We bookmarked an article that appeared in the Guardian a couple of months ago, about Americanisms popping up in British English, particularly in journalism. It wasn't so much the article that interested us: articles of this kind are a standard item in British newspapers and all of the quality dailies seem to run a piece with a similar theme a couple of times a year. What interested us was the comments that followed the article.

It's refreshing to see that an air of moderation informs most readers' opinions and feelings, though it's not difficult to pick up on the pique that pervades some  observations about the intrusion of American English into the mother tongue.  This is a curiously one-way phenomenon: you would be hard-pressed to find any American with similar resentment about the Briticisms that creep into American English with increasing frequency and success. To the extent that Americans even notice these, they probably think of them as charming, quaint, and diverting: much the way that they think of Britain as a whole. This speaks to the point of what many such observations of dialect influence are about. They're often not about language at all, but rather a vehicle for venting emotion about something larger: the people, the culture, or the government on the other side of the pond.

Taking potshots at American English and its innovations is a time-honored tradition in the UK. As H. L. Mencken noted in The American Language, "After the adoption of the [US] Constitution nearly all the British reviews began to maintain an eager watchfulness for these abhorrent inventions, and to denounce them, when found, with vast acerbity." In the volatile period that followed the American Revolution, language could hardly escape the mouth or pen of an American without being decried as inferior on the other side of the ocean. A Monthly Mirror article from 1808 noted "the corruptions and barbarities which are hourly obtaining in the speech of our trans-atlantic colonies" — suggesting that some Britons were devoting all their time to intercepting and denouncing these infelicities (while perhaps failing to notice that the "colonies" had already jumped ship). Two hundred years later, the obstreperousness of American English is still a bruise that some Brits cannot stop pressing, as a prelude to crying out in pain.

The factor that is missing from such expressions is an acceptance of language change and the operation of a Darwinian "survival-of-the-fittest" principle in dialect evolution. When Britain began to create an empire on which the sun never set hundreds of years ago, the question of what would happen to English doesn't seem to have been much on anyone's mind, but in fact much has happened to English: now it exists in many dialects around the world, all of them dominated by the dueling titans, British and American. The observation that "a language is a dialect with an army and navy" (commonly attributed to Yiddish linguist Max Weinreich) handily sums up how English got to where it is today. Britain's army and navy (commercial branches included) successfully spread the language around the globe; America's economic and military might, along with its massive population and popular culture hegemony, have enabled its dialect to become the "dominant world variety" (in the words of David Graddol, a Briton who wrote a 1997 tract called The Future of English).

The many other major dialects of English in the world today are barred from exerting any but a token influence on the language as a whole for want of a winning combination of factors that would enable them to do so: military, economic, or cultural domination, or sheer numbers of speakers. A few figures (all from 2008) may be instructive:

Country

Children born
per woman

Population
(in millions)

GDP per capita
in US$

Net migration rate

US

 2.10

303.8

$48,000

2.92

Ireland

 1.85

4.2

$47,800

4.76

Canada

 1.57

33.2

$40,200

5.62

Australia

 1.78

21.0

$39,300

6.34

UK

 1.66

60.9

$37,400

2.17

New Zealand

 2.11

4.2

$28,500

2.62

S Africa

 2.43

48.8

$10,400

4.98

India

 2.76

1,148.9

$2,900

-0.05

A sober and agenda-free interpretation of these figures will easily lead one to the conclusion that there is no stopping the robust spread of American English. Yank native speakers outnumber Brits by 5 to 1, and mothers in Albion do not produce native speakers of their dialect at the rate that US mothers do. Greater absolute and relative immigration insure even higher numbers of native American English speakers for the future. Completing the curse, British sprog, when grown, are unlikely to wield the economic clout of their American cousins.

The figures above might also explain why Britons generally are not bothered by the other major dialects of English: they pose no threat. Britons may also see it to the credit of the smaller main dialects that they have assumed a respectful and deferential relationship to British English from the get-go — fostered by a subservient political relationship to the Crown in some cases — while Americans wasted no time in first throwing off the mantle of government, and then dispensing with the notion that British English somehow constituted a standard for the language. Twentieth-century US writer Rupert Hughes put it best: "Why should we permit the survival of the curious notion that our language is a mere loan from England, like a copper kettle that we must keep scoured and return without a dent?"

