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We keep talking

Justin Webb | 08:37 UK time, Monday, 24 December 2007

The differences between American and British English still confound me even after many years living in the US.

The latest, in a piece I wrote about Kansas evangelicals, is the misuse of the term "Bible basher", which in British English means what "Bible thumper" means in American English.

reginald perrinSome kind correspondents have pointed out that this rather damaged the sense of the piece, at least for US readers!

Hey ho... We keep talking, at least, even if we do not always understand each other.

I am particularly sorry to have messed that one up though, as I like American English. For instance, my children talk about "turning eight" instead of having their eighth birthday: which to me sounds both odd and cute. Or does "cute" mean clever?

Talking of which - Roger Federer for man of the year? Did not see that coming... and intend to Google the chap right away...

Comments   Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 11:00 AM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • John Kecsmar wrote:

I now live in Japan, and the english langauge used is predominantly american english. The American idioms that are used here totally throw me at times. I have been doing some temporary lecturing to post graduate students at Osaka University and i was contantly asked what was my "major" at university...what is a major??? The american education system is very differnet to british. I now know what a "major" is...but i still struggle with "year 2" or "year 5" etc...no idea what this mean. I was brought up with 4th year or 6th form, lower 6th, upper 6th etc. Why was it changed...and when???

Roger Federer, perfect choice. Pure genius. He is no different to Mozart, or Newton, or Einstein etc....only different is, his forte is tennis. His ablity and command and presence is the same as theirs. But sporting personalities seem to be looked down on, because their language is not science or art or indeed words. His achivements will live for ever...just like Mozart et al.

  • 2.
  • At 11:11 AM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • Yank in London wrote:

The endless contrasts between British English and American English get so t-e-d-i-o-u-s. As a Yank living in London and working at very British institution, at least once a week I hear my colleagues complaining loudly about American English while boasting about knowing the true way to speak.

Oh, how tiring to frequently hear how superior the British language is to its cousin across the Atlantic. Of course, it's always said in either quite posh Oxbridge tones or received pronunciation (for you Yanks, RP is a phony middle class accent adopted by someone usually at university to hide one's regional accent in order to appear posh and educated, think Tony Blair)... I never have heard anyone with a Yorkshire or West Country or Liverpudlian or Glaswegian or any sort of regional accent pretending to know the true form of English.

And it makes me wonder if those complaining realize American English has been evolving over the past couple of hundred of years as people from countries that speak other languages have moved to the US and contributed to the formation of the language. A short yet dynamic history.

  • 3.
  • At 11:12 AM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • John B wrote:

You've never heard of Roger Federer?
Ah, not a tennis addict, obviously...but that's understandable, there are only so many things one can follow.
But he wouldn't be a bad choice! Get away from the politicos and pick someone who uses the amazing amounts of money that sports stars make, to do real good in the world.

  • 4.
  • At 12:13 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • John B (not the same one) wrote:

I recently collected "a moot point" - how did people on the western side of the pond understand what Tolkein meant by an ent-moot in LotR? -- the difference about a moot point arose while we were thrashing around in mutual incomprehension in the context of "to table a motion"

Ah well. Compliments of the the season to y'all

  • 5.
  • At 12:30 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • Bob wrote:

I disagree with almost all of what you write but I can't let you fall an innocent victim to the extreme sensitivites of religious zealots. The mix up stemming from the use of English idioms is understandable. Some would do well to recall that Professor Higgins said there are even places where English isn't used at all...like America where they haven't used it for years.

  • 6.
  • At 02:25 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • Keith Ensminger wrote:

I didn't read the headline, so I missed all the hoopla. Actually, bashing means to criticize in American English, so your headline really meant, "Criticizing the Bible is dying out in Kansas." Yes, there is a difference between British and American English. In fact, we get inquiries for translation into British English at our translation company from time to time.

