Talk:Comparison of American and British English/Archive 7

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I feel like a lot of this post is comparing apples to oranges. It seems that the examples picked from BrE are generally more formal, where the contrastive examples from AmE are much more colloquial or downright dialectical. Obviously, there are non-standard dialects of BrE as well, so it seems uneven that we are comparing only the formal variants of BrE with especially informal variants of AmE. I bring this up because it has the effect of overemphasizing the idea that BrE is necessarily more formal--a prejudice with some support, but one that deserves to have its case made on an even playing field, not in such an artificial comparison. We could, for example, just as easily draw our examples of BrE from Cockney slang, and our examples from American academic usage and come up with an equally non-representative comparison.

Given that these differences exist, it seems that rather than compare especially formal variants of BrE to especially dialectical variants of AmE, this article might be better served by splitting these dimensions, and comparing these levels separately. One article for 'Differences between /Standard or Formal/ American and British English,' and a second for 'Differences between /dialectical/ forms of American and British English.' (AH) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 15:58, 26 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Boston Post Road example[edit]

I object to the example of a syntactic exception in AmE 'the Boston Post Road'. I've lived in New England for years, and I have not once heard 'the Boston Post Road'. It is 'Boston Post Road' by every person I have ever heard use the phrase. Chezsruli 07:59, 3 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Weekends revisited[edit]

A recent embedded comment from JackLumber reads Does BrE use "weekends" as an adverb, like "evenings," "Mondays," etc.? There was a brief discussion about this (or something like it) a month or so ago, here. In the light of this I have deleted the embedded comment and amended the text - I hope reasonably accurately. OK, Jack? (though it occurs to me that maybe the AmE use of "weekends", "evenings" etc with no preposition might belong more appropriately in the section headed "Presence or absence of syntactic elements"). FWIW, this speaker of BrEng would say "at the weekend", "at weekends", but never "on weekends" or just "weekends". And I may do something "on Mondays" or "every Monday", but never just "Mondays" - and I do things "in the evening" (in this case always in the singular), but never do things "evenings". Snalwibma 22:32, 1 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

English (the American variety, at least...) has a series of adverbs---Mondays through Sundays, weekends, nights, evenings, mornings, afternoons (I have measured out my life with coffee spoons)---which mean "during every {weekend, morning, etc.}" (or at least "most weekends," etc.) and suggest repeated action---that is, it's not just "dropping the preposition"; they carry a subtly different shade of meaning. Some of these are pretty old (nights dates to C12); weekends is way more recent. JackLumber. 23:38, 1 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
OALD lists mornings and afternoons without comment, but labels evenings and nights "especially NAmE." CALD tends to see mornings, afternoons, and evenings as American---but check out the verbal illustration for nights. JackLumber. 23:57, 1 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The phrase "I work nights and weekends" is usual BrE. "The library is closed Saturdays" is not. I think the examples used in the article should be changed because they strike me as ambiguous and incorrect. For example "I work nights" is pretty much the only way it could be said, because "nights" are what the shifts are known as, and therefore they are out of context. It's hard to pin down exactly what is standard in BrE and what isn't. "I work Mondays" is standard, but "I go to work Mondays" is not. Needs a bit more research and clarification before it should be included. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 20:22, 2 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Hi Booth! It's ben awhile. Now I understand why I like to go out nights and sleep during the day is "US" and Because she's a nurse she often has to work nights is not. You know, usage rules. ("Rules" is a verb here.) Usage is what makes words sound wrong, right, quaint, odd, ambiguous. And books are often clueless about it. JackLumber. 21:53, 2 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Interesting, Boothman... My take on this is that nights in "I work nights" is the object of the verb, not an adverb. I work Mondays, but I'd never travel Mondays (though I might travel on Mondays). I think this supports my contention that the adverbial use of unadorned Mondays, nights, weekends etc is a marker of AmE as distinct from BrE. It also strikes me that this discussion could go on for ever. Snalwibma 09:26, 7 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Interesting observation, Snalwibma, and I would add to it that whether it's the object of the verb in any given instance is easy to test for. If you substitute "them" for "Mondays" or "nights" (or whatever it is) and it still works, then it's the object of the verb (i.e., it's functioning as a noun and can thus be replaced by a pronoun), whereas if it sounds goofy then it's probably an adverb.McTavidge 11:55, 7 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Being Australian, I don't know for sure, but whenever I'd almost always put the 'on' in.Joeldipops 13:19, 5 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Bring or take[edit]

In the article on Oliver Stone there's the phrase "Stone's father brought him to a prostitute to lose his virginity, in his midteens." As a Brit, this really jarred - I would have used "took" instead of "brought". Is this a difference between AmE and BrE, or is this use of "brought" incorrect both sides of the pond? Jamse 13:28, 5 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The semantic division between bring and take differs in Ireland; see under Hiberno-English#Grammar derived from Irish. jnestorius(talk) 14:50, 5 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As an American, I probably would have used "took", but I don't see anything wrong with "brought", so it may be a AmE/BrE difference. -- 03:14, 7 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As an American, I suspect you're just not noticing the distinction careful speakers (English and American) make between "bring" and "take" and the similar pair "come" and "go." "Lay" and "lie" and "sit" and "set" may also confuse. Quiz: Which is correct: (1) "Between you and I" or (2) "Between you and me"? Fun with language.McTavidge 04:32, 7 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Some more fuel for you guys. Check it out. By the way, British the lie of the land, American the lay of the land. And, between us, all the way ;-) JackLumber. 22:09, 7 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ahh, I should have known. Things are often not as simple as they seem. Looks to me like the complexities of bring/take/come/go are just part of the language rather than AmBr differences.McTavidge 03:12, 8 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I suspect it's just bad wording. If Oliver brought him to a prostitute, it implies he was already in the vicinity of the prostitute, and went to get his son there too. And by the way, both "You and I", "You and Me" and "Me and You" are correct, although it is common for schools to teach that "Me" is wrong, regardless of any evidence of that. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 14:18, 8 February 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]
"You and Me" and "You and I" are both correct but mean different things. You can use "You and I" where you would use "we", for exaple:
  • You and I are going to the cinema tomorrow (we are going to the cinema tomorrow).
You would use "you and me" where you would use "us".
  • There will be plenty of food for you and me (there will be plenty of food for us)
Another way to think of it is to think of the sentence with just "I" or me;
  • I am going to the cinema tomorrow.
  • There will be plenty of food for me.
Adding the "you and" never changes an "I" to a "me" or vice versa.
In common speech (in the UK anyway) people often use "you and me" where in formal speech it should be "you and I". Occasionally you will here someone trying to sound "posh" who says "you and I" where it should be "you and me", which to me seems to be really pretentious. -- Q Chris 10:06, 9 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Following JackLumber's link ([1]), there is a good explanation of the relationships between "bring" and "take", and "come" and "go" respectively ("causitive transitive forms"). That article ends with the assertion that:
"If you are speaking to someone outside your office community, who will not be accompanying you tomorrow, you would be more likely to say I'll take the sausage to work tomorrow; but you could still say I'll bring it to work, because, after all, you'll be there, and it'll count as moving towards you, the speaker."
To my British ear, I find the second version quite jarring; dare I say it - I think this would be "wrong" in British English. It's certainly something that I've been more aware of in American English, and not a formation that I've been aware of in British English. If this is the case, "take" is acceptable in both, and "bring" is sometimes used in American English. Jamse 09:34, 9 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
To my English ear (that has had much US influence), I would use 'bring to work' if, when I was making the statement, I was at work; otherwise, I would use 'take to work'. Davidmaxwaterman (talk) 01:20, 21 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I see only three references—Mighty Fine Words and Smashing Expressions, The Oxford Guide to World English, and The Cambridge Guide to English Usage. (All British, I note...) They are listed at the bottom of the article. There are no inline source citations. Presumably then, the entire contents of this article is to be understood to be a compilation from and a distillation of these three books. But it certainly isn't obvious which of these books is the authority for, e.g the statement that "American legislators and lawyers always use the preposition of between the name of a legislative act and the year it was passed, while their British equivalents do not." This is a very actively edited page with many changes being made to individual items on the page. The edit comments, e.g. "(Undid revision 104137957 by Moncrief -- no sir, it's BritiCism, not BritiSHism)" don't hint at published sources, either. Presumably both editors would have found the same information if they had consulted the same published source. This article certainly gives me the impression of largely being original research, based on the personal authority of the contributing editors. If editors don't want to give that impression, they need to be much more punctilious about citing sources than they have been. Dpbsmith (talk) 20:32, 8 February 2007 (UTC) ... Even at the cost of rendering the article unreadable? Snalwibma 22:09, 8 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

All British? Hardly. The author of Migthy Fine Words is American, and the author of the Cambridge Guide is Australian. Briticism is the preferred form in the Oxford English Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, non-Merriam Websters, etc. The parts on grammar are entirely, or almost entirely, sourced. Inline citations? Coming soon. You know, I have a day job. Some of those "anecdotes" may be OR, however; most of them date back to 2003 or 2004. Anyway, a few statements proudly showcase a [citation needed] tag---more coming soon! JackLumber. 22:14, 8 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Tagged the article to at least give fair warning to readers. dr.ef.tymac 17:52, 22 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


This article is completely NPOV, as it says "those americans" all over the place. Additionally, there are extremely few sources in this, and more need to be introduced. I'll look around myself, but please someone else help to fix this article. Thanks. Imageboy1 07:01, 18 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The article has "those Americans" only once, and in the instance, "this is generally regarded as sloppy usage by those Americans who consider themselves careful users of the language." It is using "those" to refer to the subset of Americans who consider themselves careful users of the language, rather than indicating that Americans are "other" to the speaker. Since this is the only criticism of the article on NPOV grounds, I am removing the tag, and replacing it by an tag.Atemperman
Agreed.McTavidge 22:35, 18 February 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thus far, I find the article remarkably neutral, and true to the ear, to the extent that I hadn't noticed the lack of (obtrusive?) citations at all.
I do have a small question, regarding a distinction under Use of Tenses/Subjunctive Mood, between 'they suggested that he apply for the job' vs. '... that he should apply for the job'. "However, the British usage ("should apply") is also heard in the United States, but is often regarded as erroneous in writing."
I believe that in AmE the added 'should' is often not heard as subjunctive at all, so much as mildly hortatory, as in "ought to", raising a slight doubt of 'his' doing so, and giving slightly more emphasis to the 'suggesting' than to the simple getting of the job. Doubts about using should would probably stem from a sense that, unless some such overtone were intended, the word would be redundant. Perhaps this is related to the similar differences in "shall"? FutharkRed 09:06, 1 March 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I wouldn't regard "should apply" as erroneous. FutharkRed is spot on (if I'm borrowing that phrase correctly) in believing that my AmE ears heard the "should" as hortatory. Petershank 00:01, 3 March 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Month names[edit]

In the part about dates formats (the reason why I read this article in the first place), the example of "25 December 2000" is given for the BrE format in some places. Should it not read "25 Decembre 2000"? And something may be missing in the sentence "It is very common [...] to add a (sometimes superscripted) ordinal ('st, nd, rd' or 'th') to the day number in informal writing (thus "25 December 2000" or "December 25, 2000")." It should read 25th near the end. Since I am not a native speaker from either AmE or BrE, I refrain from edits. Jcdubacq 17:31, 10 March 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

As far as I can tell Brits spell December the same way as Americans. As for the line, yes it should have been written as December 25th, 2000; however since it is incorrect (Americans use the same format) I've just removed it. Koweja 17:41, 10 March 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
American English spells month names the same way as BrE, so December is December. Though it should be 25th December 2000. Generally BrE always puts the day first. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:43, 11 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Modern British English probably does put the day first, but it didn't always! I was taught (perhaps in a rather old-fashioned style) to say and write "December 25th, 2000" (and I still do, and no-one corrects me!) I will take note of how many other inhabitants of Northern England do the same. dbfirs 16:49, 23 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As an Englishman, I think it should not be '25th December 2000' but '25th of December, 2000'; this is in speech and written word (the comma indicating a pause in speech). —Preceding unsigned comment added by Davidmaxwaterman (talkcontribs) 01:44, 21 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Asking for the time[edit]

I found that there is a significant difference in how people ask someone to tell them what time it is. Being from a commonwealth country, my initial reaction to the American question "Do you have the time?" was to wonder what activity the inquiring person wanted to engage in. I cannot comment expertly on how people ask for time in BrE, but an addition about this would be useful—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs).

  • Hmmm. I think "Do you have the time?" or "Have you the time?" would be pretty standard way of asking the time in BrE too - so I'm not sure if there's a difference here that fits within the scope of this article. Snalwibma 15:35, 14 March 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • No, as a Brit, if I wanted to know the time, I'd ask "Do you know what time it is?", or "Do you know what the time is?", or (less politely) "What time is it?" or "What's the time?". I would never, ever say "Have you the time?" - that's gotta be a US thing. That said, either choice of words is transparent to listeners on both sides of the pond, so does it matter? Ramonsky
  • I can assure you that, "Have you the time?" would never be uttered by an American tongue in that meaning. The other ways to ask for the time mentioned above (Do you have the time? What time is it?) would also be the proper and normal ways of asking in the U.S. From this I'd say that there isn't a difference between AmE and BrE in asking about the time. Maybe except for the accent... (talk) 17:54, 20 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I think this may be an anachronism. I can remember when I was young (in the UK) older people used to ask "do you have the time". By the time we were teenagers the standard response was "if you do love", followed by a lot of sniggering. -- Q Chris (talk) 16:03, 22 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

twenty-four hundred[edit]

Americans use this pattern more consistently and for much higher numbers than is the norm in British English, referring to "twenty-four hundred" where British English would always use "two thousand four hundred"[citation needed]. Alas, I have no citation to offer, but can observe as a British native-speaker of English that this pattern, eccentric and inconsistent as it may appear - at least to the reader who required the citation - is in fact the usual way we say the higher numbers.

I hadn't really noticed this, but I think you're probably right about a British preference for "two thousand four hundred." As a native speaker of American English who routinely listens to BBC news (yes, we do get it here — check your local public TV & radio stations), I don't really hear two much of the "twenty-four hundred". — AnnaKucsma (Talk to me!) 16:19, 5 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No doubt about it! "Twenty-four hundred" would almost never be said in British English. It would always be "two thousand four hundred". Struggling to find a reference... I can find one for the American system, in the Chicago Manual of Style (14th ed., section 8.3), where it says "a number between one thousand and ten thousand" can be rendered in hundreds - but I haven't yet found anything on the British style. Must look harder, so I can delete that annoying "citation needed". But trust me, it's an absolute! Snalwibma 16:32, 5 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Oh well - I have now gone and deleted that "citation needed" tag. It struck me - why pick on just that one fact, and not all the other unreferenced facts in the section, or elsewhere in the article? From this side of the Atlantic (the eastern side) it's absolutely clear: up to 1900 we say either "nineteen hundred" or "one thousand nine hundred", but above 2000 there is (almost) no option. Saying "twenty-four hundred" would very clearly mark you out as an American-English speaker. Snalwibma 16:42, 5 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

In Australia its not uncommon to use either. Come to think of it, a lot of the stuff in this article said to be either exclusively American of British is interchangeable in Australia. Dunno if it would be appropriate to have a small section on the end about that sort of thing or not59.154.24.147 12:38, 6 April 2007 (UTC) I agree that twenty-four hundred is not used in Britain. Numbers from 1000 to 1900, however, are frequently referred to as twelve hundred, thirteen hundred, etc, but higher 2000 it is conventional in Britain to split the number into thousands and hundreds. Tezp 10:19, 23 May 2007 (UTC) This absolutely is a difference, no doubt about it. I have often observed that if the TV series "The 4400" had been created in the UK, it would have been called "The four thousand four hundred". RamonskyReply[reply]

Close-minded/ Narrow-minded[edit]

One thing I've heard Americans say which sounds strange to me is close-minded instead of narrow-minded. Is this the normal usage in the US? If so, should it be pronounced as the adjective meaning near to, or as the verb, to close. The former doesn't seem to make much sense to me, whilst the latter sounds horrible gramatically. Closed-minded would seem to make more sense. Is this also used?

