The Top Ten: Americanisms that were originally English


Click to follow
The Independent US

Oh, how we like to be snooty about the importation of Americanisms into this country's pure and perfect language.

Hell, yes. But so many were exported from here in the first place. This list was suggested by Graham Fildes, who came up with the first three.

1. Fall

Autumn was an import into English from French, automne, which did not become standard English usage until the 18th century.

2. Trash

Also featured in my Top 10 of old words that sound new. It was used by Shakespeare in 1603.

3. Guess, as in to suppose

Shakespeare again.

4. Soccer

Nominated by Jack Pitt-Brooke. Very funny.

5. Gotten

Good Middle English past participle, nominated by Chris Jones and Deborah Moffatt.

6. Slain and slay

"You rarely see it in British English now, but it's still common in America," says Andrew Denny.

7. Faucet

Late Middle English. Dripped through by Dan Wilson.

8. Loan, as a verb

Oliver Kamm says: "The Times gets letters complaining about this 'Americanism' often, even though it was coined almost a millennium ago."

9. Draft, as in selection for service

A 16th-century English spelling of draught, to draw, pull. Kamm again.

10. Diaper

Middle English: from Old French diapre, via medieval Latin diasprum, from medieval Greek diaspros (adjective) – dia "across" plus aspros "white".

Next week: Medical ailments in songs ("I'm as serious as cancer")

Coming soon: Words that are the opposite of their meaning (such as monosyllabic). Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to