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- Do Yourself a Favor, Speak Like a Brit

DO YOURSELF A FAVOUR AND SPEAK LIKE A BRIT

Mar 29 2004

By Jon Kelly And David Edwards


IT HAS been a truism for decades: "Britain and America are two countries separated by the same language."

Not any more, they aren't.

Widely attributed to George Bernard Shaw, these words were spoken half a century ago - and if the great playwright were around today, might he feel a little nostalgic for that transatlantic rift?

Because from cinema to TV, from the internet to our McDonald's, Starbucks and Gap-lined

high streets, the influence of the US is everywhere.

Now, say the critics, the colonialism is complete with the natives - us - speaking the language of the empire - them.

Here are some of the worst culprits worth guarding against. As the French say: "Vive la difference!"

CLOSURE
THERE was a time when this was what happened after last orders at the Crown and Ferret. Now we're talking the pop psychology of Oprah Winfrey.

"Closure" may be more succinct than: "I have finally reconciled myself to my parents' divorce, which for years impeded my psychological development", but who needs it when the old British way - lifelong bitterness - was so much more satisfying?

ISSUES
ONCE teenagers had spots and dodgy hairstyles; today they have "issues". Favourites include minor parental neglect, being denied the latest pair of trainers and the way Mum is so embarrassing in front of friends.

Next time you hear some Avril Lavigne-alike airing her "issues" at the mall (or Tesco's car park), just stop her and say: "Real issues are Iraq or the environment. You haven't got issues, you've got acne."

24/7
WHEN people say they've been working 24/7 all week, they haven't really stayed up for 168 hours without a wink of sleep. If "open all hours" was good enough for Ronnie Barker...

COULD CARE LESS
LIKE "bad" for "good", this expression actually means the exact opposite - that you couldn't

care less. If the trend continues, just think where we'll all end up - black will mean white, yes will mean no and Bush will mean "compassionate, intellectual, pacifist statesman". Next week: Is stupid the new clever?

APARTMENT
IT'S the same size as a flat, it looks like a flat, yet by calling it an apartment, estate agents can charge you an extra 50,000.

All you get extra is the misguided belief that people called Ross and Rachel will drop by for brunch.

Face it: you're renting a one-bed flat over the chippie, and nobody's coming round except for the rent.

REGULAR
FAST-FOOD speak, like fast food itself, threatens our well-being.

Americans like to call normal things "regular" - eg, a regular Coke with fries. But it's no longer just in restaurants that "regular" is replacing "standard".

Now people come from "a regular family" or are described as a "regular guy". Regular means customary, or at spaced intervals, or symmetrical. None of which is the same as a pint-and-a-half bucket of bad coffee or a very dull bloke in the pub.

WHATEVER
ALICIA Silverstone changed the English language when she dismissed her less stylishly attired preppies by saying "whatever" in the 1995 comedy Clueless.

This infuriating phrase is pronounced "whut...evah" and often accompanied by an irritating eye-rolling and sullen jutting of the speaker's half-open

jaw. Jane Austen, whose literary classic Emma was the inspiration for Clueless, must be revolving in her grave.

GARBAGE
GARBAGE are an American band led by Scots singer Shirley Manson. Britain's binmen have always and will always collect rubbish. Likewise, trash-can - the proper term is wastepaper basket or bin. Watch out for Garbage Laden, public enemy No 1.

AWESOME
IF only we could go back to saying things were "nice" or "pleasant". But humbly positive expressions such as "super", "great" and "lovely" have been overwhelmed by super-superlatives. Now everything is "awesome" or "totally fabulous". Can't Gordon Brown do something to keep this rampant "praise inflation" in check?

I'M, LIKE, SOOOO COOL!
AS in: "I'm, like, totally stoked that Dawson's Creek is about to start." Like Paris Hilton, overuse of "like" wastes our time and serves no purpose. Likewise, stretching out "so" is lazy and shows extreme poverty of vocabulary. Why not try out a proper sentence such as: "He was exceptionally cool." Assuming he was of a low temperature, that is.

CAN I GET...?
WHEN Jennifer Aniston says it in Friends, she really means: "May I have..." An example of the States' grab-and-go coffee-bar

culture which sounds outrageously silly over here. The correct response from cafe staff to the question: "Can I get a coffee?" should, of course, be: "No you can't get it. You see, I work here, so that's my job."

SPORTS
FOR some reason, Americans have taken the collective noun "sport", meaning sporting activities, and added a wholly unnecessary "s". Which is almost as annoying as the word "fruits". The term "sports" belongs strictly to sports' day, not sports reporter or sports pages, which should both be singular.

FRIES
NOT content with forcing the Big Mac on us, the McDonald's marketing machine has introduced this verbal takeaway monstrosity to our shores. Note to US corporations: over here, we eat chips. No, that's not a chip. That's a crisp.

Submitted by Pasadena Phil
 






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