looking for a Brit's view of AE

Vanessa   Mon Jul 25, 2005 8:33 am GMT
Hi everyone! I just came across this site while researching for a class project. I am a college student in Hawaii doing a project for my anthropology class, and I am researching Brit's views of American English. My Dad is originally British, but he has been in America so long, his help is limited. I would be interested in anyone's views or opinions on the topic, especially in regards to the general view of American English and the major differences Brits see between British English and American English. I know this has been mentioned in a few different posts, but I was looking for more in depth. Any thoughts are very much appreciated! Thanks!
The Swede   Mon Jul 25, 2005 8:49 am GMT
Please ignore Adam if he comment this subject!
Adam   Mon Jul 25, 2005 9:32 am GMT
Why? Because I won't say that American English is better than British English?

You'd never get a Swede saying that Norwegian is superior to Swedish.
Sander   Mon Jul 25, 2005 9:37 am GMT
=>You'd never get a Swede saying that Norwegian is superior to Swedish. <=

I bett you'd get a lot of Swedes say that Swedish is superior to English after reading your rubbish comment,but then again...no they would'nt ,because they have decency.
Damian in Edinburgh   Mon Jul 25, 2005 9:53 am GMT
This really is a very difficult one to answer!

The impression the vast majority of British people have of American English is what we hear on TV and in films....and from American tourists here. I should know...I live in Edinburgh and at this time of year in particular the city is awash with Americans.

It's difficult, as I say, to determine exactly how we feel about it.
Of course, the accent is a whole lot different...to me all Americans sound the same but to other Americans probably their home locations there would be apparent.

Both the Brits and the Americans use different words for the same thing...everybody knows that and there's no point in listing them here.

Style is different as well....eg Americans still say things like "gotten" which to most reasonably educated Brits is a form that went out of use here yonks ago. That is just one example and I wish I had more time here and now to go into it in more depth (I'm having a coffee break!)

I will try and think of some more "Language" differences. Aside from that, there are many differences between Americans on one side of the Pond and Brits and Europeans on the other.

Cheers for now (there, that's one difference...I don't think many Americans use this universal British term!)
Adam   Mon Jul 25, 2005 9:54 am GMT
And ther's nothing more annoying than Americans changing words such as "through" into the very ugly "thru", or writing the dates in an illogical sequence by putting the month before the day, so that in the US the date is 7/25/05 but in Britain it is the more logical 25/7/05 where it is say first, then month then year.
The Swede   Mon Jul 25, 2005 10:07 am GMT
Adam, if I should ask you "Are there any problems in the UK"? If you should say no then I should not be suprised. I can say that every country have problems. Eaven Luxemburg , the land who has the highest or one of the highest GDP/ capita in the world. I think, or know, that they who answere no, they have really big problems.
The Swede   Mon Jul 25, 2005 10:08 am GMT
Adam, if I should ask you "Are there any problems in the UK"? If you should say no then I should not be suprised. I can say that every country have problems. Eaven Luxemburg , the land who has the highest or one of the highest GDP/ capita in the world. I think, or know, that they who answere no, they have really big problems.
Rick Johnson from England   Mon Jul 25, 2005 10:36 am GMT
Differences really aren't that great! I think people try to make a bigger deal of what few differences there are. Noah Webster's standardization of English makes sense, for the most part, and simplifies spelling. Some British people ask why does honour or labour have no "u" in, but honor and labor are the latin spellings. I have seen seen "honor" in some 17th Centurty texts but mostly its spelt honour.

However, British English drops the "u" often.
Honour, but Honorary
Labour, but Laborious
Vigour, but Vigorous
Colour, but Colorific and Coloration
Glamour, but Glamorous and Glamorize (or Glamorise)


Nearly always in 17th Century texts Center, is used rather than Centre, I think that changed largely with Samuel Johnson's 1755 dictionary. Likewise, he gave some autority to "ise" spellings such as organise and realise rather than organize and realize. Both are acceptable spellings in UK and commonwealth.