The other point that emerges from perusing readers' comments on the Guardian article is the extent to which everyone regards his or her dialect as a unitary thing: inviolate and separate from others. This is a common native-speaker view of any English dialect, but for most people in the world today who use English — people for whom it is a second, learned language — the niceties of dialect variation are merely academic questions. These speakers and writers are mainly interested in the kind of English that you can use anywhere, and they're not very much concerned about brand names. We think this attitude is a healthy one for all speakers of English. The language has become many out of one, but its unparalleled success, along with globalization, mean that in another sense it is becoming one out of many. All varieties of English today contribute to its richness: why not borrow freely from any of them as you need to, without concern about what constitutes an "ism"?


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Orin Hargraves is an independent lexicographer and contributor to numerous dictionaries published in the US, the UK, and Europe. He is also the author of Mighty Fine Words and Smashing Expressions (Oxford), the definitive guide to British and American differences, and Slang Rules! (Merriam-Webster), a practical guide for English learners. In addition to writing the Language Lounge column, Orin also writes for the Macmillan Dictionary Blog. Click here to visit his website. Click here to read more articles by Orin Hargraves.

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Comments from our users:

Monday March 2nd 2009, 7:02 AM
Comment by: Linda L. (Peynier)
In the article's summary (on the Visual Thesaurus homepage, under the title), why is there the word "creep"? -- Should be just "(have) raised hackles," ...innit? ;)
Monday March 2nd 2009, 7:03 AM
Comment by: Linda L. (Peynier)
PS. I loved the article!!!!
Monday March 2nd 2009, 7:11 AM
Comment by: Peter B.
Americanisms - From a UK reader.

Firstly, let me say that I agree with most of the points made in your article. By and large, most British English speakers take, I would say, a moderate view of Americanisms and neologisms in general. America is the world leader in new technologies and computer science and, as such, generates much of the technical vocabulary that is so readily ingested by the younger generations.
The concerns expressed by some Guardian readers are, I would suggest, linked to a wider disquiet about what is perceived as a general decline in the standard of spoken and written English. It is not uncommon for teenagers to come out of the English education system scarcely able to read or write. Hence, there is a general fear of decline and encroachment with which the debate on Americanisms is wrongly included. Language is a fluid and evolutionary medium which needs must balance the necessity for commonality of meaning, along with the constant need to grow and develop.
The question of dialect within the UK is complex and ambivalent. The many regional variations in spoken English tend to evoke anything from charmed fondness to fierce resentment. Added to this is the factor that the English still tend to judge a person's social background, and level of education, from the broadness of his or her accent. In this regard I envy the greater uniformity of speech found across America - I could be completely wrong here but my impression is that regional variations in American English tend to be fewer and less blatant than those in the UK.
This has turned into a somewhat rambling reply but I hope it might throw some light on the broader debate in which the question of 'Americanisms' finds itself innocently involved.

Yours,

Peter Butterworth
Manchester, UK
Monday March 2nd 2009, 7:29 AM
Comment by: Andrea D. (Cambridge, MA)
My understanding has been that American English has turned out to be more "conservative" than British English. The English closest to Shakespeare's own is in Appalachia, for one example. Comment?
Monday March 2nd 2009, 8:07 AM
Comment by: Max Ö. (Åkersberga Sweden)
I don’t agree with this statement in the article: ”... but for most people in the world today who use English — people for whom it is a second, learned language — the niceties of dialect variation are merely academic questions.”

Here in Sweden foreign languages are important. The three major subjects in our schools are Swedish, Math and – you guessed it – English.

