In Which the New York Times Suggests I Am a Pretentious Git

You know, as they would.

It’s in this article, which gripes about Americans using words and phrases in more common usage in the UK. I get called out for calling the new iPad a “lovely piece of kit,” although it is. Apparently being an American, I should have settled on “Dude, this tablet is bananas,” or something else equally comporting with my nation of origin.

I left the comment, but I don’t think it’s cleared the moderation queue yet, so I’ll repost it here for recordkeeping:

I see we’re confronting the simultaneously existential yet provincial terror of someone choosing to use the whole of the English language when it suits them.

Yes, indeed, I used “A nice piece of kit” to describe the iPad, because it was an apt phrase for how I felt about the machine, and I like to use apt phrasing from time to time. Because, you know, I am a professional writer. I have also been known to use “all y’all” even though I am not from Texas, “no worries,” even though I am not from Australia, and “le mot juste,” even though I am not from France. I once invented something called the “schadenfreude pie” although neither it nor I am German. I ALSO EAT TACOS.

(I don’t, however, stand “on line.” You can keep that, New York. I want you to have it.)

If someone find it pretentious or annoying that I will use a British phrase when it suits me too, that is their karma (LOOK OUT SANSKRIT). They’re also a bit silly. I intend to enjoy as much of the English language as possible, and snack on other languages when it suits me. Because it’s fun and because language is meant to be used. Others do not approve? C’est la vie.

Or, in my own dialect: Oh, well.

Anyway. Silly, silly article. Although I suppose my New York friends will be amused  to see my name show up in their paper tomorrow. Surprise! I liked my last appearance better.

158 thoughts on “In Which the New York Times Suggests I Am a Pretentious Git

  1. “kit” as in “great piece of kit” is British? Who knew? All my gun-totting, former military geek friends use it constantly so I thought it was a military term..

  2. Ah yes – the self-centred and self-important navel-gazing of the American MSM strikes again.

    300 odd million Americans vs 6 billion people in the rest of the world?
    Sitting over here in a land downunder, I can only shake my head ruefully. Fwiw, I just spent a week and a half on holiday in Hong Kong. I can report that CNN over there actually has intelligent commentators that recognise that the rest of the world exists. The continental USA? – not so much from what i see online.

    C’est la vie indeed. So it goes, even.

    Or to use a well-known local phrase, such is life. :)

  3. As a journalist myself, I often wonder how reporters who write vapid, data-less trend pieces live with themselves. Are they cynically aware that their work is completely meaningless, or do they wait for a phone call from the Pulitzer committee, certain that their latest unresearched observation about new uses for toilet paper will be The One?

  4. As a New Yorker I agree with your assessment of the parochial phrase, “on line”. I myself use the phrase, “in queue” so I must be just as bad.

    By the way, I am relaxing on the divan with the current issue of The New Yorker and you are on page 31. (Red Shorts/Audible.com)

  5. I’m a little unclear on why the author of the NYT piece thinks that “creeping Britishisms” constitute a problem of some sort. Has the author forgotten from whence this country hailed?

  6. You got razzed over that? How do you think I feel – raised by three British-born grandparents, who brought their idioms along with their baggage (er – their kit) and passed them down to the following generations. This was not helped when I majored in English Lit … but you probably don’t want to hear about how my brother and I were responded to with baffled looks and worse on the grade-school playground when we urged our playmates to stop doing something by saying “knock it off!”
    Yeah, didn’t think so.

  7. I have a bad habit of writing a bastardised English consisting of Canadian, American, and UK English spellings all mixed together. (Read a lot of British literature, lived in Canada, raised in the US.) I get SO MUCH grief for this. But nobody blinks of my LOLisms. Why one and not the other? ’tis a mystery. :)

  8. Like the man said: The Queen’s English was good enough for Jesus Christ so it’s good enough for the New York Times.

  9. Oh, please. Writing stories about how one’s precious language is being contaminated either by (a) real foreigners, (b) pseudo-foreigners who come from a country where it’s spoken badly, (c) one’s own countrymen who adopt words from OTHERWHERE, or (most commonly) (d) the lazy, slovenly, crappy, anti-social, ill-educated, anarchic, and otherwise sinful lower class is just about the most common form of “news” writing about language there is, with a long and storied history. And it’s hardly unique to the US – check the Guardian for how Americanisms are destroying British English (even though many of them aren’t. Americanisms, that is). Deplore it all you like – PLEASE – but don’t act like your own country, wherever that is and whatever language is spoken there, doesn’t have the same thing.

  10. I was rather surprised to find several words listed as “Britishisms” that I use and have used for most of my 50+ years of speaking. I don’t consider myself a “Britophile”, however I do consider myself well-read and fairly conversant with the English language. The article is sort of being snobbish in favor of illiteracy, which I find irritating but increasingly popular.

  11. The author’s apparently upset we didn’t go with German for or national language during the revolution.

    I remember back in college, getting some blank stares when I asked someone where I could “post a letter.” This was the 80′s before email had entered mainstream use so I can only surmise my phrasing was either out of date or out of place.

  12. It was a really stupid article. The writer of it seemed to forget that there are parts of the country (Appalachia anyone, or parts of the rural Carolinas) where many of the original English, Scottish, and Irish settlers have maintained very tight communities where much of the idiom and tradition of the “old country” is still used – and is passed down to children and grandchildren who then travel to other parts of the US.

    Additionally, a lot of the things in that article that they said were “Britishisms” which simply aren’t. My Southern-as-cornbread Meemaw used “fortnight” all the time. “Wonky” is something I’ve heard (and used) since my earliest days in tech (circa 1990).

    I didn’t even think it was worth commenting on the article, frankly. The author probably is too pretentious to listen.

  13. my brother and I were responded to with baffled looks and worse on the grade-school playground when we urged our playmates to stop doing something by saying “knock it off!”

    “Knock it off” is a Britishism? I had no clue.

    What about the fact that America has so many dialects within its own borders that I remember getting into an argument about whether I was wearing “sneakers” (the word I’d been taught by my Ohio-born parents) or “tennis shoes” (as my Southern classmate called them.) My parents kept me from lapsing into a Southern accent but I still find the word “y’all” too useful to discard, as it restores the second person plural to the English language.

    I have no problem with American folks picking up British slang as long as they don’t attempt a British accent while they’re at it. I have a mild allergy to affected accents from having too many geeks quoting Monty Python at me.

  14. It’s a compliment. You can’t call yourself an artiste (as opposed to an artist – just some guy who does art) until you’ve been accused of being pretentious in the New York Times.

