Gobsmacked!: The British Invasion of American English

A spot-on guide to how and why Americans have become so bloody keen on Britishisms—for good or ill


Sep 24, 2024
5.5 x 8.5 in.
27 b/w illus.
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The British love to complain that words and phrases imported from America—from French fries to Awesome, man!—are destroying the English language. But what about the influence going the other way? Britishisms have been making their way into the American lexicon for more than 150 years, but the process has accelerated since the turn of the twenty-first century. From acclaimed writer and language commentator Ben Yagoda, Gobsmacked! is a witty, entertaining, and enlightening account of how and why scores of British words and phrases—such as one-off, go missing, curate, early days, kerfuffle, easy peasy, and cheeky—have been enthusiastically taken up by Yanks.

After tracing Britishisms that entered the American vocabulary in the nineteenth century and during the world wars, Gobsmacked! discusses the most-used British terms in America today. It features chapters on the American embrace of British insults and curses, sports terms, and words about food and drinks. The book also explores the American adoption of British spellings, pronunciations, and grammar, and cases where Americans have misconstrued British expressions (for example, changing can’t be arsed to can’t be asked) or adopted faux-British usages, like pronouncing divisive as “divissive.” Finally, the book offers some guidance on just how many Britishisms an American can safely adopt without coming off like an arse.

Rigorously researched and documented but written in a light, conversational style, this is a book that general readers and language obsessives will love. Its revealing account of a surprising and underrecognized language revolution might even leave them, well, gobsmacked.