A few years ago there was a traffic incident here in Stockholm. Myself and the other guy jump out of our respective cars, furious. He starts yelling at me in English, obviously London Cockney English. I do some quick thinking, and put away the four letter words I had in mind. Instead I try to use my knowledge of dialects and culture, so I reply in the way I thought would infuriate him the most. With my best Oxford accent I said: ”I much appriciate your views on the subject. Since it’s such bad manners to argue with the lower classes I simly ask you, my good man, to move your vehicle.” It worked, he became really really mad :-)
Monday March 2nd 2009, 8:17 AM
Comment by: Ben Zimmer (New York, NY)Visual Thesaurus ContributorVisual Thesaurus Moderator
Linda L.: Dialect creep in the article summary uses creep in the sense "a slow but persistent increase or elevation" (as defined by Merriam-Webster). Other examples of noun-noun compounds with creep include bracket creep, budget creep, feature creep, mission creep, and scope creep. A good linguistic example is jargon creep, defined by Word Spy as "The tendency for the use of jargon terms to expand into different contexts and to spawn variations on the original terms." Another good one from Word Spy is Christmas creep: "The gradual trend to begin displaying Christmas-related merchandise and advertising earlier each year."

Andrea D.: The notion that Appalachian speakers still use some approximation of Shakespearean English has been thoroughly debunked in David Wilton's excellent book Word Myths (pp. 44-50). Wilton writes, "The mountain speech of Appalachia or the Ozarks is no more like Elizabethan English than any other dialect, even if a few words or the occasional grammatical structure are similar." Check it out on Google Book Search.
Monday March 2nd 2009, 8:31 AM
Comment by: Dorothy G. (Canada)
This is a comment from my recently deceased husband. When someone complained to him about the need to keep the English language 'pure'. He would say that the English language is about as pure as a two-bit crib. So for from being pure, it entices other languages down dark alleys,coshes them and rifles their pockets for vocabulary.
Monday March 2nd 2009, 8:44 AM
Comment by: Ben Zimmer (New York, NY)Visual Thesaurus ContributorVisual Thesaurus Moderator
Dorothy G.: The classic quote is attributed to James D. Nicoll: "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary." The quote first appeared on the Usenet newsgroup rec.arts.sf-lovers in 1990 -- see this Linguist List discussion for more details.
Monday March 2nd 2009, 8:47 AM
Comment by: Vincent M. (Miami Springs, FL)
MAX O, Akersberga, Sweden --- Max, I agree with your observation on the article written by Orin Hargraves but what I really found refreshing and funny was your story regarding your traffic accident. vmedel@aol.com
Monday March 2nd 2009, 8:50 AM
Comment by: William A Ghormley (Boston, MA)
Thank you for a very interesting set of observations, backed up by a fascinating table -- one that neatly updated my knowledge of the English-speaking world. Ah, numbers do speak volumes, and in a year when Darwin is stage center, it is important to examine one's grasp of linguistic evolutions and connections.
In this process, one analogy is that of computer software, where "the source code" is stored with great care in some sort of a "golden file" -- probably optical media -- so that it can always be retained as a safe harbor for those "undoing" retreats that are so often necessary.
In this context, British English IS the source code. This allows us to return to carparks, bumbershoots, windscreens, bonnets, et al as touchstones. (Please note that my spellcheck has been invoked and two words are already red-underlined for review in the previous sentence!)
Note that these are NOT quaint antiquities, but rather, I feel, thought-grounding representations, born of an enriching, prior set of both perception and expression. These British terms, though not in use in America unless Nick Faldo is the announcer on the Golf Channel, endear English to the American ear in a manner best described as aesthetic, even poetic, not diverting.
That the language is rapidly evolving is a point of fact. The other major influences at work are the globalization of business education, literary education and real-time linkage of scientific and medical knowledge bases, which causes almost instant neologistic connection, cross-pollination and propagation.
Another force at work is the Visual Thesaurus, eh? (;->

All the best from New England,

William A. Ghormley
Boston
2 March '09
Monday March 2nd 2009, 9:21 AM
Comment by: Roy A.
I have read and heard innumerable comments, criticisms, arguments and opinions respecting the English language - and derivatives thereof - during nearly 80 years of living on both sides of the 'pond'.