    But seriously, we’ve been stealing whatever we like from other languages (and other English speakers) and mangling it to fit for centuries. I don’t see how it’s suddenly a “reflection of a larger cultural shift”.

  15. ::looks confused, picks up translator::

    “Dad, he’s speaking English.”

    Because it is an apt phrase, innit? And you’re an author, yeah? Load of old cobblers, that is, you get me?

  16. Hmmm…this guy makes it sound like Americans should NEVER use any phrase or term unless it is strictly American. So what does it say about the writer of the article that he know what you meant by that “British” phrase?

    Well, I’ve been using “wonky” for years to describe something that isn’t quite right. I have started using “bin” for trash can/bin a bit more than I’m comfortable with. My son referred to his red-headed girlfriend as a “ginger”; not quite sure where he picked that up.

    I’ve been reading a the Inspector Lynley series for the past few months; a series about a (male) British New Scotland Yard Detective Inspector written by a American…and a woman to boot. (Is “to boot” a Britishism?)

    It’s ridiculous. I think it’s a wonderful thing that people can incorporate other cultures’ phrases and terms into their own language. And that goes for Americanisms in Britain, Japan, French, etc.

    (Though I will have to draw the line at aluminium.)

  17. The Guardian features the British version of this article at least once a year. I think in general Brits are far more uptight about Americanisms in their language than the reverse.

    Also, like this article’s alleged British idiom (“fortnight” is maybe a little old-fashioned in American English, but it’s hardly some recent British import) the British version invariably includes a bunch of alleged Americanisms that I’ve never heard an American use in 40 years of living in this country.

    Though this bit cracked me up because I’ve always noticed that “cheers” sounds wrong when Americans say it but I never could put my finger on why:

    “I’m getting sick of my investment banking clients saying ‘cheers’ to me,” said Euan Rellie, a socially prominent British-born finance executive in New York. “Americans say ‘cheers’ like Dick Van Dyke in ‘Mary Poppins,’ with too much enthusiasm. It must be delivered laconically.”

  18. My son referred to his red-headed girlfriend as a “ginger”; not quite sure where he picked that up.

    Does he like the UK Top Gear. It is used quite frequently on that show.

  19. @CeliaHayes –That’s funny! I always thought “knock it off!” (meaning “stop it!”) was an American term from way back–popular in the ’50′s and early ’60′s. I only base that on the reruns of TV shows I used to watch as a kid in the ’70′s and early ’80′s.

  20. I love your response to the NYT piece. Spot on! If people in Europe and Latin America can enjoy American bands, films, and TV, then why can’t Americans enjoy BBC programming? It’s just one more benefit of living in an interconnected world.

  21. Be a pretentious git and stand proud. You’re joining the ranks of many who aspire to being pretentious enough for the NYT to take notice. ;-)

  22. It does make one wonder what the NYT would think of a Canadian. See, we tend to be very difficult to distinguish from Americans in person. My accent is essentially a neutral Midwestern one. And yet my vocabulary and idioms can be very different from that of Americans. If I were to say something distinctly un-American while I was in New York City, would the NYT columnist standing next to me on the subway platform scoff? Tell me that I’m being pretentious for not using “down-home American” language? Would I be criticized for “not using my culture’s language” because I *was* using my culture’s language?

    And would I be justified in telling said columnist that he or she (“Alex” could be either) had succeeded in dragging me into a mire of nonsense?

  23. He has no idea how language works, does he? I guess he totally missed the way every language borrows words and phrases from each other and incorporates them into it’s own. If he did notice, then he’s never once thought on how that occurs or what it looks like while it happens. Maybe he’s one of those ‘static present’ types that have a hard time understanding how ‘things’ are always in flux?

    @Mia: “(Though I will have to draw the line at aluminium.)”

    I split it. I use ‘aluminum’ for things like cans and foil while I use aluminium for car chassis, engines and planes and the like. In my head, ‘aluminum’ is weak and disposable but ‘aluminium’ is a strong but lightweight metal. I do have to confess that the split was caused by watching too many episodes of a certain “poky little motoring show on the BBC” in a row.

  24. Gah! English is so much fun to play with because it has dialects and absorbs words from so many other languages. Orange and cipher are from Arabic, bungalow and shampoo are Hindi, tycoon is Japanese, chocolate is Maya, tank is Sanskrit, chipmunk is Ojibwa, ketchup is Chinese. And so on to great, glorious length.

  25. “My son referred to his red-headed girlfriend as a “ginger”; not quite sure where he picked that up”

    His use of Ginger probably comes from an old episode of South Park, where Carman gets the Gingers to raise up to become the Master Race.

    And I spent two years in England in the 80′s and was married to a Brit, so I find myself using the occasional Britsh term Like “Poser” and Stupid Git”

  26. I’ll just leave this James D Nicholl quote here …

    “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

    Of course, there isn’t AN English language; there’s a bunch of them, and of course they cross-pollinate. I love this about language — when you nick a new word or phrase from someone, they don’t lose it, and you gain it! (Also: being an Australian who has lived in several countries, I can get away with anything).

  27. While the entire article is ridiculous, I have to admit to being especially annoyed and perplexed that every single example given of how (and why) we Americans have adopted all these “British” terms seems to be about mass media.

    Does the fool think the internet is as read-only as television? Because I promise you that if I start saying calling cookies “biscuits” it won’t be because I’ve been watching too much Downton Abbey. It will be because I’ve been talking to my friends.

  28. I learned that phraseology from my British military friends and it is one of those phrases that so perfectly describes the feeling one gets from a great tool that I instantly adopted it. I also attributed more to the military rather than the British though.

    And hold up, “no worries” is Australian? I picked that up from a Kiwi dammit. Though that cat did always seem slightly pretentious now that you mention it.

  29. Gah,. Won’t you please take “on line”? It’s a terrible idiom that New York should abandon posthaste!

  30. What’s the line about other languages adopt foreign words, but English follows other languages down the alley, mugs them, and rifles their pockets for phrases?

    Something like that.

  31. The use of “kit” is also pretty common in the IT industry when referring to collections of routers, servers, and other hardware. I picked it up from my days in the sysadmin groups on Usenet, where a global group of Bastard Operators worked out a consensus vocabulary through years of informal interactions.

    I do have to say, though, the writer of the article is a bloody great twat.

  32. “Ginger” has gotten incredibly common in the last two years or so. I think Doctor Who had something to do with it. Glee also got on board. It’s the younger crowd mostly using it. It was sudden enough that I noticed – quite a dramatic change.

