Review: That's the way it crumbles, by M. Engel

Those who follow the blog may remember that in February I was on BBC Radio 4's Word of Mouth, where fellow guest Matthew Engel and I debated the effect of American English on British English. Engel had written many newspaper columns on the topic, but at that point his book, That’s the way it crumbles: the American conquest of English, was yet to appear. What struck me in that radio conversation was how little Engel appeared to have to say about a topic he’d just written a book about. While he had some examples, he mostly seemed to repeat his claim that American English is "taking over" British English while offering little more than the experience-based perceptions of an Englishman in his seventh decade. He does have much more to say in the book, but he hasn't changed my mind about the topic. (You're not surprised, right?) I'm writing this on my way back from giving a conference paper on the research gaps and logical problems in British arguments that "American English is taking over". While I didn't discuss Engel's book there (my focus was on work by linguists—and media representation of that work), I wouldn't have had to change my argument if I had discussed it.

It's easy to suspect that the conquest in the book's subtitle was the work of his publisher's marketing
department, since Engel states in the preface "Let’s get two things straight right now: this crisis is not the Americans' fault; and this book is not anti-American." (Some of his best friends are American…) Instead, the "crisis", as Engel has it, is mostly the fault of the British, and their "current self-imposed verbal enslavement" (p. 3). Chapter by chapter, the book takes a chronological tour of Britain's alleged "long journey towards subservience" (p. 109). I've written about this slavery trope in an earlier blog post. It seems a peculiarly post-imperialist way of understanding global relationships—if you are no longer the master, you must be the slave.

If Engel is not anti-American (and we do have to ask: is he the best judge of that?), we can still conclude he’s somewhat anti-linguist. A few linguists are cited in the book (mostly for popular-audience works), listed in the references list under the 19th-century-feeling heading "Philology, etc.". In recalling the path to the book (more on this below), he complains that his work
reached the ears of the online lexicographical community, some of whom have not quite learned the niceties of civil disagreement and disputed my right to offer an opinion at all. One American said it was none of my business because I was not a 'qualified lexicographer'.
This is one quotation whose source Engel doesn't cite, and which I’ve been unable to find in the "online lexicographical community". (I don't know what they'd think a "qualified lexicographer" is. Lexicographers generally have experience rather than qualifications—see the last book I reviewed.)
As for whether linguists and Americans (or, indeed, American linguists) have been civil in their conversations, well, if you start with fighting words, you get fighting conversations. For Engel, there is a contest between American and British words, and it is "no longer a fair one" (p. 66). Americanisms aren’t just words, they're culprits, invaders, garbage. And if you say that about my words, it feels like you're saying it about me.

The lexicographers were loud not just because of Engel’s opinions, but because the "facts" in his newspaper columns often misjudged what was actually British or American English. He has learn{ed/t} his lesson on that point and so starts the book with a "note on the text" in which he admits that there will be "honest errors" of categori{s/z}ation and that he's willing to receive "politely worded suggestions for amendments" (p. viii). Since I suspect that Engel and I do not share a common view of what "polite wording" is (maybe I'm the "online lexicographical community" to which he refers), I won't burden him with my (few) (orig. AmE) nitpicks about word origin in the book.

The issue for debate here is not whether Engel is entitled to an opinion; rather it's whether people are entitled to go unchallenged when they express opinions that show only partial understanding of the issues at hand. Engel has the opinion that Britons should fight against American English. But this opinion is based on various claims or assumptions 
  • about what English is in the US and UK. For example, though he's not southern in origin, the English he talks about is very much the south-eastern standard—take, for instance, the claim that pants meaning 'trousers' is American and trousers is British—a common oversimplification, but an oversimplification all the same
  • about the nature of the "Britishness" that he wants to protect.
  • about how language changes, and how it is or is not changing in the UK and US. For example, what's the role of regional identity or social class [in bold because it's heavy] in how English changes in Britain?
  • about the relationship between language and culture. 
This last point is important. Engel's real enemy is not American words, but changes to British culture. Thatcherism, Blairism, loss of interest in the countryside, all are blamed on "Americani{s/z}ation". The extent of that can be debated, but Engel wants to situate the problem in words. The words came over, and they brought ideas with them, and as if in some Whorfian horror story, the ideas have eaten British brains. One problem with blaming the words is that in several chapters Engel has to stop after discussing word-culprits and admit "None of these can actually be counted as Americanisms" (p. 110)--they are relatively fresh Britishisms. But they feel American in tone or meaning to Engel, so they go on the slag heap.

