Talk:Comparison of American and British English/Archive 3

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Bring/Take in American English?

As a Brit I've noted in a lot of American TV shows that the way the words bring and take are used is strange. For example in Friends I heard this: "So just bring it back downstairs". I'd expect this to be "So just take it back downstairs". I can't think of any other examples right now but can anyone comment on this? Is "bring it back" correct in American English? Thanks for any info!

...hmmm... I guess it's not a matter of British vs. American here, but rather of personal usage and idiolects. In this scenario, the meat & potatoes is what you listener (as opposed to the speaker) think is the center or focus of the action, rather than movement toward or away from a location. Check this out. Of course, if I was a grammarian, I woulda told you "that usage is WRONG!!!!". But I love lexicography too much to be such a beast. Best, --JackLumber 13:05, 4 May 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

American English taught in other countries

I wouldn't agree. I personally live in Kazakhstan. Although the claim in many English schools and other institutions is that they teach American english, it is more a mix. The pronouciation is often highly British, especially when it comes to the letter "t" always being pronounced as aspirated. The word "butter" for example, the "tt" is clearly "t" (aspirated) and in "Kitten" there is no sign of a glottal stop as in most American dialects. The final "t" of of "can't" and "went" is aspirated, etc. Final r's are highly British, etc. etc., the case is the same for many other sounds. As a teacher of English from Canada, I am aware of the difficulties of teaching true North American pronunciation, the orthography of English is to exceptional (!). It would be more correct to say American vocabulary and spelling are taught in those countries. Of course, whether conversational (true) English as such is acutally taught in institutions in foreign countries is a completely different question. I have yet to met a nonnative speaker who would say "I dohwannago". They say "I don't want to go" and aspirate all their t's, even if they've been learning english for 12 years. But that's probably for a different article. --ChadThomson 05:56, 10 August 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]

As an Australian who works (part-time) in a situation where I hear a lot of EFL speakers, I would say they all have highly American accents to my ears. Rhotic, andf with the unrounded short O sound, for instance. Can make them quite difficult to hear. The majority of these are European though, so perhaps there's a difference there. — Felix the Cassowary 10:17, 10 August 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Nonetheless, the English they are taught isn't really american. It has elements of various accents, and generally (blatantly) sounds very much like they are reading every letter. The english they are taught is often very forced and because it is often based on learning the alphabet as the first step, we have ESL speakers pronouncing the last syllable of "fortunate" like the word "eight", and the last sylable of image like "age". I haven't met a Korean who doesn't systematically make such mistakes, which points to the fact that even the American teachers fail to teach their students American english.--ChadThomson 07:08, 24 August 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, I mean, until they give me their Bank of Sweden credit card, I honestly thought they were American. That kind of "highly American accents". (And in case of Americans who moved to Sweden, they're generally (a) too young (b) too enthusiastic about all the Swedishness and (c) have names which are too Swedish. Oh, and often they say something that makes it clear they're Swedish, too.—Of course, there's also those who when they walk away I'm still unsure.) It does of course vary, and maybe an American who hears them will say "that doesn't sound like a real American accent!", but many've clearly tried to learn American English.
My "sample set" will of course be different from yours—I only get the ones who've actually felt confident enough to visit and perhaps study in a foreign country. I still think it's fair to say that AmE is taught in other countries.
(I will agree that with many of the Asian customers who are clearly tourists (rather than the many many Asian customers who are immigrants; the Ikea I work at is just down the road from our local Vietnamese region) are more likely to try to pronounce words as read, but they still try for an American accent, and fail; they still have generally rhotic accents; they still have the o-that-sounds-like-an-a etc. etc.)
Felix the Cassowary 07:51, 24 August 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]
RP (ie, UK) is still the language taught in most European countries. If you to your ear they sound American, it is probably because that is something they deliberately try to put on because they would prefer to speak with an American accent. I don't have the references to hand, but RP is still the taught standard, whereas AmE is the de facto standard. Limegreen 08:47, 24 August 2005 (UTC
i think we should just remove that sentence. Why bother saying that. It's very difficult to objectively say you are teaching "American English", because there are several kinds of "American English" including the english people speak in a merica and the english they teach which is usually over enunciated, is far more bound to orthography than normal language, etc. etc. The same can be said for any english being taught in the world. English teachers often degrade to a very simplified, regualr form of english which is not true from a modern and accepted "descriptive linguistics" perspective.
ChadThomson 10:13, 5 September 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I study English at a Swedish University, where a majority of the "immigrant teachers" are American. The Swedish English teachers are generally RP speakers, but several have American accents. It is true though, that most of the nine-year compulsory school teachers, as well as the upper secondary school teachers in Sweden did aim for an RP accent. Today it is rather the opposite: most of the students in my class (we are about 400) aim for an American accent, my estimate (of a quick-poll made at a lecture) is that about 75% are aiming for an American accent. I guess a major shift is ongoing. I argue that American accents will take RP's roll in the educational systems of countries where English is not the students' mother tongue. NisseSthlm 20:36, 17 November 2005 (CEST)

I think I would agree with that...