Encarta gives closed-minded as the main word and close-minded as the variant. American Heritage® Dictionary (AHD) gives the reverse. Google is about even. For close-, AHD gives both pronunciations, but /s/ is listed before /z/, in spite of closed-minded having /z/. I can't remember seeing or hearing close-minded in Euro-anglophonia, but closed-minded seems as acceptable a word to me as narrow-minded. To me, narrow-minded sounds a little more disapproving than closed-minded; the former suggests suspicion of new ideas, the latter contentment with existing ones. Just my impression; others will differ. jnestorius(talk) 00:05, 6 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
For comparison, open-minded and broad-minded also seem equally acceptable and with different shades of meaning. Few words are exact synonyms, so having two to choose from is useful. jnestorius(talk) 00:10, 6 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Closed-minded seems fine to me, and thinking about it after my first post (sorry I didn't sign) I'm sure it's used in British English as well. I just mentioned it because close-minded is something that always sounds very odd when I hear it on American television, especially as the way it's usually pronounced sounds like a verb being used in place of an adjective. 15:08, 6 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I got one more. Alternat(iv)e terms for "myopic" are shortsighted (esp. in BrE) and nearsighted (esp. in AmE). Closed-minded vs. close-minded has to do with the American tendency to drop inflectional suffixes (see "Word derivation and compounds" in the article). —JackLumber /tɔk/ 19:01, 6 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Not so sure that close-minded or closed-minded is used in BrE, I certainly haven't heard it. By the way, I just noticed mine and Jack's different pronunciations of talk (!) -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 19:32, 6 April 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]
The difference lies in the /ː/. As the article on pronunciation puts it, "RP has a marked degree of contrast of length between "short" and "long" vowels (The long vowels being the diphthongs, and [iː], [uː], [ɜː], [ɔː], [ɑː]). In GAm this contrast is much less evident, and the IPA length symbol (ː) is often omitted." This doesn't mean that Boothman's talk is much longer than my talk; but my tack is probably longer than his tack. Truth be told, my /ɔ/ has kind of a NYC/NNJ quality, but I didn't bother to phonetically transcribe it. —JackLumber /tɔk/ 20:35, 6 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

English Variations on Wikipedia[edit]

The majority of native English speakers use the British spelling, so shouldn't Wikipedia be written in the Queen's English? Note: Please don't ridicule my idea. 19:12, 8 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

And what exactly do you perceive "The Queens English" to be? After many years of studying the language, I found it increasing more difficult to define a standard. The first thing you will learn on any linguistics course is that there is no right and wrong. Tezp 09:12, 31 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Especially in English! Although a lot of constructions may sound more or less "foreign"---for example, your learn on any linguistics course, which sounds somewhat British to me (it's in any linguistics course in JackLumber English). But that's nothing compared to:
He got down the car.
We are going to cinema.
Throw your father out the window his hat.
She wants that he should leave.
I am teacher.
I use to go out on Saturday night.
The guests whom I invited them have arrived.
She didn't come, too.
He'll not go.
I'm sure a way out is there!
These sentences sound bizarre to most EngEng or NAmEng speakers. Yet they may be heard in different "Englishes" across the world. Can you tell which is which? Hint: two are British and one is North American. ;-) —JackLumber /tɔk/ 19:07, 31 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Oooh I like guessing games!

I think the British one might be We are going to cinema, because of the tendency of Yorkshiremen to drop the definite article.
I think it is not dropped in Yorkshire, just contracted to We are going to t' cinema., which sounds like We are going tut cinema. -- Q Chris (talk) 16:07, 22 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
See Definite article reduction. jnestorius(talk) 09:47, 23 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I'm guessing the North American one is She didn't come, too, don't know why.
I am teacher I reckon might be Eastern European or German, simply because that's how it would be literally translated: Ich bin Lehrer.
The others I won't try to guess. :D
BennelliottTalkContributions 19:24, 31 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Watch out: All of these constructions are used by either native or second-language speakers, not *foreign-language* speakers (Eastern Europeans, Germans, etc.). AFAIK American speakers say the "correct" She didn't come, either. We are going to cinema is typical of some dialects of West African English. —JackLumber /tɔk/ 21:12, 31 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Wowee, I was a bit far off then lol! Ah well, thought I'd give it a bash. BennelliottTalkContributions 21:35, 31 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You wouldn't say "on any linguistics course?" That sounds perfectly grammatical to me!! I wouldn't even know how to rephrase it!! Well there is a difference in American and British English that is not currently included in the article! Tezp 11:30, 1 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

My previous post was confusing due to one of my devastating typos I'm well known for; anyway, my idiolect prefers "in some course" to "on some course." —JackLumber /tɔk/ 12:42, 1 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I see. In any case, "on a course" is the standard in BrE. Would anyone disagree that "in a course" is the standard in AmE? Tezp 13:10, 1 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

According to Algeo's figures (Cambridge International Corpus), on + course is some 2.3 times more frequent in British texts than American ones---but these figures are somewhat misleading, since they include all senses of course (on a collision course etc.). Furthermore, in British texts, enrol is followed by in 2.5 times as often as it is by on, but enroll on in nonexistent in American texts. Therefore, on a course qualifies as British. —JackLumber /tɔk/ 21:09, 1 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
As an American, I would absolutely never say "on a course" when referring to the educational sort of course. --SodiumBenzoate 07:33, 16 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Beat up[edit]

The page seems to be implying that the phrasal verb "beat up" is not used in American English. This is false—we Americans certainly say things like "She beat him up" both in a literal sense of inflicting a severe beating, but also in various figurative senses—e.g. "Don't beat yourself up over it. Everyone knows it was an accident". It seems like this isn't actually a American/British English difference, or am I misreading the entry? Nohat 03:53, 14 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • The article says "British thugs will beat someone up, while their American counterparts will also beat on...". I take this to mean that if you wish to give someone a physical beating the only possibility in BrE is beat up, whereas in AmE you can say beat up but also beat on or beat up on. My little Webster dictionary has only beat up on ("to attack physically or verbally"). Perhaps the article could be clearer, though. Snalwibma 06:01, 14 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Beat up on is an idiomatic phrasal (prepositional, whatever) verb, and therefore it has a separate entry; beat up is not, and can be found among the "regular" definitions: [2] sense 1b "to hit repeatedly so as to inflict pain -- often used with up." —JackLumber /tɔk/ 16:27, 17 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks - and well done on a great improvement to the relevant sentence in the article. Snalwibma 17:38, 17 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

why reverts re: U.S./Canadian differences and "Americanisms"[edit]

Jack -- I'm puzzled as to why you reverted some of my edits to the "American and British English differences page." It is a documented fact that U.S. & Canadian Englishes are highly similar and many linguistics recommend looking at them as "North American English" with differences no greater than those between, say, the South and New England. -- Also, I revised the paragraph talking about British and American English for several reasons: (1) a generally well educated reader will not know what orthography is and this introduces a subtlety of meaning not needed in this general paragraph; (2) the term "Americanisms" is generally used by Brits with a tone of great disdain -- there seems to be no need to introduce this negative element unnecessarily, so why revert the revision to work around it; (3) why is there a problem with specifying Indian English as one of the unique dialects and making reference to the general similarity between U.S. & Canadian English? (I would defy almost anyone who hasn't studied it closely to distinguish citizenship between someone from North Dakota vs Saskatchewan (or Manitoba) easily based on their spoken English -- or between someone from Michigan and Ontario.) Even the other Wiki articles on North American Englishes make this simililarity clear. Cyg-nifier 16:10, 16 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Sure. But this article is about American English and British English, which are the reference norms for all other Englishes. American English never includes Canadian English. —JackLumber /tɔk/ 18:19, 16 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Ah, but my point is that it is a false distinction to separate American and Canadian English, and for Wikipedia as an encyclopedia to perpetuate a distinction that is not considered up-to-date. Two of THE standards setters, Labov and Trudgill (with their various colleagues), are quite clear in their consideration of a single North American English, with Canadian English taking its place along side the 4 other major regional variations. Thus there shouldn't be something that separates "American" from "North American". See the 2006 Labov, Ash, Boberg Atlas of North American English and also the 2002 Trudgill & Hannah, International English: A Guide to the Varieties of Standard english, 4th ed. Given these fairly definitive sources that identify the two world standards as North American English and British English, I'll go back and update based on this information. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by SwanSZ (talkcontribs) 23:31, 17 April 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]
I don't quite dig it. The vast majority of "Americanisms" (that is, items of lexis and syntax usually associated with American English) are also used in Canada, and there are obvious similarities between U.S. and Canadian speech. However, "North American English" sounds kind of like a euphemism and can be a little misleading. Gasoline and elevator are North American English words, no doubt about it. Faucet is North American English too. Yet Canadians, especially in everyday usage, will naturally produce tap much oftener than Americans. Vacation is North American, holiday is British... and Canadian. Railroad is a North American term, but Canadian railroads have railway in their names. Washroom is a North American term, but it's very common in Canada and dated in the U.S. (where it originated). (Of course, several items are _peculiarly_ American; for example, the word beltway is not found in Canada. Or uniquely Canadian, such as chesterfield.) Therefore, if we say that X is the British thing and Y is the North American thing, that doesn't rule out that Canadian English, in fact, may use both X and Y. (This is the approach of OUP dictionaries.) The same holds for pronunciation; Canadian English has two pronunciations for, say, process and schedule---British and (North) American. The approach of this series of articles (the main article and its 5 spinoffs) is the traditional one---simpler, neater, and supported by a lot of literature as well as history. The United Kingdom and the United States, after all, are the two engines of the English language. As for Indian English, it just doesn't rank---we're talking about _native_ speakers here. —JackLumber /tɔk/ 21:29, 18 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Jack -- the revision works well w/ the shifting of the info re: Canada & India into the notes. The information for one of the citations got lost (the one for Crystal), so I'll track back and find it. I do think Labov et al. have an important point re: North American use, with Canadian being one of five major dialects, especially as after having been overseas for years, I know it is almost impossible for anyone to tell if a given speaker is Canadian or American. is hardly worth an edit war.:-) Cyg-nifier 18:19, 27 April 2007 (UTC) I agree with Cyg-nifier and SwanSZ that distinctions between American and Canadian English are not valid from a purely linguistic point of view. It's easy to demonstrate similar differences in vocabulary as those produced by Jack Lumber entirely within the United States itself. That said, this is a page specifically dedicated to demonstrating differences between two national variants of English and should stay that way. If people want to elaborate on "North American English" this is not the page to do it on. BarqSimpson 02:01, 9 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You know, I am an American who has lived in Canada for the past 30 years and would agree that the differences between CanE and AmE are akin, for example, to the differences between the London variant and the Manchester variant in BrE. Put another way, differences between CanE and AmE are akin, for example, to the differences between the English spoken in Ohio and the Appalachian English spoken in southeastern Kentucky. That is, one can hardly be faulted for classifying CanE and AmE as subsets of the same larger dialect: North American English. However, one would be remiss to dismiss some of the peculiarities of CanE that are the reuslt of the hybrid British-American nature of its native speakers. For instance, Brits always spell the word, “practise,” with an -ise ending, while Americans always spell the word, “practice,” with and -ice ending. Canadians however, always spell the verb form with an -ise ending and the noun form with and -ice ending. When I was in school, a Canadian student using either the American spelling for both verb and noun, or the British spelling for both verb and noun, would have his orthography marked as being in error. There are, of course, other (minor) examples. But, for the most part, the differences between CanE and AmE are such that CanE fits more properly as an example of the dialect diversity extant within the United States (e.g., Appalachian English, midwestern English, Boston English, Maritime Canadian English, Southern Ontario English, etc.). In fact, with American mass media having so deeply penetrated Canadian popular culture, what differences exist are rapidly fading. Young, English-speaking Canadians in Toronto sound more American today than did their parents when I first arrived here in 1975. The “out and about” distinction is almost non-existent now, found almost exclusively in outlying, less urban areas and/or among the lower socio-economic ranks of Southern Ontario native English speakers. SpikeToronto (talk) 09:04, 25 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Season's Greetings?[edit]

While "Season's Greetigs" is often seen on cards and in store windows through most of December, I haven't really heard it actually said. If people want to be holiday-neuteral, they'll generally stick to "happy holidays." There are a few people, but not many that I've noticed, who will try to get a little, um, interesting with such variants as "have a happy," but that's about as far as I've heard it go. — AnnaKucsma (Talk to me!) 21:03, 16 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I've linked to Holiday Greetings, the main article for this. jnestorius(talk) 21:54, 16 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Zed, Heach, etc.[edit]

Should we mention that the last letter of the alphabet is typically pronounced "Zed" in BE but "Zee" in Ame? I don't know IPA. Also how does BE pronounce "H?" I think a lot of commonwealth nations pronounce with an aspiration at the beginning ala "Heache" but in Ame it's Ache. Thanks, --M a s 14:54, 28 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Pronunciation of H appears to be regional in Britain. Received Pronunciation uses Ache, but many regions seem to go with Heache. According to Shibboleth the pronunciation in Northern Ireland differs between the Protestant and Catholic communities -- Q Chris 07:04, 30 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, aitch/haitch is a regional thing in Britain, and a class thing, and also a protestant/catholic thing in Northern Ireland. See discussion at H#Name of the letter. As for whether to include it in this article - I think zee/zed could certainly go in, but I'd be wary of including aitch/haitch. However you care to look at it, I think the standard BrE version is aitch, just like AmE, so no difference. Snalwibma 07:26, 30 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Re: aitch: “(The impoverished middle class) may sink without further struggles into the working classes where we belong, and probably when we get there it will not be so dreadful as we feared, for, after all, we have nothing to lose but our aitches” - George Orwell, The Road to Wigan Pier. --Davecampbell 17:57, 1 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Zee vs. Zed belongs in American and British English pronunciation differences, and it's already there. Haitch is mostly an Irish shibboleth. —JackLumber /tɔk/ 18:55, 30 April 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Haitch is also the normal pronunciation in many other regions of Britain, not just Ireland. Certainly in the part of Yorkshire that I live in it is the norm, my daughter has even been taught it in school and therefore thinks that my pronunciation is wrong!. -- Q Chris 06:33, 1 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This is a really valid arguement, I'm just going to add the IPA symbols below. Intergrate them if you wish: Zee /zɪː/ Zed /zed/ Aitch /eɪtʃ/ Haitch /heɪtʃ/ Tezp 09:13, 31 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Formal and notional agreement - "Oliver's Army" is/are?[edit]

As a native speaker of U.S. English, I don't feel bold enough to edit the article itself. But when reading the portion of the article headed "Formal and notional agreement", an example of where a collective noun is treated as a singular entity and, immediately after, as a plural, came instantly to mind: Oliver's Army is here to stay / Oliver's Army are on their way. Is this a relevant and illustrative example that might be used in the article? --Davecampbell 17:41, 1 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Appalachian phrase[edit]

I have removed this:

In Appalachia, some speakers use "I don't care to" (as in "I don't care to talk to him") as the equivalent of "I don't mind (talking to him)." This usage is confusing (and sometimes offputting) to both non-Appalachian users of AmE and users of BrE.

