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Writing Web Articles In The English 84% Of The World Speaks – Not American!

Updated on July 22, 2008

If you had to do an extremely important presentation which could have an impact on much of your future earnings, in front of a fully-bilingual audience whose native language was 84% French and 16% English, which language would you do the presentation in? Assuming you were bilingual as well, it is a given that you would do it in French.

Then, why do you insist on writing in American English which is the language of less than 16% of the world's and the web's English speakers?

No one is outright asking you to discuss "the binning of lorry tyres," but you should keep in mind that "honour the colour of your neighbour" is correct in the vast majority of English-speaking countries. Except the United States, of course.

There are 1,923,667,098 people in the world who live in countries where English is an official primary language. The United States is home to 300,007,997 of them. The rest live in:

  1. India 1,129,866,154
  2. Pakistan 162,419,946
  3. Nigeria 128,771,988
  4. Philippines 87,857,473
  5. United Kingdom 60,441,457
  6. South Africa 44,344,136
  7. Sudan 36,992,490
  8. Kenya 33,829,590
  9. Canada 32,300,000
  10. Uganda 27,269,482
  11. Ghana 21,029,853
  12. Australia 20,800,000
  13. Madagascar 19,448,815
  14. Cameroon 16,380,005
  15. Zimbabwe 12,746,990
  16. Malawi 12,158,924
  17. Zambia 11,261,795
  18. Rwanda 8,440,820
  19. Hong Kong 6,898,686
  20. Sierra Leone 6,017,643
  21. Papua New Guinea 5,545,268
  22. Singapore 4,425,720
  23. Ireland 4,130,700
  24. New Zealand 4,108,561
  25. Puerto Rico 3,912,054
  26. Liberia 3,482,211
  27. Jamaica 2,731,832
  28. Namibia 2,030,692
  29. Lesotho 1,867,035
  30. Botswana 1,640,115
  31. The Gambia 1,593,256
  32. Mauritius 1,230,602
  33. Swaziland 1,173,900
  34. Trinidad and Tobago 1,088,644

...and many other nations with a population of less than one million.

When you write an article on the web, you are not writing for the people whose world doesn't stretch much further north than Seattle or south of San Diego. The internet reaches every corner of the world, and you should be aware that the majority of the people who surf the net not only do not speak American English, but they may never have even visited the country (or with the new Homeland Security tourist rules they may never be able to)!

When a housewife serves tea in the evening, is she serving a hot drink, or a full-course meal? Americans will say hot drink. English will say a full meal. Of course there are always variants. Canadians, for example, speak a strange combination of both British and American English. But generally, you'll find that most of the 84% adhere to the British variety of the language.

There is a reason for that, and it's not that the Americans are right and the British are wrong. If you were awake in high school history you might be aware of the term The British Empire. There was a time not so long ago, when the maps of the world were predominantly pink as that color was arbitrarily chosen to reflect the territories of this vast empire. The sun never set on the British Empire as it spanned the world so at any given time it was high noon (or close to it) on some part of the Empire. This incredible Empire reached its zenith under Queen Victoria (who gave the name to the Victorian Era and whose birthday of May 24 is still celebrated almost everywhere throughout the former Empire, now known as the Commonwealth). Yes, the United States of America was part of this vast Empire as well, although you upstart Yanks had the utter bad taste and boorish lack of etiquette to throw us British Imperialists out before Victoria was born. You don't know what you missed out on! The Victorian Era in the British Empire was an age of unparalleled progress and vision, and one that our squalid, immoral and gadget-soaked century would do well to emulate (well... except for the various Victorian military excesses...).

Besides, why did you have to throw all that perfectly good tea into Boston Harbour? All because you didn't want to pay taxes to King George? I'd take one crazy British King over your ravenous bunch of hound dogs at the IRS any day!

