Where do I start? What drives Brits batty? Well, pretty much everything! We are a nation of morally-indignant moaners. Ah, no, hang on, that could just be me!
You may well be sorry you asked. I can bore for Britain on language, grammar and syntax.
But, before I do, I hate to say it, but ‘Ass’ gets right up my arse! It’s a donkey, not a profanity!
As Shaw said, ‘We are two nations divided by a common language.’.
When it comes to the subject of US English, many of us Brits pull ourselves up to our full, terribly-Brittish, patronising, pompous, imperialistic, supercilious, land-of-hope-and-glory, tea-and-scones, height, because there is a sense here that much of the Chicago Manual of Style school of English is just bastardised ‘proper’ English.
In reality, much as it pains many of us to hear, it is far less bastardised than our own version. Apparently, it is closer to 17th Century English than current UK English. Contrary to popular belief, you didn’t remove the ‘U’s from many words. Instead, we added them (I blame Napoleon). That said, at the time of the Mayflower, English spelling was only just becoming standardised in Britain, so it was not an exacting science anyway.
As an aside; we appear to be returning to those less-exacting times again, as general levels of spelling and grammar have declined hugely, on both sides of the pond, in the last couple of decades. I don’t mind language evolving, I despise it being used poorly or lazily – don’t get me started on ‘LOL’ used to punctuate every other sentence.
So, pomposity aside, the things that really ‘get my goat’ (I’m guessing that’s not a commonly-used phrase there?) … For me, swearing is not really one of them. I love profanity in all forms. UK English, US English and Italian. The more colo[u]rful, the better. Actually, part of me would love to have the time study it seriously; how culture affects the way we swear. It would make a fantastic Masters thesis. You’d be able to legitimately pepper your academic research with potty-mouthed idioms. I’d have such fun.
So … what do I loathe? Starting a sentence with ‘So’. That is becoming more and more common here. It gets right up my nose – especially combined with that up-intonation at the end of a sentence, so favoured in Californian and Australia, making everything sound like a question. The other thing that has come over fairly recently, driven by TV ads, is use of the phrase, ‘Two times as many…’ Three times, Seven times, Forty-Eight times, I have no problem with at all, but ‘two times’ drives me to apoplexy. Until recently, we used ‘Twice as many…’ here. Far more succinct and efficient. However ‘Thrice as many…’ just sounds ridiculous, when not too long ago, although not common, it was still used. It all goes to show how flexible language is. Aside from little things, I don’t really get too pissed [off] at differences in language any more. (‘You’d never bloody know it’ I can hear my friends opine, given my penchant for fairly regular Facebook rants about abandoned possessive apostrophes and such-like).
Overall, language is exciting and colourful (well, at least, it is in my case after a couple of pints). Over the years I’ve done enough books that have been either Americanis[z]ed from Bringlish, or visa versa, that it doesn’t really bother me too much (though I am still happy to take this piss out of American friends). Language is in a constant state of flux. Even in my lifetime, it has changed so much. Besides, English, itself, isn’t exactly what you’d call a pure language. A bit Latin, a bit Anglo-Saxon, Germanic, Gaelic, the list goes on.
One of my best friends, I’ve known since we were ‘wee’uns’, lives and works in Manhattan and has done for over 25 years now, in fact, he is now a US citizen, so has his feet both sides of the linguistic pond. Also my ex-wife grew up in Chicago, so I am fairly used to the differences.
This friend of mine and a small group of us, have, like Mrs Just-B, developed a language that, granted, can be a bit left-field and a little bizarre sometimes. Anyway, once (or should that be ‘one time’?) I was over visiting him and we were in his studio, just chatting away. At a certain point, one of his colleagues came in to ask him something. This guy (chap) just stood on the doorway for a few seconds, waiting for a suitable break in our conversation. When we both turned to him, he just rolled his eyes and said, ‘You Limeys are f****n’ weird.’, then closed the door and left.
Oh yes, there is another. In the US, when talking about where a person or company lives or is located, you often say something like, ‘x-corp, working out of Denver. How does that work? To my mind, it seems far more logical to say, ‘working in Denver’, or ‘they are from Denver’. How can they be ‘out of Denver’ if they are in it?
I could find loads more – and me of ten years ago would have, voraciously – but now I think that the amazing thing about language is how it adapts to suit its surroundings.
That said, I can’t forgive you for is ‘store’. It’s a shop. A store is a warehouse, a repository. A shop is where you buy things. Store is now becoming the norm here too. The other one is ‘movie’ It’s a film.
I’m not going to moan too much though. That’s the fast track to becoming your own grandfather. ‘Country’s gone to the dogs.’
Vive la difference.