Differences between American & British English

Yep   Sunday, August 17, 2003, 06:06 GMT
Guofei, just to let you know, I live in California and if I heard you speaking like the way you write on the forums.. I would laugh.
Rugger   Sunday, August 17, 2003, 07:06 GMT
I agree that "by the by" and "pray tell" are outdated expressions and rather unsual comming out of the mouth of a 13 year old, but I don't think it fair to judge Guofie Ma as being pretentious or to make fun of him. Does using big words and fancy expressions always equate to being pretentious? There are many factors that could attest to why Guofie Ma talks the way he does, for example, where he grew up (which I think in Guofei Ma's case is Hong Kong) and whether his parents talk this way, or the level of English taught at his school, and the type of material he reads.
mjd   Sunday, August 17, 2003, 07:49 GMT
There's nothing wrong with writing lofty on an internet message board; it's all in good fun.....there are big differences between how we speak and how we write.
Tom   Thursday, January 15, 2004, 14:26 GMT
I exerted my authority and deleted the last 30 pages of this topic.

Discussions that are 59 pages long are bound to get increasingly off-topic (because, well, how long can we talk about BrE/AmE differences and still be interesting?) and repetitive (people don't feel like plowing through 50 pages, so they'll just post their stuff, even though it has already been posted by others...)
kmb   Friday, January 23, 2004, 02:33 GMT
what does 'pray tell' and 'by the by' mean?
Artem   Friday, January 23, 2004, 04:59 GMT
1) First of all, I would like to analyse the pronunciation of such words as "ask", "task", "laugh" etc. The difference between British and American pronunciations is well known, but it's interesting that sometimes the SAME person can pronounce these words differently in his speech. For example, I heard one person say "dance" with a British "ah" when it was a noun, and "dance" with the "open a" (as in "cat") when it was a verb.
I'll continue with a quotation from a well known song, "Lady In Red". Chris de Burgh sings, "I've never seen so many men ask you if you wanted to dance, they're looking for a little romance, given half a chance". In this quotation, there are four instances of the type of words in question. And all four (ask, dance, romance and chance) are pronounced with the British "ah". But in the refrain of this song, this is what happens, "The lady in red is dancing with me, cheek to cheek..." And here, "dancing" is pronounced with the "open a", i.e. the "American" way. Why? Perhaps, someone could explain it to me. To conclude this topic: only once in my lifetime have I heard the word "substantial" pronounced with a British "ah". I guess it's "aristocratic" or "upper class".

2) I think that no one in this discussion mentioned what happens to the letter L in British and American English.
I'll begin with BBC World, of which I am a great fan.
When L precedes a vowel, or is between vowels, it's very "soft" and almost like French or Italian L.
The L at the end of the word, or at the end of the syllable, in some people's pronunciation can become a "w". For instance, a BBC presenter said that "ten people were killed", and it sounded like "ten peop-w were ki-w-ed". (I hope you understand what I mean). When people talk about "cell phones" and "help", the L in both cases can become a "w".
On the other hand, in American English L can become "w" anywhere, so "love" can become "wuv", and "life" can become "wife".

3) I was talking to a Romanian friend, a fan of the American pronunciation, and asked him, "Can you insert this film into the camera?". He replied, "Why do you say 'insert'? Americans don't say 'insert'! They say 'put it in'!" The same Romanian friend, when I pronounced "ate" (past tense of "eat") in the same way as "at" (the preposition), told me that "ate" should be pronounced as "eight".

4) "Iraq" and "Iran". It is common for Americans to pronounce these two words as "Eye-rack" and "Eye-ran". Most British people say "Ee-rahk" and "Ee-rahn". Or am I wrong?

5) Some people on the BBC pronounce "Houston" as "Hooston", and not as "Hyooston".

6) Sorry for an off-topic, but I think this will be interesting. I am not a native speaker. When I learnt the words "conspicuous" and "despicable", something in my head worked to link them to the verb "speak", so I thought of them as "con-speak-uous" and "de-speak-able", and believe me, there was a way of rationalising it this way. This is a good illustration of how a non-native-speaker's mind operates.

7) And finally: I personally prefer the British pronunciation. This means that I should try to "ignore" the letter R in some cases, such as "car" and "alarm". These two are easy, but when it comes to "harbour", I DO pronounce both R's, because I feel a compelling urge to do so. Strange, isn't it? :-)

If someone wants to argue with me, contradict me, or agree with me, I will be grateful. My e-mail address is: soundgartem@hotmail.com
mjd   Friday, January 23, 2004, 06:53 GMT
Responses to Artem's questions (I'm an American, by the way):

1) I think this just depends on the accent of who is singing and what rhymes etc.

