01 September, 2006

American vs. British English (Part One)


Since I started blogging I have been reminded, several times, of the quotation used by Churchill but originated by George Bernard Shaw, that "America and Britain are two nations divided by a common language". I keep finding myself wanting to explain, in paranthesis, that, for example, in the UK humour is spelt/spelled thusly. I wonder, is this necessary? I suppose/guess that I don't want to appear to be illiterate.
The bigger problem arises when different words and phrases are in use and I often need to refer to this dictionary. Because of the dominance of American culture I think most British readers would be familiar with Americanisms but not the otherway round. Elsewhere I have commented that when my cousin was living in the US he discovered that "Keep your pecker up" and "I want to bum a fag" have very different meanings in the States!
I invite readers to comment with any funny or interesting differences they have encountered/come across (Blimey!)

19 Comments:

Anonymous Ruthie said...

Hi Dad - I have an interesting comment. If you're so bothered how come you spelt parenthesis wrong? Love you, from your perfect daughter (the literate one!) xxx

Friday, September 01, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

Help! My daughter has discovered my blog.

Friday, September 01, 2006  
Blogger Rob said...

Amusing quote by GBS/Churchill!

I sometimes also worry that American bloggers think I can't spell.
Actually American English, having avoided French 'seasoning', is nearer to Old English than British English of course.

Incidentally I have left some comments on your blog for May and June 2006.

Friday, September 01, 2006  
Blogger Vive42 said...

haha. your daughter (the perfect one) discovered your blog.

i strongly prefer the english sense of humor, mostly because brits generally get my jokes and find me funny while americans are apt to stare blankly or take offense. but the violent football fan phenomenon, i must admit, baffles me. although i suppose thats more anywhere but here than it is britain.

Saturday, September 02, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

Wow, this is a lot of pressure. You can handle it slag. And no "third person" usage, too affected. Ok, here we go. Watch the spelling and mind the European sensitivities.
Alright, this guy walks into a pub with a peaneus under his arm and his duck in his hand, no no no dammit! I totally screwed it up. You guys have no idea how hard it is for us to sound intelligent when confronted with the British accent. We panic and we insert statements like, "frightfully sorry" into our conversations at inappropriate times. I don’t know why, but if I caught you stealing my car, all you would have to say is "frightfully sorry" and I would give you the keys right then and there. While it is true that many americans currently harbor (harbour?) an irrational (ignorant) hatred of foreigners, British culture is still viewed with great respect and is still likely to evoke a sub-conscious inferiority response. An appalling state of affairs my good man. See! There! It happened again, so embarrassing. I am such a redneck, dang it!
By the way, we have never properly thanked you guys for Monty Python. That small band of heroes is single handedly responsible for the rescue of countless small-town country boys from the two fisted grip of the Jesus Industrial Complex. Thank you all. Oh what the hell, thank “yall”.

Saturday, September 02, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

Rob: If you read the very funny comment from slaghammer, below, you might begin to think, like me, that all our worries are needless; the yanks feel inferior culturally to us Brits!

Vive: I think the violent football (soccer) scene is, generally a phenomenon of the 1980's. Only a handful of fans are murdered at each game nowadays! Incidentally, I refuse to censor myself because my daughter now reads my blog!

slaghammer: I say, old chap, don't fall for the Hollywood stereotype of a typical Brit, there's a good fellow, what, what.

Saturday, September 02, 2006  
Blogger jim said...

Tremendously funny and enjoyable bit of humour there, old boy. You chaps are obviously above us buggers, we generally have no bloody idea. That is the American way, after all, sport.

See, now I'm doing it, not as well as you natives, but I'll get the hang of it.

The perfect one huh?

Slaghammer got it. Rob is right but he is never in question. Nor you, Bazza.

I am gonna go and knock up Vive.

Saturday, September 02, 2006  
Blogger slaghammer said...

That's what I'm talking about bazza. I will return the stereotype by making out with my sister and I'll even lick the butter knife tomorrow morning before passing it to my wife and mother, who are incidentally one in the same. Yep.

Saturday, September 02, 2006  
Blogger Butchieboy said...

In America, we call chips "fries" and a lorrie is called a "truck".

Learning is fun.

Sunday, September 03, 2006  
Blogger Vive42 said...

in america we call birds chicks and chaps dudes, and although some of us may wank in private now and again we don't go on about it like you lot.

and i, personally, say "no worries" all the time even though as far as i know that is neither american nor british. but i think i did get it from reading too much terry pratchet.

Sunday, September 03, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

Butchieboy: Funny thing is, in the UK we use both versions of most of those kind of words.

Vive: Same as above! I'm sorry if we go on too much about private things in public; it wasn't me, guv, honest.
In my opinion you can't read too much Terry Pratchet.
"No worries" is Australian in origin, now world-wide like a meme.

I think there's a lot more to be said on this subject!

Sunday, September 03, 2006  
Blogger jim said...

I agree Bazza, much more. Great reading.

Sunday, September 03, 2006  
Blogger Nuggy's Mum said...

I have one thats more of a vision/reading problem than a difference in language. While visiting family in London with my husband, I found myself in urgent need of a ladies room. My husband trying to help said he spotted one and had me running down the road behind him. I was puzzled because we were in a residential area. I kept asking where are you taking me? He proudly pointed to a sign in the distance that said "To Let" - Needless to say, he thought it said toliet.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006  
Blogger jim said...

nuggys mum is funny, that is funny, lol.

Bazza, how about highway signs, any odd things there or is everything universalized?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006  
Blogger Lizza said...

Mums vs. moms is funny, as I discovered thanks to a post over at Lynn's http://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

nuggy's mum: That's really funny, As very young school kids we would paint the 'I' in a 'To Let' sign.

jim: I have an up-coming post with a very funny highway sign. European signs are standardised but I had no trouble when driving in the States; most signs are obvious.

lizza: I'll take a look at that site over the weekend. thanks.

Thursday, September 07, 2006  
Blogger Pentha said...

A dear friend married a gentleman from Cambridge. On one of his trips here, his luggage was stolen. Imagine the police officer's reaction when Andrew told him that the suitcase contained "all my jumpers."

In case I need to explain: a British jumper is what American call a sweater. An American jumper is a dress under which one wears a blouse, mostly worn by young girls.

Thursday, September 21, 2006  
Blogger Bazza said...

Hi Pentha. What a good example of the subject your post is! After reading the first paragraph, I thought, "Yes...and?".
It's good job you did give the explanation because I didn't know that US meaning. Thanks for visiting.

Sunday, September 24, 2006  
Blogger Prometheus said...

Prometheus would like to add another dimension to this here argument. A bison, in America, is a rather large bovine creature. In Australia, it's something mates wash their hands in. Crickey, eh?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006  

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