Tag Archives: surnames as first names

4 Things Americans Do (Verbally) That Drive Brits Nuts



Last year, Ruth Margolis published a hilarious article on BBC America’s blog Mind the Gap in which she identified “10 Things Americans Do That Drive Brits Nuts”. “American people are some of the loveliest you’ll ever meet and make us expats feel all warm, cuddly and very welcome,” Margolis assures us, with maybe a touch of irrepressible British irony. “But just occasionally they do or say something that we Brits find a tad… eccentric.” Here are the four of those foreign felonies that involve what comes out of Americans’ mouths. Please don’t shoot the messenger (even though I secretly agree with one of these abominations) …

2. Putting last names first
The fashion for inflicting quirky monikers on babies started with American parents giving their kids surnames as first names. Remember Sex and the City’s Smith? Absurd. Then last week at the launderette I got chatting to “Anderson.” Could not take him seriously.

8. Spelling words the wrong way
I might as well pry the letter “u” from my keyboard for all the good it does me in over here. (But you know which letter made it big in America? “Z”! Only, they pronounce it wrong.) My point? Remembering to remove ‘u’s from words like “colour” and replace “s”s with a more abrasive “z” is a headache and I resent it. So there.

9. Pretentious pronunciation.
Americans, please note: saying “erb” instead of “herb” and pronouncing “fillet” without the “t” is not clever or sophisticated. You are not French. Make an actual socialist your president and then we’ll talk. [See earlier Glossophilia post on British vs. American pronunciation of foreign loan words — Glosso]

10. Saying “panties,” “fanny” and “bangs” 
We’re all aware from watching Americans onscreen that these are the words for knickers, a bottom and a fringe. But when you live here, occasionally you’re forced to deploy these abominations in real life sentences. Only the other day, I said, “Can you trim my bangs, please?” I felt dirty afterwards. But “panties” is much worse, somehow infantilizing and over-sexualizing ladies’ unmentionables. No word should do both these things.

Visit Mind the Gap: A Brit’s Guide to Surviving America to see the full list of Things Americans Do That Drive Brits Nuts.