    Someone called me on “get on with it” the other day, saying it was an Anglicism. I’ve been using it my whole life, along with “knock it off.” I’m from New England. Maybe we’re slightly more fond of British English there?

    I haven’t picked up “bin” yet but it’s probably not far off as some friends have. My own occasional Anglicisms – the ones I know are, not phrases I didn’t realize weren’t common until I left New England – mostly show up because I read a lot of British children’s literature as a child (library discards, Victorian children’s lit, horrid stuff) and because I like listening to British audiobooks. I use “quite” and “rather” more than most Americans and I know what a fortnight is thankyouverymuch. I like double negatives and intentional understatement as well. All terribly British.

    Didn’t know I was being pretentious, though. I just thought I was, you know, acquiring language as I went, the way people do, starting at not-long-after-birth and continuing until, well, death or serious brain damage, I suppose. Language evolves in use, and language use by an individual also changes over time. Hell, Buffy had a huge effect on my use of language that continues to linger – mostly in speech, not in writing. I verb all sorts of things that aren’t verbs, use words as incorrect parts of speech because funny. Er, there’s one right there – was that an internet thing originally? “Because X.” Hmmmm…

    My girlfriend puts extra letters in things (I’m her “favourite”), which she blames on several years living in New Zealand. Guess we’re just part of the problem.

  33. I love British slang myself. It’s so colorful. “Wanker” is one of the greatest insults in the English language.

    But I also love the Southern and Appalachian phrases I heard growing up. I have a book, “Like We Say Back Home,” that lists many of them, and I’ve added pages of my own.

    Although one delicious phrase I heard my aunt say all the time (referring to someone talking absolutely nutty) is not in the book: “You talk like you fell out of a well.”

  34. English is a whore. Other languages borrow terms, English will take other languages down the docks for a quick stand-up.

    I’ve been known to use Britishisms myself, for which I blame Usenet – one of the froups I’ve lurked in for years has a large Commonwealth contingent.

    Quoth Vonnegut: so it goes.

  35. When he wasn’t wearing his catch-all equipment vest, Doc Savage (Street & Smith, 1933-1949) used, starting in the late 1930s, a utility belt much like Batman’s of a couple years later, and this was referred to as as his “kit.” And you don’t get any more American than Doc Savage.

  36. I say, Scalzi, that’s just not Cricket.

    *clamps his teeth around his Meerschaum and blows a long string of bubbles from it*

    Anyway, with the brutal and horrendous things American English has done to the mother tongue over the decades, I think any reciprocity is simply fair play. Sounds like this Alex Williams got out of the wrong side of bed. The side that rammed a stick up his arse.

  37. My dictionary says the correct spelling is “Briticism.” And it also says that it’s an idiom only used in Britain. So the NYT is using some kind of paradoxical double standard…. Regardless, I remain a linguistic xenophile.

  38. Alex Williams says:

    And, Mr. Davis said, “Fashion editors worry they will get ‘sacked’ if their next issue or story is ‘rubbish’ and not ‘clever’ enough.”

    It’s too bad the NYT doesn’t have the same draconian standards.

    But rarely did the cultural imports make a noticeable impact on the way we talked — aside, of course, from a tiny population of hardened Anglophiles, as well as the Monty Python fans who just couldn’t stop quoting the “Spanish Inquisition” sketch in terrible public-school accents.

    Citations! No one country, nation or people is defined by any of the tens of thousands of fuzzy natural dialects artificially cordoned at any given time into languages. You know what languages are for? COMMUNICATION! Alex Williams can take his indignation and shove it down under.

    That changed with the explosion in media, Internet and otherwise. Americans now live in a swirl of Ricky Gervais, Simon Cowell, Russell Brand and Adele, said John McWhorter, who teaches linguistics at Columbia University.

    I love how he quotes McWhorter as though one of the preeminent exponents of natural language transformation actually agrees with his bullshit thesis. Not only is Mr. Williams a pretentious blowhard, he’s also dishonest.

    # Don’tWordPoliceMeBro

    @ John Scalzi & Scorpius

    Scorpius: Apparently, both. Although I too am familiar with it from geeky friends formerly in the service.

    Which makes sense because – efforts of L’Académie française (actually Le français parisie, but who’s counting?) to argue with evolution notwithstanding – languages are fluid exchanges that not only don’t obey borders, but don’t especially respect cultural boundaries either.

    @ joemahoney

    Like the man said: The Queen’s English was good enough for Jesus Christ so it’s good enough for the New York Times.

    I snarfed my tea.

  39. As I said on the Tweeter: Chuffed to see you give asuitable reply to the nonsense that has infected papers on both sides of the Pond.

    I find it ironic that the article complaining about appropriating British language usage is, as the writer admits, just rehashing a recent series of articles from British new sources. I personally had already read the BBC one and thought this might be the same one until I clicked through.

  40. Soiree at mi casa tonight, and you’re all invited! Mesquite flavored jerky and jalepenos for appetizers. Bratwurst and burritos for the main course. Macaroni served al dente for the vegetarians. Be on the look out for an agent provacateur who has been sneaking anchovies into the creme brulee. Gelato and tiramisu will also be available for dessert, as well as cappuccino.

    To borrow a quote:

    When I read some of the rules for speaking and writing the English language correctly, . . . I think— any fool can make a rule. And every fool will mind it.

    This guy is clearly a fool.

  41. Really, it’s like there’s some list of dumbass topics that journalists use when they’re having a slow day, and they just roll a d20 and pick one. “Ooh, the language is going to hell in a handbasket, that’s good. I hate when I roll ‘teenagers say that they heard a rumor other teenagers are having crazy sex parties’, that one creeps me out.”

    Also, John, why is Look Out Sanskrit not your next band name?

  42. ‘Ginger’ was probably also popularised by the Harry Potter films – think of the Weasley twins! And – as a Brit – I agree entirely with all the comments about the, um, flexibility of the language – that’s one of its great beauties and also a strength.

  43. I’m afraid I’m going to be a little contrarian here and say that the NYT article was meant to be a light piece. I don’t think the argument is that that one shouldn’t use words of other cultures. Rather, the article points to over obvious “code-switching” when the use of a foreign word or accent makes the communication less clear and stands out as a pose. In general, I think many of his examples are slightly wrong. I don’t think Mr. Scalzi was trying to confuse the reader into thinking he was British and I think Madonna is overdoing the instructions of her vocal coach to hide her Michigan accent rather than trying to fool people into believing she is born into the British royal family. Granted, it can seem a little twee when someone born in the same American town as you complains about the “bloody row those lorries make”. As for me, 23and me has provide me information about my multiracial African American background and my Welsh great grandfather but I plan to leave the vagaries of welsh gaelic to those who use it regularly.

