Britishism = Briticism =?Anglicism? = :)John-Bullism:)

Some dictionaries insist that the term should be used only for ‘pure’ British features or ‘typical British idioms’ that are not used in the USA.

  1. Wikipedia also give lists of:

· List of American words not widely used in the United Kingdom
· List of words having different meanings in British and American English
· American and British English spelling differences
· American and British English pronunciation differences

I confuse about correct using of the term ‘Britishism’ - regarding words, phrases or idioms (with specific British meanings (or spelling)). That have different meanings (or spelling) in American English.

For example,

gives At the end of the day (= finally; taking everything into account; when all is said and done) as Britishism

Could you comment using of the term?

Hi Tamara

As far as I can tell, “at the end of the day” has only recently come into widespread use in the US and it seems to have come to life as a buzzword in business. Just as the expression “thinking outside the box” has become popular, for example. :lol:

I’d be interested in hearing Jamie’s opinion on the usage of “at the end of the day”.


I don’t think the usage of that term at street level is that strict, Tamara. Since there’s so much cross-over in the two varieties of English, and terms are moving back and forth all the time, what people think of as a Britishism could be a term that people know is not used outside Britain, or one that has been introduced to other countries so recently that people still recognize it as British. Note that Americans use a lot of latterday Britishisms without knowing it, just as the British use Americanisms that have been in frequent use for so long that people don’t know they’re American anymore.

As for the expression at the end of the day, meaning in the end, I agree that it’s now a buzzword in the US, but I don’t agree that it’s mainly in business. About 15 years ago, when I first started hearing it, I associated it with elitists from the East Coast who were in government, diplomacy or journalism (the so-called “chattering classes” among whom “state university” is pejorative term). These are the sort of people who walk around all day with a complex because they’re not European. Later the expression entered the speech of the general population here.

I think the expression spot on is starting to go through the same process. A year or two ago you heard it only from the British or from East Coast elitists who feel bad because they’re not European. They have been using the expression so much that now it’s just beginning to trickle into the speech of ordinary people. When I hear an American use it, though, I often assume he has some kind of complex.

Hi Jamie

15 years ago is roughly when I first noticed American business people (here in in Germany) using “at the end of the day”. I didn’t mean to convey that I thought it was used mainly in business. But I thought it might have gained its foothold and come to life via its use in business since I first noticed it not long after coming to Germany.

By the way, when you talk about East Coast elitists, do you mean mainly Ivy Leaguers? :lol:


Hi Jamie (K),

I am intrigued about your references such as:

0n at the end of the day


spot on

I ask in total ignorance because I’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the USA but do certain expressions (like the ones above) carry around with them all that baggage?


Hi Alan
My personal opinion is that any expression that has only recently come into use will carry the baggage of the people with which it’s most closely associated. Probably most Americans have no idea whatsoever that “at the end of the day” is “British”. :lol:

Many of the buzzwords and jargon that are heard in business today have come into more general use, but are probably still most closely associated with upper management and management wannabes. Many peons (regular people :lol:) simply laugh at the expressions as being empty, meaningless management “B.S.”.

Have a look at this website and you’ll see how “at the end of the day” and some other “new” expressions have been categorized. :lol:


Alan, expressions can carry that type of baggage, but that can change over time.

In the United States there is a class of people – especially clustered in the Northeast, it seems – who consider themselves to have an innate superiority over other people in the country. In fact, they refer to anything between the East Coast and California as “flyover country”. In other words, they have to fly across it to get from one coast to the other, but they don’t think there could ever be any reason to land there. Many people from government, diplomacy and especially journalism are in this category. John Kerry lost the 2004 election partly because his manner reflected that he was this type of elitist (much as he tried to hide it).

When Kofi Annan’s second in command at the UN went on TV recently and proclaimed that the unwashed American masses in the middle of the country were ignorantly persecuting the UN because they got all their information from two conservative media outlets, he was showing that he probably has contact almost exclusively with these Eastern elites and was ignorant of the thought and habits of the rest of the country, their educational level, and why they object to the UN these days.