Engel’s book provides lots of interesting cultural history, rich with entertaining facts, quotations and stories of the famous and not-so-famous. It’s also very well written, with a sly sense of humo[u]r. But the claim for “loss of the British language” (p. 235) feels, at best, a case of selective attention leading to a grumpy nostalgia for olden times (or vice versa). At worst, it comes off as disingenuous. Engel  knows very well (as evidenced in the book) that British English has always been undergoing change and that exciting linguistic things are happening in Britain that have nothing to do with America. (He has a bit on Multicultural London English, which is not very American at all.) But he's got himself into an argumentative corner where he has to rely on hyperbole. "It would be totally impossible to write a coherent book in English without words imported from the United States" (p. 11). (Writers! The gauntlet has been thrown!) It also has irony. "I’m not prescriptive", he writes on page 13.

In the end, Engel proposes that Brits try to stop Americanisms with pressure groups, for instance emailing and Twitter-shaming the BBC whenever they hear life vest instead of life jacket. The thing that worries me is that when I analy{s/z}ed a list of complaints to the BBC about Americanisms, only half of them were Americanisms. But if you're going to base your linguistic crusades on nationalism, maybe you don't care about facts. Engel also proposes that "Ridicule can work wonders" (p. 238). Ah, so that's how "civil disagreement" works.

One gets the feeling in the book that Engel is not fully committed to the topic. That he’s got himself in a (BrE) one-way system and is having a hard time getting out. It’s not really the language he wants to complain about, it's modern life—and who doesn’t want to complain about that? In the acknowledg(e)ments, Engel recounts that the publisher had called to tell Engel he wanted his book. Engel replied "What book?". "I had already decided I did not want to write a book about Americanisms", Engel tells us (p 259). But he has written it.


Thank you to Profile Books for providing a review copy of this book. In fact, they sent me two. If you'd like my spare copy, please write a comment on the Americanism you're most grateful for in British English in which you indicate a word/phrase of American origin that has been usefully (to your mind) been borrowed into British English.
I'll put those responses into a hat on 31 July and draw one.  If you win it, you can then tell me if you think this was a fair review! (Anonymous entries may have to be discounted if I can't find a way to contact you.)


48 comments

  1. Sassy (but I suppose now you'll tell me it's British). I can't check myself because Suffolk Library has stopped paying for the online OED.

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    1. My condolences about your library's OED subscription. It is indeed American. Do you have a reason for nominating it?

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    2. I don't think of that as a full-fledged Americanism, just a respelling of an American pronunciation of saucy, which goes back to 1530 and is part of the common English wordstock.

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    3. Are they synonyms and British English? I speak American English, and in my mind saucey tends to be slightly sexual in nature whereas sassy is more lighthearted and disrespectful. When I looked it up in the dictionary to be sure, however, the sexual aspect of saucy only appeared in British dictionaries. So I may be wrong about how it's used in American English. Are other people able to weigh in?

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  2. There is semantic ambiguity in the phrase "online lexicographical community" in that he could mean either "online [lexicographical] community" or "online lexicographical [community]". There are two lexicographical discussion groups that I know of and I don't believe he's a member of either. He'd have had to be a member of DSNA to belong to one and thus see the posts. Unless there's a mole . . .

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    1. I think he's just referring to the many linguists who wrote blog posts about his articles, and possibly one in particular (not me!) who argued with him on the radio--but in that case the 'online' is more puzzling.

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    2. Of course, anyone who has an Internet-enabled computer or phone and communicates using it automatically becomes an "online" version of whatever they might otherwise be labelled, and thus suspect, probably amateur, and almost certainly not worth listening to. See also: keyboard warrior, n: "someone who has an opinion about something, but online!

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  3. not anti-American

    I think he's right (not having read the book, of course). If lots of people are dressing up like [idol of the moment], and you think this makes them look ugly and should stop, and write a book about it, the book is not anti-idol and may not even blame the idol, on whom it looks good.

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  4. "It seems a peculiarly post-imperialist way of understanding global relationships—if you are no longer the master, you must be the slave."

    You seem to be forgetting that the British Empire was one on which "the sun never set", but no-one is accusing the Indians or Singaporeans of trying to dominate Britain. But then, they don't have their military and intelligence personnel stationed here. Or their weapons.

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    1. I'm talking individual relationships, not overall position in the world. There's fodder for the argument that when it comes to particularly the linguistic relationship, the UK still takes the 'master' position.