  44. As an Englishman I would like to say that the idea of a Britishism makes no sense to us. While outside of our country we may appear as British, to ourselves we appear as Welsh, or Northern Irish, or Scousers, or Brummies. Each has their own dialect and flavour, a richness that we treasure. Also, the word ‘Nice’ used to mean ‘exact’ or ‘precise’, rather than ‘likeable’, so even in England it has changed its meaning.

    ‘Ginger’ has also changed in nature recently, by the way, and become an insult closer to the N word with which it shares letters. It is becoming accepted that it’s no better to call someone by the colour (or color) of their hair than the colour of their skin, despite the Weasley link. Reference Tim Minchin’s song on Youtube (Only a Ginger).

    As has been said, English is a developing language that subsumes other languages into itself. That’s why it is so expressive and has such a wide and rich vocabulary. This is a wonderful thing and thankfully happens on both sides of the pond.

  45. I’m used to seeing people complaining about ‘Americanisms’ in the UK, but who knew it went the other way.

    One of the beauties of the english language is that it is fluid and not fixed. It has no central committee deciding what is and isn’t ‘proper’ (despite the best efforts of english teachers the world over).
    I use some americanisms picked up from my wife, she uses some britishisms. They usually give us an even greater vocabulary with which we can express ourselves.

  46. It was amusing to see the old chestnut about German “almost” becoming the dominant language in the US hovering in the background there. Thank goodness it didn’t. As an isolating language, English is so much more able to absorb new words — for one thing, you don’t have to decide on a gender or how to conjugate the new arrivals.
    In an example of this just recently, clients queried the use (in translation) of both “derrière” and “behind” for the human rear, as opposed to the single (non-rude) German word in the same two consecutive sentences. Were both accurate translations, they wondered? I had great fun giving them half a dozen more “accurate” translations without having to stray into mucky country. (Not that I’m saying German can’t manage more than one.)
    And referring to a linguistics professor really isn’t a great help; if memory serves, they tend not to be big on laying down rules.
    Of more concern is that the language seems to be losing clarity in expressing the potential occurrence of past events (around the sequence of tenses and use of may/might especially).

  47. Americans now live in a swirl of Ricky Gervais, Simon Cowell, Russell Brand and Adele

    Great heavens. How frightful for you.

    ‘Ginger’ has also changed in nature recently, by the way, and become an insult closer to the N word with which it shares letters.

    No it hasn’t. It isn’t remotely close to it. Point out someone in a crowd and say “that’s him over there, the ginger bloke” and it won’t raise an eyebrow. Try doing that with the N-word.

  48. “No it hasn’t. It isn’t remotely close to it. Point out someone in a crowd and say “that’s him over there, the ginger bloke” and it won’t raise an eyebrow. Try doing that with the N-word.”

    I said ‘closer to’ not ‘the equivalent of’ and my point is that the meaning has shifted, not that people weren’t still using it. And if it isn’t being used as an insult, why do people lean out of car windows and shout “Oy! Ginger!” at red-haired people they have no connection with? Prejudice is prejudice, no matter how you dress it up.

  49. Mrmph – that article ticked me off so much I quit reading it. “Fortnight”? Puh-leeze – it’s only been out of use for a hundred years or so. Sounds like they’re complaining more about the reemergence of formerly archaic usages than the importation of uniquely British words and phrases. But that might require them to, you know, like, think and stuff…

    And I used “knock if ott” all the time in the 70s and 80s in Montana.

  50. Don’t see the problem. English users in the US are just receiving and installing the latest language patch update for their mother tongue. It’s been a while since they ran an update on it, and a lot of errors have crept in, so this just helps fix those and bring them up-to-date.

  51. Good comment, eh. I don’t know what the Times has their knickers in a knot aboot. Now excuse me, I need to go find my touque and write a cheque for my order of diet pop and Chesterfields.

  52. Dear New York Times:

    Sod off, you naff twits. One of the glorious of English is that the Mother Tongue is not only a promiscuous slut but something of a kleptomaniac who’ll hook off with any shiny turn of phrase you’re silly enough to leave lying around. (English is also a hell of a chav — loud, vulgar and not fond of snotty toffs telling her how to behave.)

  53. The author seems to have found a new failure mode for “clever”. Namely: “Are you serious?”

  54. Re: English losing clarity. Slightly off topic, but I still shudder at the use of plural pronouns with singular antecedents to avoid gender specificity. I noticed two in John’s rejoinder. We need singular gender-free pronouns!

  55. @Jim Caplan: Like not splitting infinitives or ending sentences with prepositions, the notion that “they” has to be plural is a fiction cooked up by Victorian grammarians who felt that English should better comply to the rules of Latin grammar despite it not being a Romance language. Singular “they” is attested back to the fifteenth century, it is used several times by Shakespeare himself.

  56. Well, I was under the impression that this is America, so i’ll bloody well say whatever I like.

  57. Why is some schmuck whining about people using Britishisms when he could be railing against the pernicious use of “I” as the object of a verb or preposition?

  58. Well, it’s not as if you can be your own country until you’ve got dolt’s championing the endangered purity of their superior language. XD

  59. A silly article indeed… Though I will admit to mentally wincing whenever I hear someone try to use the term “Fisticuffs”.

  60. And if it isn’t being used as an insult, why do people lean out of car windows and shout “Oy! Ginger!” at red-haired people they have no connection with?

    In America, people yell “Hey Red!” or “Yo, Blondie!” at red-haired and yellow-haired strangers (respectively) and it’s not remotely an insult, even though we have this thing about blonde jokes. Of course, there’s also a particular four-letter word that’s a vicious, sexist insult in the US and which is merely the equivalent of “douchebag” in the UK, so.

  61. I love how, aside from “bumbling toff”, he doesn’t really seem to have actual quotes that sound like britishisms… just quotes from people who claim to be tired of hearing them.

    And if he’s talking about words like “fortnight”, is he going to be writing about Hollywood next? “‘Four score’? Come on, pretentious movie producers! The Lincoln on my American pennies wouldn’t stoop to using British words!”

