I learned last night that the phrase:

I fancy a burger.

is taught in textbooks to some English learners as a different way to say one "would like" a burger. This surprised me, because I thought the phrase was very dated. Is it still used in Britain?

  • 2
    This Google Ngram suggests it is enjoying a recrudescence, at least in writing. Mar 2 '14 at 14:35
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    I confirm that it is quite frequent in EFL textbooks on the (old) continent. I've heard it used in Britain, but I only go there as a visitor. I gather from your question it is not common in the US. The EFL dictionaries I have at hand specify it is informal, one (Longman adds it is BrE) but nothing about it being dated. Just found it on the BBC learning English Website as well and lots of occurrences on the web.
    – None
    Mar 2 '14 at 15:53
  • Very interesting! It's so uncommon in the US that I could not even figure out what the (native French) speaker meant for a few moments when I heard it.
    – hunter
    Mar 2 '14 at 16:16
  • It would be interesting to ask the question on ELU to have a return from Brits and other English speaking natives. I hear it a lot in Britain but my experience is limited to a reduced group of people who will ask me what I fancy for dinner or if I'd fancy a drive to the coast.
    – None
    Mar 2 '14 at 16:40
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    Yes! "fancy a + noun/ fancy + gerund" means "to be in the mood to do something" or as you say "to want/like to do something". It's still very much used by the younger demographic in Britain (I'm English), and at the very least my parents' generation, if not my grandparents' too.
    – JMB
    Mar 2 '14 at 18:12

I think OP has got hold of the wrong end of the stick here. There's nothing at all "dated" about saying things like "Do you fancy a curry tonight?"

One usage that is dated by now is "Dear Marje, I really fancy this girl at work, but I don't know how to ask her out for a date." But that's probably more a cultural thing than language change as such.

Other usages that are way past their sell-by date include...

What a man appears to understand as he goes along, he is apt to fancy he has learnt
(where fancy = think - often by implication, erroneously)

Fancy you being here! Where have you come from?
(where it's really just an interjection expressing surprise)

As the NGram link in StoneyB's comment shows, the usage is a bit more common in the UK than the US, but I don't think you could reasonably call it a "Briticism". Per comments below, it obviously is a Briticism, but that's not really relevant to the OP, since he seems to know this anyway ("Is it still used in Britain?").

  • Well, you're British FumbleFingers, and I have the impression from other posts OP is US or at least he lives there (not in his profile though), so now I think we have to wait for confirmation from bona fide US inhabitant... @StoneyB maybe.
    – None
    Mar 3 '14 at 7:03
  • Fancy a blish? Link to answer in message I left hunter on ELU chat
    – None
    Mar 3 '14 at 7:55
  • @Laure I've never heard anyone say fancy in this sense in the US. (Fancy is used in other senses, though. "Fancy you being here", for example, is considerably more likely, despite sounding dated.)
    – user230
    Mar 3 '14 at 8:10
  • @snailplane since you are a native speaker of American English I suppose we can say we've come up with another difference in Am/Br English!
    – None
    Mar 3 '14 at 8:32
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    @Laure: The point is noted, and the answer amended accordingly. I didn't specifically know this when I answered, but it is the sort of usage I'd be inclined to suspect might be a Briticism, so I'd normally check for myself. In this case I misunderstood the implications of StoneyB's initial link (I trust his ear for usage as much as my own; whenever we disagree it always seems to be a US/UK split). (Also, I'm not ashamed to admit I was distracted at the time by having to Google recrudescence! :) Mar 3 '14 at 14:22

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