  • 7.
  • At 02:28 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • jhm wrote:

Anyone interested in further exploration of this topic is advised to visit Separated by a Common Language

  • 8.
  • At 02:29 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • RS (expat Brit) wrote:

Ten years living here and I never guessed that "cute" really meant "clever"!

But what sort of "clever" would that be? Intellectual clever, or impertinent clever, or even devious clever?

At election time, it certainly casts a new light on anyone who nonchalantly claims to be voting for the "cutest" candidate!

  • 9.
  • At 02:59 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • Susan Badcock wrote:

Justin, I married a Canadian and have been living here 8 years. I have mastered Canadian English quite well - my kids go for 'needles' (immunizations or jabs), we watch movies rather than films, go to the mall rather than the shops etc. However, every so often, I come out with a phrase that just makes my colleagues look at me like I have lapsed into an obscure dialect of Martian. Trying to finish up for Christmas, I was looking for a particular file on my less than tidy desk and offered up to the room at large: 'Everything is so higgledy piggledy, it could be anywhere'. Just Susan speaking Martian again.

I don't derive any innate sense of superiority from being a 'native' speaker of English though. In Canada with such high immigration levels, many people speak 3 or more languages - English, French and their native tongue for starters. Which is more than I do. (English and rather painful school French).

Joyeux Noel!

  • 10.
  • At 04:15 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • Phil wrote:

Why not call the language american when spoken in the USA and english when spoken in Gt. Britain. Seems too simple really.

Then at least the residents in the USA could be proud to have their own language and not something to be nominally confused with another.

  • 11.
  • At 05:36 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • Kelson V. wrote:

Yes I saw that bible bashing thing, it puzzled me for a moment but it does not take much brainpower to know what you were trying to say, and what you meant the word to be. The issue was more of a technicality than a flaw in the article.

  • 12.
  • At 06:17 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • Janice wrote:

I'm an American who has lived in the UK since 1972, so I'm about as anglicised as I'm ever going to be, albeit with an American accent.

I have to disagree with the person who wrote comment 2. Oxbridge graduates are thin on the ground where I live. Nevertheless, I frequently hear people with a distinctive local accent (and interesting syntax) state that theirs is the definitive form of English. Always said with tongue firmly in cheek. Then again, I live in the provinces! Please, commentator no. 2 - lighten up!

  • 13.
  • At 07:18 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • John Savard wrote:

I happened to notice the item about the blog on the side, because I was wanting to somehow contact people about the article, not only because the term "Bible-thumper" was the usual term used for what was under discussion, even in Canada, but also that "bash" had acquired a colloquial meaning of "criticize severely".

Thus, one would expect a militant atheist, or at least someone opposed to the more literalist forms of religion, to "bash" the Bible.

  • 14.
  • At 08:42 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • Susan wrote:

Recent advert for Disney with Roger Federer as King Arthur somewhere on coast (Cornwall) wonderful. Anyone able to post the link? Great picture!

  • 15.
  • At 09:19 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • Fergus wrote:

As an Englishman who has lived in the US for close to 30 years, I have notice that although I know the differences between English and American English, I am often unable to determine which is which....even so.... let's not call the whole thing off!!! English has been improved by americanism as has American English by UK English... Money is referred to as bread on this side of the pond also.
In reply to Yank in London . I think most people learn, or more likely absorb, RP when they attend Grammer School or equivalent. I remember coming back to my village after attending boarding school for one term and having the boys that I'd played with before avoid me because of my new accent...I was 11 years old!!!

Bible basher? Yes, it does sound a tad hostile, doesn't it? Ah, but do you bash the bible or use the bible to bash?

Even thumping the bible can be a bit violent.

Yes, we will always have those American vs. British English discussions. All you have to do is go to Palin's Travels
https://www.palinstravels.co.uk and someone brings it up.

  • 17.
  • At 11:33 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • Marshall Lentini wrote:

Though the differences are negligible, British English is just different enough to give one a definite sense of alien presence when reading. Strangely, Americans have long deluded themselves that all Britons speak in soothing RP and are therefore cultured and morally superior, having no idea that British speech - and sadly, mental cultivation - stays mostly at the level of "wassaw dis about den".