      And, of course, this is a particular way of talking about the relationships--it's just a prevalent metaphor. There are others--e.g. the 'special relationship' that tries to make something else of it.

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    2. Mark Twain was happy to tweak the nose of the Matthew Engels of his day when in 1897 he wrote:

      “There is no such thing as ‘the Queen’s English.’ The property has gone into the hands of a joint stock company and we own the bulk of the shares!”

      And it is all about ownership, after all. Engels thinks the British own English and the rest of us are just renting it.

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    3. Nitpick:

      The line about where the sun never sets originally comes from Schillers play 'Don Carlo', which is (loosely) based on King Philip II of Spain. - And even today, the sun never sets on the Queen's possessions.
      By the time the sun goes down in Cornwall, it's already high noon in the Caribbean colonies of Anguilla and others, as well as the Falklands. And when it's evening there, it's still light on Pitcairn Island. And by tea-time on Pitcairn, it's breakfast time in the British Indian Ocean Territories. And before they go to bed, it's already a new working day in London. (Not to mention the intermediate crown dependencies of Gibraltar, Tristan da Cunha and Jersey.)

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  5. There is a view that British words and expressions are if not the actual font of original purity at least more original and purer that rival American deviations. An easy view to demolish, but it's not actually Matthew Engel's view. He thinks not in terms of original vs deviant but of cultural signs appropriate to different cultures. So you can't demolish a particular argument by demonstrating the the American variant is original or that the British variant is a deviation.

    In his mindset an Americanism is a word or expression which — no matter where or when it originated —
    • was recently popular in American speech and unknown (or rare) in British speech
    • but is now popular (or beginning to be popular) in British speech

    What he's against is recent imports which do not enrich the British lexicon. There's no way of arguing against this. If a words jars, it jars. All one can say is 'It doesn't jar for me'. So it's the proverbially unproductive dispute about tastes.

    It's also hard to object to Engel if you happen to like diversity. I personally feel happier when you say life vest and we say life jacket, when you say pants suit and we say trouser suit. Insofar as he's objecting to the ousting of life jacket and trouser suit, then my instinct is to agree. Where I think you have grounds for objection is when he perceives any loss of diversity as cultural suppression by swamping out the localisms.

    Some would say 'cultural imperialism', but Engel seems to be avoiding that position. I take him to be likening you American speakers to Phillip Larkin's mum and dad — you f*ck up our cultural voice; you may not mean to, but you do.

    The accusation of cultural imperialism is a nonsense, but the more nuanced accusation of swamping out diversity is trickier to counter. My own view is that the use of language is a democratic process that resists homogenisation. Engel is wrong and Orwell was wrong.

    [Orwell thought that malicious impoverishment of political language could make dissent unthinkable.]

    Whether we're assigning meanings to words or words to meaning, Humpty Dumpty got it right: "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean" — which we must qualify if and only if enough speakers go along with me.

    Lost diversity is sad — but new diversity will come along.

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    1. Ahhh, you beat me to it!

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    2. Paul, Allegra,

      OK autocracy over words doesn't work for Humpty. But the girl is being equally autocratic, and that won't get her the car or Humpty's other stuff.

      To get along, they need to do one of two things:
      • accept society's existing semantic rules
      • collaborate to form new word meanings

      The latter is what I had in mind as a counter to homogenisation. I suppose I should have written
      language is a democratic — or popular insurgent — process that resists homogenisation.

      Come to think of it, there's a third way:
      • import word meanings from another speech community

      Arguably, that's how Americanisms from popular culture get in — embraced by the young in the belief that the old dislike the music (or films or whatever) that they hail from.

      There may even be people in management who believe that jargon from over the Atlantic signals a sea-change from old fuddy-duddy business thinking.

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    3. It's true that life vest is a North American expression, but it has by no means ousted life jacket even in North America, and for me at least (from the Northeastern U.S.) the latter is the normal and natural expression. Personal flotation device is also American and irritatingly bureaucratic (and is shortened by some people to poofda), but is in fact a cover term for both life jackets/vests and floatable rings or squares thrown to people in the water.

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    4. Life Jacket is the known phrase for me as well (Rocky Mountain region). In fact, when I read the bit on that, I initially assumed Life Vest to be the British phrase and was only clued in to my mistake by the instructions on what one must complain about to the BBC.

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    5. I always made the (probably made-up) distinction that a life vest is the kind that goes around your neck and a life jacket is the kind that's more properly like a jacket, with armholes.