It's a charming example (though unsourced) but the page is supposed to be about general differences between the two national varieties, not regionalisms uninterpretable to all outsiders. BrainyBabe 14:26, 3 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You know, “I don’t care to,” in the sense as given, is not unique to Appalachian speakers. It is true that I often heard that construction as far back as I can remember during my childhood spent in Appalachia. However, it is also quite common here in Canada where I have lived for the last 30 years. For those of you who had the opportunity to view the Rob MacNeil series, The Story of English, when it ran on PBS, you know that the English spoken in Appalachia is largely that of the Scots-Irish immigrants to the region. Also, enormous numbers of the native English speakers in Southern Ontario are also Scots-Irish, hence why the construction, “I don’t care to,” is quite common in Canada. My point is this: (1) earlier on in this Talkpage, there appears to have been a decision taken that CanE is a part of AmE, and (2) when one adds the 20 million native speakers of CanE to the smaller number of Appalachian speakers, the total number of speakers of AmE that say, “I don’t care to” grows by leaps and bounds. So, before one decides that the phrase is strictly a regionalism uninterpretable to all outsiders, one might want to provide a source/citation. SpikeToronto (talk) 09:21, 25 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The usage of one and whom[edit]

I must say that I am no master of language, but the English use these terms much more so than the Americans. I believe this is worth noting. They also seem to use shall more. The article does not mention this, something that I think is worth noting. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by Spacedwarv (talkcontribs) 01:36, 11 May 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]

I think they are so rare in modern use in both Britain and America that it is not worth mentioning. -- Q Chris 09:25, 14 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I beg to differ; in America quite so, but in the UK, I hear one used quite a bit, whom to a lesser extent, but still quite allot. Spacedwarv 21:41, 14 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't think I have ever heard anyone using "one" in normal conversation or writing in English, living in the UK. I have heard it used to comic affect in "Keeping up appearances" and on occasional TV interviews of elderly members of the aristocracy (e.g. Lord Harewood discussing his time as a prisoner in Colditz). I have heard "whom" used occasionally, but again not often, except in the phrase "to whom it may concern". -- Q Chris 09:15, 21 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Surely using whom is correct English in both AmE and BrE. To me one just sound pretentious.(BrE speaker)-- 01:32, 19 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Both "one" and "whom" occur in the appropriate contexts in both AmE and BrE. No AmE/BrE difference, so nothing to mention in this article. Snalwibma 10:33, 21 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
According to Webster's English Usage, British English may use one as a self-referential 1st person pronoun: I'd like to buy a new car, but one doesn't have the money. Is this still common in BrEng/EngEng? —JackLumber /tɔk/ 13:36, 21 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It is very uncommon. I think it is almost always for comic affect (as in Hyacinth Bucket on Keeping Up Appearances), or as dated upper class speech. As I said above I noticed "one" being used in this way by Lord Harewood discussing his time as a prisoner in Colditz, and it sounded obviously unnatural (I can't help thinking why don't you just say "I" and "me"). From reading old stories, etc. I think it was probably commonly used that way in upper class speech 50 years or so ago, but in normal conversation one never hearsit;-). -- Q Chris 13:46, 21 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Not surprising. And what about a sentence like ...insist that one must be silent as to what one has one's self found to be true in one's own experimenting? —JackLumber /tɔk/ 14:05, 21 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't know the context of the above sentence, but it would seem to be non self-referential. The non-referential use of the pronoun one (where "one" means "a hypothetical person") is slightly more common, though still extremely rare. -- Q Chris 15:00, 21 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It ain't self-referential, of course. I was just curious to know how likely such a sentence is in BrEng. —JackLumber /tɔk/ 15:04, 21 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I don't think you would see it in modern writing. I find the sentence difficult to understand, there may be meanings that are lost to a modern reader. For example "...what one has one's self found ..." to me is the same as "... what one has found...". Was there some original shade of meaning, where "what one has one's self found" implying some personal effort or original research, or is it just unnecessarily verbose? Anyway this is nowhere near modern British English usage. -- Q Chris 15:20, 21 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, I wouldn't be so dismissive of "one". It may sound a bit odd in everyday speech, but in written BrE it's perfectly standard as an indefinite pronoun (though not to refer to onself - look, there it is!), and "one's self" has a very precise function in Jack's sentence - which in no way excuses that horrible sentence, of course. It also crops up regularly and unobtrusively in phrases like "one another". Note that it would (today) be oneself rather than one's self. Snalwibma 15:29, 21 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
My sentence can be found in the Journal of Religion [3]. AmEng was once famous for the one-he combination (one must be silent as to what he..., not what one...), which is now regarded as unacceptable, of course... —JackLumber /tɔk/ 15:37, 21 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Using 'one' for 'I' has never been correct in English, that is a common misconception. 'One' means a generic 'you' e.g. one can buy nice food there, meaning it is possible to buy nice food. However, in any context its usage, in Britain at least is extremely rare, and even then is almost always for comic effect. Similarly, 'whom' is the old dative case for 'who,' which has now been merged with the accusative case, and is sometimes used (comically) for an accusative 'who' but this too is rare. 'Whom' has survived in (at least) one idiomatic phrase, "to whom it may concern." I have never seen and would not, myself, use the phrase "to who it may concern." Tezp 10:38, 23 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Unless your referring to yourself in the third person of course, which the Queen often does. BennelliottTalkContributions 16:53, 31 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Do you have a quote for the Queen using 'one' to refer to herself in the third person? I would argue that when she uses 'one,' she actually means 'anyone,' (or generic 'you,') rather than necessarily herself. I would be interested to see proof of this usage. Tezp 11:33, 1 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I did a quick search and found this video, it's not definitive (and is a bit hard to hear) but perhaps it is some proof. I may be wrong, but I think Her Majesty may be saying "it's coming off on one's fingers" (around 1:50s). Just a quick example, and like I said, I may be wrong.BennelliottTalkContributions 16:59, 1 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I always was under the impression that one is used similar to you, but can refer to anyone. Hence the literal translation of the German phrase "Wie sagt man auf Deutsch, der Wagen?" is "How says one in German, the car?" Just my two pence.Spacedwarv 02:42, 30 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

one's vs his[edit]

I have an observation regarding "one's" - and even a citation! It's in the opening credits of the (American) TV program, Quantum Leap. It begins: "Theorising that one could time-travel in his own lifetime...". In British English, this would be "Theorising that one could time-travel in one's own lifetime...". The AmE version just seems wrong to me (the intro to Quantum Leap almost makes me cringe every time). I'm assuming it's correct AmE, yes? Is this mentioned in the article? I couldn't find it. Ramonsky

"His" is correct in American English, but I don't think using "one's" would be considered incorrect by most Americans. Maybe a bit on the pretentious side, but not wrong. --SodiumBenzoate 07:39, 16 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Seems like mixing the pronouns up a bit, but I don't know if this is an AmE vs BrE thing. I think it should be "one's own" too, although there isn't really a correct way to put it. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 12:28, 16 July 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]
The one-he combination was originally British; it dropped out of British English but remained current in the U.S., and it's often considered an Americanism. (See e.g. Mencken.) However, it's becoming increasingly rare due to gender-neutral language concerns. ---The user formerly known as JackLumber 21:54, 16 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

British Regional Variations[edit]

I am a Scot and I have to stick up for the Americans on some of the differences pointed out in the article. Many of the American uses of English depicted are also used frequently in various Regions throughout the UK. For example, differences in the use of the definite article in constructions such as "at the hospital" are also used in Scotland. The concept of an actual "British English" is really a bit old fashioned these days, and quite foreign to a Scotsman (and probably to some English, Welsh or Irish people too). Even the BBC has abandoned it. To try to lump all British variations into one standard is simply bizarre. I would go so far as to say that such a construction does not even exist.-- 14:52, 14 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Truth be told, Trudgill and Hannah use the term "English English." They also prefer "North American English" to "American English." —JackLumber /tɔk/ 15:42, 14 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree that so much variation exists, it is almost impossible to state rules which are true across the board for all British speakers, but this is also true for American Speakers. Even if you were to have a Standard Scottish English dialect merged into this article, the variation between Scottish dialects would raise the same problem. Tezp 10:42, 23 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

A lot of the commonality between AmE and the English spoken in northern England, Scotland, and Ireland is a result of Scots-Irish immigration to North America. As I have mentioned elsewhere in this Talkpage, the impact of this mass migration was analyzed at length in the Rob MacNeil program, The Story of English, that ran on PBS many years back. Yet, it is interesting to note that Canadians say, “in hospital” instead of the American, “in the hospital.” It is also interesting to note that in the U.K., the venerable BBC has moved away from its traditional insistence on speakers of the Received Pronunciation as newsreaders and television presenters in favor of having its programming be representative of the many accents and dialects that make up the country, especially in regional and local broadcasting.[4] SpikeToronto (talk) 09:42, 25 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

New "Advocacy" section[edit]

Not entirely convinced of the need for this... But it's certainly in the wrong place. Could we move it right to the end? In its present (early) position it's just plain confusing, jumping straight into specifics like "defense/defence" and "ax/axe" before the basic differences between BrE and AmE have been enumerated. I suggest moving it to the end, then seeing how it develops. Snalwibma 18:50, 17 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Are there, anywhere, any current examples of advocacy of one form over the other? Surely it's completely accepted that the two forms (pace other english-speaking countries) exist separately, each within its own sphere. It's true that Fowler (cited in the now-deleted passage) was a stout defender of British English against Americanisms, but he was writing in 1906, and in The King's English at that. Even he allowed that many US forms were more correct. The fact that I have not been able to trace any later "advocacy" than this is not, of course, a deciding argument, but before the section is developed, if indeed it is to be included at all, some demonstration and sourcing will be needed. --Old Moonraker 19:17, 17 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree with moving this to the end of the page, and will look for some sources. I think that advocacy for a form of English is a notable phenomenon, when it's worked out. It has got the stub template now, so the section is open for expansion. Perhaps a bit too early to delete something before it had any time to develop. Could anyone help? :) Salaskan 19:27, 17 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Found a few discussions on some forums here and here (although they are not really reliable sources)
I agree with JackLumber's deletion of the section, although the description of it as "patent nonsense" was unfair. I think the section is unneccessary for the following reasons:
  • The current advocacy section relates entirely to spelling; if it belongs in any article, it should be at American and British English spelling differences. Some other elements might attract advocacy (punctuation, say; and I recall Enoch Powell decrying the American disuse of the perfective past) but most won't (debating which accent is better, say).
  • Even in spelling, I don't think anybody seriously advocates a purposeful elimination of one variety in favour of the other. (The British Simplified Spelling Society does see American spelling as a step in the right direction, but only a step.) While there are undoubtedly chauvinists in both dialects, their arguments are hardly serious. We don't have a section in Football about evaluations of whether American football is better than Association football, for example.
  • It is pretty inaccurate to suggest British spelling is older than American spelling; it is also not always true that American spellings are more etymological. If one favours etymology, say, one would not advocate American English wholesale; one would favour a mixture of some American, some British (and perhaps some further improvements of one's own).
  • Some of the specific differences enumerated in the various articles already note which form is older, or more etymological, or whatever; readers who values such considerations can make their own minds up. Further additional information along these lines should be welcomed in all the articles. No summary section in this main article will do this justice. jnestorius(talk) 19:49, 17 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This advocacy thing is largely confined to biased and/or frustrated wikipedia users who can't distinguish between "spelling" and "dialect." Period. Aside from being inaccurate, the whole section was in clear violation of WP:OR. —JackLumber /tɔk/ 20:53, 17 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"(rm - →Advocacy of a particular form of English - per WP:NOR & WP:NPOV; totally unsourced & unverified; false information; failure to understand the difference between spelling and dialect;...)"

  • WP:NPOV is an obsolete policy here. Both views are presented.
  • Can you tell me which information is "false"?
  • If that bothers you so much, then let's change the title of the section to "Advocacy of a particular spelling of English"?
  • It is not really a violation of WP:NOR but one of WP:V. Give it some time to gather sources, and use a template.

