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Mind your language

Eight Americanisms you won’t be able to avoid in 2017

From ‘running for office’ to ‘across the world’

7 January 2017

9:00 AM

7 January 2017

9:00 AM

Here are eight invasive Americanisms to continue annoying us in 2017.

Running for office. Liz Kendall was ‘running for the party leadership last year’, the Times said. In Britain she should have been standing.

Standing in line. A mother was ‘standing in line at the Post Office to collect her benefits’, said the Daily Mail. British people queue.


Commit to. Plenty has been committed to the flames, to memory or to prison. Giving an undertaking was to commit yourself. The OED found the first example of committing to a relationship in 1987.

Advocate for: the return of an old construction. ‘I am not advocating for the Dissenters,’ wrote Daniel Defoe. It has been revived in the past generation by people like social workers ‘in a key position to advocate for pupils’ needs’. Such people hold that advocacy is a good in itself.

Truck. ‘Hero cop who took down Berlin truck terrorist was rookie,’ the Sun said in a swanky Yankee headline. The British English is lorry. Lorry drivers do, however, sometimes call themselves truckers.

Veteran always meant someone experienced in martial matters. Now it is used, under American influence, to mean what we called an ex-serviceman or old soldier.

Around the world. A Daily Telegraph headline read: ‘Around the world by budget airline.’ Around is not found in Shakespeare or the Authorised Version of the Bible. Anson’s circumnavigation of the globe produced a book called A Voyage Round the World in the Year 1740. In 1873 everything changed with the English translation of Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. Americans can hardly believe that the word round exists. They call Thelonious Monk’s tune ’Round Midnight.

Across the world. ‘We are now seeing the rise of many populist groups across the world,’ the Prince of Wales said. I do not contend that across the world is impossible. Elizabeth Barrett Browning, in her long poem Casa Guidi Windows, wrote that, if peace brought no fellowship, ‘I would have/ Rather the raking of the guns across/ The world and shrieks against Heaven’s architrave.’ But now across is in use across the world.


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