Stop Saying “Spot On.”Posted: September 21, 2009
I remember exactly when I first heard a Britishism that began creeping its way into American business. That one was “at the end of the day.” The year was 1984. A couple of British clients dropped the phrase repeatedly into their conversation with me to mean, in our American equivalent, “when all is said and done…at the conclusion of the process…when all factors have been considered,” and like that.
Believe it or not, no one in America up to that point ever said “at the end of the day” to mean this. If you said “at the end of the day,” it was because you meant nighttime. But this new, British meaning spread throughout the American business vocabulary like a cancer. Within a year or two, everyone in business was saying it here.
Now there’s another one. “Spot on.” Like “at the end of the day,” it comes from the United Kingdom. You’ve been able to see it in British newspapers and magazines for years now, and it means the same thing that we used to mean when we said, “exactly right…just perfect…right on,” and like that. You hear it everywhere now. Foodies on a message board I frequent say it to describe the flavor of a particularly successful dish. The other night I overheard a table of young people at a restaurant using it to describe someone’s critique of a movie.
I suppose we adopt these Britishisms because we think the Brits are so much smarter than we are. Or because by dropping them into conversation, we can demonstrate that we are cosmopolitan, and have been exposed to people from other lands. There’s really no need for these Britishisms other than for sheer pretense, because we already had perfectly fine American ways to say the same things.
So just stop it.