Salaskan 09:45, 18 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Salaskan - I suggest that you take it to American and British English spelling differences, and try starting a small section there about historical attitudes to what is "right" and "wrong" and "better". I'm far from convinced that you'll find anything verifiable that is worth reporting, but good luck! Snalwibma 10:02, 18 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Where on earth are these "advocates"? The British use British spelling, the Americans use American spelling, that's pretty natural. British English is the original form of English from which all other forms are derived, and thus the most proper form. Even the British know this is nonsense. American English is more etymologically correct. That don't mean a thing either. Ax is better than axe? Seriously, man, who cares? I guess it's safe to assume the overwhelming majority of English speakers don't even know that ax is American and axe is British! And the ones who do, they just don't give a damn! And if they do care, they need their head examined! —JackLumber /tɔk/ 19:04, 18 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
This article should be about differences between AmE and BrE. Not anything else. The advocacy bit is unneeded. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 19:38, 18 May 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]
Now that use of bit is a Briticism, we should mention it somewhere somehow. —JackLumber /tɔk/ 20:02, 18 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I'm an AmE user, and I was thrown off by the BrE usage 'cheque' during the AmE portion of the monetary amounts section. As the section deals with how AmE users write on their checks, should the AmE spelling not me used?Collun 19:01, 24 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I understand your point, but... no, for the sake of consistency. Spelling systems are just conventions. Real publications normally don't flip-flop between conventions. That's why the WP:MoS requires that each article have uniform spelling and not a haphazard mix of different spellings, which can be jarring to the reader. I do believe the cheque article would be more "jarring" than it presently is. —JackLumber /tɔk/ 22:21, 24 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Is there a BrE vs. AmE difference in usage concerning "An historical event" and "a historical event"? Both are seen; in fact this article, American and British English differences uses both, but without mentioning if one of the usages is AmE and one is BrE.--Appraiser 13:36, 29 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I do know that BrE uses an historical, but can't cite it. Also, if the next word starts with a vowel but sounds like it starts on a consonant, then just a is used in BrE (for example, a euphemism). BennelliottTalkContributions 13:45, 29 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
My BrE dictionary (Collins English Dictionary, 6th edition, 2003) says "An was formerly often used before words that begin with h and are unstressed on the first syllable: an hotel, an historic meeting. Sometimes the initial h was not pronounced. This usage is now becoming obsolete." My AmE dictionary (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition, 2002) says much the same ("Before unstressed or weakly stressed syllables with initial h both a and an are used in writing..."), but notice the difference: "was formerly" and "becoming obsolete" in the BrE dictionary, "are used" in the AmE. This fits with my own observations of the habits of British and American writers (Americans are more likely than Brits to say an hotel and an historic, and in Britain this seems a bit quaint - but no quantified data - sorry!). It is also perhaps a reflection of a general tendency for American writers to be somewhat more conservative (and more concerned about "rules") than British. But I don't see a firm enough BrE/AmE difference to be worth remarking on in the article. Snalwibma 14:03, 29 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes, saying that, I don't tend to say an historic, and I'm British (and defend BrE), but apparently it is proper English to say an historic. Then again, it may well be down to the fact that I don't use received pronunciation, as the people I have heard using RP do affirm to that particular rule. BennelliottTalkContributions 14:32, 29 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

1) The basic rule in ordinary speech: a before consonant or semivowel, an before vowel. 2) The most notable exception: historic(al), for reasons I can't figure out. Maybe historical reasons? I got data, guys. From the Cambridge International Corpus; see Algeo, British or American English?, page 49.

h-word British texts American texts
hallucination 50% a, 50% an 100% a
hotel 93% a, 7% an 100% a
horrendous 70% a, 30% an 100% a
historic and historical 57% a, 43% an 78% a, 22% an

JackLumber /tɔk/ 20:56, 29 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Thanks. I had written an historical and a colleague changed it to a historical, mentioning that the article is AmE. It hadn't occurred to me that there was a choice :) Based on data from Jacklumber, I'll leave it a. --Appraiser 21:12, 29 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There's also an horrific: British 29%, American 0%. —JackLumber /tɔk/ 21:33, 29 May 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I've seen BBC people use "an historic" many a time, but it's not heard in speech by real people where I live. Maybe "a historic", or "an 'istoric", but never "an historic". I'd like to know also in BrE, when h-dropping occurs at the start of words, does the "a" change to "an"? An 'ouse? An 'elicopter? An 'ospital? -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 21:41, 29 May 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]

Interesting data, Jack. I must go (and) look at Algeo. Interesting because it seems to contradict my experience in dealing with many texts written by American and British writers. I'd have said that "an hotel" etc. was much more likely to be written by an American than by a British author. I wonder about data sources, biases etc - both in my personal experience (of course) and in the Algeo data. How did he get his sample? I'll have to get hold of a copy of that book! Snalwibma 05:48, 30 May 2007 (UTC) The source is the Cambridge International Corpus. The British National Corpus contains 7 instances of an hallucination in written texts and 2 in conversation (maybe h-dropping speakers?), and 9 (duh!) instances of a hallucination, all in printed sources. The ratio a/an hotel is 9.55:1; one of the results for an is, "And the h is silent, o well spoken ones, as in `an hotel'." The Webster's Third New International Dictionary definition of an indefinite article reads as follows: used (1) usu. in speech and writing before words beginning with a vowel sound  ; (2) usu. in speech and often in writing before h-initial words beginning with an unstressed or lightly stressed syllable in which \h\ may or may not be pronounced  ; (3) sometimes (less often now [as of 1961] than formerly) before words whose initial letter is a vowel and whose initial sounds are [translated into IPA:] /ju/ or /jʊ/ or /w/ in one  ; (4) sometimes in speech and writing and regularly in the Old Testament (AV) before a stressed syllable in h-initial words Webster's New World College Dictionary (2004): [O]lder British usage favored an before the sound [IPA /ju/] [an union], but this is now nearly obsolete; some people continue the practice of using an before h in an unstressed initial syllable in certain words, whether or not they actually pronounce the h. H. L. Mencken's Language, 4th edition (1936), p. 351: In Concerning the American Language, which Mark Twain included in The Stolen White Elephant; Hartford, 1882,...he represented himself as saying to an Englishman met on a train in Germany: "If the signs are to be trusted even your educated classes used to drop the h. They say humble now [with the clear h], and heroic, and historic, etc., but I judge that they used to drop those h's because your writers still keep up the fashion of putting an an before those words instead of an a. This is what Mr. Darwin might call a 'rudimentary' sign that an was justifiable once, and useful -- when your educated classes used to say 'umble, and 'eroic, and 'istorical. Correct writers of the American language do not put an before those words." But a correspondent sends me the following argument for the use of an: "My sense of euphony (and, I believe, the genius of the English language) requires something between the a and the h-sound in all such cases. Witness the absence of English words showing such a combination. I believe that all English words beginning with a, in which a syllable beginning with h follows, are dissyllables. That is to say, the h-syllable is accented. Witness ahead, ahoy, ahem. Pam Peters's Cambridge Guide, page 1: Why type when there's a free preview? Page 4/23JackLumber /tɔk/ 22:12, 30 May 2007 (UTC) FWIW Australian's tend to say we stayed for an hour in a hotel (hour: unstressed, hotel: stressed). In my experience Australian's find it funny when Americans on TV talk about 'umans eating 'erbs. And lastly, is there an affect in AmE of the Irish pronounciation of 'h' as haitch? Journeyman 00:00, 5 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I have never heard a U.S. person say "an hotel." Bobopaedia 19:11, 17 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It might make more sense if you all thought of the 'h' sound as aspirate or inaspirate rather than as stressed or not. Sometimes in speech the same word can be either depending upon the speaker or the sentence structure. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:01, 8 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

An/A and abbreviations[edit]

Hi, I'm just wondering whether there is much difference between AmE and BrE in the use of an/a with abbreviations. In my understanding of AuE, the choice of indefinite article depends on the sound of the first letter, e.g. an MP3 instead of a MP3. The rule also applies to words begining with H, e.g. an HTML document rather than a HTML document. Acronyms are treated in the same way as other words. Journeyman 00:00, 5 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Spelling out words[edit]

The number section of the article mentions saying 'double n' instead of 'n n' in spelling out numbers. It is worth mentioning somewhere that this also applies to spelling out words: "barrel" may be "b a double-r e l" to a British person, but Americans seem to be confused by such. I agree that when spelling out words, it is common (in fact I think this is the only way to express it,) in Britain to spell the word 'common' by saying 'c, o, double m, o, n.' I think it's worth including in the article if it is not used (or is rare) in American varieties. We would, therefore, need proof from a native speaker of an American variety to confirm this. Tezp 14:08, 8 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

For obvious reasons we don't say it when spelling words such as vacuum, continuum, etc. -- Q Chris 14:37, 8 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

In the rare event that a word contains '-uu-' (e.g. vacuum,) we would either spell it 'v, a, c, u, u, m,' or you can say 'double u' with the stress on 'u' to differentiate it from w, as outlined below: /ˈdʌbəljuː/ /ˌdʌbəl ˈjuː/ In any case, the important thing is that there is a difference in BrE and AmE, therefore I believe is a point worth making in the main article. Who wrote the initial part of this section should write it, as they spotted it. Tezp 15:15, 8 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The Frank Loeser 1956 musical The Most Happy Fella included the tune "Big D", which repeatedly crooned out the name of Dallas as: "Big D, little A, double L, A, S". Somehow I doubt if its American audiences were "confused" in any great numbers.Janko (talk)

As a native speaker of the American version, I agree that spelling "barrel" as "b a double-r e l" would be somewhat unusual, but not sufficiently so as to cause any difficulty in understanding, or to result in any special notice being taken of the speaker. In other words, this variation is, I think, at least occasional in American English. Tim Ross·talk 22:36, 12 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Time Telling[edit]

I disagree with the comments made in this section in the article. It states that 'ten forty' is used to express 10:40 in both BrE and AmE. As a native speaker of BrE, this time is always 'twenty to eleven,' in speech. Similarly 10:35 is 'twenty-five to eleven.' The times 10:36 and 10:37 are 'just gone twenty-five to eleven,' and 10:38 and 10:39 are 'nearly twenty to eleven.' The hour can be omitted if it is understood i.e. 'my lunch break finishes at twenty-five to.' I suspect a speaker of AmE would prefer 'my lunch break is over in ten minutes' or something similar, I doubt they would use the wording I would use. In any case, I don't think the information in this section is accurate. What are everyone else's thoughts? Tezp 15:45, 8 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Well, I think "ten forty" is treated quite accurately in the article. It most certainly is used in spoken BrE, and (AFAIK) in AmE likewise - albeit perhaps in somewhat more formal contexts. Note that it is mentioned at the very end of the paragraph, so it's not as if the article is suggesting that "ten forty" predominates over "twenty to eleven". What I would quibble with is the suggestion that in BrE we say "quarter to". I for one say "a quarter to". Snalwibma 15:54, 8 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
"Ten forty" sounds OK in BrE to me, perhaps slightly less formal than "twenty to eleven" but it doesn't sound like an Americanism, and I disagree it's always "twenty to eleven". LDHan 16:03, 8 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Ok, we'll agree to disagree. 'Ten forty' sounds really American to me, but if you would use it then no edit need take place. I have asked around my office, we all agree 'Ten forty' sounds like an Americanism. Perhaps this is a regional variation? Interesting to see that Snalwibma suggests 'ten forty' is the more formal of the two, and LDHan suggests 'twenty to eleven' is the more formal. Nevertheless, both comments prove the article correct in saying that the phrase is in use in BrE. In response to Snalwibma's comment, I would use 'quarter to' rather than 'a quarter to,' though I suspect they are both common. Tezp 16:26, 8 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I use "ten forty" sometimes, but I don't hear it often amongst people I know (but I have trouble telling the time). I say "quarter to", never "a quarter to" - to me the latter sounds archaic and folksy, like "a walkin' and a talkin'". -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 16:42, 8 June 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]
I'm really surprised by this! Do people here (Britain) really say just "quarter to" and not "a quarter to"? Maybe I'm just old and quaint and folksy. Right now, as far as I'm concerned, itsaquarterpastseven. Are you sure the "a" isn't simply silent? ;-) Snalwibma 18:11, 8 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I promise! Even if I am emphasising (and hence speaking deliberately clearly,) I would still omit the 'a'. Tezp 17:09, 11 June 2007 (UTC) My elderly parents use "five and twenty past" and "five and twenty to" in BrE. -- 10:37, 16 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Some differences in personal naming border on language differences and might thus merit a mention:

jnestorius(talk) 22:18, 8 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

There's also US use of an initial in between the first and last name, eg Philip K. Dick. LDHan 23:08, 8 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
That's never struck me as especially American. Now that you mention it, it probably is significantly more common there, as a consequence of the "single middle name" difference. In the case of Hollywood actors, stage names including a middle initial may result from the requirement not to use the same name as another actor. jnestorius(talk) 00:03, 14 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Harry S Truman, George W Bush, John F Kennedy, Lyndon B Johnson, Dwight D Eisenhower, Franklin D Roosevelt - compare to UK prime ministers, none of which use the middle initial. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 15:32, 14 June 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]
Although there were Charles J. Haughey and John A. Costello in the Republic of Ireland. Venturing even further into Original Research, I speculate that the propensity for initials among POTUSes is to foster an air of formality and hence gravitas. A more distinctively American habit is for people known by their middle name to use a first initial, as J. Edgar Hoover, C. Thomas Howell, M. Scott Peck; whereas Britons like (Andrew) Bonar Law or (George) Bernard Shaw use all or nothing. (Except J. Arthur Rank.) It also seems a largely male tradition. jnestorius(talk) 19:42, 14 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Use of similar[edit]

In Wikipedia I often see similar used in something like the following manner: "Saturn is thought to have a similar composition to Jupiter." Such usage is not found in AmE, and to my U.S. sensibilities it seems like an egregious grammatical blunder. From my perspective, the proper expression would be "Saturn's composition is thought to be similar to Jupiter's", "Saturn is thought to have a composition similar to Jupiter('s)" or "Saturn is thought to be similar in composition to Jupiter." Is the first version considered proper BrE? WolfmanSF 06:08, 10 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"Saturn is thought to have a similar composition to Jupiter".
"Saturn's composition is thought to be similar to Jupiter's".
"Saturn is thought to have a composition similar to Jupiter('s)". are all good English in my view, and the last one:
"Saturn is thought to be similar in composition to Jupiter". is slightly less commonly heard, but is still correct.BennelliottTalkContributions 09:32, 10 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I have to disagree with Bennelliott here. "Saturn has a similar composition to Jupiter" is not good BrE. It is simply a (very common) grammatical error. And I reckon AmE has a similar error rate to BrE (!). Snalwibma 15:31, 10 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The error here is in the use of the word composition rather than similar. "James is thought to have a similar face to Alan". Similar is an adjective, composition could either be a plural noun or a singular noun, which is were the extra "a" comes in. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 15:36, 10 June 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]

If the problem is with the word composition, then sentence a) below is ungrammatical and sentence b) below is grammatical (assuming Boothman's proof for similar not affecting the grammar is true, which I believe it to be.) I personally see both as grammatical, so cannot be the judge of whether they differ in the eyes of a person who sees a) as ungrammatical. a) Saturn is thought to have a similar composition to Jupiter. b) Saturn is thought to have a similar density to Jupiter. Also, compare: a) James is thought to have a similar face to Alan. b) James is thought to have a similar face to Alan's. (*) I believe this to prove that "Saturn has a similar composition to Jupiter's" is ungrammatical. Tezp 17:34, 11 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Based on the above comments, it appears that usage of similar in BrE is evolving in a manner that puts it in conflict with AmE. Both a) and b) examples immediately above represent what would be considered grammatical errors in AmE, errors of a type that is basically never seen. A user of AmE, if not familiar with BrE, would judge someone who used similar in such a fashion to be uneducated or very careless. WolfmanSF 22:23, 17 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Don't make any judgements about divergences between AmE and BrE on the basis of misinformed comments here! Snalwibma 07:13, 18 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Are you saying, then, that the construction "similar [composition, face, etc.] to" is not allowed in the Queen's English? But if even the BBC (see 2nd to last paragraph in has given up on the Queen's English, won't it go the way of Latin? WolfmanSF 00:01, 22 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

What about the following? c) Saturn is thought to have a different composition to Jupiter. If you think that this sentence is also ungrammatical, then the divergence is in the syntactic structure, and not in the word similar at all. If c) is grammatical in your dialect then it may be that there is some difference in useage of similar though as yet this is unproven by this discussion. Tezp 14:00, 18 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

c) above does sound wrong to me, but I think the issue here is the choice of the preposition following different (discussed in the article under Prepositions and adverbs). In this case AmE does not use to, it uses than. In AmE, you can say "different composition than" or "composition different from" or maybe "composition different than". But there is no easy word-substitution fix for the similar examples; there you have to change word order from common BrE usage "similar [composition, face, etc.] to" to "[composition, face, etc.] similar to". It appears that AmE has some word-order flexibility in its use of different that it lacks in its use of similar. WolfmanSF 00:01, 22 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Well I wasn't really sure how you would feel about sentence c) above. Regardless, this has cleared up the issue that the issue is structural rather than any inherent difference in usage of the word 'similar.' Tezp 13:04, 25 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

A type of error that is basically never seen? Um, I don't think so. The Saturn sentence was in fact added by an American contributor. Yet this construction appears to be much more British than American, according to good ole Google. To me, Saturn is thought to have a similar composition to Jupiter sounds awkward, but a similar syndrome to a condition called... sounds horrible. ---The user formerly known as JackLumber 19:33, 29 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

while/whilst again[edit]

Someone added

In BrE, the word 'whilst' is used as a preposition. In AmE, "while" is used as both a preposition and a noun. For example, "It will be a while before she calls"; "I meant to tell you whilst we were in the pub". AmE would use "while" in both sentences.