Might I be permitted a humble opinion. This is that the basic problem and most prevalent cause of rancour, is that the language being discussed is called 'English'. Had the ancients been more far-seeing, I suspect they would have called the 'English' language by some other name - maybe 'Saxon'.

The animosity, envy, antagonistic feelings, jealousy and other feelings that 'power and position' often generate in people, is clearly evident as regards Nations and, particularly, Colonial powers - traditional or those of the modern variety like the United States.

I suggest that, had the language under discussion been called(say)'Saxon', it would now be even more widespread in use. Many people have shown an understandable, although rather simple, aversion to the 'English' language - ENTIRELY DUE TO ITS NOMENCLATURE.
Monday March 2nd 2009, 9:28 AM
Comment by: Lydia P.
My Scottish in-laws jokingly bemoan my American accent, and in particular, my [mis]pronunciation of the /o/ sound and the distinct absence of the medial /t/. That said, they have taught me so many delightful words for "bathroom" -- cludgie, bog, loo, lav, washroom, toilet -- that I'll take the hit when I screw up the pronunciation of such a basic word as "Scottish." (And then there's that pesky "period inside the quotation mark" American idiosyncrasy that drives many Britons mad.)
Monday March 2nd 2009, 9:52 AM
Comment by: Rita C. (Mason, OH)
I sense a tone to this article that makes me laugh. If the British tend to look down their noses upon Americans, do we enjoy the sport of picking that nose? I sensed a "once again you Brits think we are barbarians, so let's poke fun at you" mood, not that I didn't enjoy it! Do we Americans tend to interpret everything the British do or say as snobbery, perhaps?

As to whether or not Americans view dialect as a "class" issue, I have observed similar prejudice, if not by class or dialect, then by state. When I lived in northern Ohio, we made sport of West Virginia; in Georgia, they made sport of Alabama; in Maryland, they made sport of any or all of the midwest; and now in southern Ohio, they make sport of Kentucky. The tendency to poke fun at dialect, colloquialisms, perceived education, culture and politics appears to be a universal pastime.
Monday March 2nd 2009, 10:20 AM
Comment by: Jane B. (Winnipeg Canada)Top 10 Commenter
Lavatory (lav - a gift from the Romans), toilet (from the French, actually, I think) and washroom were all common ways of referring to that almost 'library' in our home, Lydia, that I didn't even think of them as 'English English' until I read your post!

I've also debated that way of punctuating quotations that you mention and I've learned, from many net friends, that 'sat' is completely acceptable in situations such as "I was sat at the fire..."

The language is simply wonderful! A group of us were debating the rhyme of a poem on one forum so frustratingly that one of the English English speakers called me from Birmningham to ask how I pronounced 'x'. And here I, and others, had thought the problem word was 'y'!

We did manage to sort it out (if I wrote 'sort it' would I be adopting the East End idiom?) over the phone (tele ?).

Max, your story is lovely, and your put down superb. One aspect of your post that I'd like to see an expert deal with (preposition at end okay there, I hope), is your use of the word 'myself' instead of 'I' in the first sentence. I am never sure of this usage.

I have another question about 'bumbershoot'. Does it predate parachute? If so, what [i]is[/i] its origin and, if not, isn't umbrella or 'brolly' the touchstone?

By the way, I take that section with a teaspoon of salt (my doctor says I can have plenty as I have low blood pressure). Hood, windshield and parkade (Canadian?) are just as acceptable and descriptive!

Here in Canada, we have a somewhat more elaborate struggle being pursued among those who would keep to the British usage and those who have adapted the American. Then there is Quebec!

As for me, I'm a hybrid from an anglophobic family in Pennsylvania (P Dutch country) who migrated to the prairies of Canada.