One mark of this class of Americans is that many of them feel emotionally insecure at not having been born in Europe, and they have a fantasy that everyone is more educated and enlightened in Europe than they are here. I have constant aggravation with one friend who wants to move his family to Europe every time he doesn’t like what’s going on politically, or when he gets frustrated with idiots he has to deal with in his high-paying job. You can tell him all you want that the UK or France have their own masses of idiots comparable to those in the US – and that you have to deal with ignoramuses on a daily basis everywhere – but having no concrete experience of Europe, I just can’t get it through to him. He still thinks that if he moves to Europe, everything will be all better, and he’ll always be around people as “enlightened” as he is.

Americans who suffer from this sort of Euro-envy have a habit of latching on to some conspicuously British phrase they hear somewhere and using it all the time. They tend to think that saying “at the end of the day”, “spot on” or some similar thing gives them associations with Britain, and therefore Europe, and makes them sound smarter and more cosmopolitan. I don’t reckon they think this on a completely conscious level, but you can pick it up anyway. This is why when I hear “spot on” coming through the radio from the mouth of some Eastern journalist or commentator, I assume this complex is at work. We have so many more natural, less opaque terms that express the same thing, that it takes a special effort for an American to use one like that. It’s clearly the result of a conscious decision and sustained effort to adopt a Britishism, and not just natural language dissemination.

For me, the expression “at the end of the day” isn’t loaded that way anymore, because it’s seeped into the general populace. I suppose I won’t think of “spot on” that way after 10 or 15 years either.

And note that when I say “class of people”, I mean it in the American sense, which means it doesn’t have to be a group one is born into.

Dear Amy

Could you please tell me the meaning and the use? I could not find it in the dictionary.


Hi Tom

When companies talk about “thinking outside the box” they mean that employees should not simply accept and be satisfied with the status quo (that would be “in the box thinking” ;)). Rather, employes should be open to and looking for new ways of thinking and original ways of doing things. They should explore, experiment and innovate. Theoretically, most great inventions have come from people who were able to “think outside the box”.


Another new word for me! We have the same term in Spanish (pe?n, pl. peones) and it means ‘unskilled labourer’ (much further away from the ‘elite’, ey?).

Hi Conchita

Yes, the vast majority of employees in companies are often light-years away from the “elite” head honchos in the corner offices. Light-years in terms of salary, benefits, perks, influence, etc. Sometimes people call themselves peons because they see their bosses as “slave drivers”. Sometimes it’s simply because they don’t have any decision-making power or influence in the company.

Have you ever read any of the Dilbert comics?



Thank you all. Very informative & good points to think. :slight_smile:

So… trying to sum it up to put it down in my poor head (hmm… viva voce writing :slight_smile: ):

There are:

  • ‘ordinary’ natives (Britishers and Americans) who use language functionally and naturally and are not confused about ‘correct’ use (thank you, Jamie) of the terms ‘Americanism’ and ‘Britishism’ or word etymology, at all;

  • professional people who are involved in business with its international transfer of English language (functional, as well);

  • ‘posh people’, elite (and pseudo-elite) - people who form, keep and conserve their own sublanguage, not naturally, but specially - to differ from others, ‘ordinary’ people (British or American).
    They tend to use ‘reputed’, prestige :slight_smile: words and phrases and have some sore points concerning it;

  • linguists (dictionaries), and teachers (‘standard natural’ English);

  • non-natives, learning English (from the surroundings, as well) who are concerned about word choice and ‘right’ English. Like me :);

  • children, the least conservative group :slight_smile: , thoughtless repeaters, who just absorb language (proper or improper) from the air. Like me, as well (sometimes) :slight_smile:


Hi Whoever,

Thanks to Jamie and Amy for your explanations on the use of words and phrases and the way in which they are chosen by people in the USA. In a word I am flabbergasted at the apparent undercurrents raging in what effect this expression or that phrase is having on the listener and the apparent and supposedly tortuous thought processes that are going on at the same time in the mind of the speaker. Are people really that affected by the words chosen by some to the extent that they (the listeners) are conjuring up pictures of what they (the speakers) are pretending,claiming, endeavouring to be?

