More Americanisms

Push ups (press ups)

Ass (yet another Americanism for arse)

Can I get a coffee to go (Can I have a coffee to take out)

Out of left field and ball park (Strange or unexpected; a rough figure/idea.)

The vast majority of English people who use these last two, if pressed, would have absolutely no idea they are using baseball-related sayings, nor know what or where ‘left field’ actually was or why a figure in a ball park should be a rough one.

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About ramblesofawriter

Writer, thinker, tea drinker.
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5 Responses to More Americanisms

  1. chloefb says:

    I was going to say that it’s even more British (and certainly more polite) to say “May I have a coffee to take out?”, but actually it depends on what you’re asking. I suppose if you’re asking if it’s possible/allowed “can” is the right word. I always think of “take out” as being quite American actually, but only because what we call take-aways, they call take-outs, not in this sort of context. I find myself using “can I get” instead of “may I have” sometimes and always rebuke myself soundly!

    • Regarding using ‘may’ when asking for something, I’d agree – but unfortunately maybe these days it sounds almost too formal?

      • chloefb says:

        Yes, probably. I’d need to be thinking about it to use ‘may’ rather than ‘can’… though if I was thinking about it I would!

  2. Your Editor/Researcher on all things American says:

    Oh Professor now what’s put the bee in your bonnet this time? Truly you don’t believe that people in the UK don’t know baseball or is it simply they don’t know enough about it? I don’t know where you buy your coffee at but very few of us would ask for a coffee to go because its already set up to go only in a restaurant where one sits down and has a meal would you ever ask for a coffee to go except on TV or in the movies. We ask for it to go because its usually about the time the check comes and so then we must switch from a solid cup to a paper one. Can I? May I? Well more and more its “can I” and “may I” will soon be put in the arcane bin at Webster’s. Yes we know the difference but why we use it as an replacement for the traditional I’m not sure. Maybe it all sounds too weak for us Americans and can sounds a bolder form of asking…I really don’t know. Maybe its because growing up if you say “Can I have a cookie” some smart arse adult would say – “I don’t know CAN you?” so we’d switch to “May I have a cookie?” all the while seething underneath because you’d been made to look stupid. Maybe its a reaction to our childhood.

    • The Professor Replies:
      I’m very proud of the fact that currently few people in Britain know anything about baseball. I once tried watching a game and nothing happened. For about an hour the pitcher kept pitching, the batter kept missing, and people generally ambled about the place. Even worse than cricket. In the immortal words of the great philosopher Homer Simpson when watching baseball sober for the first time: “I never realised how boring this game was!” After about an hour and I switched to Extreme Needlework Live from Dorking and was thoroughly entertained.

      The ‘Coffee to go” point is a good one – and shows how people who think they are sounding like cool Americans they’ve seen on TV (eg Central Perk in Friends) are actually sounding very silly indeed.

      I think ‘May I…” is a nice, polite way of asking for something as well as being grammatically correct, but I fear the battle is all but lost on both sides of the Atlantic. But I do commend you on using “smart arse” rather than ‘smart ass”. There is hope for the future of the world yet.

      (The Professor retires to his study)

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