Move this to American and Commonwealth English differences

Can I move this page to American and Commonwealth English differences? It seems like virtually everything in the article is equally applicable to other Commonwealth countries. Ben Arnold 9 July 2005 05:05 (UTC)

Definitely not 'everything' (the section on pronunciation is, for instance, quite concerning ... most Australians pronounce Ts americanly) and what is is definitely not 'equally' ('programme', though used by some people, is not the normally used normal spelling in AuE, for instance, mostly because it was introduced in the early 20th century). An article of differences between the formal written Englishes might be interesting, but ah ... it already exists. (Personally I think it's all that's needed; these two articles should be merged, and what's inappropriate for Formal... should not be included. Why are the differences in pronunciation between RP (Standard British) and General (Standard) American any more encyclopaedic than the differences between RP and General (Standard) Australian?) Felix the Cassowary 9 July 2005 12:02 (UTC)
A couple of points need to be made. There is no such thing as Commonwealth English. The term British English is a laughing-stock in the UK. There is no variation whatsoever in educated English usage anywhere in the world apart from American English. American English is a variant of English, not the other way around. The language spoken in England does not require a prefix, it is English.
I'd just like to point out that this statement is incorrect. In fact many linguists argue that modern American English, accent wise is closer to English Speech in Shakespearean times, then British English today is. The Statement regarding British English belies the fact that English is NOT a static language and both British English and American English have undergone dynamic changes over the last 500 years. It's Xenophobic to presume that just because a language originated in a location it's the gold standard of that language.
I agree with the unsigned comment 2 above this one. American English wasn't even around 500 years ago. The language spoken in England is English, without a prefix. Do we call the Geramny's language German German? No, it is simply German, and Swiss, Austrian etc are all variants of that. American English is an offshoot of English, but "British English" *shudder* is not an offshoot of English. English is English. Boothman 15:25, 23 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No way, Boothman. Any serious, unbiased linguist would dismiss your assertion as plain wrong. The guy who wrote the paragraph just above yours nailed it down, so I won't rehash it. But the phrase "Commonwealth English" is never where. Canada is part of the Commonwealth of Nations, but Canadian English is much closer to U.S. English than British. The German example is way out of line, as German is spoken in a very restricted area compared to English. As the other varieties of English spoken all around the world have not diverged as much as to be considered separate languages, we need prefixes to distinguish them---British, Canadian, American, the whole enchilada. The unsigned comment 3 above mine says, "There is no variation whatsoever in educated English usage anywhere in the world apart from American English." This is plain wrong too. Differences in usage (usage, not vocabulary) between American and British speakers are negligible, all languages have such differences within them. some so-called "American" constructions are a heritage of precolonial English that Britons just dropped; and AmE regards practically all "British" constructions as standard, and additionally enriches the language with peculiarly "American" constructions. Americans donated thousands of words and meanings to the English Language, many of which are used everyday by oblivious English speakers all around the world. Employee, motel, check-up, baby-sitter, fix or park a car. Just to name a few. But there are thousands of them.--JackLumber 10:55, 24 February 2006 (UTC) Furthermore, AmE sometimes is even more "English" than BrE! Compare general delivery, eggplant with poste restante, aubergine. Plus, Britons coined many terms that were actually unneeded---nappy, lift, petrol, anticlockwise, etc., as diaper, elevator, gasoline, counterclockwise, etc. had already entered the language. In some cases (diaper), a very long time before.Reply[reply]
We don't need a prefix for the origin of English. It is simply English, no matter how it has developed. It doesn't matter that other off-shoots of the language developed or remained static with this word or that word. English in the UK (the language's country of origin) is simply called "English". Nor does it matter that English has adopted phrases and/or words that originated in Australia, the USA or Canada. Such is the nature of the development of languages. English is the de facto standard. All other variants (such as American-English) are sub-category off-shoots, albeit off-shoots that developed both separately and in tandem with English. The reality of the situation is that this article should in fact be renamed "American and English differences (language)" or something similar. I propose that "British English" and "Commonwealth English" may both be considered original research. --Mal 13:55, 24 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The idea of it. "Commonwealth English" can indeed be regarded as original research, and I already explained why above, but the phrase "British English" has been around for 150 years or so. The English language as spoken in the UK is a de facto standard for the UK only. Each English-speaking country has its own standard. THAT'S WHY we need prefixes to distinguish the different dialects. Setanta, you might be surprised by the fact that the language we speak in the United States of America is referred to as just English. American dictionaries, such as Merriam-Webster or American Heritage, are not "Dictionaries of American English." They are "Dictionaries of the English Language." To put it another way, before colonization there was just English. Now, there are many Englishes. The fact that English as spoken in Britain is more "English," or more "standard," cannot be justified by geography. It's not even a fact, it's just plain wrong. Each variety of English is standard in its own country. And the fact that all English dialects are mutually intelligible makes for referring to them all just as English. Period.--JackLumber 14:31, 24 February 2006 (UTC) And please, guys, don't talk of things you don't know, such as "the nature of the development of language."Reply[reply]