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    6. "Personal flotation device is also American and irritatingly bureaucratic (and is shortened by some people to poofda), but is in fact a cover term for both life jackets/vests and floatable rings or squares thrown to people in the water."

      Not quite. A PFD is something that helps you float in water but (importantly) will not ensure that an unconscious person stays face-up. A life vest/jacket is defined as something that will keep a person face-up in the water. A PFD will not save your life if you are unconscious, and may in fact hasten your death. Thus the distinction.

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  6. Really? Only one person entering the competition so far? Do people just not read to the end of the post?

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    1. Alas, as an American I just don't think I'm qualified to enter :(

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  7. David C: You seem to take from granted that Engel's basic assumption is true -- British English is becoming less diverse (whatever that means) and that adoption of Americanisms is the reason. Are either of those things true? In my 30+ years away from the UK, I have come across Britishisms that were unknown in my youth (gobsmacked and stockist are two random examples that I think have been discussed here). At the same time, Americans have a certain fondness for taking in British words (see Ben Yagoda's blog for many examples, including gobsmacked). And Australianisms have appeared in both Britain and America (no worries, good on ya).

    In short, there is and has been give and take in all directions. I have been hearing about the destruction of British English by American English since I was in short trousers/pants, and I still haven't seen any evidence that it is happening.

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    1. take *for* granted, of course. That's a mistake, not an Americanism.

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    2. David L

      Whenever a variant disappears the result is less diversity — by definition.

      But for me this homogenisation is confined to that particular narrow area of word-use/word-meaning. I certainly don't extrapolate as Engel does to the point of saying that the language as a whole has been impoverished.

      The trouble with looking for evidence of changes such as that claimed by Engel is that you're sure to find little things which seem — to you — to confirm your thesis.

      Engel's claim can't be proved. But my point was that it's far from easy to disprove. As I understand it, that's the mark of a weak hypothesis.

      Many people who spout such stuff are motivated by xenophobia, but Engel seems to suffer from something no more pernicious than nostalgia.

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  8. Whenever a variant disappears the result is less diversity — by definition.

    No. Whatever diversity might be, it can only be a statistical property of a language as a whole. The disappearance of one word is neither here nor there. Were other new words making an appearance at the same time? Then diversity would be increasing.

    As for your last point, indulgence in nostalgia, as Samuel Johnson said, is the last refuge of scoundrels.

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    1. That seems rather Humpty-Dumptyish of you. If some say ant and others emmet (with a common origin in Old English æmete), there is diversity. If emmet is lost, diversity shrinks. If pat and pant are pronounced with the same vowel sound, there is less diversity in the stock of English sounds. If they cease to assonate (as in my variety), there is more diversity. No?

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    2. Whatever diversity might be, it can only be a statistical property of a language as a whole.

      Well, any change in quantity can be called 'statistical'. But one more or one less in a million items is not statistically significant. Nor do I see how it could be statistically calculable.

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    3. To take the example given: if some Brits start saying 'life vest' instead of 'life jacket' then there are two phrases instead of one, and presumably diversity, however defined, has increased by a tiny amount. If, after a while, 'life jacket' disappears altogether and everyone says 'life vest,' then one phrase has been replaced by another and diversity is back where it was originally.

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    4. and diversity is back where it was originally.

      Yes, but occasionally life is more pleasant in the interval between these two states of non-diversity.

      I still fail to see why you are saying all this. I made a trivial and — to me — self-evident comment that I sometimes react with pleasure when there is a diverse range of words or expressions in a tiny semantic niche. Are you claiming that it's preferable for that safety garment to have one and one only name?

      And before you ask, I do not claim that diversity is always best. I can't speak for Matthew Engel but I suspect that he doesn't think so either.

      An example of unobjectionable — arguably benign — loss of diversity is when a minority usage of the word gay replaced homosexual as a neutral connotation-free term, consequently removing gay in its hitherto more standard meaning ('carefree',' jolly') from the language. For me, the benefits the change outweigh the negligible loss of diversity.

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    5. You originally said that "lost diversity is sad," which I took to be your feeling about Americanisms displacing British words, as in the example you gave about life vest supplanting life jacket. My response was meant to say that adding new words can only increase diversity, which I take to be something you like.

      Apparently I am as confused about your point as you are about mine.

