M. Lynne Murphy, an American-educated linguist living in England, writes the blog “Separated by a Common Language.” She annually seeks two words of the year, the best British borrowing from American English and the best American borrowing from the mother country. The verdict is not yet in for the crossovers for 2009; “staycation” seems an early favorite, despite slightly different meanings in America and in the U.K.
Seeing this inspired me to share my favorite Britishism, practically unknown in America: “Ta.” Not “ta” as in “ta ta,” meaning “so long.” “Ta” as in a quick and informal way of saying “thank you.”
Most sources suggest “ta” is from a young child’s way of saying thank you, dating from the 18th century. It doesn’t seem to me to be a likely mimic — neither of the sounds in “ta” (tah) are found in “thank you.” But whatever the origin, the word appears to be common in English casual speech. Online sources say it is heard in the Midlands and parts of London, as well as in Australia and New Zealand.