I don't know if any "old timers" are around, but the first time I encountered the term "pounds feet" was in a brittish rag and I was shocked when it started turning up in american publications...many years ago...about the same time as the birth of the internet.
Prior to that, in the U.S. torque was measured in "foot pounds" and in metric countries "newton meters". Now, I understand that the order of words makes it easier to convert "pounds feet" to "newton meters" but that's no excuse for anyone outside of the empire to be adopting the term.
So I looked into it. It turns out that "pounds feet" was originated in Brittain before any of us were even born, as an alternative to foot-pounds, with an explaination given by the person who proposed it. Great, but...
People have more recently been making up crazy arguments about how the term MUST be in the order of POUNDS FEET and, every technical argument I've seen has been pointless. That is, you can reverse the logic and still come out with foot-pounds being the correct term. So it seems its a matter of style. Prove me wrong and I'll flip your argument, unless it's so wordy that it's not worth my time.
The reason I bring this up is that since Europe adopted the metric system long before this happened, Europe shouldn't have any influence on "American Terms". It's a U.S. measurement, using a system that's no longer relevant in England.