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  9. The following is pinched from one of my radio essays, one in hono[u]r of 'you're welcome':

    You'rewelcomegiving is that nonchalant, not-quite-smug, and rather indeterminately located holiday wherein we take the time to celebrate one of the only three things that America has ever given to the culture of the world that are totally unalloyed, pure, joyous improvements (the other two being of course the Marshall Plan and Carrot Cake). Everything else---McDonalds, Hollywood, saying (but obviously not meaning) "Have a nice day", pointlessly expensive and choice-ridden coffee---have all been unmitigated disasters and have been to the culture of the world the equivalent of bovine spongeform encephalopathy or at least of a nasty bout of foot fungus.

    Yes! Today we are going to celebrate America's giving to the world that... that golden phrase. That phrase at once so dismissive, so neutral, and yet so comforting. That phrase before which even the mellifluous might of a Shakespearian bon mot pales and quails and shimmers to naught. That phra...
    at which point you are no doubt thinking "For God's sake stop!! You've made your point already!"
    And now that I seem to have actually done just that, as your hackles start to relax, you are no doubt thinking "Well...THA-ANK you!"

    . . .

    "You're welcome."
    See what a welcome phrase that phrase is?

    And before you keep looking so quizzical for so long that the wind does change and you do stay that way, let me answer that other unspoken thought that is troubling you, for surely every last one of you is thinking "Hey? So what's the big deal with 'You're welcome'?"

    The 'big deal' is probably best explained by considering thanks giving-and-receiving situations in a thoroughly non-American environment---Consider, if you will, my countrymen in their natural habitat.
    When it comes to rendering up thanks we perform ...mmm... adequately, if perhaps in a rather stilted way (largely on account of our famous stiff upper lips). Ahh! But when it comes to the receiving of thanks from others then things really fall apart, because, ...you see, ...it is a fact that:...
    That we English can only squirm, and mumble stuff like "Oh ...Oh ...think, think... um... think nothing of it"--which of course has the distinct disadvantage that it sets things up so that the giver of the thanks inevitably and immediately does start to think nothing of it! And so all our nobler actions are peremptorily dismissed and so over the years we develop a reputation for being somewhat fainéant and useless.

    Now compare that tragedy of embarrassment and failure with the joys that are enjoyed by the citizens of this warm You'rewelcoming country:
    instead of concentrating on the unworthiness of the receiver of thanks and the triviality of his act, the You'rewelcome-equipped American can reflect those thanks back onto the giver, redoubling it with the feeling that the chance to act in the thanks-deserving way was itself welcome and that the receiver has warm feelings towards the giver (probably in spite of the effort involved)---and this is of course without having to either think about what you are saying (since it is such a standard phrase) or, and this is even better, you don’t have to think about the annoying bugger who’s giving thanks---so what if you opened the door for them or saved their child’s life it’s all one to the You’rewelcome-giver, and it’s all done in such a economical phrase--- Ahh! What a wonder.

    And no wonder we justly celebrate ‘You're welcome’ each time You'rewelcomegiving Day comes round... whenever that is.
    So ‘Thank you so much’ to you all for listening...

    . . .

    I'm waiting??

    . . .

    (Ahh! . . . I know I'm welcome!)

    So Cheerio for now
    from Richard Howland-Bolton.

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  10. There is nothing scoundrelly in nostalgia, and Sam Johnson didn't say anything about it. He said that patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, meaning that ordinary decent people are naturally patriotic, while scoundrels resort to it only in an emergency.

    Matthew Engel, and David Crosbie, and anyone else, are perfectly entitled to be nostalgic about the passing of something they grew up with and loved, without being sneered at. Let's keep it civil, shall we.

    I find it amusing that our host asks us to "write a comment on the Americanism you're most grateful for in British English". We can see that the tide is flowing one way, mostly, despite the occasional Britishism getting into American English, and there is nothing we can do about it, but must we be grateful for it? I can't think off-hand of any Americanisms that have filled a needed gap. My daughter says "a tad", while I say "a bit" - it's fashion, nothing more.

    As an ex-linguist (long ago I got a degree in the subject) I can observe the subject dispassionately; as an Englishman I don't have to like it. The introduction of the word "grateful" into the discussion immediately removes it from dispassionate observation and introduces the shunned prescriptiveness.

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    1. No, you don't have to be grateful for anything (and you also don't have to enter the competition).

      Engel clearly appreciates many Americanisms (he tells us so repeatedly in the book), and so I'm looking to encourage that spirit in the competition. Those who hate Americanisms might want to pay cash for the book and keep Engel in business.