I don't believe that is correct. In my experience in areas where "while" means "until", "whilst" is used as a preposition as described, but in other areas "while" is used exclusively in all contexts. I have added "citation needed" but I suspect that this entry is wrong and should be deleted. -- Q Chris 10:32, 22 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's correct for my usage. (I'm English by the way). BennelliottTalkContribs 12:10, 22 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am also English and now I live in Yorkshire and the above usage would be correct for people round here. I come from somewhere near London where people would definitely say "I meant to tell you while we were in the pub. -- Q Chris 12:43, 22 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
No, what I meant it, I say both while and whilst as a preposition. BennelliottTalkContribs 16:57, 22 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

If 'while' is to be included in the article, it should be noted that the sentence "tonight I am working while 8." where while means 'until' is grammatical in parts of the north, this is where 'whilst' is more likely to be used. I think that's what you mean here?? Tezp 13:08, 25 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Yes, that's what I mean and the article has now been changed to say this (thanks to whoever did this). -- Q Chris 13:39, 25 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

amidst/in the midst of[edit]

The words amidst (as opposed to amid), and to a lesser extent amongst (as opposed to among), are also rarer in AmE. ("In the midst of" is a standard idiom in both.) This is entirely incorrect. The word amidst is used frequently in the United States. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Scottsjackson (talkcontribs) 17:11, 31 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"ou" and "o"[edit]

Could something be added about the fact that when writting in English, many words used in both AmE and BrE are spelt differently, AmE often using "o" as BrE uses "ou" (as in harbor/harbour, color/colour, mold/mould, etc) ? 11:20, 25 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It doesn't leap out at you from the article and I'm not surprised you missed it, but it's dealt with here. --Old Moonraker 11:30, 25 June 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Television Terms[edit]

Here's something not mentioned in the main article (yet) In TV jargon:

  • AmE season = BrE series
  • AmE miniseries = BrE serial

It's probably also worth mentioning that AmE series -> BrE series - that is, in the UK, the word "series" is ambiguous in that it could refer either to a single season or to the union of all seasons. (Oh, and in BrE, "telly" is an abbreviation for television). Ramonsky

Speaking as a BrE speaker I wouldn't describe a series as the union of all seasons. For instance I wouldn't say "The office is a british tv series". I'd say " a british tv programme", which is probably even more ambiguous. But maybe that's just me. 22:34, 16 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's funny how AmE has the word miniseries, yet has lost the word series. I don't know in which sense "union of all series" is - does it mean the plural (there are five series of X Programme) or singular (X Programme is a good series). The latter doesn't make sense to me.

AmE has not lost the word, “series.” (Some of the following is also discussed in the Wikipedia article, “Television program.”) In North America, the word, “series,” in the context of a television program, is synonymous with the word, “program.” That is, from the first episode to the last, regardless of whether a program ran for less than a year or ran for decades (e.g., Gunsmoke, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, etc.), a television program is called a series, whether or not it is episodic (e.g., Seinfeld, The Avengers, etc.) or serial (e.g., Dallas, Coronation Street, etc.) in nature. Each year of a series is known as a “season” in AmE and traditionally begins in the Fall (Autumn), corresponding to the start of the North American school year. However, programs starting their annual run in the Winter, Spring, or Summer are becoming more common as broadcast networks compete in the 500-channel cable/satellite universe to bring ever newer product to market. Thus, one says that a particular “series” ran for x number of “seasons” (e.g., the brilliant series, The Carol Burnett Show, ran for 11 seasons). A “miniseries,” on the other hand, is a unique beast: A miniseries is a program that runs for only one season and for less episodes than would a full series (examples of major American miniseries are: Rich Man, Poor Man; The Thorn Birds; Roots, etc.). Thus, the following holds true in AmE:

  • series = program
  • season = episodes of a given series/program that were broadcast sequentially in one television year (television year ≠ calendar year)
  • miniseries = series/program running for only one season that was completed, start to finish, with less episodes than would a regular series/program’s normal season
SpikeToronto (talk) 03:53, 26 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Mobile phones[edit]

I think the recently added two paragraphs on mobile/cell phones should be deleted. Far too specific for this article. I will delete if nobody objects. Snalwibma 21:35, 28 July 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The proliferation of text messages has made the word txt a common word for a text message in the UK, while in America it is unheard of. I'm not really sure what this even means, but I'm pretty sure it's not right. "txt" isn't a word, but "text" as shorthand for "text message" (or the use of "texting" as a verb) is certainly not uncommon in AmE. Rick 06:43, 15 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • I have gone ahead and deleted the entire section. I didn't see anyone objecting, and there was considerable doubt about the accuracy of the content, and there is no equivalent section on (e.g.) "Railway/railroad terminology", so it's gone. Snalwibma 07:27, 15 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Would it be entirely wrong to consider most native non-American English speakers as being functionally bi-lingual? With the amount of exposure of the non-American English speaking world to American media, the non-American native speaker has an advantage which American speakers lack in the ability to interact more fully with non-American forms of English. Velkyal 09:30, 3 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You could equally say the same for a speaker of American English; bilingualism is defined as speaking two languages rather than dialects. Although I tend to be of the opinion that no quantity of spelling mistakes can justify American English as a language or dialect. Sorry, but I hate AmE. BennelliottTalkContribs 16:49, 3 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
  • Sorry for the belated response, but WOW. I hate AmE!! What an enlightend view! An excellent example of the British tolerance of others. We should all inspire to hate the speech of people who talk differently than ourselves. - BillCJ (talk) 07:30, 27 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I actually think that it only operates in the direction I mentioned as it seems that Americans have very limited exposure to non-American media and forms of English. Velkyal 13:35, 6 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

To a certain extent, yes I think you're right Velkya, but the term bilingual is wrong in this sense. I think BrE speakers are more familiar with AmE than vice versa. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 13:49, 6 August 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]

What phrase would be suitable? If not bi-lingual then we have to say that British and American English are just dialects on one language, which would presumably be "Elizabethan English". Velkyal 12:44, 8 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

BrE and AmE are dialects of one language - English. They aren't particularly different and are mutually intelligible, so are just variations on one language, not two seperate ones. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 15:23, 8 August 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]
There's a word for that, and it's bidialectal ("fluent in the use of two dialects of the same language," Webster's 3rd, Addenda.) But... watch your language! Just because you have a full understanding of a non-native dialect (American, British, Australian, etc.) doesn't mean you can actually _speak_ it. Elizabethan English is a historical dialect---the common ancestor of modern British and American. ---The user formerly known as JackLumber 22:33, 8 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I was thinking of saying bidialectal, but I didn't know it was real. Although I couldn't get the accent, I'm pretty confident I could speak AmE, after all it's just BrE with a few changes here and there. I'll have a go now - Hello, I am speaking AmE. Easy! -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 00:30, 9 August 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]

Very few English authors, even those who have made lengthy visits to the United States, ever manage to write American in a realistic manner. ... By 1866, when Charles Dickens published "Mugsby Junction," [the] Yankee dialect had developed, in English hands, into the following: I tell Yew what 't is, ma'arm. I la'af. Theer! I la'af. I Dew. I oughter ha' seen most things, for I hail from the Onlimited side of the Atlantic Ocean, and I haive travelled right slick over the Limited, head on through Jee-rusalemm and the East, and likeways France and Italy, Europe, Old World, and am now upon the track to the Chief European Village; but such an Institution as Yew, and Yewer young ladies, and Yewer fixin's solid and liquid, afore the glorious Tarnal I never did see yet! And if I hain't found the eighth wonder of Monarchical Creation, in finding Yew, and Yewer young ladies and Yewer fixin's solid and liquid, all as aforesaid, established in a country where the people air not absolute Loonaticks, I am Extra Double Darned with a Nip and Frizzle to the innermostest grit! Wheerfur -- Theer! -- I la'af! I Dew, ma'arm, I la'af! This was supposed to be addressed by a traveling American to a strange Englishwoman at a railway refreshment-counter. [English critic Edward Dicey correctly pointed out that] "you might travel through the United States for years and never hear such a speech uttered out of a lunatic asylum." H. L. Mencken, The American Language, Supplement One, pp. 506-7. ---The user formerly known as JackLumber 19:25, 9 August 2007 (UTC) Boothman: I assume you were still in "British mode" when you wrote "I'll have a go now"...Reply[reply]

Yes, an American would probably say, "I'll try now" or something. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 19:56, 9 August 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]

Is it not ultimately all irrelevant as English is slowly becoming a unified langauge with American English as the norm? Velkyal 13:02, 15 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't see much evidence of that. The changes in English usage through the spread of Estuary English seem to be much stronger in the UK than an American influence. Though some changes do unify usage, new phrases and meanings are generated on both sides of the Atlantic "in'it" so I think the differences will be constant. -- Q Chris 14:54, 15 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well, thanks to the... information superhighway and all that jazz, British and American are now influencing each other as never before. At the levels of usage, vocabulary, and syntax, some differences are going to disappear, others will arise, and so on. As far as pronunciation is concerned, though, differences between British and American are actually increasing. ---The user formerly known as JackLumber 19:00, 15 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Do you have evidence for increasing differences? From my experience the two languages are coming closer together. Pronounciation though is a seperate issue - even within the UK I have problems understanding Glaswegians, and I am from the north of Scotland! Add to that Mancunians, Scousers, Geordies and the Black Country and the mess in pronounciation becomes really horrible. Velkyal 06:18, 16 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
And many of these accents preserve features that are found nowhere else in the English-speaking world! More than 70 years ago, Mencken (1936, p. 343) wrote:
[T]he a of such common words as cab, back and hand differs in the two countries: when Englishmen speak them rapidly they often sound, to American ears, like keb, beck and hend. In the United states ... they are pronounced more clearly.
But this is no longer the case. In English English, the flat a is now much lower than it used to be. On the contrary, in American English it's now higher. For example, bad as pronounced in Chicago is often similar to beard as pronounced in London; and bad in London is much like bod in Chicago. Traditionally non-rhotic regions like Eastern New England and New York City are becoming rhotic; in England, rhoticity is receding. Several innovations are found in one country but not in the other; for example, the glottal stop for the /t/ sound in many British dialects. The bottom line is, sometimes we hear a "new" word or syntactic construction on TV, or we read it in a newspaper or a book, and we pick it up in our speech. But we can't change our accent unless we talk---on a daily basis---with real people with different accents. And it takes a lot of time... ---The user formerly known as JackLumber 18:10, 16 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I agree with, and find informative, your comments immediately above, JackLumber. I only want to point out that the pronunciation of “bad” in Chicago is not universal throughout North America. The short a, as pronounced in Chicago, is part of what I (admittedly) disparagingly refer to as the Interstate 90 accent: It seems to run westward along that freeway starting in Buffalo, New York, getting heavier around Cleveland, Ohio, and finding its full fruition in Chicago, Illinois. My family in southern Ohio (Dayton) and southeastern Kentucky used to tease my cousins in Cleveland for their pronunciation of the short a in such words as “bad.” In much of North America, it is more akin to the significantly more neutral, Canadian pronunciaton of the short a and has about as much “beard” as a baby’s face! Unfortunatly, I cannot think how to represent it phonetically … SpikeToronto (talk) 07:29, 26 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Where it all begun Introduction section![edit]

Unfortunately I am not going to be kind to either the English (as opposed to the Welsh and Scots) or the Americans. In general the purpose of Wikipedia is to inform and educate, and this cannot be achieved without explaining not only the problem, but also it's cause. In this case the problem is not the emergence of the 'American' dialect, but the lack of grammatic structure in 18th and 19th century English, as well as lack of formal education during this period that was not provided to the vast segments of English speaking population during immigration to the United States. The article ought to begin with the fact that the general population in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland did not receive school education in the formal and modern sense of the word before, during and after the creation of the United States of America. Due to this fact, there was no opportunity for errors in English usage to be corrected at an early stage of life, and this is far harder to correct later in life as depicted in My Fair Lady, a popular 20th century musical (and film) based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion. Shaw's Pygmalion was written in 1913, and it has been suggested that the story was based on Henry Sweet, a professor of phonetics who actively published in the late 19th century. That the problem of uneducated English usage persisted among the general population of England, never mind other constituents of the British Islands, was it's chief message, because it was lamenting on the lack of success achieved since [5] the passing of the 1867 Reform Act, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Robert Lowe, remarked that the government would now "have to educate our masters." As a result of this view, the government passed the 1870 Education Act. The act, drafted by William Forster stated: (a) the country would be divided into about 2500 school districts; (b) School Boards were to be elected by ratepayers in each district; (c) the School Boards were to examine the provision of elementary education in their district, provided then by Voluntary Societies, and if there were not enough school places, they could build and maintain schools out of the rates; (d) the school Boards could make their own by-laws which would allow them to charge fees or, if they wanted, to let children in free. The 1870 Education Act allowed women to vote for the School Boards. Women were also granted the right to be candidates to serve on the School Boards. Several feminists saw this as an opportunity to show they were capable of public administration. In 1870, four women, Flora Stevenson, Lydia Becker, Emily Davies and Elizabeth Garrett were elected to local School Boards. Elizabeth Garrett, a popular local doctor, obtained more votes Marylebone than any other candidate in the country. Until 1870, the education provided to the vast mass of general population incapable of paying for it in public schools [6] was obtained through the Sunday schools [7], the Dame schools [8], and the Ragged schools [9] eventually run by the Ragged School Union which had established about 350 of these before the 1870 Education Act. Since English was established in the American colonies well before 1870, it is unsurprising that little education was available to the colonials. Considering the effect of political need some saw in emphasising differences between Britain and the newly independent USA, such as Webster's dictionary of 1824, it easily understood how uneducated English usage was corrupted throughout the American society. The article also ought to point out that 'English' is a language made up of not only Latin and 'germanic' vocabularies, but also the already corrupted French 'german', and of course Celtic languages. 'English' is therefore twice-a-bastard, being a corruption of a corruption twice mixed and therefore not a highly [phonemic writing system]! As a result the language had not achieved grammatic formalisation of the standard German (often called Hochdeutsch in German), and lagged behind in publication of dictionaries, the [[Grimm brothers]] publishing theirs for German in 1860, while the first volume of the Oxford Dictionary was only published in 1888. Of course Classical French (français classique) had much earler beginnings with the foundation of the Académie française (French Academy) in 1634 by Cardinal Richelieu. Thus much of the confusion about the nature of 'English' usage in the United States comes from a combination of the lack of education by the many migrants during the early period of the 18th and 19th centuries, and the multitude of dialects already existing in the British Isles before 1870 when education for the general public was first introduced. To this can be added the influence of French speakers in the South attempting to learn 'English', and later the influence of African slaves trying to do same. The effect of the influence of the other European migrants arriving in their greatest numbers between [1848] and the start of the the American Civil War must surely also add to the melting pot of corruptions already existing in the English usage of the United States now 'enshrined as 'AmE'(AE, AmEng, USEng, en-US?!). I'll leave it to others to tidy this up with politically correct way to say that bad American usage of English is due to lack of education in the 18th and 19th century British Isles and United States of America, where illiteracy was common well into the 20th century.--Mrg3105 00:15, 18 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • An interesting thesis, but there's little if anything here which should be reflected in the article: (1) because the article is intended as a simple review of different usages on different sides of the Atlantic, and this material goes way beyond what is required; (2) because Mrg3105's points constitute original research; (3) because the thesis in question is decidedly open to debate, especially in its naive assumption about what is "correct" and what constitutes an "error" in language. In summary, this is an interesting opinion piece, but not suitable for inclusion in this Wikipedia article. Snalwibma 06:13, 18 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • How did different usages on different sides of Atlantic emerge?
    • Which part of what I wrote is 'original research'?
    • Which part of what I said is open to debate?
    • What is YOUR assumption about what is correct and what is an error in the English language?