"The English language as spoken in the UK is a de facto standard for the UK only. Each English-speaking country has its own standard." .. developed from English. "before colonization there was just English. Now, there are many Englishes." ... which developed from English. "The fact that English as spoken in Britain is more "English," or more "standard," cannot be justified by geography." But it can be 'justified' by virtue of the fact that the language developed from the people of the UK. "Each variety of English is standard in its own country." .. all of which developed from English. "And please, guys, don't talk of things you don't know, such as "the nature of the development of language."" Don't be so bloody patronising. --Mal 15:18, 24 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The point you made, JackLumber, underlines the argument. "AmE regards practically all "British" constructions as standard". It is not the case that English accepts American constructions. May then it be presumed that BrE is the template has AmE has grown from this? And there's no need to qualify "BrE", because "BrE" is indeed the original English? And by the way I hate the term British English, because the difference between English spoken in "Britain" can be as large as the differences between AmE and BrE. And I agree with Setanta, you are bloody patronising. -- Boothman 17:22, 24 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't think it's true that AmE regards all British constructs as true; try putting your commas outside your quotation marks on the AP English test and see what your score is. Nor is it terribly helpful to say "BrE is indeed the original English" when, of course, the issue is more complicated; there are parts of North America that have been English-speaking longer than parts of Britain. I would leave the article as it is, although I think it might be more useful to write an article about English regional differences instead. A point that is not often made here is that the idea of "national standards" is a bit of a misnomer in English, as it lacks a standard body to arbitrate the language; within each country there exist significant regional and stylistic differences (Compare, say, the Chicago Manual of Style rules on hyphenation with those of the AP Stylebook). As regionalisms often become adopted worldwide (think of "gross", as in disgusting; a California novelty word in 1982; a strange Americanism five years later; and pretty much universal a decade after that) we shouldn't get too worked up about this. ProhibitOnions 18:46, 24 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I always have thought that my language was English since I learned to speak. Now I am told that it is not really English. I might be patronizing, but you guys are self-contradictory. Each nation has its own standard, and you say, developed from English. Of course. British English too developed from what you call "English." There was no need for such a phrase as "British English" when English was spoken but in Britain. American English did NOT develop from British English. It developed from English. Languages change, evolve, cannot be compartmentalized. Additionally, AmE was influenced by modern British English too, and it still is. Many British words really come in handy, such as early on. (But the best Briticism ever is, obviously, miniskirt.) Hovever, inasmuch as each English-speaking country claims, duh, to speak English, we need the prefixes to avoid clashes. Anyone of us speaks just English in its own nation. We speak British, American, etc. English when it comes to compare our dialect to that spoken by somebody else in another part of the world. The language spoken in Britain until 17th century was the original English. British English is not. British English is one of the many varieties of English currently in use, and it is, notably, the dialect spoken in the region where the language was born. But English as spoken in Britain now and the original English, as somebody bombastically uttered, are not the same thing. Setanta, people in the UK are better than people in the USA, as to justify British English's being standard? That was either a jingoistic theory (I did not say xenophobic), or merely a restatement of the geographic argument, which linguists generally reject. I could as well say that American English is more "tolerant" because we are more receptive, open-minded, less snobbish than British people. But that's not what I personally think. Hey Brits, instead of spatting and getting mad at me, why don't you help me clean up the List of words mainly used in British English (link updated to List of British words not widely used in the United States because of proposed redirect deletion TrevorD 22:59, 9 May 2006 (UTC))? I need you to write British definitions as posted on the talk page thereof. --JackLumber 21:14, 24 February 2006 (UTC) Prohibit, actually I was thinking mostly about spoken language. But yes, punctuation makes publishers wrangle even within the same country, you know.Reply[reply]
I agree with most of what you say in the first half of your paragraph above JackLumber. Where I differe is the suggestion that "English spoken in Britain until the 17th century was the original English". That English is still used, but has developed. You may call what it has developed into "British English".. but only because differences have arisen in the development of it in other countries. German, for example, is the same: it developed from what is known as Old German, but it is not known as "German German".
You said: "Setanta, people in the UK are better than people in the USA, as to justify British English's being standard?". But I can't see anywhere in the additions to this discussion where I came anywhere even close to suggesting this. Your alleged jingoism is merely in your own head I'm afraid.
When it comes down to it though, I think the article name is acceptable as it stands. I would perhaps suggest a different title though: "International differences in English" or some such.
And Jack - I'd be happy to help with the article List of words mainly used in British English (link updated to List of British words not widely used in the United States because of proposed redirect deletion TrevorD 22:59, 9 May 2006 (UTC)). --Mal 17:02, 25 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
'Twas just an example. I speak English (no modifiers), and as I say find some of the jingoism rather silly, as if anyone today spoke "the original English" or if there were one strain of it that is ipso facto better than the others. Yes, there are differences and they are interesting to look at, which is the point of this article, but people shouldn't read too much into them; English everywhere is pretty similar, as far as these things go.
BTW, once I worked at an international TV broadcaster, and one of the American producers would often encounter unfamiliar words; he would inevitably say, That must be Briddish English. (Nope, it's just that your vocabulary skills are astonishingly weak for a so-called journalist, I should have said.) The lesson I took (apart from the obvious one, that some real doofuses get to be in positions of power) was that people tend to assume differences where they don't necessarily exist. ProhibitOnions 01:05, 25 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Prohibit, whether or not anyone today speaks "original English" wasn't the point. The point was that English, as spoken by the people of the UK, originally developed from there. In that sense therefore, the development of the language in its home country - and specifically in England itself I would go as far to say - is de facto English and has to be regarded as the standard. All other variants are off-shoots which developed both in tandem and separately, with their own influences. For example, with spelling differences between the USA and the UK whereby 'extraneous' letters are removed from words such as colour, honour, valour, programme, catalogue etc (color, honor, valor, program, catalog etc), which are all specific to the USA and the countries influenced by the USA's changes to their version of English.