I yield! With a smile.
Monday March 2nd 2009, 10:29 AM
Comment by: adaletheactor (louisville, KY)
i grew up in montana. it's one of the few states that seems to have very little of what one could call a regional accent. in fact, a friend's husband did a master's thesis in speech and toured the state and surrounding areas to research the phenomenon. except for "crick" for creek and some other minor changes, he found that there were far more regionalisms in eastern washington state, idaho and the dakotas [see Fargo] than in montana. the only oddity was that those close to the canadian border said "hoose" for house. otherwise, people had a TV accent. when i became an actor i had no trouble staying in the middle of the atlantic--clear american speech touched ever so slightly with a broad A here and there. now i live in kentucky and have fallen into many more regionalisms than i grew up with.
Monday March 2nd 2009, 10:30 AM
Comment by: Jane B. (Winnipeg Canada)Top 10 Commenter
Hmmm... Forgot a 'such' in my sentence above.

Lavatory (lav - a gift from the Romans), toilet (from the French, actually, I think) and washroom were all SUCH common ways of referring to that almost 'library' in our home, Lydia, that I didn't even think of them as 'English English' until I read your post!

I think it was a 'run-on' without it! Sigh!

And wouldn't we all sound like Beowulf if we spoke 'Saxon'? I agree. Another word for the language would perhaps lead to less possessiveness!
Monday March 2nd 2009, 10:47 AM
Comment by: Sara D.
I don't recall the details, but I believe it was National Geographic a few years back that had a story about regional dialects in the US actually becoming more pronounced not less. It seems a common sense thought that with the mobility of the US population regional dialects would become less pronounced, but I guess that's what's wrong with "common sense".
I grew up in Oklahoma and didn't consider myself a "Southener", but when I lived in Portland Oregon people constantly commented on my "Southern" accent. I now live in western Arkansas (foothills of the Ozarks, river valley) and my students (college) claim I have no Southern accent. I believe my students hang on to their accents out of a sense of family and local unity. They really don't seem to care if someone outside of this area hears their accent and immediately places them in a lower-income social group.
Monday March 2nd 2009, 11:16 AM
Comment by: Ben Zimmer (New York, NY)Visual Thesaurus ContributorVisual Thesaurus Moderator
Jane B.: I talked about the non-reflexive use of myself in a Word Routes column last September, which was a response to Simon and Julia's piece, " The Myself Generation."

Sara D.: There is indeed evidence for greater dialect differentiation in American English in recent decades. Sociolinguist Bill Labov has found this to be true with the expansion of what's known as the Northern Cities Vowel Shift, occurring in urban areas around the Great Lakes. You can hear Labov talk about the shift in this NPR interview.
Monday March 2nd 2009, 11:45 AM
Comment by: Clarence W.Top 10 Commenter
Over the years, I have seen the anti-American English commentary from Britain. The comedian Eddie Izzard makes pretty good sport of the issue.

Several words, pronunciations, or expressions have crept into my vocabulary from British comedy and the soccer drama "Dream Team". Though there is one that came from a visit to London in the early 1980's. The purpose of my visit was to attend a course called "Art in London" being offered by the University of Maryland. The "dorm" was a Salvation Army hostel run by a woman who pronounced the State "Mary Land".

So now as March Madness nears, I am drawn back to that time as I cheer for the Terps from the Land of Mary.
Monday March 2nd 2009, 12:26 PM
Comment by: Philip T.
I use four or five varieties of English: West Indian (Trindadian, circa 1968), "standard" British English (circa 1968), Canadian English (circa 1980), legal/technological/scientific English, and that of my children.

I suppose that I imprinted on the educated, "standard" British English and anything outside of that range strikes me as odd and often ungainly, though not exactly wrong. If I can understand it then I can't complain too much without seeming stuffy. However, "...as of yet..." drives me crazy.

As an aside, did anyone else find the general lack of capitals in the comment posted by adale O. striking? My 20-year-old daughter does the same thing. Related to texting?
Monday March 2nd 2009, 7:46 PM
Comment by: Marc L. (Irvine, CA)
I just wanted to relate a funny story. Years ago, I knew a Scottish woman named (or called, if you will) Annie, who was living in the U.S. A group of friends were spending the afternoon at a friend's house. Annie asked:

"An-woon new nee jooks?"

"What? Someone asked?

"An-woon new nee jooks?"