  62. Yes, mythago, but they don’t throw things at them. A red-haired online friend of mine reported having people yell “Ginger!” at him and throw objects out of the windows of cars. The prejudice against red-haired people in the UK is completely bizarre.

  63. @Xopher: I believe it; but in the US it’s the equivalent of ‘blondie’ or ‘red’. And however weird the views about redheads in the UK, saying it’s close to the N-word is…….let’s be charitable and say “wildly misplaced”.

  64. @Jim Caplan – long ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I still had most of my hair, (say 1955) “they” was in fact used both as a plural and as a gender neutral singular. It may be related to the formal “we”, which can be plural or high-status singular.

    Trivia question – what is the only Assyrian loan-word in English (turn the screen upside down to read the answer).

    Will
    (Abyss)

  65. What a wanker. :)

    Is he afraid the saying, “Two countries, separated by a common language.” will no longer apply?

  66. The Guardian features the British version of this article at least once a year..

    I remember the first time I found one of those. The one that’s always stuck with me is our use of “transportation”, instead of just using “transport” as a noun. I looked at that and thought “… That’s not even slang or idiom. That’s standard here, even formal.” Here in Ontario, we’ve had either a government Minister of Transportation and Communication or just a Minister of Transportations ince 1971.

  67. @uldiah

    Aluminum or allum is northern england, aluminium or ally is southern england, at least in machine shops and at least in the 1970s

    Will

  68. @ cythraulybryd
    You’ve got a minister in charge of packing criminals into hulks and sending them to Australia? Wow, we stopped that ages ago, when Australia retaliated by sending back over Danni Minogue and jason Donovan. :o)

    (The joke here being that “transportation” was the euphemism/policy-name given to convict deportation for hard labour in the colonies).

  69. Besides which, I don’t understand why the NYT doesn’t like ‘kit’. It’s a perfectly cromulent word that embiggens us all.

  70. I read P.G. Wodehouse. His turn of phrase, his grasp of and use of the English language is so soothing, so compelling, that it doesn’t matter what the story is about, or where it goes, it’s getting there that’s the fun. I listen to audio books of his stories. When on a Wodehouse tear, which happens with some frequency, my spoken word is influenced by his written word. Tough noogies to anyone who doesn’t like it.

  71. ‘loan word’?! Even if the Assyrians were still around, does anybody actually think we’ll give them their word back when we’re done with it?

  72. To paraphrase something I once heard a friend say, English doesn’t borrow from other languages as much as it clubs other languages over the head, drags them into dark alleys, and searches through their pockets for loose grammar.

  73. @ mike, ajay etc RE: Ginger
    Mike is right. Ginger, pronounced with a hard G and a glottal stop (Gin’a) is a term of abuse aimed for no apparent reason with at someone with Red or Auburn hair. It’s a thing that you ‘learn’ at primary school I guess purely for the visual difference, at least it did a couple of decades ago, when there wasn’t a huge amount of visual variation in many school playgrounds. It’s not something you would normally call someone to their face even today; or even for singling out a person you know in a crowd.
    I’m trying to think about any reasoning, however irrational, apart from the visual for the derogation. All I can call to mind is a reputation for hot-temperedness (its the hair colour!), but then it’s easy to rile someone with a pale complexion who blushes easily, isn’t it? it’s one of those very old behaviours that no one has questioned up till now.
    I hope it’s not a practice that’s being picked up in the US.

  74. @ EJ

    The Guardian features the British version of this article at least once a year.

    And Der Spiegel and La Monde and La Repubblica…hell, even Yomiuri Shimbun has taken swipes at how the English language “dilutes the purity of Japanese students’ minds”. Language purity is the daily paper’s equivalent of link-bait.

    @ Jim Caplan

    Slightly off topic, but I still shudder at the use of plural pronouns with singular antecedents to avoid gender specificity. I noticed two in John’s rejoinder. We need singular gender-free pronouns!

    They’ve existed for generations, but never have caught on very widely.

    Also, what Dave Crisp said.

    @ Carina

    Well, it’s not as if you can be your own country until you’ve got dolt’s championing the endangered purity of their superior language. XD

    (Drolly)⇨Truly, we have arrived.⇦(Drolly)

    You’re from France, IIRC. So I guess you all are way ahead of us, what with a whole government-sponsored institution of dolts championing the endangered purity of their superior language :D

    @ Xopher Halftongue

    A red-haired online friend of mine reported having people yell “Ginger!” at him and throw objects out of the windows of cars.

    That’s just weird. Ginger is a fantastic spice and redheads are awesome looking. I think non-Ginger brits are just jealous because they don’t look like fire.

    @ mythago

    And however weird the views about redheads in the UK, saying it’s close to the N-word is…….let’s be charitable and say “wildly misplaced”.

    Well, part of the difference, a big part IMHO, is that few insults have quite the weight of historical abuse that sticks to the N-word.

    @ NotSMOF

    ‘loan word’?! Even if the Assyrians were still around, does anybody actually think we’ll give them their word back when we’re done with it?

    You can have my Assyrian loan word when you pry it from my cold dead lips! Oh, wait, no, you can have it whenever you want, because words aren’t a scarce commodity, aren’t even the fruits of anyone’s labors…well, except for Esperanto, but you can’t give that away :-/

  75. In the Canadian army, we used to use the phrase “nice piece of kit” all the time, without an English accent and without irony. Maybe it’s just a good way of expressing an idea.

  76. Obviously the only thing to do is to renounce all of British English in its entirety. This *may* make communication difficult for a short while, but I’m sure Lobjan, Algol, or Klingon can take up the slack relatively quickly.

  77. This man got paid cash money for writing almost 1500 words of pure drivel and he calls YOU pretentious?
    Crikey, indeed.

  78. Regarding singular they/them, my recollection is that “you” was once the plural of “thou”, so it’s not like there isn’t precedent in English.

    And again more evidence that far too few people read the previous comments (at least three people quoting or paraphrasing the metaphor of English as a mugger) and far too many think they’re terribly clever (dozens of comments deliberately overloaded with Britishisms). I’m with the poster who said she’s developed an allergy to people speaking in fake accents — which bothers my husband because I wince and glare every time he attempts one, which is thankfully rare — and reading these is the equivalent. The predictable is not funny. [/grumpy generalism]

    On a slightly more serious note, the gleeful characterization of English as a “promiscuous slut” continues to bother me. At least the image of a mugger isn’t specifically female-bashing, as “slut” so obviously is (and how often are males described as “promiscuous”?)

    Wow, I clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed this morning. I’d think all of the above regardless, but usually I don’t actually express it.