I don't think it is necessarily jingoism to suggest this either. I know of some Americans who agree with my point of view, but are obviously quite clear that in their country it is correct to spell colour as c-o-l-o-r etc. I could easily suggest that it is jingoistic to claim that the USA has any right to call the language they use "English". That is not my personal opinion.. just an example. --Mal 16:50, 25 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Mal, I just said that your words "But [British English's being standard] can be 'justified' by virtue of the fact that the language developed from the people of the UK" could suggest either jingoism (and I wouldn't of ben surprised, given that your user page is tapestried with Union Jacks and British flags :) or a restatement of the "geography" argument. So I guess it's the latter. But, I also noticed you are in the F.1 Wikiproject---believe it or not, I'm a F.1 buff and I'm fixing to join you sooner or later. As far as this bicker, I suggest that the case be mooted. (Look up moot right here---yours truly authored that entry, along with many others.)--JackLumber 18:40, 25 February 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Jack, my userpage is "tapestried" with Union Jacks, and symbols of Ireland and Scotland as I am proud of my heritage. You are confusing jingoism with a healthy interest in heritage and some patriotism. That doesn't necessarily imply that I will always automatically be jingoistic. As far as the title of this article, I suggested two titles that might be considered very much compromises. Having thought about it again in the last couple of minutes and, considering the content of the article, I think that perhaps mentioning American and British in the title could be perceived as misleading: there are a number of variations throughout former British colonies and other regions of the world (and many differences even within the UK or USA - some of which could be considered distinctly separate dialects, such as Scots or Lallans for example). Perhaps a vote on the name, listing a number of different possibilities for the title, would be in order (assuming that's not already in progress). I look forward to seeing your additions to the F1 project, and I hope to be of more help in the next few days - the season is almost upon us! :) --Mal 23:58, 8 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"British English is de facto English and should be regarded as the standard because we started it - so there :-P" English started in England? Says who? By that logic, the origin of English (and home of the only true standard) would be somewhere in Northwest Germany. The English were simply the first ones pretentious enough to name the language after themselves (before your british heads explode, realize that I'm half-kidding.) Anyways, the way I see it, there are more of us (Americans) then there are of you (everyone else.) If you want to take a vote as to what sort of English should be the standard, I'm quite sure that we'd win.  :-) Besides, how can something be considered a standard when it itself is not standarized? In England, regional differences are so extreme that people literally have trouble communicating from one town to the next. In the United States you can go 3000 miles form coast to coast and the accent is virtually unchanged. --Bri 13:42, 8 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
There are roughly five times as many US Americans as British people. Of all the English speaking regions in the world, the US lobby would certainly be a strong. I suspect an Indian lobby might be stronger mind you. However, it isn't about numbers. Nor is it about accents. English, as a language, has many roots - not just that of NW Germany. Anglo-Saxon, Latin, Celtic, French and a good many other languages have all had their influence on it. --Mal 23:58, 8 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Aah, but there you bring up the geography argument, when in fact English AND England were named after the peoples that used it (Angles), not the place. And please do not mistake English for British and vice-versa. It's ignorant and incorrect. As far as I'm concerned, I realise (with an s) that American English speakers outnumber Commonwealth English speakers (not by much, mind), but numbers do not necessarily matter in language terms (look at Welsh, an unneeded, awkward language spoken by about 1/4 of Welshers, but used on all road signs). -- Boothman 14:24, 8 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
You're just digging yourself a hole. More of the flawed "BE is best because it's British argument." By what logic? You can't just say it is because it is. Also, I didn't mistake English for British. I was simply using the same language that the limeys in this discussion are using. I hate to point it out to you, but English people are British (and that's all I said.) As far as American English speakers not outnumbering you-all by much, I direct you to this chart: http://wiki.alquds.edu/?query=Image:English_dialects1997.png ... as you can see, Commonwealth English speakers are a significant minority in the world. Sorry! --Bri 15:26, 8 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Who said anything about 'British English' being "best" Yorick? Here's an example of how one dialect evolved from the 'mother language' - the original, if you will: the word color. Where did it originate? As for your numbers argument, see my contribution above. By the way - I'm not a "limey". --Mal 23:58, 8 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
What I was referring to was your statement that British English doesn't require a prefix, etc. and is de facto english. Total crap. And as far as what you said, American English didn't "evolve" from what you've refered to as the "mother language" (what the hell?) - in fact, it's quite clear by examining the accents of other former colonies (particularly Australia, with their accent falling somewhere between English and American) that most of the phonetic differences are a result of *you* changing, not us. As for citing "color" as an example of an American modification - that's more bullshit. These differences came from a time when spelling standards were still quite loose, and spelling reformers such as Noah Webster had as much authority to designate the accepted forms of words as any Brit counterpart might have had. Oh, and what you wrote about American spelling differences coming from having to teach non-native speakers how to write?? That is just pure ignorance on your part. Those differences came about because the widely accepted British forms were just redundant - that's all. Perhaps you could try doing 20 seconds of research before you make such flimsy assumptions. --Bri 11:09, 9 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Bri, I would suggest you try being a bit more CIVIL in this discussion. This is not a "my daddy can beat up your daddy" debate - it is a discussion on how best the reach a solution for a dispute. But here's the fact of the matter, since you seem confused about the origin of English. English was spoken in England before English-speaking people ever reached North America. At a time when communication was particularly and comparatively slow across vast distances such as the Atlantic Ocean, when people in the colonies didn't have access to vast archives and reference materials, and at a time when literary standards were a lot lower than they are today. Accents have nothing to do with it. Your point about changes having come about "because the widely accepted British forms were redundant" only serves to highlight two of my points: 1. That American differences in the language stemmed from the 'mother tongue' and 2. Why alter redundancies in words unless you were wanting to simplify the use of the language? Simplfying the language would, in turn, make it easier for many non-English speakers to learn English, would it not? If you think my suggestion is "flimsy" (and your sentence implies that you have done "more than 20 seconds of research"), then perhaps you could have come up with some actual evidence that refutes my suggestion, instead of actually asserting my suggestion! Finally, I put it to you that your suggestions regarding American English puts you in a position whereby you appear to be suggesting that American English developed separately, and that its merely happy coincidence that it has so much in common with the English language in general! I don't personally consider the Australian accent particularly close to the American accents. I would note the similarities of the Australian accent with South Africa or New Zealand though. --Mal 16:26, 9 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Mal - http://wiki.alquds.edu/?query=Spelling_reform ... "Functional illiteracy has been reported as high as 20% in the UK compared with 10% in Germany and 8% in Sweden." ... looks like maybe you guys could use a little simplification just to make teaching to other Brits easier! ... and my old man could knock yours on his ass.  ;-) --Bri 22:17, 9 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well the first thing I noticed in that article you pointed me to was the notice saying: "The factual accuracy of this article is disputed." lol However, it is Boothman you should be pointing that 'fact' out to, as I personally don't see that there is much difference, as I have stated previously, below. I have seen reports which suggest similar reported levels of illiteracy in the US. I'm not too concerned about it either way though. As for your old man knocking mine on his ass, unfortunately that wouldn't be too difficult, as he's no longer with us. --Mal 23:41, 9 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yorick8080, I agree with the major points of your post, but I don't think that you can say that most of the phonetic differences are due to British changes. The Australian accent is particularly close to that found in South London and Kent, so much so that I have known people to mistake people from that part of the country as Australians. Similarly, most American accent is in some ways very different from most English accents, but have similarities with other accents - for example the Rhotic pronunciation is similar to that of Irish (Hibernian) English. A lot of traditional poems only rhyme in a Northern English or Lowland Scots accent, so obviously the "standard" British English and American English pronunciations have both changed. In short I think it would be very difficult to say which accents have changed most, as all have changed in different ways. -- Chris Q 12:18, 9 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I don't actually believe that chart to be true as in doesn't account for the speakers of English in places like India, where they speak Commonwealth English. And don't even start me on the English being British thing, anyway, that's an irrelevant point. You know what, I can't win this argument; logic is on your side. BUT, I do still feel that the English used over here is superior to AmE, mainly because of our better education system. -- Boothman 19:24, 8 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That's funny. I can't speak about the comparative superiority of both dialects in all contexts, but as an American attorney, I've always found the written English used in English judicial opinions to be much harder to read than its American equivalent. Australian and New Zealand opinions are even worse.
One reason is the divergence in the word order, word choice, and punctuation rules. I also think it may have something to do with the much later development of the Plain English movement outside of the United States. Most educated Americans have had Strunk & White's motto of "BE CONCISE" drilled into them by high school English teachers, and most American lawyers are trained to get to the point within the first two or three sentences. We also have a tradition of writing tightly structured (some would probably say hyperstructured) legal briefs and judicial opinions.
I picked a few House of Lords opinion at random to read right now, and most of them were full of clauses simply expressing agreement or disagreement on minor points with the other judges on the panel, as opposed to clauses analyzing the concrete facts and law of the case. I then looked at some recent California opinions, which generally lead with a succinct summary of the issue in the case. For example, People v. McDonald, a decision published today by the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District, begins with a one-paragraph sentence: "This case presents the question of whether it is a crime under California state law to urinate in public." Although the case, like most legal cases, involved several complicated legal questions, they ultimately boiled down to that one issue, and the court got straight to the point.
Of course, I'll concede that when it comes to overall literacy, though, Boothman might have a point about the decrepit state of the U.S. public education system, particularly at the secondary level! --Coolcaesar 21:39, 8 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't know though Coolcaesar - had you lived here (in the UK) for any amount of time you might be, like myself, quite appalled at the state of the situation regarding the use of English language these days! Personally I blame the phenomena of 'txt-spk' over mobile (cell) phones and lack of interest basically. I don't necessarily believe that the British education system is any better in this day and age than the US one, despite the prior (in my opinion, well-deserved) reputation of the UK system - but they are certainly different.
I don't know if I've mentioned this earlier in this discussion page, but I'd certainly like to know the etymology of US words such as color, catalog etc. My suspicion is that many words were changed to make it easier to teach the larger number of non-English speakers in the US - many words were spelled phonetically. Its not necessarily 'wrong', but it is different, and highlights the fact that the one (US English) was derived from the other (English). --Mal 23:58, 8 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I can't write on the contrasts between British and American legal writings, but I can say that in general it seems that Americans tend to be more succinct than their British counterparts. In response to Boothman's claim that India should be counted into the Commonwealth English total, anyone who has been subjected to using Indian technical phone support knows that what they speak in India is anything but commonwealth English (counting people who speak English as a secondary language is just ridiculous anyways, because you drag virtually the entire planet into it.) I can understand my Ozzy, Limey and Canadian brethren just fine - these Indian folks I cannot. As far as BE being superior because of your education system - that's just laughable. If you think about that one for 2 seconds you'll realize that the English education system as a whole is shit compared to the US (and your newcasters being the only ones among you who speak with any degree of clarity doesn't say much for the compatibility of your dialect[s], either.) In all truth, I don't have any(much) desire to try and argue the superiority of one flavor (with no U) of english to the next. As someone pointed out, they're all pretty much the same. But to say that English as spoken today in England is the end-all, be-all of dialects, without producing any kind of logical argument or hard facts as to why - well, that's just very British of you. --Bri 23:12, 8 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Again - I don't think there is much difference in the education systems, contrary to you suggesting, Yorick, that the US system is superior, or Boothman suggesting that the UK system is better. Adult literacy rates are usually quoted in the US as being around 97% or 98%, whereas in the UK its often quoted at 98% or 99%... hardly