As far as I'm concerned, some people in any society set standards. These standards are what is considered correct. Certain people in the British Empire, most of them professors of language disciplines of various types, and literary identities set those standards, and they were later instrumental in the above-mentioned Act of Parliament that enacted the creation of an education system. They set a standard, and most of the population did not conform to the standard usage. This was manifested in general mispronunciation of words, and their incorrect usage within the sentence structure. If you have ever spoken to anyone from Hull, you would know what I meant. So what you end up with is not simple review, but simplistic and superficial article that neither informs nor explains. What it comes out as is that Americans just happen to speak differently, and not that Americans speak differently because they inherited uneducated masses from British Empire and rest of Europe which remained uneducated to this day when instead of fixing the problem Americans just decided that speaking the wrong way is perfectly fine. Of course who wants to face the facts when the US education system struggles to equip its graduates with basic communication skills. Maybe if Americans thought about what they say and how they say it they wouldn't need guns to defend themselves? The pen is mightier then the sword after all...--Mrg3105 15:42, 18 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

  • Well, in essence, who is to be the adjudicator of what constitutes "speaking the wrong way", and who determines what is the right way? You appear to be setting yourself up as such an adjudicator, and hence it is original research. As for your implication that people from Hull mispronounce words - as a Yorkshre resident I strongly object! I am more likely to consider the pronuncations heard in and around London as "wrong". The suggestion of including more on how different usages emerged on different sides of Atlantic does indeed have merit. But where is the evidence for your explanation? Snalwibma 17:16, 18 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
    • I think to begin with, you will need a link this article to the history of development of Modern English. No doubt you are aware that even in England proper, language has developed subject to influences from diverse migrations from elsewhere to the island. The British Isles are in fact the prototypical microcosm of the United States in language development.

Subsequently a 'standard' English was only just being defined following perhaps 1800 years of ‘simmering’ in the original ‘melting pot’ when migration to the United States was taking place from there. Whatever the quaintness of the various regional dialects on the islands, including Yorkshire, of which I believe there are some 40-odd, the English that was taught from 1870s onwards was defined in terms of phonetics and grammar as a standard form of communication adjudged to be correct in the opinion of qualified speakers at the time. This was an achievement long time in coming considering the same had been achieved in France and Germany somewhat earlier. The effect of this delay was that regional English, Welsh, Scot and Irish dialects travelled to the United States, and affected the use of English there as much, as lack of education available to the general public in colonies had done until 1776. Since the Revolution, political desire to invent artificial differentiation between language usage in the newly created country as an emphasis of its independence from the British Empire of the time dominated development of ‘American English’. The correctness you accuse me of trying to define had more to do with politics then phonetics. Well before this occurred though, society in England had already defined the 'proper' usage as it always does at the level of the elite. Correct way of speaking, and writing was the only available way for social advancement, and English may well be responsible for founding the science of speech training as 'new money' individuals found themselves requiring assistance in communicating to enable participation in the desirable social circle otherwise known as the 'High Society' of the Victorian Era. Of course in the United States the notion of such a social division was a political anathema, and despite many suggestions produced for reform of the language used in the new republic, including making Hebrew its official language, none were accepted for political reasons. This later aided Webster in promoting 'uniqueness' of the 'American English' by writing his own dictionaries and textbooks, which of course anyone could do given there was little control over printing and no education authority to control such publications. All it took was to find suitably patriotic editors and printers, and voila, the American English was born! Now, am I setting myself as an 'adjudicator' of standard English? Is London English 'correct'? I'm not prepared to say on either proposition. I would suggest that Modern English evolved, and since London evolved as the seat of authority of England, Britain, the British Empire, United Kingdom and Commonwealth of Nations, it has the historical authority to define the form of communication used throughout its scope of authorities, which includes education because the ultimate objective is to enable clear communication throughout the population. One way to ensure this is to standardise the system of education and its delivery. This was achieved in the 1870s, and ought to have been accepted throughout the population. However full literacy was not achieved in England until possibly after WW2. In the United States full literacy was not achieved until the 1970s , and even now remains at 98%, which means that over 6 million people can't read or write to an acceptable level of communication within the American society. How widespread this was in a much earlier period when one considers that even in 1900, only 31 states required 8 to 14-year-olds to attend school from the total of 45 states then in the Union? Of course if you are an educator, you will know that speech is more difficult to change after the age of 7, particularly where there is no standard recognised in the society. It does however change due to social and peer influence after the age of 14 to conform to the social and community standards whatever they are! In effect, the difference between the English as standardised through the 1870s Victorian reforms, and American English usage, arose because of the legalisation of illiteracy for political reasons in United States of America by not adopting the British standards in the late 19th century. It is for the same reason that the Government of United States has not forced the country to adopt the metric system to bring America into the 20th century, and now to adopt more environmentally sound energy policies to bring Americans to the 21st century standards. I dare say that the United States is, in terms of adopting standards, the most backward of developed countries in the World, and it all begun with education of course. So how does all this sit with your article's treatment of nouns and verbs across the Atlantic? What is being suggested the article should address, is a bit like describing a case of dermatitis, and saying "Oh, its all right, he is just redder in different places then the rest of us"! The fact that the patient should have done something about the condition earlier, and that the treatment was not rendered because of prejudice towards medical profession, seems to have no bearing on the subject! Well, I wish you the best of luck with it. Sorry for being 'original'. I have encountered this attitude in other articles in Wikipedia. The preponderance of presentation of facts without any regard for context or desire to inform and educate. No wonder Wikipedia has acquired a reputation for a starting place of research and not a source one seeks out seeking definitive statements on the subject. --Mrg3105 04:08, 19 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It's core Wikipedia policy. If you have a problem with that, you shouldn't be contributing to Wikipedia. Jimbo Wales, the Wikimedia Foundation, the Arbitration Committee, and numerous administrators have all reiterated the importance of the no original research and neutral point of view policies in terms of preserving the neutrality and reliability of Wikipedia. There are many ways to write neutral, informative, and educational articles on Wikipedia without presenting original research. For a great example, see my work on Lawyer. --Coolcaesar 05:14, 20 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
However, although I am aware of Wikipedia policy, I have not been shown which part of the suggested is original research. The Act of British Parliament and institution of educational reforms are facts. Limited provision of primary and secondary education in the Isles, colonial America and the United States for most of the 19th century are also facts. Degree of variance in language use due to poor education standard is also a fact, the reason education was made universal and obligatory in most countries. Have I suggested anything new? Its all old news that has been left out of the article! --Mrg3105 01:00, 21 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Some interesting points Mrg3105, but maybe differences in Englishes occur not because of uneducation, but just because of distance and time. You use French as an example, I assume because of the Academie Francais that Quebec French is exactly the same as Paris French? -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 11:59, 20 August 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]
The point I am making is not that American usage of English is different, which is patently obvious, but that there is a history to how this occurred and why. This has been completely avoided in the article.

The French speakers in Quebec did not reform their usage for political reasons, nor did they decree that they are different from European French population and therefore should speak differently. I don't have data on education of French speakers in 19th century Canada, but obviously the differences are not so great that one can readily attribute them to the education system. There are changes in usage, but they are minor by comparison, and may well be an influence of living in an English speaking social environment. As an example, I doubt very much that a French speaking Canadian applying for a position in France would still use a feminine to describe his profession in the application fully knowing that this would be immediately seen as a grammatical error by the reader.--Mrg3105 01:14, 21 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You still don't get it. There are two issues here. First, you are not citing sources for your "facts." Certainly, there are some propositions that are so widely known that they do not need citation (e.g. the sky on a sunny day is always blue) but for more complex factual propositions, especially in the context of history (where most of the key players are dead and their frame of reference has faded into the past), it is very important to cite to sources.
Second, the conclusions you are drawing from your expressly stated premises are wildly speculative and poorly reasoned. You are arguing a very complex thesis---that the differences between American English and British English reflect a stubborn cultural resistance against adopting other countries' standards---that is simply not convincing because your premises, express and implicit, are so poorly supported and your leaps of logic are so difficult to follow. It is because your argument is so novel and speculative that it counts as original research.
On the other hand, if you could cite nine or ten articles by distinguished linguists at universities on both sides of the Atlantic that support your argument, or at least give it serious consideration if not outright support, then you would have a much stronger case for putting that argument in the article. There is nothing wrong with putting daring propositions in Wikipedia, but only if they have already been proposed and thoroughly chewed over somewhere else in some other form of publication (especially the world of peer-reviewed academic articles), so that they are no longer original research.
To be clearer about why your premises are so weak: your argument has several major weaknesses. For example, one major problem with raising literacy levels in the U.S. is that its population is far more heterogeneous than most other countries, and it keeps getting newcomers from even more diverse (and less developed) places as soon as it figures out how to assimilate the last wave of immigrants. Another major factor is the relatively large size of the United States and the vast empty distances between its major cities. And there is the phenomenon of linguistic divergence which has been noted in practically every language where one group of speakers became geographically isolated. I would elaborate further but I have more important things to do tonight, than try to teach what is taught in any basic college course in critical thinking.--Coolcaesar 03:47, 21 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Likewise I also have better things to do, and was only proposing that the individual/s who look after or created this article, add the introduction section on the history of how the differences in English usage occurred. That problems with English usage predate the creation of the United States of America is fairly easy to show, if I had the inclination to go and research the subject. Very complex thesis indeed! Let's see: poverty + no standard education + lack of governance of education + political separatism = no standard in usage of language. Yes, that's complex. However I'll leave it to those who had a course of basic critical thinking to understand how it is that a new usage of English spontaneously arose in the ex-British colonies.--Mrg3105 04:52, 21 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
if I had the inclination to go and research the subject. - aye there's the rub. If you've no inclination to research it, why put the argument forward? Do you expect someone else to do it because you can't be bothered, because chances are that they can't be bothered either.It is my belief that American English differs from British English to the degree that it does simply because of the massive amount of vocabulary we have had over the last 200 years. For example "faucet" could be used instead of "tap" - one became the standard in English, the other in American. The large amount of synonyms results in different words for the same thing becoming the norm in different places. French or Spanish has far less synonyms, therefore far less variation. Do I have cites for this theory? No. As a result, I won't be including it in the article. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 13:18, 21 August 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]
My point exactly. Thanks, Boothman, for further clarifying the issue. Essentially Mrg3105 wants the article to include original research and speculative personal opinion but is too lazy to do the hard work of finding citations to back it up. Boo hoo. As the Arbitration Committee and Jimbo Wales have noted in numerous cases, the burden rests on the editor desiring to insert content to establish that it is neutral and it is not original research. If you don't have the time or energy to do that, go away. --Coolcaesar 16:41, 21 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Wow, Coolcaesar. Not content with statements like, "For a great example, see my work..." and "I have more important things to do tonight, than try to teach...", you tell a fellow editor to "go away". Welcome to Wikipedia, Mrg3105 :-) --Nigelj 20:34, 22 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Belated responses[edit]

Aside from not complying with Wikipedia policies regarding original research, citations, etc., I see the problem with Mrg3105’s statements in a different light. Firstly, the article herein under discussion purports to illustrate differences in the way AmE and BrE are spoken today. It does not attempt to explain those differences, nor to provide an historical understanding of the developmental paths of the two dialects. Remember, the article is entitled, “American and British English differences.” It is not entitled, “A History of American and British English differences.” Secondly, Mrg3105 naïvely and insultingly assumes that the 19th Century lack of American “school education” and literacy has continued, unabated, into the 21st Century. I think that Mrg3105’s comments are motivated less by a desire to inform our linguistic understanding of the differences between American and British English than by an anti-Americanism perhaps engendered by a dissatisfaction with the politics of the United States under the Cheny (er, Bush) Administration. This is evidenced by some of Mrg3105's comments, such as:

  • “Maybe if Americans thought about what they say and how they say it they wouldn't need guns to defend themselves?”
  • Highlighting the current Administration’s failure to “adopt more environmentally sound energy policies to bring Americans to the 21st century standards”
  • Anti-semitism suggested by the outlandish comment that “making Hebrew … [the American Republic’s] official language” was seriously proposed or considered and, if indeed this was true, that a free and frank discussion of all such suggestions would not have been desirable in a free and democratic society
  • Faulting the young Republic for having “little control over printing,” suggesting that control over the printing presses of a nation would ever be desirable in, again, a free and democratic society
  • Suggesting that a literacy rate of 98% is unacceptably low. Conversely, suggesting that an illiteracy rate of just 2% is unacceptably high
  • Referring to the United States as “the most backward of developed countries in the World”

I think that what Mrg3105 is really suggesting is that the entire article be “binned” since AmE amounts to little more than an unacceptable local patois and that an article entitled, “American and British English differences,” elevates the English patois of the North American contintent to an undeserved level. How does one say, “hokum” in the official English which Mrg3105 advocates?! SpikeToronto (talk) 08:27, 26 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Bollucks, perhaps? ;) - BillCJ (talk) 07:39, 27 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Which one is correct ?[edit]

Hi, I need someone to help me on this "American and British English differences". I'm a Malaysian citizen, OK fine. As for ethnicity (a must in Malaysia), my ancestor is Chinese migrated to the British Malaya (now Malaysia) some 100 years ago. OK now my question is, which one do you think is correct Malaysian-Chinese or Chinese-Malaysian? Thanks. Khip laiing 06:24, 22 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