  79. Ah, the NYT has published another baseless, idiotic trend piece about the writer’s tics, prejudices, friends, and colleagues. If any of these people actually left the NE corridor, they would know that a hella lot of the words and phrases they are attributing to Merry Olde are common regional or industry parlance in the US and Canada.

    vian @ October 10, 2012 at 9:35 pm:

    I’ll just leave this James D Nicholl quote here …

    “The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”

    Ahahahaaa! Thanks for sharing that. I can’t believe I’ve never seen that before. Also, Cribhouse Whore is the name of my next band.

  80. “English is the result of Norman soldiers trying to make dates with Anglo-Saxon barmaids, and no more legitimate than any of the other results.” (or words to that effect–quoted from memory) –H. Beam Piper, I believe it was in Fuzzy Sapiens

  81. I think, if we’re going to call our language “English”, we maybe need to expect that significant parts of it will strongly resemble the language spoken in, you know, England.

  82. @Gulliver
    Naw, not French. I’m German.
    We make fun of the French for it and then turn around and go and than go and watch in awe that Bavaria claims Standard German is absolutly ruining their local dialect and that everybody who says “Guten Morgen” instead of “Grüß Gott” and is even remotly near the Alps needs to be shunned, SHUNNED I say!

    On the other hand the same people tend to claim that Bavaria is the best thing ever and needs to secede from the rest of worthless Germany, so it might have to be taken with a grain of salt.

    Basically: It’s everywhere. The language wars in Europe are fun to watch, though, and prolly older than the Roman empire itself.

    Although, I think Germany’s the only country so far that seems to have picked the WRONG English sounding words for everyday utilities despite having perfectly functioning German AND English words to chose from. I look at you, mobile phone. It’s called “Handy” here, instead of e.g. Funktelefon, which makes no sense whatsoever, but maybe in a marketers brain.

  83. This whole topic is such a stupid thing to get worked up about. And the NYT wrote an article about it?
    Some people need to get a life! Or at least a new hobby!
    [Doh! I just realized: Now *I'm* doing it!]

  84. ‘ “cheers” as a thank you’?
    I thought it meant “I’d lift a glass to that.”
    Anyway, I expect that Mr. Williams is mostly venting because
    of embarrassment about a misunderstanding and is not the
    toff he’s writing like; is in real life a dinkum cobber.

  85. I’ve been an Anglophile for over forty years. Grew up on Dickens, the British Invasion, Mary Poppins, both read and seen, Pooh ditto, Roald Dahl, etc. It’s also my heritage: surname, Dad’s dad, yadayada. Alex Williams can go stick his head in the bog.

    Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,
    And smile, smile, smile,
    While you’ve a Lucifer to light your fag,
    Smile, boys, that’s the style.
    What’s the use of worrying?
    It never was worth while, so
    Pack up your troubles in your old kit-bag,
    And smile, smile, smile.

  86. @ Robin

    I’m with the poster who said she’s developed an allergy to people speaking in fake accents

    An obviously affected one doesn’t bother me, as long as they aren’t trying to pass it off as genuine. Even then, the difference is in laughing at them instead of with them.

    On a slightly more serious note, the gleeful characterization of English as a “promiscuous slut” continues to bother me.

    Yeah, it kinda low-level bugged me too, the slut part anyway. Promiscuous is just a descriptor, only derogatory if non-monogamous sex is, which I don’t believe and I don’t believe any individual would rationally believe.

    @ mintwitch

    Also, Cribhouse Whore is the name of my next band.

    What’s a cribhouse?

    @ Carina

    Naw, not French. I’m German.

    Ooh, my mistake.

    Although, I think Germany’s the only country so far that seems to have picked the WRONG English sounding words for everyday utilities despite having perfectly functioning German AND English words to chose from. I look at you, mobile phone. It’s called “Handy” here, instead of e.g. Funktelefon, which makes no sense whatsoever, but maybe in a marketers brain.

    I like funkfon myself. I may have to drop cell-phone for funkphon :P

    As in, “You’re still on a cell-phone? Get with the times! I use my funkphon for everything now.”

  87. Given that your strange relationship with bacon is still posted on your own website for all the world to see, I find it odd that anyone can call you pretentious at all. It’s like he wasn’t even paying attention

  88. @ Carina

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2mr2yY5F3c

    Incidentally, I assume a funkphon was what was used in the fourth stanza by the subject of this song [between 1:35 and 1:52]. Hopefully that’ll play in Germany, or there’s proxy IPs.

    [Apologies and three hail Marry's to John for indulging in a whole evitable double-posting on a totally, irredeemably off-topic bit of joshing.]

  89. The use of “their” as a gender-neutral pronoun goes back to Chaucer’s time. It has a better pedigree than you do.

  90. Good thing I’m not famous – I’d be dinged all the time for non-American spellings of “theatre” and “rumour” or for using “piss off”.

    I am also one of those lamentable weirdos who uses “what’s up, homes” in conversation (you can kick me now, thanks)

  91. Hmm, overlooked in all this linguistic debate (and for the record, I’m firmly on the side of the descriptivists and a big advocate of international sharing of idioms and phrases; I think a more flexible language is a more beautiful and expressive one) lurks a minor sociological puzzle. Why do Americans equate “sounds British” with “sounds pretentious”? Haven’t these people seen Trainspotting? Or heard of the Sex Pistols? I wouldn’t swear to it, having never been there, but it seems like the British are just as capable of being low-life scum as we are. Despite their accents. :)

  92. Xtifr: Why do Americans equate “sounds British” with “sounds pretentious”?

    The Southern states haven’t entirely gotten over the whole civil war thing. The confederate flag still has implications of Southern power and secession. And “The South shall rise again” is still a recognizable phrase in the US.

    I think that same attitude applies to how America relates to itself towards the British empire, the only difference being the American colonies won against the British, whereas the South lost to the North. Because the colonies won, we’re more apt to “forgive” the British, but our version of colonial America history is so polarized white/black that its silly. If you just went by the SchoolHouseRock version of history, the British empire was evil incarnate, the Colonies were pure innocents, and righteousness prevailed. The reality is that much of the colonies were divided into “Loyalists” who wanted to remain British subjects and “Seperatists” who wanted to split, the colonies pure innocence was spoiled by plenty of slavery and the genocide we waged against the native americans.

  93. @ Greg

    Even amongst the American revolutionaries were colonists who thought of themselves as loyal British subjects and would have taken a different route had King George and his parliament had responded to the unrest almost any other way besides sending in the Redcoats.

