UK English and US English: What's the Difference?
"Good morning. Could I possibly see your freshest buns, please?"
" -ise or -ize? "
In terms of orthography, a lot of words with the ending -ise in Britain have been Americanised (or Americanized!) to end in -ize. eg. compromise (British) / compromize (American), standardise / standardize, and so on.
" -our or -or? "
In England, we tend to add a "u" into words such as "colour" and "humour", whereas Americans leave it out ("color" and "humor"). So you can easily tell whether a text was written by a Brit or an American just from the way they spell such words!
Then there's the actual lexis itself; that's to say, the words we use. In the following list, the words we use in Britain are on the left and their American equivalents are on the right. This list could potentially be endless, so I'll just list a few!
- Mobile phone = Cell phone
- Rubbish = Trash / Garbage
- Bum = Buns
- Buns = Bread rolls (So you can imagine the comedy when a Brit asks for some buns...!)
- Nappy = Diaper
- Trainers = Sneakers
- Trousers = Pants
- Pants = Underwear (Again, best not to get muddled up here!)
- Lift = Elevator
- Pavement = Side walk
- Chips = Fries
- Crisps = Chips (Confusing!)
- Jelly = Jell-O
- Jam = Jelly (Again, confusing!)
- Pram = Stroller
- Toilets = Restrooms
- Nice = Neat
- Neat = Tidy
- Cool = Awesome
- Holiday = Vacation
The list goes on and on and on. And on. So moving swiftly on...
Alright, so Americans all have this image of us Brits being posh because of the way we talk. I admit, we do speak rather...articulately, shall we say, but our accents differ significantly throughout the country. As do American accents. In Britain, there's Cockney (in the London area down south), Geordie (from Northumbria in the North East), Yorkshire (from Yorkshire, where we say things like "Put wood in't 'ole" for "Shut the door"!) and many more. The main difference between the American and British accent is the pronunciation of the letter "R". The Americans tend to pronounce the Rs in words, such as "car", whereas we 'posh' English people say "caaa".
The stress we place on words and our vowel pronunciations also differ with some words. When speaking about vowels, there is, of course, the classic "We say tomato you say tomato" and "We say yoghurt, you say yoghurt". Spelling-wise, there's no difference, but the pronunciation is something else! When putting the stress on words, it always makes me giggle when I hear an American pronounce the word "aluminium" (as I'm sure they giggle when we pronounce it our way!) as their stress is on the "u" at the start - alUminium - whereas our stress is on the "i" in the middle - alumInium.
By Daniella Wood
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