I FOUGHT AMERICANISMS AND AMERICANISMS WON
I was always homesick for Australia when I lived in America. I didn’t just miss family and friends, I also missed Australian flora and fauna, footy, cricket, lamingtons, bad service at restaurants, and road rage without guns. So I decided that the best way to stay connected to home was to resolutely maintain my Australian accent, even when the people around me had no idea of what I was saying, and also to never, ever use Americanisms in my day-to-day speech. And when I say “Americanisms”, not only did I avoid widely used American words and phrases, the worst of which I’ll list later, but I also avoided their interjections – like “uh huh” and “mm-hmm.” Those things are addictive, and I didn’t want to go near them.
It’s important to note I never broadcasted my dislike for Americanisms when I was there. But I would silently judge fellow Aussies who rolled their Rs or said, “Can I get” instead of “May I have” or responded to “how are you?” with “I’m good”. You’re good? They’re asking about your health, not your moral character.
As far as I know, I was the only Australian in LA who took such a fascistic stance. In fact, most English speakers, particularly writers for The Guardian, are supporters of cross-pollination when it comes to the English language. They say language is fluid and everything finds its place. But when it comes to Australia and America, the cross-pollination only goes one way. America has given us a slab of words and phrases, including “hang out, call out, left field, out of the park, you guys, 24-7, touch base, bangs, heads up, normalcy, deliverable, going forward, reach out, and I quit” and all we’ve given them is “no worries.”
And it turns out, Americans now hate “no worries”. When I went to get a hair cut in my first month of living in LA in 2016, the barber was bemoaning “the neighbourhood hicks” who still say “no worries’”
I told him that “no worries”, which arrived in the US via Hoges and Steve Irwin, is an Australian invention and “not a fad to us”. It’s neither cool nor uncool, I said, it’s just something we say to put people at ease. But the barber had stopped listening to me after I’d spoken the words, “Australian invention”. A frown had fallen across his handsome face as if to say – “How is it possible that a phrase has come from somewhere other than America – the birthplace of the English language?”
A few years after this, I did break my rule of not speaking out against Australians using Americanisms. An LA-based Aussie friend had written a movie set in Australia that was to be produced with American money. It was a good script apart from the fact that some of the Australian characters repeatedly used the word “dang” instead of “damn.” After the cast read-through at a Hollywood studio, I diplomatically told him that no Australian ever uses the word, “dang”. He just shrugged and said, “Don’t they?” The film was made. It did well. Many of the Australian characters in it said “dang”. And no one stormed the streets in protest. The wash up is my friend is now a multi-millionaire while I’m just some dude who wants Australians to speak the same way they did in 1996. Dang him. And dang Australian audiences for rolling over to American imperialism.
So, with a pen full of fury and in no particular order, here are the 10 Americanisms I dislike the most:
1: “Irregardless.” – which is American for “regardless”. Apparently the “less” in regardless isn’t negative enough for Americans, so they need to load it with an “Ir” at the front as well. Regardless of the fact that “irregardless” made its way into some dictionaries in 2020, I refuse to acknowledge it.
2: “I’m good”. As stated above, it’s frustrating when you ask an American how they are and they answer, “I’m good.” I’m not asking if you’re “good”. I’m not Santa Claus. I’m asking if you’re well.
3: “Oftentimes”. “Often” is a measurement of time, so it doesn’t need further clarification by adding “times”. So stop wasting everyone’s valuable times.
4: “Off of”. It’s just “Off”. The “of” is implicit.
5: The Hospital. In the US, you don’t go to hospital. You go to “The Hospital”. I definitely find it annoying, but I think there’s a rationale behind this to do with not having universal health care. Putting the “the” before hospital gives the sick person a little extra time to think about whether they really want to be going to a place that’ll cost them $1500-a-night when they don’t have private health cover. Without private health cover, paying for the hospital could put you on the street.
6: “My Bad.” What a poor excuse for an apology.
7: “Sweater”. Americans don’t use the words “jumper” or “pull-over”. It’s all about sweaters. Now, this is just a personal thing, but to me the word “sweater” evokes sweating. So I don’t love it.
8: “I could care less”. Americans use this instead of the logical, coherent and correct “I couldn’t care less”. Linguists say all you need to validate a word is a community of speakers. Well, I would say that the community of speakers who say “I could care less” are wrong. (I don’t think this post should ever be peer reviewed)
9: “You got this.” Again, feels empty. If I’m embarking on something dangerous and an American tells me I’ve “got this”, I’ll probably feel less confident than I did before hearing it. It’s insincere. It basically says, “I want to appear to be a supportive person, but I really don’t care if you live or die.”
10: And finally… This is the bit where Americans get all fancy and French. And it’s the word “’erbal”. We pronounce it “Herbal”. They say “’erbal”. As in, “would you like an ‘erbal tea?” Sure Americans, whatever makes you ‘appy.
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