[A NOTE FROM YOUR AUTHOR: There are actual serious books about this sort of thing, obviously. These are just the notes of an editorial girl who’s worked on both sides. It’s horribly incomplete, massively personal and there will be no fact checking. Sorry.]
ARUGULA: It sounds so like a tropical island or a fancy stripper… and yet it’s just rocket, like everyone used to put in salads in London in the early ’00s.
CHAISE LOUNGE: Possibly my favourite Americanism of all time! It’s as though someone official thought, “Oh, those poor Frenchies, they spelt ‘lounge’ wrong… let’s fix it for ’em.” Being a contrary cow, I made a point to work the words “chaise longue” – English style – into converation as often as possible when I lived in America (being a not very fancy person, that was less than I’d have liked).
CILANTRO: It’s just coriander but, like so many things, it sounds a lot better in Spanish. It’s in loads of Mexican dishes, which is great if you love it as much as I do, but awful if you are one of the poor unfortunates to whom it tastes very strongly of soap. I think that fact that cilantro tastes so abysmal to some probably makes me like it even more.
FAUCET: One of the fabled Americanisms I heard about growing up in the depths of darkest Essex was “faucet”: Americans said “faucet” and that was that, as far as mini Jetlagged Typist was concerned. Then I moved to the US… and never heard anyone say faucet, ever. I don’t think they say it in California. They just said tap. How disappointing.
SPECIALTY: I just realised – aged thirty – that I had no idea what the difference is between “specialty” and “speciality“. A very clever person whose knowledge of these matters I trust corrected my use of “specialty” as being an Americanism. Fascinating.
TRASH CAN: My friend’s very young child didn’t understand me when I asked him where their bin was, and I was newly arrived and couldn’t remember the American word for it. He made me repeat it three times before just staring at me looking horrified and saying “I CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU WANT FROM ME”. It was at that point that I decided to occasionally break my resolution to never use Americanisms in select cases that could invoke childhood traumas.