This is a bit of a conundrum, and may even be a UK/US difference. In the UK we say "British Asians" to refer to people of Asian origin in the UK. In the US I have heard the term "African American" to refer to Americans of African origin. So I don't know but it is an interesting question! -- Q Chris
Posted at the same time as Q Chris and covering much the same point: By analogy with the American English "Irish American", "African American" you would be "Chinese Malaysian". Conversely, "British Indian", "British Hindu" (see Hindu Voice] magazine for examples) is used by settlers in Britain. I think the US example has more weight, but not a lot of help so far—sorry. --Old Moonraker 07:03, 22 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thing is, you can't be a British, you can only be a Briton, so British has to come first in those examples ("Indian British" is wrong). I would say Chinese Malaysian sounds better because you can use it both singularly and adjectivally (I am a Chinese Malaysian, I am Chinese Malaysian), whereas "I am a Malaysian Chinese" sound awkward. It's a matter of personal preference I think rather than US/UK difference. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 10:56, 22 August 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]
It depends on the context. You are correct that "British Indian" can be used as a noun, whereas the corresponding reversed noun would be "Indian Briton", as in "He is an Indian Briton". On the other hand as an adjective either would do, "Indian British teenagers say..." or "British Indian teenagers say...". Similarly you could say "He is Indian British" or "He is British Indian", and both are grammatically correct. -- Q Chris 11:49, 22 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Do we have a Br/Am difference over the use of this word Briton? I see it in the article and I think it's usually been added by US editors. I imagine s/he wanted to say colloquially, "Brits say this" or "A Brit would say that", but has tried to be more formal and so altered it. Here in the UK my lifelong experience is that we never use the word, other than rarely in the context of "Ancient Britons" when referring, say, to the Iron or Bronze Age. We may say, "The British say this" or "A British person would say that". We would be more likely to say "Scots say this", "In Birmingham they say that" and "British Indian teenagers say..." I.e. I don't think we have as much of an overarching concept of 'Britishness' as Americans seem to have for us. And when we do, we are "the British", not modern-day "Britons". Now, where to begin looking for citations to put any of this into the article?? --Nigelj 20:11, 22 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Yes the use of Britain in the sense of someone from Britain sounds very old fashioned now, bringing up images of this poster!
The much-imitated 1914 Lord Kitchener Wants You poster.
-- Q Chris 22:07, 22 August 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I am a Briton, but I only use the term in the context of "what someone might say". I hate the word "brit", it's like what you'd read in the Sun. I meant in my earlier paragraph,that you cannot be an Indian British (as a noun), so maybe British Indian is always used because the word Indian can be used as both a noun and an adjective. -- Boothman /tɔːk/ 12:27, 23 August 2007 (UTC).Reply[reply]

Hi again, I have another similar question, I hope you guys can help me again. Ok the question is, let's assume I'm a Malaysian citizen (born in Malaysia) and now I married a Chinese (a citizen born of China) and then I moved to live in China with my spouse permanently and I got my new Chinese passport and I also abandoned my Malaysian citizenship. Now, what is my identity, Malaysian-Chinese or Chinese-Malaysian? Khip laiing 14:23, 28 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Are you doing this just to make us bicker? I think we decided over all that 'Briton' stuff that either way is correct. But I dare say that in AmE you put your heritage first and your nationality second (Malaysian-Chinese). Although, even if an immigrant becomes a citizen of their new country (like China), I doubt many people would call them Chinese since they weren't actually born or raised there -- at least in unofficial conversation. Officially they would be Chinese. (talk) 20:31, 20 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

British words that have American origins[edit]

I think we should add a section of words that the British use that come from the US. One example would be "carpetbagger".

See: —Preceding unsigned comment added by Elzoog (talkcontribs) 04:07, 6 September 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

please make it a complete new page not a section. This article is too long already. -- Q Chris 13:18, 2 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]


I am British and an American once asked me "Hey, where's St Pauls?" Obviously in BrE this should be "Excuse me". It's a small point but it jarred and irked me.  SmokeyTheCat  •TALK• 13:13, 2 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Obviously you're suffering from some misconceptions about how Americans actually talk. He was being informal, which might be a little bit rude when talking to strangers but which is only a big deal if you actually care about strict politeness that much. Kensai Max 03:37, 4 October 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Hey! Don’t judge us all by one experience. Most Americans would have started with, “Pardon me …,” while most Canadians would have led with, “Excuse me …,” or “Please excuse me …” (the latter are so polite after all!). When I was growing up as a child in the United States and a teenager/young adult in Canada, “hey” was actively discouraged in both countires with the retort, “Hey is for horses!” By the way, the American “Hey!” is akin to the British “Oy!”. SpikeToronto (talk) 08:37, 26 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Thanks (or Thank you)[edit]

To all of the editors who have worked on this article, thank you! In spite of the two tags currently placed on it, this is a really interesting, informative, and thorough effort. One of the best. Good show. Tim Ross·talk 13:01, 28 November 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The forest for the trees[edit]

Since it's not the first time that somebody tries to change this: *See the forest through the trees doesn't make any sense; although somebody does say through for for, it's an error, just like *all of the sudden for all of a sudden. This doesn't mean it will not become an acceptable variant in the future, though---if not the mainstream form. For example, the use of the idiom to beg the question to mean "to raise the question" is technically an error, but it's increasingly common. Jack(Lumber) 14:24, 11 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"See the forest through the trees" makes perfect sense. "I can't see the house through the trees" means the trees are blocking my view of the house, just as "I can't see the house for the trees" does. House, forest. That said, it's not as google-common as "for the trees". jnestorius(talk) 23:29, 12 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Indeed it makes sense, but the question is, does it make the same sense as the British expression "can't see the wood for the trees" (i.e. to be concentrating on small details at the expense of the big picture")? And AFAIK it does not - i.e. the American expression with that meaning is "can't see the forest for the trees". Snalwibma (talk) 08:33, 13 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
In the standard idiom (i.e., for), the forest is actually made up of those trees---the house is not. I can't see the forest for the trees = I am unable to recognize that these trees are in fact a forest. Replace for with through and the meaning changes. Why should the trees block my view of the forest? The trees ARE the forest! Jack(Lumber) 14:47, 13 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I interpret the phrase the same way as you, but with an added layer of irony. The answer to your question "Why should the trees block my view of the forest?" is, to quote you again, "I am unable to recognize that these trees are in fact a forest". It's not that the trees are really blocking my view, it's that I think they are.
You seem to be interpreting for in Merriam-Webster's definition sense 2a "as being or constituting <taken for a fool> <eggs for breakfast>"; I'm interpreting it in sense 3 "because of <can't sleep for the heat>". Other similar constructions: "you probably couldn't see me for the lights" (Arctic Monkeys); "can't concentrate for the noise"; etc. If I were to take your interpretation (i.e. can't recognise the trees as the forest), I would say "can't see the trees for the forest" rather than vice versa; thus, "seeing" is mentally combining the parts into the whole rather than analysing the whole into its parts. I don't say "through the trees" myself, but I guess now I can understand why some people felt the need to recast the idiom into something (for them) more comprehensible. jnestorius(talk) 17:10, 13 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Nice try, but I'm with Jack! I think "can't see the forest through the trees" is just an error arising from ignorance. And I think you have the interpretation of for completely wrong. Or rather, you give the right meaning but you completely misinterpret Jack's use of "for". In this context it does indeed mean "because of", and it's perfectly straightforward, with no layers of irony needed: I can't see the forest (the whole) because I'm too preoccupied with focusing on the trees (the parts). All quite simple. Snalwibma (talk) 18:01, 13 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Okay, so we all have the same understanding of "for the trees": are you Snalwibma saying that Americans who say "can't see the forest through the trees" actually mean something other than "concentrating on small details at the expense of the big picture"; or are you saying they mean that but use an inappropriate phrase to express it? jnestorius(talk) 18:32, 13 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Well... To start with, in real life I have never heard or seen the phrase used with through in place of for, so this is all speculation - but I reckon the meaning is (or is meant to be) exactly the same. The substitution of through for for, I would guess, happens because someone doesn't quite grasp the meaning of the phrase and uses what seems to be a more obvious word. But the pity is that it turns it into a less metaphorical phrase, something more dull and literalist, a phrase that focuses on literal trees more than on the speaker's perceptions, one that is not so deep and full of meaning:
  1. I can't see the forest through the trees: I can see the individual trees but I can't see the forest. They block my view. I am too stupid to realise that the trees are the forest.
  2. I can't see the forest for the trees: I am focusing on the individual trees. I am preoccupied with each one's treeness and small-scale importance. I have forgotten (if I ever knew) that lots of trees = one forest. Of course I can see the forest, but I can't really see it in any meaningful way. I don't understand it. I can see only lots of treenesses, and I don't appreciate, grasp, understand or truly see the forestness of it all.
Of course, all this is just my own opinion. Snalwibma (talk) 20:15, 13 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The layer of irony that Joesty suggests is indeed way too subtle for the average American, who doesn't have the kind of hallucinating imagination he/she would need to conceive something along the lines of "I think that the trees are blocking my view so they won't let me see the forest I should otherwise see by just peeking through the trees which in fact are the forest itself..." whew! I gotta go with Snalwibma on this one---if anything, it's safer. Hey, how 'bout "see the forest from the trees" (or "see the wood from the trees")? Jack(Lumber) 21:55, 13 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Oh no, please, enough already... Snalwibma (talk) 22:00, 13 December 2007 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Wait, are you insulting Americans by saying that their small minds don't grasp such subtleties, or are you saying that British people frequently eat shrooms? Either way, I'm offended. In my opinion, it doesn't matter whether you say for or through because you're still expecting the forest to be behind the trees. Snalwibma's explanation of how each quote differed when changing the preposition wasn't different at all. The second was just more wordy and abstract -- treeness, forestness. Damn, hippies. P.S. Jack, you said 'through' not 'because of' the trees in your long-winded interpretation of the quote. (talk) 20:54, 20 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

9/11 and 911[edit]

I have re-stated a sentence removed by SpikeToronto. I have replicated his rational below, for discussion. The sentence is within Dates and is:

"(Unlike the USA and a few other countries, the telephone number for emergency services in the UK is not 911.)"

I have found Americans who are doubly confused by the British reluctance to use "9/11" because, they think, even if we have different date formats, the link to 'emergency' still applies. For that reason, I think it worth highlighting that even "911" means nothing to the average Briton (or to most people outside the USA). --Interesdom (talk) 11:54, 18 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

“The discussion is about date formats. There was no mention of 911 vs 999. Thus, there was no need to clarify differences re: emergency telephone numbers.” SpikeToronto 05:12, 17 January 2008

In Ireland the number "911" works as well as 999 and 112. So somebody was smart enough to add a mapping. Why they don't advertise this in the phone book I've no idea. I think with television, however, there are few people in Britain or Ireland who do not recognize "nine one one". -- Evertype· 19:02, 18 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You’re missing the point here. The sentence I deleted that discusses 911 vs 999 is inappropriate in the dates section. There is simply no 911 vs 999 confusion in that part of the article. No such confusion would be likely to arise in a disussion regarding the date, September 11, notated as either of 9/11 or 11/9 and the events of September 11, 2001. Where a discussion regarding emergency services 911 vs emergency services 999 is more appropriate is in the section on numbers where, in fact, a wikieditor has already included it. Moreover, the distinction has little relevance anyway vis-à-vis emergency services, especially since, in the United States, 9/11 (the date) is verbalized as “nine eleven” while 911 (emergency services) is verbalized as “nine one one.” In North America, the date, September 11, is never verbalized “nine one one”. Also in North America, the emergency services number, 911, is never verbalized as “nine eleven.” So where, then, is the confusion you think is so in need of clarification? SpikeToronto (talk) 04:56, 25 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Your point is understood - but not entirely correct. In Canada, which is part of North America, the emergency number is often verbalized as "nine eleven". Apparently, too many folks in the U.S. complained that they couldn't find the 'eleven' on their phones, so in that North American country they reverted to verbalizing it as "nine one one".Homely (talk) 01:22, 28 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

You’ve got to be kidding! I’ve lived in Canada for over 30 years and have never heard anyone say “nine-eleven” in reference to calling for emergency services. It’s even printed as “9-1-1” (i.e., “nine-one-one”) on both the Toronto Police Services’ cars and its website. I believe, if pressed, that you could provide neither (1) evidence of it being said “nine-eleven” in Canada, nor (2) that it was changed because of the relative stupidity of Americans. This idea that Canada’s neighbours to the south are so lacking in intelligence — especially when compared to their Einsteinian neighbours to the north — has been the source of so many anti-American, Canadian wives’ tales and urban myths I’ve heard my entire life, so often uttered by a certain generation of Canadians desperate to make themselves feel better by saying things intended to improve their self-worth by relatively reducing the worth of their American neighbours. My entire enducational career since grade seven, my entire working life since I obtained my first after-school job as a teenager, has been in Canada, and neither has ever exposed me to someone saying “nine-eleven” in reference to calling for emergency services. Where do such imaginings and inventions come from? SpikeToronto (talk) 06:59, 28 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I don't know - maybe outside of Toronto? Check out our very own Wikipedia's 9-1-1 entry to see the confirmation that users were unable to find the 'eleven' on their telephones, so the verbalization was then changed to 'nine one one'. Never say never. Unless you're from Toronto, or the U.S. - then, you have the right to say "it is NEVER verbalized as ...". What they mean is 'well, in OUR universe it's not. At least not amongst the 200 or so people that I've heard use it. Actually, come to think of it, I suppose I can't say 'it's NEVER verbalized' since I haven't listened to EVERYONE in North America." Homely (talk) 14:51, 28 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Just because you read it in a Wikipedia artcle does not mean it is correct. The mere fact of a statement’s appearance in Wikipedia does not imbue that statement with the tint of truth. An unreferenced statement, in a completely unsourced wikiarticle, does not elevate that statement to the level of a “confirmation”. I will point out, however, that the title of the wikiarticle is “9-1-1” and not “9-11”. Further, being from both the U.S. and Toronto — one of your requisite qualifications — I stand by the position that Canadians do not say “nine eleven” regarding emergency services. This makes us sound ignorant. Moreover, the “golden horseshoe” accounts for virtually a quarter of Canada’s population, almost 60% of Ontario’s population, and approximately 60% of the nation’s population growth over the last several years.[[10]] The lion’s share of that population and accompanying population growth is in the GTA.[[11]] The bulk of Canadian manufacturing, finance, and media are concentrated in this region. Thus, linguistically, as goes the GTA, so (eventually) goes the nation. Now, can you point to a region in Canada of similarly signifcant population size and density that has such an influence on the speech patterns of the nation? Even if you could, to suggest that that area’s highly unusual and isolated verbalizing of 9-1-1 as “nine eleven”, instead of the far more common “nine one one”, is to suggest that the tail should wag the dog. As for “[n]ever say never”, the logical conclusion of your argument is that the word, “never,” should be stricken from the English language, since you will not permit its use. SpikeToronto (talk) 21:17, 28 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

