Lovely piece of Brit: a spectre haunts the Times | Bleader

Lovely piece of Brit: a spectre haunts the Times

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Cheers, rendered properly
  • vmiramontes
  • Cheers, rendered properly
In Illinois we worry about Asian carp, but it's another spectre—sorry, specter—that haunts the east coast. The Times's Alex Williams reported yesterday on the creep of British English into the colonial vernacular, an invasion he sees as originating with New York City media elites, who become the subject of articles by other New York City media elites and, in that way, make it socially acceptable for themselves to describe nice things as "brilliant." Also elites of other backgrounds: comments Euan Rellie, a "socially prominent British-born finance executive," "I'm getting sick of my investment banking clients saying 'cheers' to me." You know what, bro? Me too.

In search of evidence, Williams wanders inland and finds an instance, in a recent article in the suburban Daily Herald, of the use of the word fortnight. Most other evidence in his piece is anecdotal and verbal, not written, and generally involves words and phrases that I had no idea people who weren't native British English speakers actually used. "You find yourself calling your friends 'lads,' which is generally accepted," a "writer who lives in the West Village" tells Williams. You do? It is? Williams also writes, "The absolving term 'no worries' . . . has all but replaced 'no problem' for smart-set Americans under 40." IT HAS? This is, on its face, incorrect, and we should hold fast to our indigenous usage—not least because of the clear benefit of the construction "no problem," which is that it can be truncated into the charming colloquialism "no prob, Bob," or, if you're addressing somebody of a higher social station than you, the more formal "no problem, Boblem." (Earlier in the day at New York's blog the Cut, a bona fide Brit took issue with conferral of "no worries" on Mother England, claiming he hadn't known it to be a Britishism: "A truly British outlook on life means that you're always worried about something.")

Some phrases suffer a loss in translation: Williams notes that "chat up" means, across the pond, "flirting with intention to bed," while over here in the U.S. its implications are far more innocent. And I was taken aback when he mentioned that the phrase "lovely piece of kit" had been applied to the new iPad; to me it sounds much more like a compliment to somebody's especially nice merkin, which itself seems to have been a British invention. It's an entertaining read, but as with so many Times Styles pieces, its social utility might be limited, unless you happen to be a member of the "American striver classes" who Williams thinks form the vanguard of this trend. Take it all with a grain of poutine, or whatever, is what I'm saying.

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