|Alder catkins, via Wikipedia|
I complained about this on Facebook last night with the status "Hay fever? Already?" and this led a former (British) student, now working in New York to ask:
They don't really say that here do they? More just 'allergies' in general.I grew up with hay fever in Upstate New York, and much of my family suffers, so I'm used to hearing the phrase in American English. But, of course, I had to look it up.
I found on the Corpus of Global Web-Based English more mentions of hay fever in Britain than America and more of allergies in North America than in Britain. But allergies wins overall in both countries. Of course, allergies can refer to more than just pollen allergies, so that's not totally surprising.
(The darker the blue in these tables the more a phrase is associated with a particular country in this corpus. The raw numbers can't be directly compared because the sizes of the sub-corpora for each country differ, but the US and GB sets are roughly the same size.)
But looking at Google Books gives a different story:
This shows hay fever as peaking earlier in the US (around the 1940s) and later in the UK (1970s), but not more common in BrE than in AmE. It also shows the rise of allergies--earlier in the US than in the UK. I feel like I use allergies a lot these days because I'm never really sure what I'm sneezing out. But I do seem to be sneezing for most of the year.
So, it looks like the US is leading a change to allergies over hay fever, but this little exercise does demonstrate that a lot depends on the make-up of the data you're using.
If it's not hay fever I have, then perhaps it is THE DREADED LURGY.