"What?"

"An-woon new nee jooks?"

"What are you saying, Annie?"

Someone took a stab at it. "Anyone have any drugs?"

"Noo. An-woon new nee JOOKS!"

" I got it!" I yelled out triumphantly. "She wants to know if anyone knows any JOKES?"

"Yeah," she said. An-woon new nee jooks?"
Monday March 2nd 2009, 7:49 PM
Comment by: Clarence W.Top 10 Commenter
Phillip T.: Ain't never had cause to ponder the phrase "as of yet", though have been arguing for "ain't" since third grade with Ms. Booston. So, I consulted the dictionary and see (saw says the wife) that the closest usage mentioned was "as yet". Are you crazed by the presence of "of" or is there something else? When forced to consider it closely, the phrase does seem to add fluff to a three letter word of great economy.
Monday March 2nd 2009, 10:44 PM
Comment by: Philip T.
Clarence W.

As of: beginning on, from.

As yet: until now.

Yet: at the present time, now. (Are we there yet?)

Everytime I have seen or heard it (as of yet) used the sense seems to be "until now."

"As of yet, the police have not found the robbers." This would seem to me to mean: "From now, the police..." Which is not at all what I think is meant. In short, lose the "of".
Tuesday March 3rd 2009, 6:13 AM
Comment by: Winston D.
I shout 'hooray' to the ongoing debate over the expanding English language! And may there never be a victor, else we will face the very real threat of Orwell's fictional Newspeak— "the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year."
Tuesday March 3rd 2009, 9:13 AM
Comment by: Jane B. (Winnipeg Canada)Top 10 Commenter
Quote:

As an aside, did anyone else find the general lack of capitals in the comment posted by adale O. striking? My 20-year-old daughter does the same thing. Related to texting?

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I attributed that to an attempt to emulate Carl Sandburg or to a career in acting. I suppose texting might be more logical. I am dated!

Thank the protectors of whatever English we use that this board is thus far fairly safe from it!

However, years before texting was fashionable, such forms were used as puzzles. I am guilty of having used them in classes. Sigh!

"Ain't" is a common Pennsylvania Dutch construction. It wasn't permitted in our home, much to my dismay.

What has long intrigued me about our verb contractions is the lack of logic (I suppose that shouldn't be a concern) in some. The question, Aren't I? cannot be logically transposed. 'I are not' is incorrect; we would say, I think, 'Am I not?" Yet we say, "Aren't I?"

The everylasting intricacy of English by whatever name!
Tuesday March 3rd 2009, 9:19 AM
Comment by: Jane B. (Winnipeg Canada)Top 10 Commenter
Thanks for that referral, Ben, to the earlier article about 'myself'. I am still in a muddle, but as I said then, the example seemed more suitable to 'me' than 'myself'. I find the same applies here.

I wonder if people are just unsure about pronouns sometimes, and want to choose what seems a safe alternative.
Tuesday March 3rd 2009, 11:58 AM
Comment by: Phil K. (West Vancouver Canada)
Quote:

" As an aside, did anyone else find the general lack of capitals in the comment posted by adale O. striking?"

Initially, I thought perhaps her Shift key was broken.

Then I noticed that she made four exceptions:

1. For her own surname initial (but not for given names)

2. For TV

3. For Fargo (but not for "washington", "idaho", "kentucky", "dakota" or "canadian")

4. For a reference to the letter "A".

I am at a loss to understand the principles at work in this system of selective capitalization.

But, as you can see, her practice of abandoning convention and introducing an apparently random substitute worked a charm at distracting my attention from her message.