Now I have been listening with an avid ear to speech around me since I was perambulated up and down the streets of North London in a perambulator, through that awful period when I lived among the uneducated elite in the barracks of the Tower of London, through the years I spent among the educated elite in Oxford and Cambridge, through the heady years I worked freelance for the BBC up until now when I mingle with the masses at St Tesco and in all that time when I have been hobnobbing with Tom, Dick and Harry or if you wish Thomas, Richard and Harold and never have I thought to myself (well perhaps I didn’t do an awful lot of that in the pram as I was sleeping much of the time): Oh she’s saying that because she wants to be Spanish or he’s saying that because he really wants to be an American. To me it’s always been the way they say something rather than the words. To take an extreme example - the way that the heir to the throne speaks.

Now there are reasons for that manner of speaking and I don’t wish to go into them and border on the fringes of lese majeste but one would imagine that this guy had loads of advantages over the average Joe Bloggs (I’m tempted to show off and say peon but you’d say I was pushing it but I’ve added it to my vocab list for future reference) in terms of education, environment and affluence but if you scrape off the accent, you’ll find speech of the utmost banality. And that’s my point - it’s surely not what you say but the way you say it.

The reason I’m sounding off today is to express my sympathy for our users for whom English is a foreign language and who browse these forums, who must be confused about the vagaries of Britishisms, Americanisms or whatever ‘isms’ you like when all the poor darlings want to know is how do you say this, why do you say that and why is this wrong?

My advice to them is take your pick. Try every word you’ve found under the sun. Enjoy the words. Don’t worry about who else has used them. Communicate and make yourself understood and Have a nice day! (Now where does that come from, I wonder?)


Hi Alan,

My English skills don’t still allow me to express what I could say in my native language…
Just thanks you for your post. For your posts. For your stories. For your jokes. For your exact answers on English-vocabulary-and-grammar-in-use and for your wise outlook.

By the way…
A bit wider look on learning ‘world languages’.

It was interesting for me to read fragments from H.L. Mencken > The American Language > The Future of the Language > 1. English as a World Language –
estimations and forecast made at the beginning of the twentieth century.

And compare them with 2004’ ones.
For example:

Hi Tamara,

Thank you for your response to my latest posting and for the pleasant comments you made. I am also grateful to you for referring me to the articles on the English language. It is of course a luxury, which I appreciate, when youir own language is a world language and naturally there is always a danger of not bothering to learn any other language. I can claim to have made some effort in that direction by studying German at university.

The point I wanted to make in my posting and I believe you agree with me is that although I am delighted that so many people take the trouble to learn English, I would hate them to be put off by arbitrary rules and regulations, fads and fancies created by ‘experts’ and I would like them as it were to revel in and enjoy the language. Apart from the historical, political and geographical reasons for the rise of English, I am sure that another potent factor is the refusal of the language to be tied down or restricted in its use. As the famous song by Cole Porter says: Anything goes.


Hi Alan

I agree with that, too, Alan. Learning new vocabulary, practicing and communicating is what it’s all about. I’ve never claimed anything different. Never. And of course things very much depend on how you say them. Of course!

But that doesn’t change the fact that some words and phrases can carry unexpected connotations or result in unexpected reactions. Some to a greater extent, some to a lesser extent. It’s certainly not the case with the vast majority of words, but even some everyday words can produce expected reactions simply because there’s a difference in meaning between British and American English. You only need to think about using the “British” word “rubber” to realize that. If you ask an American co-worker for a “rubber” (because you want to “rub something out”), even asking with utmost courtesy and the sincerest of smiles, you’ll either get laughed at or looked at in dumbfounded consternation.