a difference to write home about! --Mal 23:58, 8 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Literacy rates do not signify a good education system, rather more the amount of immigration. And the UK system is better than the American system ONLY because we start school earlier, nothing else. Yours is the education system which sets π to 3! AND I'd also like to point out that succinctness (sp?) is a trait found in Northern England, ALSO, our newscasters' accents are only clear to your ears because you have no experience of other dialects. -- Boothman 09:28, 9 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Boothman, I agree with everything else in your above comment, apart from the part about the education system (re: starting age). I believe that the pre-school classes that many parents send their kids to (kindergarten) tends to be more social in the UK, whereas there may be more structure and actual teaching instruction in US kindergarten. I also think that more US kids are sent to kindergarten as a comparitive percentage than in the UK. I would like asource on the Pi = 3 thing though! Oh, and I wouldn't agree that literacy rates can be directly correlated with immigration rates. I have no doubt that it is a factor, but I couldn't begin to speculate on the impact of it. --Mal 16:38, 9 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
whoa whoa whoa guys, why don't you all try to chill out and avoid 4-letter words... No reason to get excited---cutting to the chase, allow me to pontificate:
  • There's no such thing as "the best" English. Englishes are just different, that's all.
  • There's no such thing as "the original" English. English as spoken in North America stemmed from 17th century English, just as the English currently spoken in Britain.
  • There's no such thing as "the best educational system." Culture, background, etc. in U.S. & UK are different, and so is education. Way back, American kids were taught 1) to not split infinitives, and 2) that ending sentences with prepositions was not something to be proud of. But people soon figured out that giving up such features was just mangling the language.
  • Everybody speaks English in their own nation. We need prefixes just when it comes to compare different varieties of English.
  • Everybody can use the English Language the way they see fit, as there's no English Language Authority watching over us. So we can be verbose, longwinded, matter-of-fact, stripped-down, concise, gabby, unintelligible, talkative.
  • Both Limeys and Yanks have their faults as far as the language. As a partial mea culpa, I'm not happy at all when I notice that some feller Americans have a tendency to regard all the words they don't know as Briticisms. That means being nescient. (What were you Brit saying about education? That I might reconsider :-)
  • And most of all, there's no such thing as Commonwealth English. This phrase was coined by some fellow Wikipedian who had just fallen off of the wagon. ;-)
Let's just enjoy the fact that we all speak a common tongue and can understand one another. And let's try to learn from one another every day. Y'all can't even figure how much I have learned by editing the List of words having different meanings in British and American English and related pages. It all adds up to embodying our cultural baggage. Thanks for droppin' in. --JackLumber 15:14, 9 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, said! Could I just add that reading through this debate highlights that there's really just one written English. Most of the time I couldn't spot any clues to what nationalities the writers were. That's because about 99.999 percent of written English follows the same rules around the world. (A huge benefit for us English speakers, by the way!) The few discrepancies of spelling are insignificant in the vast vocabulary of English.
Spoken English, however, is entirely another matter and I think this article would sometimes benefit from greater clarity as to whether a listed word or structure is used in formal writing or is generally only used in speech (with a note as to whether it is colloquial, vulgar etc). Adrian Robson 16:56, 9 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Amen to that, JackLumber! -- Boothman 19:20, 9 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
... yup! Compare Adrian Robson's statement with the page Formal written English. Spoken English is a different matter, as there are conspicuous differences even within the same country. This is particularly true for Britain, but as far as my personal experience---California TV shows can be totally awesome, but sometimes when I watch them I could use subtitles :-) --JackLumber 20:56, 9 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Having read this entire dispute, I have a few comments. First, someone said "In the United States you can go 3000 miles from coast to coast and the accent is virtually unchanged"...well, that is complete nonsense. I can go an hour away from here and detect a noticeable difference between my lowcountry SC accent and the piedmont or mountain accents nearby. Just because an outsider can't detect accent variations doesn't mean they aren't there.
I really think that you cannot generalize about any branch of the English language and say that it stemmed from another. Taking American English as an example, we have had a melting pot of so many cultures in this country, for so long, that it's nearly impossible to sort out exactly who influenced the language the most. You just have to examine each word individually. Now, if you take regional differences into consideration, it is possible to generalize a little...For example, the accents and colloquialisms of Minnesota and Wisconsin are heavily influenced by the Scandinavians who settled there. And, where I live in the deep south, our accents and colloquialisms are heavily influenced by the African language. Take, for example, the slang word for turtle - "Cooter", which comes directly from the West African word for turtle, "Kuda". That is just one example among hundreds.
As for the issue of the education systems, my experience is that both the US and the UK start school at about the same time. Most children attend preschool beginning at 3. There are many headstart programs and pre-kindergartens available now that are very focused on getting lower income and special needs kids ready for school. And, most American children attend kindergarten. Mine both learned to read in kindergarten, at age 5. The US education system has received a bad rap for a long time...sometimes justifiably, sometimes not. I have noticed that many schools in Northern Ireland, for example, do not offer the same extracurricular programs for children, such as sports and art, or at least not with the same regularity, as American schools. I also think that arguing over whose education system is better is not a very productive or meaningful debate. Both the US and the UK have a lot more to offer than many countries in the world, this is just splitting hairs really.
My opinion about the differences in spelling...I think it's a combination of factors. As someone pointed out, it was only within the last 100 years that anyone gave a rip about spelling anyway. That's why, when people came over to Ellis Island from the mother country, one would write "O'Neill" while his brother would write "O'Neal" and so on. Apparently, Noah Webster was a big proponent of spelling reform. He wanted to simplify the language in order to make it easier for children to learn it, and to make it more user-friendly in general. Here is a link if you want to read about that. [1]