  94. In America, people yell “Hey Red!” or “Yo, Blondie!” at red-haired and yellow-haired strangers (respectively) and it’s not remotely an insult, even though we have this thing about blonde jokes.

    I’ve seen films where New Yorkers say stuff like “Yo! Blondie! Get outa my way!”, but the context is that they are talking to someone they don’t know. I’ve never heard of people just shouting “Yo Blondie!” for no reason and then just going on their way. Does this happen?

    I don’t have blond or red hair, so perhaps I just haven’t noticed. I assume that this must be more common in places where blondes are fairly rare.

  95. Borrowing from other languages (and idioms) is half the fun, though, isn’t it?
    I personally am looking for an opportunity to say I “can’t be arsed” to do something.

    Oh! here it is!! … I can’t be arsed to read the New York Times. I would rather read “Redshirts” again. Or, for that matter, “The Door Into Summer.”

  96. That’s it. I’m going to use even more “creeping Britishisms” than I already do, just to annoy the author of that article. I don’t use them because I am pretentious, but because they amuse me. If I want to be pretentious, I talk like a character in a Georgette Heyer novel.

  97. Mike @2:26, I’m guessing from the name that you’re male? Indeed, it does, and with the same general message as “nice rack, baby!”

    I wonder if the anti-”ginger” thing in the UK is anti-Irish sentiment? No clue, it seems very strange. In the US red hair is thought of as exotic.

  98. If you want to hear a wonderful cultural mashup, listen in on chat on any of the MMORPGs. I have gleefully spoken with and teamed up with people from across the US, Europe and the Pacific basin. Many of the German players have a far better command of English than I do of German. This also leads to lots of crosspollination. James from Sydney has poked me a couple of times about saying (completely unconsciously) ‘No worries.’

  99. @Mythago: my understanding is that that’s exactly it. It certainly dates back to a time when any random redhead you encountered on the streets of England had a high probability of having either Scots or Irish ancestry.

  100. @Robin & @Gulliver:

    Point taken. I don’t actually view being “slutty” – or being sexually promiscuous (i.e. having lots of sexual intercourse with more than one other consenting adult and enjoying it – as some horrible moral defect, but should have been more mindful of the denigrating (and highly-gendered) connotations it carries. Please accept my apologies.

    But, Robin, you asked “how often are males described as “promiscuous”? As a pejorative? Heaps – if you’re a gay or bisexual man. Don’t ‘cha know that when we’re not throwing BDSM orgies in public restrooms, we’re thinking about abusing little boys and animals? ALL THE TIME. (Memo to Self: Fire Rick Santorum – he’s totally not working out as your social secretary.)

  101. It’s this sort of thing that makes journalists look like idjits. You’d think they’d take pains to avoid that…

  102. Gulliver:

    According to the intertubes a cribhouse is a brothel. I suspect, from the construction of the word, that a cribhouse is a particularly rank and vile sort of brothel. I think it would be terribly funny to have an acapella band of prissy, middle-aged queers called “Cribhouse Whore.” We could do rap covers, perhaps with handbells for the Winter Concert at St Marks. Thus, my next band. We’re going to be terribly famous, I’m sure.

  103. @mythago
    Mike @2:26, I’m guessing from the name that you’re male? Indeed, it does, and with the same general message as “nice rack, baby!”

    Oh so it’s a variation on the wolf whistle theme rather than a display of anti-Irish sentiment. I had the impression that the UK thing about ginger folk applied equally to males. So it seems like the two aren’t actually related.

  104. After a childhood spent reading British literature in San Diego, I still write “colour”, “theatre”, and pronounce laboratory with an extra syllable.

  105. Not only was the entire article garbage, the author completely forgot that he could blame Christopher Moore & his book Fool.

  106. My apologies, Craig et alia; I had completely forgotten how terms like “promiscuous” are heaped scathingly upon gays, as if there were some inherent anti-commitment component to nonheterosexuality. I’m no fan of, er, promiscuity myself, but the spectacular logic fail of condemning people you don’t allow to marry for being together nonmaritally has always left me bemused. Adding insult to injury, indeed. (Apologies for the sidetrack.)

  107. @ cranapia

    I don’t actually view being “slutty” – or being sexually promiscuous (i.e. having lots of sexual intercourse with more than one other consenting adult and enjoying it – as some horrible moral defect, but should have been more mindful of the denigrating (and highly-gendered) connotations it carries.

    No worries (I really do feel that’s better than no problem), I know and I’m sure Robin did that you didn’t mean it so. If I had thought you were using “slut” derisively rather than subversively, I would have said something, but otherwise it just sort of pinged my slur-dar.

    @ mintwitch

    I really do not intend to have an alternate personality.

    I hear ya’, that’s what mine said too.

    @ Mike

    Oh so it’s a variation on the wolf whistle theme rather than a display of anti-Irish sentiment. I had the impression that the UK thing about ginger folk applied equally to males. So it seems like the two aren’t actually related.

    I think it sort of depends a lot on context. If someone says, hey blondie, I’m walkin’ here, they’re probably trying to get the person’s attention New Yorker style; but is someone says, hey blondie, how ‘bout some suga’, they’re probably being a rude prick.

    @ Robin

    Apologies for the sidetrack.

    I am the grand master of the sidetrack, but we are fortunate to have the latitude of a munificent host, as well as the altitutde of an oft-airborne host. Not that I would ever (consciously) take advantage of John’s jet-lag ;-)

  108. Hmm, you learn something new everyday. I thought that ‘kit’ was used differently on both sides of the Atlantic. Ever since I was a kid in Texas, I heard Americans refer to their gear or baggage as kits, and most commonly I would read soldiers using the word to refer to everything they packed. Eventually any set of items that had to be packed and kept handy was called a kit – sewing kit, forensics kit, etc. But whenever I heard someone from the UK or Ireland refer to ‘kit,’ they were inevitably talking about clothing, as in, “So there he was, standing in the middle of the street with his kit off…” So when you called your iPad a lovely piece of kit, I really, really didn’t think twice about it. I figured you probably meant it was something that you’d like to have handy on a regular basis, and not something that you would use as a cumberbund or hat.

  109. I think it is safe to say that the NYT article was taking the piss.

    Gotta go now. I’m having tea and taquitos while I watch me some Kung Fu movies on my iPad.