No, sweetheart, I'm not saying that. I'm just saying, don't be so adamant that something is 'never' done in an entire country. Or Continent. Even though, as you so readily point out, your portion of the country is the largest, it doesn't give you the right to speak for the entire country. Sorry about that! Here's another link outside of Wikipedia to substantiate the change from '9-11 to 9-1-1', due to user's confusion with 'no 'eleven' on the telephone key pad [[12]]. In fact, if you search you'll find that many government agencies, such as this one, are still encouraging folks to verbalize it as nine-one-one, so as not to confuse their inhabitants due to their inability to find the 'eleven' on the telephone keypad. Kind of makes one think that the statement "it is never verbalized as nine-eleven anywhere in North America" may be a tad exagerrated. But, as you pointed out, just because I read that in a Wikipedia article, or much less a Wikipedia talk page, does not mean it is correct., or that it has a tint of truth to it! Thanks for reminding me of THAT! I hope this meets with your requirements. And then, we can move off of this topic! Next topic - how to remove a bee from a bonnet.Homely (talk) 22:24, 28 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

The real topic here, which I think you lost sight of with your original comment, is that a discussion of emergency services 999 vs emergency services 911 belongs in the numbers section of this article and not in the dates section. There was no confusion regarding this matter in the latter section and there was clarification of 9-9-9 vs 9-1-1 in the former. Where you and I began to have our disagreement was your concern over my use of the word, never, which I promise to never, ever use again! SpikeToronto (talk) 00:10, 29 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Just (recent past)[edit]

My sense (as a Canadian) of the use of "just" to convey the recent past is that it often carries a notion of durative/ongoing recent past: I just got home and I'm still in the process of just-getting-home (feeding the cat, sending the dog out for a squirt, checking voice mail, firing up the woodstove, carrying in the groceries, etc.) MaxEnt (talk) 00:17, 24 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I Could Care Less[edit]

I've noticed that folks from the U.S. use the term "I could care less", while in Britain and Canada and other nations, the term is "I couldn't care less". One seems to indicate that there is a further degree which their care could decrease ("I COULD care less") while the other seems to indicate that one has reached the end of their caring ability ("I COULDN'T care less"). Have you noticed this as well? Is this simply a matter of one not understanding what they're saying? Is it across the board in the U.S.? It seems to me that the intention of anyone using this phrase would be "I could not care less"Homely (talk) 22:47, 28 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Read the article. The phrase could care less (which is also used in Canada, btw--google it!) is sometimes stigmatized and/or considered incorrect, notwithstanding the fact that it has become an idiom, and idioms are neither correct nor incorrect by definition... Jack(Lumber) 00:21, 29 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I agree with Jack(Lumber) regarding idiom: Is a seemingly, idiomatically correct phrase incorrect simply because it is a colloquialism? Years ago, when I was at university, I had a tutor, hailing from Sheffield, who corrected me on this phrase. I had said that I could care less about a matter under discussion, to which she responded, “I think you mean, ‘I couldn’t care less.’” When she clarified the error of my statement, I realized that she was, of course, correct. Ever since, I have been acutely aware of never again saying it incorrectly, as well as being acutely sensitive to when others around me say it incorrectly, not that I make a habit of correcting them. Further, I think that you are correct, Homely, that the intent of both statements is the same: the speaker has reached the extent of their ability to care about the issue under consideration. However, I think that even when the phrase is said incorrectly as “I could care less,” its meaning is still quite clear to any listener familiar with English idiom. Moreover, I do not think that it is a “matter of one not understanding what they're saying.” Primarily, I think that it is the result of individual and group repetition of a seemingly, idiomatically correct phrase with such frequency of occurrence and duration of repetition (i.e., years and years) that the idea of parsing the phrase, “I could care less,” to determine its flaw just would not occur to most listeners, and especially not to the speaker. Also, I do not think that this is unique to the United States. I have begun to observe this more and more in contemporary British television fare. For example, I have heard more than one character on Coronation Street use the phrase, “I could care less” when, of course, they meant, “I couldn’t care less.” Is this the influence of the so-called hegemony of American mass culture? Or, is there a linguistic linkage that ties the use of the phrase in certain regions of the U.S. to the north of England? This is for the linguisitc experts amongst us to say; I can only pose the questions. SpikeToronto (talk) 03:09, 29 January 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Write (to) me[edit]

As a Briton living in the US, my speech is picked up on all the time and conversely I notice differences too. One that is obvious and common but has not been mentioned is “Write me” meaning “write a letter (e-mail) to me”. The grammar in this sentence is, to me, incorrect and should be “write to me”. Otherwise it can be taken to mean take a piece of paper and write “me”. Gmhillier (talk) 23:27, 4 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

It has been mentioned: American_and_British_English_differences#Transitivity. Jack(Lumber) 19:46, 5 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Also, it is not a matter of “correct” or “incorrect.” The British Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary does indeed indicate the difference of which you speak. It does not, however, make any prescriptivist statements as to one being more correct than the other. One is merely shown as being “US” while the other is shown as being “UK.” I believe the difference comes from the treatment in AmE of the verb, write, as a transitive verb (“write.” Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged. Merriam-Webster, 2002), compared to the treatment in BrE of the verb, write, as either a transitive or an intransitive verb (“write.” Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, [13]). I must admit, though, I often get confused by “transitive” and “intransitive” … — SpikeToronto (talk) 08:20, 6 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

on or in Islands/Isles[edit]

When talking about small islands, Americans usually say "on" the island, whereas the British tend to say "in" the island. For example: "My relatives live on Long Island," in American English, and "We can rent a cottage in the Isle of Wight," in British English. I guess this can be somewhat of a gray (or grey) area, as an American could say "In the British Isles, different linguistic terminologies are used that are not common in the United States." I don't know if this distinction is worth adding. I guess it's similar to on the street v. in the street. Please, correct me if I'm mistaken. - (talk) 13:14, 8 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think you are wrong to suggest that the British say "in" the island, and I doubt if there is a difference here worth recording (or indeed any difference at all). In BrE, just as in AmE, I think it depends partly on the size of the island - but also, and perhaps more crucially, on whether its status as an island (its "islandness"?) is an issue. For example, big islands may also be countries, and when I say "in Greenland" or "in Britain" I am barely aware that those are islands. But when I am thinking of the geographical unit rather than the political/national entity, "on" becomes more likely. Think about Ireland. The phrase "in Ireland" is ambiguous, because it could refer to either the nation-state of the Republic of Ireland or to the island that is shared by two states, so when I want to make myself clear I am likely to say something like "on the island of Ireland", or "in the Republic". And it would be "on Timor", but "in East Timor". So I think that islands take on while nations (and presumably also subdivisions of nations - states, provinces, and maybe also sub-counties like the Isle of Wight) take in. Though, FWIW, this particular speaker of BrE would always (OK, almost always) say "on the Isle of Wight". Snalwibma (talk) 14:09, 8 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I looked up the word in in Webster's 3rd New International Dictionary (the big fat Webster unabridged), and I have to admit that I nearly fell on the floor when I read (emphasis mine):
1 a (1) — used as a function word to indicate location or position in space or in some materially bounded object ... (2) chiefly Brit: ON <squatting down ~ his heels —R.M.Daw> <tramcars which run ~ tracks —Manual of Firemanship (Gt. Brit.)> <best dwelling house ~ the island —Padraic Fallon> (3) : INTO ...
I believe it's gotta be dialectal or obsolete. Jack(Lumber) 19:59, 8 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I think that the reason one says, “in the Isle of Wight” is merely because it is an Englsh county, and thought by BrE speakers as more of a county of England than as an Island. As Snalwibma said above, “nations (and presumably also subdivisions of nations — states, provinces, [counties,] and maybe also sub-counties like the Isle of Wight) take in.” — SpikeToronto (talk) 03:16, 9 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Verbalization of Nouns[edit]

AmE frequently tends to verbalize nouns thus creating new verbs, e.g. "to father a child", "to gun down a suspect", or "to pressure someone". Although the OED accepts some of those constructions, the style manuals of British publications like The Economist recommend that they should be avoided, describing them as "Americanisms". (talk) 23:37, 13 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Political vocabulary[edit]

Like the education section, there should be another section about different choices of words in American and British English for political terms. For example, in the US candidates "run for president" whereas in the UK one "stands for parliament" (=tries to get elected as an MP). (talk) 23:37, 13 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

That might be a good point. Another example is that liberal means something different in UK political theory/science than it does in US political theory/science. — SpikeToronto (talk) 01:03, 14 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]


Re this hilarious addition by an English anon: Our language is actually more Americanized than our English friend can imagine! He says, "remember the English stiff upper lip." Well, I'm pretty sure he doesn't know that the phrase stiff upper lip is an Americanism... [14] Britons seem to have a tendency to use American expressions to describe themselves--how about Rip-Off Britain? rip-off is a nouned phrasal verb of American origin--speaking of which, the article could use a "Morphology" section, as User: suggested a couple of posts ago. Jack(Lumber) 16:16, 19 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Season or Series regarding Television[edit]

In American English, series refers to the program, and season is a subset of episodes first-aired during a specified time period. In British English, it appears series is equivalent to the American season, and the television program (or programme) is collectively refered to as a television series. The article Television program touches on this. I feel it should be added beacause there is a Wikipedia article that deals with this difference in AmE and BrE, and there are numerous Wikipedia articles about various television shows from around the world, and both terms may appear in these articles and even conflict one another. As an American, reading "[John Cleese felt] many of his sketches in the third series were merely rewrites of his earlier work" seems to imply that the third series was a third television show in the Monty Python franchise, when in fact it means it was the third season of the original show. I'm not going to add it, I'm just suggesting it. - (talk) 02:25, 20 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Feel free to add it if it isn't already there (I'm surprised). As you said, British English refers to the whole program as a tv series or just tv programme (he he, British spelling there). The only place the term season occurs in Britain is on DVDs of American tv programmes, thus many people in Britain would say for example "season 3 of Scrubs", although it would probably be equally common for them to use series instead. Note also that British series tend to be a lot shorter (6 - 10 episodes) than American seasons (over 20 episodes). --Hpesoj00 (talk) 18:32, 20 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

British/American Words[edit]

Coming from the UK, I don't agree with the below statement:

Even terms which are heard less frequently in the UK, such as semi (articulated lorry), stroller (pram/pushchair) or kitty-corner/catty-corner (diagonally opposite) are highly unlikely to render the sentence incomprehensible to most BrE speakers.

The equivilent entry regarding Americans' ability to understand English words seems to claim that British people have a better understanding of American words in general.

They will be able to guess approximately what some others, such as “driving licence”, mean. However, use of many other British words such as naff (unstylish, though commonly used to mean "not very good"), risks rendering a sentence incomprehensible to most Americans.

However, taking the three examples given above: "semi" I have heard spoken but didn't know what it was; stroller I have never heard before, and if someone had used "kitty-corner" in sentence, I would have been completely stumped. Looking through the full list briefly, among the words that I haven't a clue about are acetaminophen, backhoe, barrette, baseboard, bayou, blacktop, blinders, bobby pin, boondoggle, Bot's dot, and so on.

What do other Brits think about this? --Hpesoj00 (talk) 18:24, 20 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

If you viewed the history of that paragraph (and WP would be orders of magnitude better if that were a one-click operation) you would learn that those three words (semi, stroller and kitty-corner) used to be cited as examples of Americanisms that would confuse Brits. I know, because I chose them. But since this is WP, someone doubtless desirous of promulgating their conviction that American English is understood everywhere has modified the sentence to imply the opposite. In other words, it's currently gibberish because our local vandals are insufficiently WP:BOLD to find more appropriate nonexamples to substantiate their dubious claims. Do feel free to correct it. —Blotwell 19:16, 20 February 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

"UK traffic officials, firefighters and police officers refer to Lanes 1, 2 and 3 as slow, middle and fast lanes respectively. In the U.S. the meanings are exactly reversed, with Lane 1 referring to the fast lane and so on."

At least here in the Washington, DC area, if the traffic report says 'lane 2 of the beltway is blocked' it means the next-to-rightmost of 4, i.e. lane 1 is the rightmost - slowest, lane 4 the leftmost - fatest, matching the BrE usage. The same lane-numbering standard is used by any of us reporting an issue to emergency services - 1 is rightmost, increasing to X on the left.

séain (talk) 17:37, 2 March 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

That's interesting. California is the other way around. In California, lane 1 is the leftmost, fastest lane. Then the lanes are counted moving from left-to-right, fastest-to-slowest, as 2, 3, 4, and so on (this is taught in both driving school and traffic school which I have attended for speeding). So an accident in lane 1 of Interstate 5 in San Diego would be blocking the fastest lane, while an accident in lane 10 (I-5 has that many lanes on a two-mile segment in north San Diego) would be blocking the slowest lane. --Coolcaesar (talk) 18:36, 2 March 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Haven't (got) a Clue[edit]

It says have no clue is the US equivalent, however, I believe the term "don't have a clue" would be a bit more accurate, or perhaps should also be included, as in: have no clue / don't have a clue. - (talk) 12:24, 17 March 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

A few institutional nouns take no definite article[edit]

In BrE one can write in Parliament or Parliament's troops is this not so in American English? Could one write in Congress in American English or would it have to be in the Congress?

This came up in an edit on the article First English Civil War. An edit was made that changed:

There was some continued organised Royalist resistance in Scotland which lasted until the surrender of Dunottar Castle to Parliament's troops.


There was some continued organised Royalist resistance in Scotland which lasted until the surrender of Dunottar Castle to the Parliament's troops.

But one would write in BrE:

There was some continued organised Royalist resistance in Scotland which lasted until the surrender of Dunottar Castle to the Long Parliament's troops.

and not to do so would be wrong.

Not at all the first version (which is what's in use today) assumes a reference to the third.

If this is a difference between BrE and AmE, please will someone add Parliament to the 'institutional' nouns paragraph. --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 18:14, 8 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Institutions aren't monoliths. They are people. Remember that and you won't need lists.
As a native AE speaker, I'd consider both "in Congress" and "in the Congress" to be acceptable, but the former is far more common and, to my mind, preferable. The latter has something of an old-fashioned ring to it. On the other hand, it's always "in the House" or "in the Senate" -- never "in House" or "in Senate". JamesMLane t c 02:40, 9 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
It's an English article, so English style should be used, per the MoS. If someone changes it, revert it, with this explanation in the summary. Avengah (talk) 00:09, 10 April 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
I was not asking clarification for permission to edit the article, but suggesting that a regular editor of this page add this difference to this page. --Philip Baird Shearer (talk) 12:08, 26 June 2008 (UTC)Reply[reply]
The usage described by JamesMLane above would be more or less identical for the equivalent British (or at that time English) institutions. A matter is debated "in Parliament" or "by Parliament" for the conceptual whole (as per "in Congress"), but with definite articles for the individual chambers and their associated offices, lobbies, committee rooms, restaurants and so on. So a vote takes place "in the House of Commons" and "in the House of Lords" (or just "in the Commons/in the Lords").
Parliament only takes the definite article when specifying one, such as that of another country or a recognised phase of administration – as noted above, it needs to be "the Long Parliament". In the phrase that gave rise to this discussion, it might, at a stretch, be argued that it is "the Parliament's troops" because it is the Long Parliament that is being referred to. But if that is what is intended, why not say "the Long Parliament's troops" and be done with it? If it is important to emphasise that particular Parliament, there is really no excuse for being lazy and missing out the word "Long".
Of course, the whole dispute would become redundant if the text were simply changed to "Parliamentarian troops"... Grubstreet (talk) 09:39, 7 March 2009 (UTC)Reply[reply]