of “herb”. It’s quite funny with an American accent, go on, try it.

4. Merry Christmas y’all!

In N’Awlins people wished me a Merry Christmas a hundred times but never ever a happy one – and I wondered why.

Well, apparently Merry Christmas was used in Britain until Queen Elizabeth decided that ‘merry’ sounded a bit boisterous and had dodgy connotations so she started saying Happy Christmas. The change caught on in the UK but it has never crossed the Atlantic.

I could go on about how after only two weeks I was tossing out the trash, learning new words like deplane and frosting, asking for tap warder when I was thirsty and getting people to say niche (pronounced ‘nitch’ over there) – but I won’t.

Instead it’s over to you, what’s your favourite – or least favourite – Americanism?


7 thoughts on “American English is Awesome Dude

  1. Sidewalk goes better with street, as in now I’ve started humming “Sidewalks in the street, the concrete and the clay…” showing my age here!

  2. I love this blog Sally, but then again I love Americans and the way they talk! I’ve always found them so polite and positive. Sounds like you had a great time, must catch up soon:)

  3. Oh great, thanks Julie. Me too and I’m pleased that we seem to be going that way over here.
    I did thank you, New Orleans is a lot of fun! That would be great.
    I hope you’re well.


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