Dan Smith
Language "balance of trade" between US and UK?

In Ye Olde Days, people in England complained about the import of Americanisms into England via pop culture such as motion pictures. It seems to me that in the last few decades the balance of trade has evened out, and I've noticed usages I thought of as British spreading in the U.S.


As best I can recall, it was in the early 1980s that I was surprised by someone at work referring to something easy as a "piece of cake," which I thought was obsolete RAF slang.


More recently, maybe ten years ago, the phrasing "went missing" or "have gone missing" arrived. I remember a news story about disk drives with classified information that had "gone missing" from Los Alamos. I think it has actually become the customary phrasing--it is now so common that I have difficulty remembering how it would have been said before. "Are lost" or "got lost," I think.


And then there is my GPS, made by a company Kansas and offering no choice of variety of English, which calls rotaries "roundabouts." To be fair, there have always been regional differences in the terms for these (terrible) traffic intersections. "Traffic circles" is or used to be common and widespread, "rotaries" are New England. But I honestly thought "roundabout" was British... along with "zebra crossing." (There ARE zebra crossings in the US but we don't call them that).


What do others think? Is the flow of language across the pond more bidirectional than it once was?

Jul 9, 2014 4:26 PM