      If 'grateful' is a bit too far down the appreciative path, then you're welcome to re-interpret the instructions as 'mention an Americanism you quite like to use'.

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    2. ...or 'Americanism you find rather useful'.

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    3. I know what Dr. Johnson said. I should explain that although I haven't read Engel's book I had a brief email exchange with him years ago on some trivial subject that I forget. He was rhapsodizing about some element of British culture that he thought superior to the American version, and I was disagreeing.

      My point is that nostalgia for the way things used to be usually comes with grumpiness about the cause of change -- in the case of language, foreigners and young people (sometimes under the influence of foreigners). So this kind of linguistic nostalgia is a polite-ish way of saying that you don't care for all that foreign influence that has corrupted the language of your youth.

      But perhaps I should take a look at Engel's book to see if I am being unfair to him.

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  11. @richardelguru,
    I believe "you'rewelcomegiving" was a playful suggestion to replace the name of the day after Thanksgiving (The Thursday before the last Friday in November) currently known as "Black Friday". By the way, I believe "no problem" is currently the most popular American way to respond to "thank you", not much different from "think nothing of it".

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    1. Not to quibble, but US Thanksgiving is defined as the fourth Thursday of November, which isn't quite the same as the "Thursday before the last Friday," although the two do coincide six out of seven years. See 2018 as an example.

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  12. One of my favourite Americanisms, though I'm not sure it's in BrE, is 'to do something on one's own dime'. I'm grateful for it!

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  13. I'm taken by the extreme awkwardness of removing the Americanism "cookie" from the idiom in the title. Do Britons say "that's the way it crumbles"? Certainly it can't be a reference to the great American Film "The Apartment," can it? (Which included the line "That's the way it crumbles, cookie-wise.")

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    1. That is indeed what it refers to.

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  14. I don't feel I can enter the competition because the terms 'Americanism' and 'in British Englsh' and 'grateful' just don't collocate.

    When speakers say Americanism I take them to mean expressions alien to British English. I regard the words and expressions I use myself as in British English no matter their origins. I like hearing/reading Americans using alien words — but that doesn't make me want to use them myself. An extremely alien word that I'm very fond of is mamlish. Nobody can assign a meaning to it, but it's clear how it was used. (It was an emphasiser.) I could use it that way myself, but I have no desire to.

    Clearly, my speech is scattered with words and expressions that happen to have their recent origin in American speech, but so what? Once a word is part of my vocabulary it's not an anythingism. Americanisms are oddities that stand out in other people's speech.

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  15. I've changed the conditions for competition entry. I also wrote a comment about that, but Blogger ate the comment, so it will go uncommented upon. For those who did not like my wording, please have a look and consider whether you'd like to enter the competition now. If you don't want to, you of course don't have to.

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  16. I nominate the word "sashay" as a verb. The OED lists its first citation from 1836 from the Franklin Repository (whatever that was), Chambersburg, PA. I can't remember when I first came across it - possibly in Carson McCullers - but I love the sound. However, you're asking about usefulness. For me, it describes (or my first encounter with it gave me a graphic image, because of the context) a particular type of movement which is not otherwise lexicalized, if you consider these OED definitions and related quotations: b) To glide, walk, or travel, usually in a casual manner. Citation: 1973 S. Alsop Stay of Execution (1974) ii. 201 Stewart brought a pretty..girl friend home. As she sashayed through the living room, Andrew remarked, ‘I like the way she wiggles her things.’ d) To move or walk ostentatiously, conspicuously, or provocatively; to strut or parade. Citations: 1968 J. Updike Couples iv. 311 Sashaying from the shower nude, her pussy of a ferny freshness.
    1978 J. A. Michener Chesapeake 545 I see her sashayin' past in a dress I know she stole from Miss Susan.

    Have a nice day! ;-).

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  17. I nominate the expression "roadkill", as in the phrase "feeling like roadkill". Very graphic and descriptive.... although I am feeling better today!

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  18. Somewhat off-topic, but about a phrase in Lynne's post: "a topic he’d just written a book about." As somebody who worked in book publishing for a long time and has done some writing for publication, I'll just point out that there may be a long gap between when the writing is finished and when the book comes out.

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    1. Yes, I submitted my manuscript in April. The book will be out about a year later. But still, if you've written a book on a topic in the past couple of years (at most) and you're going on radio to discuss it, I'd expect a fair knowledge of the topic. I've no doubt Engel had the knowledge (and I also know it can escape a person in a situation like that). But it was a strange day in the studio.

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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)