What Should America Steal From British English?
The Economist ran a fascinating (and popular) poll of British readers, asking which "Americanisms" they use. Many, it turns out, have taken to saying "apartment" instead of "flat" and "sidewalk" instead of "pavement." So let's flip it around: Which dreadful Americanisms would you trade for something from the mother country?
You can see the Economist's results here. The American "bug" has gained ground on the British "insect," and beta is increasingly pronounced "bayta" instead of the more British "beeta" (beeta? really?). There's less enthusiasm for trading "I'm well" for our grammatically questionable "I'm good," or for correctly pronouncing "controversy."
Anyway, the magazine survey got us pondering language trade in the other direction. God knows American English could use some fixin'. So we put on our thinking trilbies and made a list of poorly performing linguistic citizens who should be replaced with immigrants. Cast a vote for one below. Or suggest one of your own devising in the comments.
Vacation → Holiday
If you think about it, the word "vacation," derived from "vacate," sounds like something unpleasant your body might do involuntarily in a moment of panic or systems decay. Or maybe something your landlord might impose when you fail to pay your rent. "Holiday," in contrast, conjures cheerful images of decorations and warm togetherness (partly because we in America have abused the term into becoming an abbreviation for "national holiday"). If vacations became holidays, maybe Americans would finally start taking more of them, like the longer living French.
Bathroom → Loo
Actually, we shouldn't get rid of "bathroom" entirely. Keep it, but only for rooms with actual baths. Then real estate agents can stop referring heinously to "half bathrooms." And restaurants can stop referring to rooms with only toilets and sinks as "restrooms," as though they were lounges were one might order a cocktail, and adopt a shorter word reflecting the fun that sometimes finds it way into these facilities. Not that a knackered totty such as yourself would know anything about that.
Elevator → Lift
"Lift" is shorter, less robotic sounding, more charming, and every bit as accurate and (as a noun) unambiguous. Let's lift elevation!
Gas → Petrol
Less ambiguous, and we get to make oil companies spend some of their obscene profits on new signs.
Parking lot → Car park
"Lot" accurately reflects the depressingly barren nature of these areas, as well as the fact that it's a car owner's lot in life to waste huge amounts of time and money in them. "Park," the noun, evokes a far happier and greener place, even if "park," the verb, is what's used in the phrase. Then again, maybe we'd best not enable America's addiction to the motorcar.
White trash → Chav
Both terms are classist and otherwise sociologically overloaded. And we'd have to bend the definition of "Chav" a few times to import it. But "white trash" is a terrible term, at once explicitly mean and effectively weak. If you're going to be insulting, at least be descriptive about it! And concise. And confusing, to the stupid person you are abusing.
Cast your vote above or propose others below in the comments!