Dialects of English

24 01 2012

It has been famously observed that the British and the Americans are two nations “divided by a common language”, a phrase variously attributed to George Bernard Shaw, Winston Churchill, Oscar Wilde and others. The point of the phrase is to highlight  the differences between the two major  dialects.or regional varieties of English, namely British English (BE) and American English (AE), which tourists in both countries have amply noted. Of course, the vast bulk of the two dialects are shared, meaning that the two peoples are mutually intelligible. Mostly. As an Australian on a road trip through Florida, with an accent the locals were prone to hear as British, I coped with the “problem” of mutual comprehension by speaking as loudly and clearly and “toothily” as I could. This seemed to do the trick, at the time.

Recently I was alerted to an article on this topic. It’s called: “The 20 Biggest Differences Between British and American English” and can be found at http://www.onlinecollegecourses.com/2012/01/23/the-20-biggest-differences-between-british-and-american-english/, which is a website for online college courses in USA.

Below I have copy-and-pasted the first 10 items highlighted in the article. If you hunger for more, follow the link.

  1. That whole “u” thing

    Reading “color” versus “colour” might clue one in to whether or not the literature in question hails from the United States or one of the Commonwealth nations. The latter favors the original “u” in words like the aforementioned and “neighbour” and “flavour” and the like.

  2. Oxford comma

    One of the most blood-boilingly controversial grammatical phenomena in the English language, the Oxford (or serial, or Harvard) comma — which separates listings of three or more (in “John, Paul, George, and Ringo,” for example, it nestles itself behind Harrison) — rarely pops up in British English. American English, save for journalistic works, loves it.

  3. Punctuation’s relation to quotation marks

    When it comes to quotes, Americans usually place their punctuation marks inside before moving on to the next sentence. The exact opposite holds true for British English speakers and writers, as they prefer leaving them on the outside.

  4. Verb forms for collective nouns

    Collective nouns understandably baffle English speakers on all sides of all ponds, but there’s really just one general rule to keep in mind. While in (or writing for) Commonwealth nations, collective nouns — which include nation names — pair up with plural verbs. In the United States, use a singular conjugation.

  5. Periods after titles

    American English majors swoon over Mr. Darcy. British English majors swoon over Mr Darcy. Non-English majors have taste.

  6. Placement of the day in dates

    See, British people write out their dates like this: “13 January 2012,” “13/01/12,” or “13.01.12.” While American people write out their dates like this: “January 13, 2012,” “01/13/12,” or “01.13.12.” WACKY!

  7. -ize vs -ise

    Words that typically end in –ize in the United States and Canada are frequently rendered with –ise in every other English-speaking nation. However, because language wouldn’t be language without numerous exceptions, sometimes the non-Canadian British English speakers rock that -ize as well.

  8. Quotation marks

    Single quotation marks are most common in British English nations, though their double counterpart has started creeping into daily use as of late. By contrast, Americans default to double quotations, using the singular ones to denote quotes within quotes.

  9. Pronunciation

    Obviously, different accents mean words take on completely different pronunciations depending on their speaker’s country of origin. Uh-loo-mu-num in American English is ahl-oo-men-ee-um elsewhere, most infamously.

  10. “And” between numerical units

    British English speaks or writes out numbers including an “and” in pretty much everything past 100, barring its multiples. “2012,” for example, would be written out as “two thousand and twelve,” while Americans expunge the “and” altogether and prefer “two thousand twelve” or “twenty-twelve.”


Glamping: glamour+camping

3 08 2010

I notice another recent neologism going mainstream. It’s glamping.

Last weekend glamping made it into a Sydney Morning Herald article headline. For those not in the know,  glamping is a form of camping where you may commune with nature without giving up all your creature comforts. It’s a blend of “glamour” and “camping” and there’s a huge market for the various goods and services now available. Let’s face it, the sleeping bags you see at Katmandou are more comfortable than the beds most of us have at home. Whether the demand came first and then the word, or the new word created the demand, is not a debate I’m up for.

The Herald article covered the recent annual 3-day Splendour in the Grass arts and music festival held at Woodford. Despite (or perhaps, better, because of) the mud and rain and wind, the festival offered a day spa (think:hair styling, make-up, massage) which booked out in less than a day. The festival even has its own Creative Design and Luxuries Manager. Certainly the old days of camping had no need for a  “luxuries manager”, unless you call toilet paper a luxury.

But anyway, where’s the rule that says camping and comfort are mutually exclusive?  It does raise a question though: Can you still call it “camping” when you introduce various elements to make the whole experience, well, less strenuous? Obviously not, and that’s why glamping came in. That after all is what language does – allows its users to say what they want to say. If the existing lexicon is inadequate, then stretch it to fit. English is particularly amenable to this – some say this accounts for the rise and rise of English on the world stage. There’s some truth in the assertion but more truth in the line that the language with the biggest army/navy is most likely to thrive.

Purists would say that once you start compromising on the stoical basics, then it’s a slippery slope to full decay. Glampers no doubt would answer that a slippery slope is fine so long as it’s a comfortable ride.