Many American words started their lives in England, but have since been forgotten. Words such as fall (in the sense of autumn) to broil instead of to grill and even some words which seem modern such as posse apparently have roots in 16th Century England.

Over the last two hundred years BE has changed as speakers use "americanisms" without even realizing.

These fall into different groups:

Words joining two previous words into one, such as bedspread, seafood, dirttrack etc.

Descriptions by ending a word in "y", such as lengthy, pricey etc

Or new words coined in the US due to changes in technology or the environment. Words such as suburban, commute, motherboard -there are literally hundreds!

There are also many new verbs created from nouns which started life in the US.

On the whole, however, differences are minor. I could perfectly understand Sesame Street or the Muppets when I was 3 so I don't really see any great obstacles. Occasionally I have come across new words in the US. I remember a few years ago, arriving at JFK in New York and seeing the word "restroom", I was impressed that the airport provided people with somewhere to take a nap.

The only other word I can think of i was in a coffee shop in Seattle where a sign said "please bus your table", luckily for the owners I was smart enough to figure that they probably didn't mean people to drive a 20 ton vehicle through the front.
Damian in Scotland UK   Mon Jul 25, 2005 11:22 am GMT
**Adam, if I should ask you "Are there any problems in the UK"? **

THE SWEDE: Of course the UK has problems.....loads of 'em!...some mega style. If you have a couple of hours to spare I'll list them for you! Even so, I wouldn't live anywhere else and that's for sure.....especially in the Scottish part of it If I have to go and live down in London I could handle it :-)
The Swede   Mon Jul 25, 2005 12:55 pm GMT
Damian, I know UK is a beautiful and a good country, nice people and a high standard of living. I have been there many times eaven in Scotland and Wales. There are some strange persons everywhere. I like The UK too, but as you know I prefer to live in Sweden because I have grown up here and I like also the landscape here.
Kirk   Tue Jul 26, 2005 8:13 am GMT
Rick Johnson, thanks for your interesting comments. Most English speakers the world around can still understand each other just fine, especially if given a couple of minutes to acclimate to the other person's accent and particular speech habits. In my experience with British English speakers, I've understood almost everything they say--I also get the TV channel BBC America, which sometimes plays British sitcoms with actors with exaggerated or very non-RP English and I still for the most part find it completely understandable. Only every once in a while will a certain word or expression pop up where I didn't quite get what it meant.

On another note, I'm curious, Rick. I've read that "Johnson" isn't nearly as common a last name as it is here in the US (we have tons of "Johnson"s due to historic large-scale Scandinavian immigration) so I was just wondering about your last name, if you don't mind. :)
Rick Johnson   Tue Jul 26, 2005 8:55 am GMT

There are quite a large amount of people whose names end in "son" in the UK, as far as I'm aware it decends from the Viking invasions. Some people seem to believe that the Vikings came, raped and pilaged then returned home, but the 3000 or so Norse place names in Northern England would indicate that this was probably untrue.

Names like Johnson and Jackson also seem to be popular names for Afro-Caribbeans and Afican-Americans.

You are right in saying some names are more common in the US than the UK. Often names such as Muller and Schmitt would be Anglicized by US immigation to Miller and Smith.
Rick Johnson   Tue Jul 26, 2005 9:11 am GMT
Actually I'm not sure that if what I've just writen about "son" names is necessarily true. It was a friend of mine whose last name is Dawson who told me that. I think it's more like that someone was just the son of John and too lazy to think of anything better.
Travis   Tue Jul 26, 2005 9:38 am GMT
Rick Johnson, as for names like "Müller" and "Schmidt", those don't seem to be anglicized that often here in the US, or at least in this area (southeastern Wisconsin), even though historically people did often pronounce many German surnames as their English counterparts even though they generally kept their spellings relatively intact here. The only thing is that "Müller" would generally be changed to "Mueller" in most cases, as most German names here have been de-umlauted, but in most, but not all cases, the de-umlauting has been compensated by putting "e"s after the formerly umlauted letters.