For those of you who are trying to assert that the "British English" version is the best, or the most cultured, or the most intellectual, or whatever...well, that's just very British of you.
Oh, and I believe Mal asked for an etymology on the word "color". It originally came from old French, "colur" which before that was from latin "colos", to cover. -- Claudia71 12 March 2006
Oh shucks, I thought this horse was already beaten to death. Anyways, Noah probably wanted also to get rid of that old French spelling heritage---compare color, colour, and couleur; centre and center. And you forgot to mention that the Latin spelling of "color" was, duh, color... Noah's changes took root because they basically were cool. Remember that way back some guy early one morning woke up and said, "Well folks, from now on, though and through are to be spelled tho and thru." People said back, "What? You gotta be kidding." And those alternate spellings never made their way. Because they were not as cool and etymologically sound as "color," "center," etc. Just my $0.02... --JackLumber 18:46, 12 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I should point out, regarding Claudia71's statement, "For those of you who are trying to assert that the "British English" version is the best, or the most cultured, or the most intellectual, or whatever...well, that's just very British of you.", that the same applies to those proponents here that "American English" is better etc etc - its very American of them.
Another thing to note is that people have here have suggested that "American English" is not an offshoot of English. Yet many of the same people have informed us as to how spellings etc have been changed from the original. --Mal 21:24, 12 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Mal, look who's talking. I thought I saw the light at the end of the tunnel, but it was just another semi. (A truck, not a house :-); pronounced "semeye.") There were no hard-and-fast spelling rules when Noah settled on "color," "center," etc. You think that Americans invented "color" and "center," don't ya? Nope. "Poore soule the center of my sinfull earth" -- William Shakespeare. And who changed good ol' "-ize" into "-ise"? We just tried to de-Frenchify the language and you Frenchized it even more. What were you saying about "changes from the original?" And who invented new, etymologically questionable meanings to words like pavement or pants? Brits. And who dropped the Rs? And who dropped periods/full stops from abbreviations, as in etc (it's the way you spelled it above)? And who turned "accommodations" into "accomodation," "gotten" into "got," yada yada yada? Well Mal, we have changed, y'all have changed, the times they are a-changin'. It's just the "natural development of the language," as we used to say. The language I speak is called "English," and (to capsule the whole schmeer, i.e. without factoring in the worldwide influence English has undergone) sure is an offshoot (let me say spinoff, an American word ;-) of what used to be English, and so is the language you speak, called "English" as well. Hey Norn Iron-man, you breathin' yet? You wimpin' out, ain't ya? ;-) -- Jack the Jackal Lumber 13 March 2006
Jack, individual records of usage don't really concern me. There was, in fact, a hard-and-fast spelling rule, as laid out in dictionaries created up to around 150 years before Noah Webster's revisionist version. The fact is that English, as used in America, was brought over to that area of the world by English speaking people - from the region in which it had been first established. I don't know why you can't understand this or accept it: English developed in England, and spread from there. It had standard grammar and spelling rules, the latter of which were set out in dictionaries, as I said. As for my not using a fullstop in "etc", I am writing here on this discussion page rather more informally than I would when writing an article for Wiki for example. I don't know what the standard is now in that case, but I do think you are starting to nit-pick and this discussion has started to become pointless. I'm not "wimping out", Yank-man(!), but I do think that this discussion has lost sight of the topic at hand. --Mal 04:36, 14 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's not pronounced "semeye" it's pronounced "sem-i". And where are these "dropped Rs"? Ditto with the "dropped full stops". Noah's changes weren't cool, they were made for thick people who pronounce Iran as "Eye-ran" and Colin as "Coa-lɘn". -- Boothman 18:21, 13 March 2006 (UTC).Reply[reply]
I might sound dumb, but I didn't quite figure out that "semeye" vs. "sem-i" thing. (I know that "semi" is a type of house in UK, and that it's pronunced "sem-ee.")I wish I could write IPA. Sigh. And pronouncing "Iran" as "I ran" is wrong to me. (In my own speech, Iran rhymes with con, on, dawn, and don---yes, I merge dawn & don, but I don't merge caught & cot; and the "i" is pronounced as in "sit.") But standard British pronunciation merges court and caught---that's "R-droppping." As in Boston, MA, "pahk the cah in Hahvuhd Yahd." "The eye dear of it." And so on...--JackLumber 21:42, 13 March 2006 (UTC) Boothman, you're from Lancashire, are you an "R-keeper" indeed?Reply[reply]
Just a note on the pronounciation of the words "court" and "caught" - its not "standard English pronounciation" to pronounce court with a dropped r. Pronounciation varies from area to area, and its not unusual to have different accents (and therefore pronounciations) in different areas of the same town throughout the British Isles. Some areas of the south of Britain retain the R, and many regions of northern England also. Scotland and Northern Ireland in particular retain the R in words. Also, some areas of London, for example, would tend to actually add an R in their pronounciation of the word caught. There is no standard in pronounciation, although there has been a history of adoption of a standard as such, on media broadcasts (particularly the BBC). This has changed a lot in the last few decades, though there is still an semi-conscious (pronounced sem-ee, or sem-eye depending on where you're from!) effort to use an accent which is effectively a merger, to avoid misinterpretation of spoken words. --Mal 04:36, 14 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes I am from Lancashire, but no I do not keep Rs. In fact, my "caughts" and "courts" are almost indistinguishable, although my father does pronounce them. The Rs are kept usually anywhere North of where I live, for example in Bolton and Accrington, whereas places like Rochdale and Oldham tend to have less R-keepers.
Iran should almost rhyme with "re-ran", but with a slightly longer a and a shorter e. -- Boothman 10:34, 14 March 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Pronunciation differences within Britain are really interesting. Also because British dictionaries (notably, the OED) give one and only one pronunciation for each word (what I referred to as "standard pronunciation," I guess it's called the "Received Standard"), perhaps implying that the others are less "educated," or less "correct." Conversely, American dictionaries (notably, Webster's 3rd) give a whole bunch of alternat(iv)es, oftentimes with a hard-to-read notation; for instance, "were" (past of "be," 2nd singular) is given ten (!) different pronunciations; "been" has, like, "(|)bin, _b@n; ben (in standard speech more often unstressed or with secondary stress than with primary stress); Brit usu and US sometimes (|)bean"; (where the letters in bold represent the "short i," the schwa, the "short e," and the "long i," respectively.) What were we saying about Brits being verbose and Americans being concise? Oh, you gotta check out the Merriam-Webster definition of "gyroscope"

