Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Americanisms

Chores done, Rita phoned her friend to wonder was there any more to life...

I'm in love with some of the Americanisms that are becoming part of our language in Ireland. Language has to evolve and change as our society does, and American culture is fast becoming the biggest influence on Irish culture (prove me wrong, someone!). There are some Americanisms that are so perfect and succinct that I wish I could use them non-ironically (is that a word?).

For example imagine someone phones you. You answer:
"I'm out running errands."

How perfect. How much more succinct than: "I'm at the post office, then I've to drop a coat into my friend and buy some groceries for dinner."

The Americanism has it all wrapped up. Your friend doesn't care or need to know what you're up to, and nor should she have to waste her phone credit hearing your to-do list. You state you've errands to run, she gets the drift, everyone's happy, and you're not sounding like some martyr / superwoman. It's about boundaries, and I think in that respect Americans have it covered. They are ok stating they are busy running errands, while the Irish equivalent sounds too detailed.

Another one I love is the following:
"I'm doing some chores this afternoon."

The word "chore" has a derogatory meaning here, as in "Visiting Aunt Em is such a chore, but somebody's gotta wipe her ass". But in the plural context it's perfect for encompassing housework / gardening / laundry / walking the dog or whatever household jobs you have to accomplish. At the moment the Irish equivalent is "I've to put on a load of laundry, scrub my toilet and deal with last night's dirty dishes". Again, we don't need to hear your litany of mundanities, just use the word "chores" and we all sleep happy.

I also love "chilling". Before "chilling" came into vogue around the millenium, Irish people may have seemed like the feckless stereotype, describing their Saturday evening at home as "doing nothing" or "hanging around the house" like some kind of drooling toothless fly-catchers. But the minute you say you're "chilling" at home on a Saturday evening you conjure up images of Pringle-eating contests, tortillas and dips, cashmere socks and sparkling wine. It's a new millenium, and leisure time is now seen as being a worthy use of your time. It's ok to "chill" - it's not ok to "do nothing".

"Down-time" comes under the last heading. I presume "up-time" is all the difficult stuff: working, ferrying kids to worthy activities, shopping. Whereas "down-time" is your recharging, relaxing time.

I love "hanging out". In my day (the 90s) we said we were "hanging around" with friends. This usually meant hanging around street corners / trying to persuade a bouncer an ID card was authentic / gulping down neat peach schnapps at a bus stop. "Hanging around" had the parents worried, hinted at anti-social behaviour, and ne'er-do-well-ing. But if you're "hanging out" with friends, you're in a loft-space flicking through graphic design magazines, or painting each other's nails. You can phone a friend and arrange to "hang out" and that's an actual activity it seems. You can't phone a friend and ask them to "hang around" with you. Not unless you plan to shoplift. And while we're at it, it's "call" now, not "phone". "Call" is cool, "phone" is square.

Has anyone been to the cinema in the last decade, or the flicks or the pictures? I certainly haven't. I only go to the movies now.

My 4 year old throws his rubbish in the garbage. I still use the bin.

Likewise my son eats candy sometimes, sometimes he'll have sweets when he remembers what side of the Atlantic we live on. I eat sweets, but I chew gum. Not chewing gum (choon'ghum in Dublin), just gum.

I also love (and hate) the use of the word "cute". No longer is it reserved for infant humans, animals and fancy note paper, it's now used for hairstyles and grown women, to describe a husband's romantic gestures, and how a dress looks on your ass. It has patronising overtones, so I use this one with caution.

Super-cute is obviously very cute. But what about super-cool, super-fast and super-tough? I like to think of it as the French equivalent of supermarket (hypermarche), but I think it's origins are again from the US, not la Republique.

"How are you doing?"
"I'm good."
Hmm. I've used this, I don't like it but I see how it works.
I'm well, I'm fine. I'm good -  That's ok. It's when it becomes:
"How's he doing academically?"
"Oh he's doing good, thanks."
Then it seems a bit sloppy and indefinite.

I'll just give you a "heads-up" about the meeting. There are no meetings. I'm a stay-at-home-mom.
Mom, not mum or mam, mammy / mammai, I'm mom. Or mama if you really want something from me.

