My persistent problem with Britishisms

So you are a bad, affected American if you use British expressions–that much has been made clear to me by all the tastemakers. And I don’t have a problem with, for the most part, remembering to put the “the” in front of hospital or saying “redhead” instead of “ginger.”. I am fond of articles, and I am most definitely fond of the definite articles.

The problem for me is that so many Britishisms are good words. “Whinge” is not objectively better than “whine” but “spot on” is better than “accurate”, at least in terms of rhythm and vividness.

For example, I’ve just been informed that “kerfuffle” is a Britishism. It is not. I distinctly remember learning it, and loving it, for the GRE roughly 900 years ago. Kerfuffle is, simply, a marvelous world. Nobody gets to own it. It must be free to work its linguistic wonders.

Which brings me to my question: when is something a British-ism versus a simple English word?

I strongly suspect that many of these people dubbing things “Britishisms” are just appropriating words they like because they want to stop Americans from using perfectly good words because Americans annoy them because we routinely ruin tea, and they haven’t got their own fancy drone technology to use on us yet. Try to keep me from kerfuffle, indeed.

Either way, I plan to keep using “turns up” and other things likely British so long as they are apt. Neener neener.

Ben Yagoda has a very amusing blog dedicated to such things. He even does some science-y stuff to look at them.

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