a wheel or disk mounted to spin rapidly about an axis and also free to rotate about one or both of two axes perpendicular to each other and to the axis of spin so that a rotation of one of the two mutually perpendicular axes results from application of torque to the other when the wheel is spinning and so that the entire apparatus offers considerable opposition depending on the angular momentum to any torque that would change the direction of the axis of spin

Compare the OED:

An instrument designed to illustrate the dynamics of rotating bodies, and consisting essentially of a solid rotating wheel mounted in a ring, and having its axis free to turn in any direction. (followed by explanatory note.)

As for our smalltalk, as far as I'm concerned, I'm totally comfortable with Mal's point (the converse may not be equally true ;-) and I wouldn't go any further, we have reached a moot (that is, irrelevant) point... I suggest that the whole (now bulky) discussion page be archived before someone else comes up like, "Well, I'm the man, you don't understand a thing." -- The Power That Be 14 March 2006 8:16 EST


At the risk of revisiting an issue that seems to have be amicably forgotten, I wish to challenge Mal and Boothman's assertion that BrE should be privileged as unmarked "English" over AmE or AusE or other dialects. Their argument seems to be that the primary branch of a language as it diverges into dialects is the one that is the native dialect of people in the region that was the cradle of the language. Thus, while northwestern Germany might be the cradle of Anglo-Saxon, English has since become a separate language from other Anglo-Saxon tonuges, and thus Frisian or Low German should not be the standard for English today. The problem with this argument, though, apart from it being rejected by linguists, is that it would have a number of absurd consequences. For example, Poruguese became a distinct language from the various Iberian forms of Vulgar Latin around the 9th century, in what is now Galicia and parts of Leon, both of which are parts of present-day Spain. At the time, almost all of present-day Portugal was controlled by the Moors. Not until the Reconquista drove the Moors from present-day Portugal several hundred years later did Portuguese become established in most of present-day Portugal. The cradle of Portuguese, therefore, is not even in Portugal, and the dialect of Portuguese spoken in Galicia today is considered exactly that, a dialect that diverges in a number of ways from "standard" Portuguese.

With the geography justification shown for the canard that it is, the claim that non-British dialects are offshoots can only by valid by presupposing that BrE is "the standard" for all time, i.e., by "begging the question" (in BrE usage), or by showing that it has remained static while other dialects have diverged. It's hardly necessary for me to show that both contemporary BrE and contemporary AmE have evolved considerably from their common 17th-century origin--others have done this exhaustively. --Atemperman 21:51, 27 April 2006 (UTC)Reply[reply]