  • 18.
  • At 11:47 PM on 24 Dec 2007,
  • Catherine wrote:

I am American (by birth), and am mariied to an Englishman (very intelligent man and engineer from Shropshire). I am amazed at the language differences between us, and have a lot of "Oh My God, that's what you were saying" in our marriage. My problem now is that I have been watching so many BBC and UK Dramas, where the language seems to me to be more clear, where the names of things seem to paint a picture in my mind, instead of causing me confusion. Take for example, flashlight. I hear William call it a torch ('where's my torch'?) and I think of a torch with a flame, like they carry at the Olympics, but he means a flashlight. He also calls it a 'lamp'. The other day I caught myself calling it a light-flash, meaning a light that has the ability to cause light. It was interesting to catch myself saying that out loud. I know it is a reflection of our language differences. My husband is constantly yelling at the TV, and saying, Well why didnt they say it then? Why don't they tell you anything? He is usually referring to US News programs, that don't seem to get specific, and also to Animal / National Geographic type programs. Now I didn't realize until I watched David Attenborough's Nature programs what exactly I was missing out on. But once I saw those I am stunned at how little information is provided in the programs that are U.S. created. Also the difference in information that I can process between History Channel program, and Simon Schama's History of Britain series, for example , is staggering. Along the same lines, the books that libraries are now storing on the shelves differs from my earlier years, where once I could look up any word in a large Oxford dictionary that is almost as big as I am, but no longer. The substantive books seem to be leaving the shelves, replaced by more popularly requested books. William says that most American conversations can be boiled down to about 20 words, once you remove the 'like', 'dude', 'man', 'yeah', and so on. It is a joy for me to live with someone not just because he is picky about words that are used, but that he actually knows the meaning of so many words that I have never even heard of. I was reading a Bernard Shaw text, and I kept getting stopped by some of the references that I didnt understand. I kept asking him over and over, "What does this word mean?" and 95/100 he would know the meaning of the word without even having a need to know the context in which it was used. I personally have never felt comfortable using 'big words' because I don't want to sound like a pompous , educationally pious person whose purpose is to show others what they lack, but knowing William has taught me that knowing so many different words just deepens my understanding. If it were not for someone who actually can verbally illustrate for me what the words mean, I wouldnt enjoy them as much. But he is not pompous about teaching me. It just makes me wonder, who taught him all this? He says No one, it is just from his varied learning experiences. He has said that the education system here is the U.S. must be piss-poor because of the lack of knowledge people have about their own history, and because of the lack of language use. I say, Well, what were you reading in 5th grade (11 years old) , for example. He said he was reading Dickens and Tom Hardy and books like that. I said, Well we didnt get to that until I was in High School (between 15 and 18 years old). So there must be fundamental differences on the whole between our systems of interspersing information into the common, and individual , experiences.

Sincerely, Catherine

  • 19.
  • At 12:37 AM on 25 Dec 2007,
  • G from Califorinia wrote:

Hi There,

I was initially confused when I read that story, because "bashing" here means to put something down, like if I say "Bush is an idiot" I'm Bush-bashing.

But I figured that the writer had "bashing" confused with "thumping" and let it go - I'm not reading foreign press to listen to people who talk like me, but to get a different point of view. I just hope that the phenomenon that Mr. Webb noticed is real and spreading. San Francisco is as distant from Kansas as London is in many ways.

Thanks for the good news!

  • 20.
  • At 05:22 PM on 25 Dec 2007,
  • Cody Hamilton wrote:

I must say...that's the first time I've heard of "Talking of which".

Where I'm from(New Brunswick, Canada)the expression is "Speaking of which".

Intriguing.

  • 21.
  • At 06:36 PM on 25 Dec 2007,
  • K. Tyson wrote:

A bible basher is against the bible. A bible thumper is for it...but I guess you have figured that out already.