  110. Aluminum or allum is northern england, aluminium or ally is southern england, at least in machine shops and at least in the 1970s

    “Ally” for aluminium has an interesting sequel. Back in the day, British soldiers used to have issued field crockery – cooking utensils, mugs and so on – that was made of enamelled iron. But the airborne units, for whom weight was important, got aluminium instead. Obviously soldiers like lighter things rather than heavier, so if you could get hold of aluminium (“ally”) kit you used it instead of the issued enamelled kit. The fact that it was carried by the Paras, who are a bit of an elite, gave it extra cachet. If you had an ally mug, it implied that you’d been in the Paras, or worked with them, and thus had got hold of this non-standard but preferable kit.

    And so it is that, even today, when a British soldier sees anything non-standard and rather nice and fearsome – better body armour, ballistic eyewear, whatever – he’ll describe it admiringly as “ally”.

  111. The New York Times doth protest too much, methinks. IMHO if “Crikey!”, an Australian exclamation, falls in the “britishism” column, then so does “Dayam!”

  112. Bemusing. I mean, we are such linguistic purists down here. Snerk.
    In regards to “No worries”, possibly a Kiwi expression, but I hear it all the time here. Does meant we didn’t nick it from them, but. However, it is sometimes extended then modified to “No wucking forries”.
    We don’t have many Gingers anymore ( apart from the old cartoon character Ginger Meggs). Now, we call redheads “Blue” or “Bluey”, or “Ranga”, short for orangutan.

  113. I like the diversity so wouldn’t want one nation, region, subculture to lose words which can be rich, funny, vivid, sometimes downright confusing, but ultimately should be celebrated. However this is what often happens – languages, esp English, is a living beast, a moving river. You may as well try and nail an eddy current to the rocks as try and ossify it at one point in place and time. Ultimately features once lauded become eroded and new twists and turns take their place.

    Hence I do like hearing US-isms, and am so familiar with them thanks to your film & TV (your sci-fi is too good to avoid, dammit), but I also like the odd expressions and spelling of my own shires and would be sad to have everyone talk the same mono-blended smoothie recipe. I wouldn’t feel compelled to police usage though (other than blatant trangressions such as less/fewer and other beating-around-the-chops-with-a-wet-haddock offences).

    I do enjoy visiting different places and soaking up the distinctive idioms, any accidental accent mimickry is an automatic feature of my audio-to-brain neuro-lingustic landscape and not intended to provoke the locals. My current brainworm word is ‘crikey’. I am not Australian nor Cockney, but it does do a useful replacement for less socially pleasing exclamations, so I am content to let it settle down in it’s adopted neural groove. Do your bit for language, adopt a homeless word today !

  114. Haha! All I could think while reading that article was, “What a freaking whiner!” English is a hodgepodge of stolen languages, and America is a melting pot. Furthermore, the Internet makes it so anyone from anywhere can post in anything, so their little colloquialisms can be picked up by any passersby who enjoy the way the words trip off their tongues (or fingers). Any self-respecting journalist should know better!

    (Big fan, by the way. You just keep on writing the way you do, John Scalzi! I’m enjoying it. :))

  115. Dear Mr. Scalzi, My name is Joseph M. Kockelmans and I was very interested in this last post. I suppose that I’m chiming in not only to say hello but to share with you that I am about to start a project in the Edwardian era in England. This means that I need to brush up and learn phrases and words from that time. I know that I can’t wait to expand my knowledge and correct usage of the English language. Oh, by the way, I got a chuckle from your c’est la vie. Take care and good luck.

  116. Learning the World: I’m used to seeing people complaining about ‘Americanisms’ in the UK, but who knew it went the other way.
    Well yes, this has been a vocalized concern in the UK for at least a century now. And since the two world wars, Americanisms have crept into British usage at an impressive rate. The most obvious point may be the use of “guys” for men instead of “blokes” or for people instead of “people.” Yet for everything, British English remains a distinct dialect, or rather about a thousand distinct dialects. History suggests the NYT’s fears are misplaced.

  117. I grew up in the Midwest (Central Ohio, FWIW) but between work and school have spent over a year of my life in the UK, Oz, and NZ. I don’t think “a lovely piece of kit” is out of place at all. the NYT editors need to get out of the Big Apple once in a while.

  118. O. Migod. How can it be even a possible that everybody in New York doesn’t speak pure, unadulterated ‘Merican?

    But seriously, the entire time reading the article my thoughts fluctuated between two things: How is this newsworthy in any way? And, shame on the Times for printing said article. You know what’s truly and unabashedly pretentious? Acting like your regional language is so vastly superior to all other languages that it can’t absorb a few harmless neologisms. Get over yourselves, Alex Williams and the Times editorial staff.

    p.s. Nice taco reference. I’d love to find out if this guy’s a foodie and can’t get enough of whatever is the food trend of the week. Or is it pot roast and potatoes every night of the week?

  119. ‘A lovely piece of kit’ is in any case far too enthusiastic to be properly British. ‘Nice’ or ‘decent’ would be perfectly adequate – let’s not carried away here.

  120. Wouldn’t the appropriate response be “Pretentious? Moi?”

    (I forget where I stole that, but it’s been stuck in my ear forever.)

  121. Well, the New York Times is one of my favorite papers with some of the best writers and editors in the world, who are likely familiar with the cream of the current literature and have their pick of things to read. Apparently they don’t seem to have anything better to do than to sit around and discuss *your* choice of words. – Does anything say that you’ve succeeded as a writer more than that? Whether the actual discussion is complimentary or critical is probably irrelevant.

  122. Oddly enough, “kit” is an Americanism too. Or do we really have to tell a guy from New York to look up George M. Cohen and do a little World War (both I & II) research?

    To quote good ol’ George in one of the most famous war songs ever (“Over There”):

    “Johnny, get your gun, get your gun, get your gun.
    Johnny show the Hun, you’re a son of a gun.
    Hoist the flag and let her fly,
    Like true heroes do or die.
    Pack your little kit, Show your grit, do your bit.
    Soldiers to the ranks
    From the towns and the tanks,
    Make your mother proud of you,
    And to liberty be true!”

    So the next time someone tells you you’re being arrogant and pompous, tell them to research the entire etymology first.

  123. Put the UK out to pasture already – including their catch phrases! I’m happy with our own country to know we don’t need to borrow their slang!! I think UK is pretentious and I find using their phrases pretentious too. Pfft…I’m from America but I’m thrilled to know my decendants aren’t English. Thank God he grew me from better stock!!!

  124. Wow, the New York Times called you pretentious? That is brilliant! New life goal: get The New Yorker to call you pretentious..

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