The Other I

July 25, 2011

Proud to be a thief

Filed under: Cultural Differences,The English — theotheri @ 8:49 pm

In response to my last two posts, a friend has sent me a word tree on display on Ellis Island.  (Ellis Island was America’s Great Immigrant Gateway from the late 19th century until 1924.)  The tree sprouts American words now in popular use which have been adopted from the original languages of immigrant Americans, including from Native Americans who were here centuries before Columbus “discovered” America.

The English have given us 50 of their cringe-making Americanisms.  Here are 50 of my own  favourites, which I use with pride.

  •  Native American words:  chipmonk,  podunk,  kayak, skunk,  toboggan,  papoose,  powwow,  hurricane
  • from Africa: bad mouth,  jukebox
  • from China:  gung ho
  • Dutch words:  caboodle,  yankee,  Santa Claus,  hunkey dorey,    filibuster,  sleigh,  spook,  caboose,  boss,  poppycock,  bowery
  • from France:  shanty,  picayune, prairie,  rapids,  sashay
  • German words:  hoodlum,  coffee klatsch,  flak,  spiel,  seminar,  bummer,  hex,  nix
  •  from the German-Dutch or -French:  poker,  kutlz,  nosh
  • Yiddish words:  schlock,  schmo,  mench,  schmaltz,  kibitz,  schnook
  • Italian:  mezzanine
  • Japan/China:  tycoon, honcho
  •  Mexican/Spanish:  boondocks,  savy
  • Tagalog:  voodoo

For Americanisms with an English origin, see Webster’s Unabridged International Dictionary.

English-isms with an American origin are fewer in number than those going in the other direction, but we’re proud to share!  And I’m sure you won’t mix us up again with Shakespeare.  (See Americanism #27 on the BBC list and comment # 1294.  )


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