  • 22.
  • At 09:36 PM on 25 Dec 2007,
  • David wrote:

Because many forebears reached a dead end in the shire, they left it for the new world (cf. "The Law of Dreams"). Linguistic salting with glue ensues, yet old-world idioms persist.

  • 23.
  • At 01:48 AM on 26 Dec 2007,
  • Keith Wresch wrote:

John what you talk about as years sounds specific to either graduate school, or may be a form of Japanese English as it doesn't sound particularly familiar to me either.

In both high school and university you can use the freshmen/sophomore/junior/senior terms, though at university only the first and last really have any meaning. Otherwise most seem to use 2nd, 3rd year etc. At least that is what we used in medical school.

  • 24.
  • At 01:56 AM on 26 Dec 2007,
  • Lynn Kohner wrote:

This isn't related to the blog entry, but in the ARTICLE on the Bible Belt, you appear to have made the mistake of thinking Kansas City is in Kansas rather than Missouri.

Kansas City, Kansas - a much smaller city than KCMO - is in Kansas. When I was selling things to libraries, I found it is actually the "Kansas City, Kansas Library" - to distinguish it from the Kansas City Libray, in KCMO.

  • 25.
  • At 07:49 AM on 26 Dec 2007,
  • Louis E. wrote:

It's not just that you used a term Americans don't recognize as meaning "bible-thumper",but one that implies the opposite meaning.A thug who beats up people he believes to be homosexual,for example,is called a "gay-basher".
"Bible-basher" not only doesn't evoke Fred Phelps...it evokes Richard Dawkins!

  • 26.
  • At 04:03 PM on 26 Dec 2007,
  • Mary J wrote:

Whether using Bible-basher or Bible-thumper is irrelevant -- both terms are disrespectful and intolerant toward evangelical Christians. You would never, ever use the term "Koran-basher" to describe a devout Muslim, would you? Admit it. Christians are right to complain about the double standard.

  • 27.
  • At 05:09 PM on 26 Dec 2007,
  • Bernard I. Turnoy wrote:

George Bernard Shaw once observed that 'England and America are two countries divided by a common language.' Just as Oxbridge and BBC news-reader's elocutions of the Queen's English do not reflect the speech of the average man on the Clapham Omibus, the host of idioms in America today reflect the various social strata within a profoundly diverse society. While both sides of the pond share the same language heritage roots [Latin, French and 'English'], America's language trunk has - indeed, split and the branches have subsequently turned toward different light sources. America's modern immigration trends, the ensuing population demographics and geographic location all combine to create a fusion of a fluid language evolution. This language evolution takes America and Americans further away from our historical linguistic roots. For better, or, for worse, the evolution of American-English continues.
Chicago, USA.

  • 28.
  • At 05:12 PM on 26 Dec 2007,
  • Shawn wrote:

British language Nazis are insanely irritating. American English is perfectly fine, and in fact, more desirable to learn and easier to understand according to my TEFL students in several countries.

When a Brit gets pissed, give him some coffee.
When an American gets pissed, a Valium is more appropriate.
I hang around with a few Brit ex-pats, here in Nyon, CH, there are times, after about the fourth round, where we do have trouble communicating. They keep telling me I'm angry when I'm not and that pisses me off enough to sober up. :( Man, what a buzz-kill!

  • 30.
  • At 01:43 AM on 27 Dec 2007,
  • Jay wrote:

Neither...guess you're still learning...colloquilly at least, "cute" means attractive, appealing, sexy, as in 'she's kinda' cute', 'he's really cute', etc.: my condolences to you sir that no one's ever referred to you as such since you've been here that you might enjoy getting the meaning firsthand.