Though I am unclear why she would want that result.
Tuesday March 3rd 2009, 2:31 PM
Comment by: Clarence W.Top 10 Commenter
Having had my attention drawn to it, I have to agree with Phillip about the formal need to drop the "of" in "as of yet". Although, since I've always understood the phrase to be the equivalent of "as yet" or "until now", purging the errant use while writing will be easier than while speaking. I'm not even sure if my mind would pick up on the "error" if someone else used it in conversation. It certainly is not as distracting as random capitalization.
Tuesday March 3rd 2009, 7:11 PM
Comment by: Roger Dee (Haslett, MI)Top 10 Commenter
Wonderful discussion! These are the concerns I struggle with and find no plausible explanation.
Texting can't be blamed for random capitalization. I think it is just plain laziness! It is so much trouble to hit the shift key and produce a "proper" English sentence!
Great article!
Wednesday March 4th 2009, 1:57 PM
Comment by: mac
ahhhhhh the English (language).
you haven't enuff room for wot i think the "kids" are doing to a reasonably useful language.
ergo, (how often does one get to use ergo?) i offer the two most egregiously offensive mangles (one man's opinion).
phonetically: uh airplane, rather than an airplane and tha experience rather than thee experience. mayhap neither of these grating pronunciations are incorrect but they sure hoit (as was once pronounced here) me ears.
last and very much least, "the reason why". how has this monster crept into the tongue?
yes, i mostly write in lower case because i like it but would never offend by not capping your name, thank you.
mac in manhattan
Wednesday March 4th 2009, 1:57 PM
Comment by: Jane B. (Winnipeg Canada)Top 10 Commenter
It's just those capitals in the post. If you get past them, the grammar and punctuation (until the last bit where a comma could be added) is right on!

Our missing the message (and I did, too), puts an accent on the 'idiosyncracies' we notice in the writing of others. I think there is a pattern. I spent time looking for that rather than the thought.

Perhaps that's my failing rather than hers, but the pattern seems to be that nothing is capitalized except a specialized use letter, T and V together, O for the last name, and A for the broad midwest sound.

Otherwise, it reads like carl sandberg with punctuation.
Thursday March 5th 2009, 10:07 PM
Comment by: Randall M.
How about pronunciation? Does anyone remember...

Mairsy doats,
and dosey doats,
and liddle lamsie divey.
A kiddle ee divy too.
Wooden shoe?

That is to say:

Mares eat oats,
and does eat oats,
and little lambs eat ivy.
A kid will eat ivy too.
Wouldn't you?

It all depends on how you say it and how closely you listen.

After studying English, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, I think that language is great, BUT ENGLISH IS THE GREATEST!
Tuesday March 24th 2009, 9:10 AM
Comment by: Shoshana G.
Because American English for most people here (I live in New York State), I have a grand advantage when in a rage. If another driver cuts me off in traffic, I can yell at him, "You're acephalic"!

That works wonderfully, the miscreant knows he's been insulted, but has to go home to look it up, he knows that saying his all purpose swear word just won't cut it with me. I have a list of such nice insults (Shakespearian insults are available online), and am never at a loss when in an argument over anything...though arguing is rare for me, now that I've become a sage, LOL.
How about such pilfered-from-the-kids expressions as "LOL"?

Also, "online" always shows up underlined by my spell checker, but "on line" doesn't mean the same thing.

Anyway, I feel joyful when speaking to an educated Brit, either in person or on my computer, because his/her language is so much richer and cleaner than American English. I feel that the language here is regressing back to the grunts of the cavemen.
Saturday April 4th 2009, 7:20 PM
Comment by: A. Z.
Very funny, Marc...
Sunday May 3rd 2009, 6:12 PM
Comment by: Mynga F.
I have been introduced rather late in life (through a rash of communications with people in the UK) to the period resting outside the end-of-sentence quotation mark. I greatly prefer the logic of it.

I continue to use the American "period inside the quote," but with a frown. Does it really drive the Britons crazy?

By the way, in many mountain and rural areas of Kentucky, one encounters quite a bit of "hain't" as the pronunciation of "ain't." <-- :(

By the way, in many mountain and rural areas of Kentucky, one encounters quite a bit of "hain't" as the pronunciation of "ain't". <-- :)

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Crossing the Pond
The blog "Separated By A Common Language" entertainingly dissects trans-Atlantic dialect differences.
St. Noah
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Written differences between American and British English owe much to Noah Webster.
Orin tells us about his latest book, a guide to American slang for learners of English.