So how are we all doing, with our scrapbooking and journaling? Better than just pasting things into a notebook or keeping a diary? It is neater and more descriptive. (For the record, I don't get scrapbooking. It looks like keeping a photo album only a lot more time-consuming and expensive - but more creative too I concede).

Now in Ireland we're not talking about our problems anymore, it's all about our "issues".

And the baby gets brought for a walk in the stroller, not the buggy, or the pram, which meant "buggy" up to yesterday in some parts of Dublin. Or just substitute Bugaboo for all the above.

Is anyone out there using nappies, or are we all diapering? And are they 'sposies (disposables) or cloth diapers?

The movie Clueless gave us "whatever" and "loser" which we've adopted so readily it's hard to remember calling anyone a "wally" or a "prat".

The opposite sex are no longer sexy or rides, they're just hot.

That's all that spring to mind, have you any Americanisms that you love using? Or resent having to hear?

Have a good day,

Nee x


(Thank Jaysus we still wrap our sangwidges in tinfoil, not aloominum, and Tayto aren't being bought over by Lay's or we'd all be done for.)

3 comments:

  1. Ha-ha! OMG, that is like so true! ' Garbage', 'whatever', 'loser'are used by my kids too, sometimes with a mid-Atlantic accent. We were so embarrassed when my daughter started talking...her accent was pure Peppa!

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  2. I love americanisms (and all things american to be honest). I love that "playdate" is used by everyone here now, and it's so logical - how else would you describe a situation where you organise for your kids to play with someone else's kids so that you can drink coffee and eat cake with the mum. It's perfect. I have to say, I love saying super-cool to my kids, but until I read this I kind of thought I had made it up :)

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  3. I wanted to wait before replying. What you are talking about is part of a cultural shift in Irish life. Linguistic practices follow culture, but slowly. There are two major issues here, so I want to parse them.

    1. American words replacing Irish ones. In some cases that's simply the presence of a great deal of popular culture generated by America for world consumption. Most Irish are as proud of the Irish language as they are delighted that they don't have to speak it, day in, day out when foreigners come to tea. The inclusion of Ireland into the Anglophonic world is not without some baggage though, and few Irish would feel really comfortable staring worshipfully over at the land of Shakespeare saying, oh, we ought to copy them as closely as possible. Fortunately, there is an alternative that has swallowed up generations of Irishmen and women. I think that Irelands reflexive pro-Americanism has less to do with America and more to do with the island curled up to the east of them.

    2. Cultural shifts. Two of the things that you mentioned involved an itemization of tasks. Only a few generations ago, the only people who would ask you "What are you doing today?" who would expect an answer that wasn't a bit saucy expected a full report. Why? Well, your Aunt Fiona was just a gossip, God bless her, and nosey as you like. But other than that, it was often an excuse to combine tasks and coordinate work: "If you're headed out to the butchery, I'll give you thruppence ha'penny. It's Himself's birthday and I've not a bite for him to eat since the cat got into it. I'd skin him if I'd thought he's roast up nice enough." "Laundry, did you say? I've got a basket of linens, and I'll walk with you to the river. Do you remember that Cara Donnelly as went to Liverpool and thought she was the Queen o' Sheba? Well, have I got a tale to tell..." Companionship made some tasks go faster, and listing out tasks often led to coordination of efforts. Indeed, if you did see Maebh Maguire from next door at the shops behind you in the queue, pretending she didn't see you, you would begin to wonder why she'd taken against you so, and think she was a cold sort of fish.

    But Irish people no longer live in close-knit villages peopled by the same families for generations. With the coming of urbanization and suburbanisation, the itemization of tasks became an embarrassing nuisance. Neighbourhoods do not extend for generations: there are Polish people who live at number 14, and you don't remember when that lovely Mrs. Shastry who was always smiling at you in Hindi left, and it's only old Mrs. O'Hare that remembers who lived there when you moved in first.

    So what we're seeing is a decline of communal thinking in Irish communities, and you are very perceptive about noticing that this new, more alienated culture now catalogues the old ways as "oversharing." Only certain small communities are really interested in communal help in that old style, and most of us feel uncomfortable about what we are giving up by accepting it.

    I don't judge it, because the trade-off is greater freedom in individual lives.

    Just a thought

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