  • 31.
  • At 04:04 AM on 27 Dec 2007,
  • Ben isaac wrote:

hum well the term bible basher means one who tears up the bible. and the word cute usually used by women means endearing. i have to say neither the American English nor the other uses that much of phonics because of this many origins. as Anglophile, i can understand your problem. for its hard for me to understand when i hear things in Blackpool and other places

  • 32.
  • At 06:42 AM on 27 Dec 2007,
  • Kathryn wrote:

I understand the confusion between American & British English. I'm a native-born American who occasionally does the quizzes on the BBC's learning English site. I don't always get everything correct; why: because I don't know every British idiom that someone learning British English would! And I'm a native speaker of American English (with wide exposure to Canadian English as I was growing up).

  • 33.
  • At 08:00 AM on 27 Dec 2007,
  • Adrian Tan wrote:

Basher

I was baffled by 'basher' until yr clarification.

Pls to remember that American English is the norm in most of the world. We in Singapore usual understand British English but there are limits.

The word "basher" was one of them.

  • 34.
  • At 05:25 PM on 27 Dec 2007,
  • Cameron wrote:

And to 33. Please remember that this is a British website paid for by British people so it's only natural that it uses British terms! :-)

  • 35.
  • At 01:05 AM on 28 Dec 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

Here's something I'd like an explanation for. It doesn't have to do with Britspeak but with BBCspeak. When Alan Johnston disappeared from public view in Gaza last March, BBC reported that those they characterized as "a terrorist group" had taken him captive. But when BBC reported just yesterday and again on BBC World today about recent negotiations between Israel and Egypt and the subject of smuggling weapons through tunnels into Gaza came up, BBC characterized the people who receive these weapons as "militants." So by BBC's definition, those who kidnapped their employee but did not harm him are "terrorists" but those who kill Israeli civilians are "militants." Can anyone on either side of the pond explain why I should not conclude that BBC is a duplicitous, mendacious, hypocritical alien presence in the United States with a clear political agenda which is both anti Israeli and anti American? BTW, this is only one of many tricks they have in their quiver to brainwash their audience. An American I consider a traitor "Noam Chomsky" who others call a "linguist" seems to have taught them a few of his own tricks like redefining words to mean whatever he wants them to.

  • 36.
  • At 04:33 PM on 28 Dec 2007,
  • Arlene wrote:

When used with the proper, sarcastic inflection of one's voice, the word "cute" can also mean cunning and deceitful. For instance, "Isn't it "cute" how my cable company bundles many desirable channels with BBC America, which is an undesirable channel, and forces me to pay for it?" I can either take the America "bashing" BBC with the channels that I want, or I can choose to have none at all. It is an on going battle with my cable company. "Cute," isn't it?

Excellent question, Mark, don't expect it to be answered any time soon.

For the record, I speak American, and resent the fact that I pay for a channel which ridicules, belittles, abuses, insults, demeans, impungns my country, my government, and, as evident, my people. Just one more reason to despise the British.

  • 37.
  • At 10:28 PM on 28 Dec 2007,
  • David Cunard wrote:

'Yank in London' wrote "received pronunciation . . . is a phony middle class accent adopted by someone usually at university to hide one's regional accent in order to appear posh and educated." What utter nonsense! RP originated with BBC Radio many, many years ago in order that everyone listening, at home or abroad, and regardless of their local accent, could understand what was being said. There is nothing phony about it - today understandable speech makes life a lot easier in a would-be multicultural society. In my professional life I appeared in a theatrical production here in Los Angeles, speaking in my regular, English, voice (not Americanised after 40 years) and was later accosted by a member of the audience who was on holiday from somewhere in Britain. She asked "where does that phony English accent come from?" - the fact that it was decently spoken and is the way I was brought up seemed to have eluded her - not all the English have glottal stops and speak like those in 'East Enders'. The BBC has largely reversed itself, most noticeably on World News - in which presenters speak in conventional RP but adopt the short form of 'a' as more often heard in the North of England and much of the United States - paast and laast becoming passt and lasst. Now that's phony!