Tamara asked specifically about “at the end of the day” in her thread and I answered with a very basic description according to how I know it to be used in American English: “new” and “business buzzword”. You seem to have overlooked that fact, Alan. Was that off-putting information? Tamara’s information had been that the expression is not used in American English and that simply isn’t the case. Not anymore. Because I live in Europe and have a lot of contact with British English teachers (and British course books), I was aware that the phrase is nothing new in the UK. But the phrase is new the US.

I also mentioned another buzzword used in American business. It’s important that people working in an American company recognize and understand these sorts of words and phrases. They’ll probably have to deal with them on a regular basis and will probably also need to use at least some of them. Even when the office is located outside the US. But, I don’t find it inappropriate to inform people about how or when these words could also come across as somewhat negative or strange. Many of them sound completely inappropriate if used outside a business context. And many are simply laughed at even in a business context. Many of the buzzwords currently in use are on the receiving end of endless jokes and ridicule.

Is this sort of information to be kept secret at all costs? The number of business buzzwords involved is relatively limited. I certainly don’t suggest that people worry about every single word they ever use. As I said, my opinion is that is important to simply give it your best shot at communicating. I also don’t discourage learning buzzwords. What I agreed with is simply that some words and phrases have very specific uses and meanings and can result in unexpected reactions if used inappropriately. Why hide or deny that? It’s nothing new and it’s certainly not restricted to American English.

I used the word “miffed” in another thread and was promptly “accused” of sounding British. I didn’t take that comment negatively or even particularly seriously, but, still, it was made, wasn’t it? Not by me and not by Jamie. What was the underlying message? That British English is better? That is a typical mindset of many Brits and people who have learned British English, isn’t it. And, although I wasn’t aware of it, it’s apparently the mindset of a handful of “elitists” living in the US — according to Jamie. Since I’m just a peon, I’ve never actually met such people. But I understood what sort of person he might have meant.

To be honest, the “miffed” comments seemed pretty humorous to me in light of Jamie’s comments about “East Coast elitists who want to be British” — which I felt and still feel to be a wild over-generalization. Thus my attempt at a little ribbing. However, I was worried about even attempting any humor in the forum. You may have noticed that by the fact that I even added a little notation at the end of my post in an (apparently unsuccessful) attempt to make sure it wasn’t taken too seriously. It seems I had every right to worry about trying any humor. I’m even more worried about it now.

Then came a comment about my use of the word “peon” along with a comparison to “elitist”. Now, the dictionary definition (AmE) of “peon” is probably somewhat similar to the meaning of the Spanish word. But, since I have no idea whether the Spanish word is strictly used with a literal meaning or not, I thought it best to try to explain more fully the way it would be used in a business context in American English. Since I assumed the expression “slave driver” would also be understood even in British English, I thought that describing a “peon” as someone working for a slave driver would convey the correct meaning and usage and also be understandable. I also tried to point out that it is usually the “peons” themselves who use the term. Your comments seem to indicate that you don’t “approve” of this word. That’s fine. People are free to pick and choose their own vocabulary. But if a word is in use in American English, what would you have me do? Deny or hide the fact? Where is the idea of “Anything goes” in that?

I’d like to add that everything I wrote was in reaction to something/someone else, just as this is. The idea of “baggage” was brought up by other people. My description of “at the end of the day” as simply “new” and “buzzword” in American English would have been left at that otherwise. But, since Jamie brought up “baggage” and you also asked about it, I offered my two cents about “baggage” associated with business buzzwords. To be honest, I still find it interesting that “at the end of the day” has only recently come into American English and that it is considered to be a buzzword.

Finally, I’m also flabbergasted — flabbergasted at the apparent claim that there are no “undercurrents” in the UK and in British English.

Anything goes? Why bother with English tests if anything really goes? Whay have vocabulary tests if anything goes?

In the hope that I won’t be misunderstood and attacked again, I repeat: I agree that people learning English should enjoy the language, try to learn as much as they can and simply communicate. “Mistakes” are OK and are part of the learning process. I also don’t think language can be “tied down”. But as the English tests on this website would tend to prove, unrestricted freedom with the language also isn’t particularly advisable.