2) I've never pronounced my L's like w's nor have I heard anyone (minus very young children or adults with speech problems) pronounce them this way.

3) "Insert" is an English word, therefore it is used in both the UK and the US. One would probably see "insert" on the instructions the film came in, but colloquially, yeah, I'd probably opt for "put it in." This is not to say that one will never hear the word "insert" used in the US....one is more instructional whereas "put it in" is more colloquial.

4) I pronounce "Iraq" with the [i] sound from the pronunciation chart...in other words, with the same vowel sound as in the word "hit.".....not "eye" or "ee".

5) I'm not sure how some British people pronounce "Houston," but you're correct in saying that Americans say 'Hyooston'.

6) I pronounce the "I" sound in both of those words with the same sound as in Iraq [i]. See the chart: http://www.antimoon.com/how/pronunc-ascii.htm

7) I guess if you want to learn a non-rhotic accent, you have to learn how to avoid the "R's" in "harbor." I, however, speak with a rhotic accent and pronounce them both.
Eastie   Friday, January 23, 2004, 07:13 GMT
[On the other hand, in American English L can become "w" anywhere, so "love" can become "wuv", and "life" can become "wife".]

I've never heard another single American do this, except when they're deliberately being "cute" (i.e. baby-talk: "I wuv you, Snook'ems"). This phenomenon probably occurs in certain regional American accents, but it is not Standard AmE.

[It is common for Americans to pronounce these two words as "Eye-rack" and "Eye-ran". Most British people say "Ee-rahk" and "Ee-rahn". Or am I wrong?]

Yes, many Americans (including our President) pronounce these countries as [ai-r@n] and [ai-r@k]. No offense to people who do this, but IMO it conveys ignorance or a lack of education. I guess my prejudice stems from of all those stereotypical characterizations on television of southern rednecks pronouncing "Italian" as "Eye-talian".
Eastie   Friday, January 23, 2004, 07:20 GMT
"I guess my prejudice stems from of all those stereotypical characterizations on television..."

take out "of"

"I've never heard another single American do this, except when they're deliberately being 'cute' ..."

mjd, sorry for reiterating what you just posted. I didn't refresh before posting.
Alice   Friday, January 23, 2004, 21:46 GMT
The responses of one weird American

I do sometimes hear people, (usually young people), softening "l" sounds at the ends of words. For exmple, someone might say "hoh-oo-d" (that would be a fast dipthong, not two syllables), for "hold". The "l" is implied, in much the same way that an "m" or "n" would be when spoken by someone who was severly congested. Does this mak any sense? But I never hear anyone pornouncing "l"s this way at the beginning of a word.

My "a" vowels as in "dance" or "France" etc. are somewhere in between the nasalised "a" heard in some american accents and the more closed sound that is heard in some British accents, (for example, I wouldn't ryhme "can" with "fawn"). I'm not sure how to represent this phonetically, but it would be close to Chris de Burgh in the first line you quoted.

As to the countries, I say ih-rawk and ih-rawn.
Brain Stein   Monday, February 02, 2004, 19:37 GMT
The English language has a lot of crazed words by the English speakers. What may we do without the rights to spell words how we pronounce them?
I know that the English language will become harder and weird because we
were not accustomed to this new spelling but logical it will be.
Blue Sky   Monday, February 02, 2004, 19:43 GMT
I think about the resolution of just one way to spell like in other languages.
For example: Spanish is a good language because the Hispanics don't worry
about learning Spanish with phonetical symbols. It's simple to say each word. I used to speak Spanish and now I know how to speak it clearly.
Mad   Monday, February 02, 2004, 19:52 GMT
I say That I am mad when I hear other people speaking simple words that they don't say well. It's because they say that "sweet" does not rhyme with
"sweat". Beat rhymes with beet. Where's the simple rule that this language
doesn't have.
Franco   Tuesday, February 10, 2004, 15:08 GMT
I have a company selling old and new leather chesterfield sofas and am often asked where the origin of the word chesterfield comes from, I am led to believe that Canadians call all sofas chesterfields, is this true.
If anyone can offer more information on the origins of the word chesterfield an it's relation to furniture I will post your replies on my website http:/chesterfields.info


Myriescence   Wednesday, February 11, 2004, 18:33 GMT
Chesterfield is a town in England where this certain type of sofa was first made.