  • 38.
  • At 01:01 AM on 29 Dec 2007,
  • John Kecsmar wrote:

Mark #35
Arlene #36

If you both have such a dislike for the BBC TV and its website, why on earth do you
1) watch/read it
2) waste your very valuable time writing on said website?
3)Don’t subscribe to that cable company…or ask for reduction/change

As your preachers say in the face of such abhorrent propaganda and waste of money on sin…” You’re in league with the devil…be gone..”

I shall now go find my latest string of anti-American channels to watch, my books which are only written in British/Australian English so I may understand them and vote for the strongest anti-American political Govt. Because that must be what the rest of us (95% of the rest of the world) are doing, surely..???

  • 39.
  • At 01:29 AM on 29 Dec 2007,
  • Kathleen wrote:

To #35 and #36:

You go Yanks!

  • 40.
  • At 04:42 AM on 29 Dec 2007,
  • John Kecsmar wrote:

Well, let me see...

Militant is defined as “using, or willing to use, force or strong pressure to achieve your aims, especially to achieve political change…”
Force being defines as “violent physical action….”
And a
Terrorist is defined as “a person who takes part in the use of violent action in order to achieve political aims…”

So, are you complaining about the use of different words to say the same thing...or do you object to the BBC having a vocabulary greater than pro-American, American news networks?

  • 41.
  • At 04:29 PM on 29 Dec 2007,
  • Jane Schiff wrote:

Hello Justin - Sometimes, these British English and American English translation blips work out for the best! I was intrigued by your post above re: "Bible Thumper" vs. "Bible Basher" in our respective English usages. Maybe the British psyche is particularly hard - wired for the truth - that people who foist phony self - serving religious beliefs upon others are in point of fact, bashing the Bible through their own empty hypocrisy. You gave me hope when you wrote that some U.S. Evangelical Churches are beginning to resemble their European counterparts. I also want to say the following to Brits and my fellow Yankees - that swipping at eachothers' use of English and the defending of one's own use of English is comparable to a married couple's fighting over the same - old same - old. The fun part is the undeniably warm, kiss and make up ritual that accompanies our very old marriage that still respects eachothers' differences. I think that we are all just simply fine - tuning. Our "marriage" is a work in progress. Have fun with it - life's too short!

  • 42.
  • At 01:53 AM on 30 Dec 2007,
  • Arlene wrote:

Considering that the US already has a plethora of 24 hour news channels including the replusive BBC World, why would any American want to pay extra for another one? They wouldn't, which is why the charge is small and hidden. And Brits, the pittance that we pay for BBC America certainly isn't supporting it. That means that your tax money is funding a news channel that a relatively small number of Americans subscribe to, and an even smaller number who watch. So re-thinking this whole thing I have to ask, just who is the fool here?

That the BBC has managed to gain a very small foothold in America, and is costing me very little leads me to wonder, is this especially galling to you when you calculate how much this "service" for America is actually costing...you?

I have heard the BBC tout the number of US homes that have "subscribed" to BBC America, which is quite funny really when at least 90% of those who have it aren't even aware that they do, and the other 10% know, but don't care.

I have no idea what channel BBC America is broadcast on my cable service having never watched it. I don't really care if the BBC is broadcast in pig-Latin from the North Pole, either, considering how little I pay for it, but I do have to ask again just who is the fool here? I would say those who pay a TV tax to support the BBC in countries who have no interest in it are.

"My preacher??" My how clever you are, John Kecsmar. Because I am an American does it necessarily follow that I must have a "preacher" of my very own? Not too caught up with stereotypes and religious bigotry are you?

I have thought for some time that America really needs to re-examine its relationships with various countries starting with yours. Your future is the with the glorious EU, and ours is elsewhere. Shall I say it? Yes, I shall...Thank God.

  • 43.
  • At 02:59 AM on 31 Dec 2007,
  • Bryn Harris wrote:

To Arlene #42: only the BBC World Service & its branches are funded by government tax revenue. I imagine the same goes for Voice of America, Radio Free Europe etc. We may like our government slightly too 'big' for American tastes, but this does not mean *everything* here is funded by the tax-payer. The domestic BBC is funded by the licence fee (though similar it should not be confused with govt. levied tax), and cable services like BBC America are commercial operations. The BBC as a whole (TV, radio, web) is immeasurably better than the competition here. I don't feel swindled.

