Matthew Engel ("Why do some Americanisms irritate people?", BBC News 7/13/2011) starts out by describing the phenomenon of American lexical influence on British English. His description is even partly accurate:
I have had a lengthy career in journalism. I hope that's because editors have found me reliable. I have worked with many talented colleagues. Sometimes I get invited to parties and meet influential people. Overall, I've had a tremendous time.
Lengthy. Reliable. Talented. Influential. Tremendous.
All of these words we use without a second thought were never part of the English language until the establishment of the United States.
The Oxford English Dictionary cites reliable as in regular British use for more than two centuries before the establishment of the United States. The first citation for talented, in the relevant sense, is from Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a quintessentially and even parodically British writer. The relevant sense of influential was first used by Roger North, who spent all of his 83 years in England, and died more than 40 years before the American revolution. The OED's first citation for tremendous in the "extraordinarily great" sense is from the English poet Robert Southey.
But it's absolutely true that the OED's first two citations for lengthy are from John Adams in 1759 and Benjamin Franklin in 1773. And when Sir Walter Scott used the word in his 1829 work Chronicles of the Canongate, he flagged its trans-Atlantic origin:
Here I stopped to draw breath; for the style of my grandsire, the inditer of this goodly matter, was rather lengthy, as our American friends say.
So Mr. Engel is correct about the history of one in five of his cited Americanisms. A score of 20% is not bad for mass-media peeving.
Before long, Mr. Engel drops the documentary pretense and lets his peeve flag fly, complaining about "ugly and pointless new usages" like "hospitalize, which really is a vile word", and "starting to creep in, such horrors as ouster".
It's a matter of taste whether hospitalize is "ugly and pointless" and "a vile word", but whether it's "new" is a matter of fact. And even if we interpret "new" to mean "new in British usage", this claim seems to be less than entirely correct, although an irrational animus against this word is apparently more common in the UK than in the US. The OED's first two citations are from the Daily Chronicle (London) in 1901 and 1904, and hospitalized was used in the British scientific publication Nature as early as 1946.
As for ouster, in the sense of "Ejection from a freehold or other possession; deprivation of an inheritance", the OED gives impeccably English citations back to 1531. And in the sense of "Dismissal or expulsion from a position; (more generally) removal from a place or situation", the OED indicates that the creeping horror began 240 years ago in the very bosom of Merrie England:
1782 Nomencl. of Westm. Hall Pref. p. xxxi, in Ld. Glenbervie Biogr. Hist. of Sir William Blackstone, Whenever the Lord Keeper of the Great Seal is removed from his high office, be the same by resignation or ouster; that he should be immediately‥created a peer of the realm.
In the end, this article never really tries to answer the question posed by its headline, "Why do some Americanisms irritate people?" Calling certain words ugly, pointless, or vile expresses the irritation, but hardly explains it. And the premise that these words are an alien intrusion is false more often than not.
A few years ago, I tried to explain this kind of public peeving as an ritual of group identity formation ("The social psychology of linguistic naming and shaming", 2/27/2007):
Linguistic sins, real or imaginary, are not really what's driving this process. And the original emotion of irritation, though sometimes expressed in colorful displays of (mock?) disgust and anger, is also secondary, I think. The real key is the public ritual [of] "naming and shaming", which helps the group to converge on a set of norms. (While giving everyone a good deal of pleasure along the way, apparently.)
As we gripe-debunkers relentlessly demonstrate, these aren't the usual norms of linguistic usage. They're not even the norms of the standard language or the norms of elite users. These days, those accused of offending against these odd, artificial norms are as likely to be high-status people — politicians, business managers, journalists — as members of (linguistically) lower-status groups — blacks, young people, Americans, athletes.
On this view, it doesn't matter whether the "Americanisms" that "irritate people" are actually from America at all. The BBC News editors promise their readers, at the bottom of Mr. Engel's article, that "A selection of your Americanisms will be published later". As long as Mr. Engel can rally his compatriots to share the experience of communal irritation at alien linguistic intrusions — real or imaginary — he will have done his job.