Having an American girlfriend and being lingustically minded, the relation between US and UK English is v. interesting to me. Most important thing to recognise is that the US accent is an older variant of the English accent than English RP. The pilgrim fathers took 17th century English on board the Mayflower with them, and their transplanted English underwent fewer changes than the English spoken by the English. RP starts to grow in England around the 18th century & then the two accents diverge.

The history of language change does not always conform to political history. In this case the English were the 'innovators' while the Americans were the 'traditionalists'.

I do not think there is any real divide between the two English-speaking peoples: we almost always understand each other. There was far more hostility to US English here pre WWII. Whether we are conscious of it or not, we Brits are in love with American English.

Some Americanisms I love: 'cute', funnily enough. I imagine my teenage girlfriend being told by her mother 'don't get cute with me'; or, best of all, a tough LA detective saying to Philip Marlowe 'cute Marlowe, real cute', in a Raymond Chandler novel. (As Chandler was English, perhaps this was a poorly-chosen example!)

Another, sneaky favourite is 'out the wazoo', as in 'The BBC has got foreign correspondents out the wazoo'.

Lastly, I love the way Americans think it strange that we say 'well done'. First you think 'how on earth can a phrase as basic & as colourless as that sound markedly British?' It would be like 'thank you' sounding especially American. Then you think about it a bit, and the scales fall from your, um, ears - you realise that 'well done' sounds preposterously, embarrassingly English.

Oh dear! But vive la différence!

  • 44.
  • At 04:14 AM on 31 Dec 2007,
  • John Kecsmar wrote:

#42Arelene

I’m still confused, why you would watch/read a new channel website that you appear to dislike so vehemently. You described many other aspects of your views of the BBC but you didn’t answer the question why you continue to watch/read the BBC given your dislike for it?

I hate celery, hate it with a passion…do I continue to buy it, no. Do I continue to cook and eat it, no.

So, just asking the question again, since you didn’t answer it before, except with another tirade against the BBC. What is your motivation to read/watch something that you so clearly dislike with a passion?

If you don’t like something why continue in its practice?...doesn’t make sense!

“….an American does it necessarily follow that I must have a "preacher" of my very own?...........Shall I say it? Yes, I shall...Thank God….”

So in thanking God, you clearly follow a deity of some kind. QED

  • 45.
  • At 06:32 AM on 31 Dec 2007,
  • Karen wrote:

Cute is one of those words that can mean everything from sarcastic to good-looking to just plain adorable. Fairly versatile, yeah?

And don't let anyone confuse you -- Kansas City, Kansas and Kansas City, Missouri are really one and the same. It was one of those places that was settled and citified before the territories were divied up. Now it's referred to as two separate cities, each of which has its own character.

The differences between the British and American dialects will never cease to amuse me. Especially when I think of the phrase "caught with his pants down"...

  • 46.
  • At 08:52 PM on 31 Dec 2007,
  • Kenneth Tipper wrote:

I'm enjoying this discussion so much. After living in Florida for 50 years there are still many different American words and phrases that cause my "Englishness" to erupt. One phrase that particularly raises my ire is "They still have a ways to go". I always mutter to myself,"That's a way to go, idiot" when that happens. I learned long ago that in trying to get a person to feel better about his situation you don't say, "Keep your pecker up". It took a while for me to figure out why I got some strange looks from the person I was trying to cheer up! And of course there's that old standby - the different meanings of the word "bum" on both sides of the Atlantic.
I wonder too if two infuriating Americanisms in constant use over here are in vogue in Britain. I refer to the "Y'knows" that are interspersed innumerable times in the course of conversations, often by supposedly well-educated people, and the "I'm like" that is substituted for either "I said" or "I thought".
Now don't get me started on the subject of bad grammar - that could open up a whole new can of worms!

  • 47.
  • At 02:08 AM on 01 Jan 2008,
  • John Kecsmar wrote:

Kenneth #46
When I’m driving my friends are giving me directions saying… “take a right”….take it where??....or “take a shower”….perhaps take it to the same location as the right??
“I like the pants your wearing …”…which of course makes me blush, because I didn’t realise that my “pants” are showing through my trousers!..

  • 48.
  • At 06:58 AM on 01 Jan 2008,
  • Joel Tankel wrote:

Justin,
Surely you know who Roger Federer is?
He's that chap who kept on winning Wimbledon so Sir Tim Henman couldn't become World Number 1.
Please retain your Britishness and your British Idioms and phrases in your blog. It's what makes us so special. I've been in NYC for 8 1/2 years and am determined not to lose the accent or language, grammar, idioms etc. We can get away with so much without giving much away, and they love our accents. If some of the readership does not understand, there are plenty of websites to translate.

  • 49.
  • At 06:51 AM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • greg heaton wrote:

Years? Nope, sorry, not American. We refer to our schooling by 'grades.'

When I was in first grade, I ate glue. When I was in ninth grade, I moved to the high school.

Which brings up another point: First through fifth grades (and sometimes sixth grade) are considered elementary school, sixth through eighth grade are middle school or junior high. Ninth through twelfth grade are high school.

Years? I think that's what they're called at Hogwarts.

  • 50.
  • At 09:15 PM on 02 Jan 2008,
  • Molly wrote:

# 18: So evidently most American conversations can be "boiled down" to 20 words, removeing all the incorrect grammar such as "like, man, dood" and so on and so forth. I must say I respectfully disagree. Yes, I agree that "like" and "yeah" in particular are used inappropriately far too much, but words such as "man" and "dood", however unprofessional they may sound, are just terms with which to address one's friends-it should be noted, these terms are mainly used by teens and people in their erly 20s-. This is not to say that there aren't large parts of the US, who's people aren't incrediblly rude, or depending on what kind of envirement they are from, won't sound emensly,well, not fit for the professional world, because there certainly are. There are however several well educated, gramaticly correct people in this country, and I think it is rong to steriotype all Americans as speaking with "improper English". After all where is it ritten which form is the right form? Are Canada and Australia scrutinized in this fashon as well? I would rather take the approach of helping and teaching the less educated rather than just atacking everyone's way of speaking in this nation as a whole. I don't know which TV programs you are refering to when you say that ours don't give much/if any information. Of all the "Nature" programs at least that I've seen, both American and foreign, they both seem to give a lot of very interesting, useful information. But I'll take another look at the one you mentioned.

Also, in respect of your husband's comments on our education system being "piss poor", I think it should be pointed out that 1. Every state's public school system is slightly different, so that a 5th grader in Maryland may be getting a different education than one in California. And 2. students, or should I say puples, largely become educated in the UK through grammar schools or boarding schools, and I personally think, based upon what I've heard, that there is more predjidous against people with different accents in that country than here.

One last note: to those who think that their's is the best form of the language, know this: it is ok that people are different than you, and to not think so is bound to make you very miserable in deade. If all the world was the same, how boring would it be?

Sincerely, Molly

  • 51.
  • At 09:25 PM on 04 Jan 2008,
  • T. R. Holliday wrote:

This fight again? Please remember that if it was not for "American English" you all would have been speaking German!

Tom,
Chicago

  • 52.
  • At 12:10 PM on 09 Jan 2008,
  • Thomas wrote:

"This fight again? Please remember that if it was not for "American English" you all would have been speaking German!"

Not that old saw again! If the UK hadn't been prepared to stand against Germany while the US spent a couple of years deciding if the Nazi's were a bad lot, we would now be arguing about whether American German was better than British German. We saved *your* bacon, and you've not stopped trying to pretend it was the other way around ever since.

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