You might want to brush up on what most of the English speaking world calls various things, so that you don't come off as an insensitive egotistical American:

  • AIRSCREW - Propeller.
  • ANORAK - Parka.
  • ARROWS - Game of Darts.
  • ARTICULATED LORRY - An 18 wheeler truck.
  • AUBERGINE - Eggplant.
  • BAP - A soft, round bun.
  • BALACLAVA - A ski mask.
  • BANGERS - Sausages.
  • BIFFER - Overweight person
  • BIRD - A girl.
  • BIRO - Ball point pen.
  • BLOKE - Guy or fellow.
  • BOBBY - Policeman.
  • BONNET - Car hood.
  • BOOT - Car trunk
  • BROLLY - Umbrella.
  • BUTTY - Sandwich.
  • CANTEEN - Cafeteria.
  • CARAVAN - Trailer or Motor Home.
  • CENTRE - Center.
  • CHEERS - Thanks or Goodbye.
  • CHEMIST - Drug store.
  • CHUFFED - Happy.
  • CLADDING - House siding.
  • COURGETTES - Zucchini.
  • CRISPS - Potato chips.
  • CUPPA - A cup of tea.
  • CUSTOM - Patronage.
  • DEMERARA - Brown sugar.
  • DOLE - Welfare or Social Security payments.
  • DRAUGHTS - The game of checkers.
  • DUAL CARRIAGEWAY - Divided highway.
  • ESTATE CAR - Station wagon.
  • FAG - Cigarette.
  • FAGGOT - A sausage-like meat.
  • FLAT - Apartment.
  • FLYOVER - Overpass.
  • FOOTBALL - Soccer.
  • FULL STOP - A period at the end of a sentence.
  • GAMMON - Ham.
  • GOB - Mouth.
  • HOOTER - A nose.
  • LAY-BY - Roadside rest area.
  • LIFT - Elevator.
  • LOLLY - Popsicle.
  • LOO - Toilet.
  • MACINTOSH (MAC) - Raincoat.
  • MOGGIE - A tabby cat.
  • NICK - To steal.
  • NOUGHT - The number zero.
  • PETROL - Gasoline.
  • PRAM - Baby buggy.
  • PUSH CHAIR - Stroller.
  • QUEUE - To stand in line.
  • RANDY - Horny
  • ROUNDABOUT - Traffic circle.
  • SERVIETTE - Table napkin.
  • SILENCER - Car muffler.
  • SMARTIES - M and M's. Plain, never peanut.
  • STONE - The weight of a person in 14 lb. increments.
  • SUBWAY - An walkway under a street. Never an underground train which is a Tube.
  • SWEDE - Turnip.
  • TIMBER YARD - Lumber yard.
  • TOMATO SAUCE - Ketchup.
  • WELLIES (WELLINGTONS) - Rubber boots.
  • WING - Fender of a car.
  • ZED - The letter "Z".

Do you have any idea how difficult it is to resist writing a satirical phrase like:

"Geez, I've been dying to wrap my lips around a nice (cigarette)!"


"I'm going to sit down and eat that lovely (sausage-like meat)!"

...but this is a family Hub. Remember. A family Hub!!!

However, now you might not be surprised when your British English friend wants to wear an Apple Computer when it rains, lives in a flat which hasn't been flattened, pulls out the key to his boot, wants to eat your butty, or wonders what all those well-endowed waitresses are doing in a restaurant named "Noses"!

Another fact that might surprise you: This sum is correct in the USA: $1,230,571,356.14. However, if you are in Continental Europe, the dots, periods, and currency symbol get scrambled: The correct form is: 1.230.571.356,14$ Are you ready to lose your mind? In India, it's expressed as: $1,23,05,71,356.14!

Also note that in most countries a billion equals a US trillion, a significant difference especially if your article deals in large figures. If you state Bill Gates is worth $56 billion, a foreign reader could interpret that to equal more than four years of the entire GDP of the United States!

When I write a Hub, I usually do it in American English as that's where the bulk of Hub readers are. However, I've worked in Britain for years and my readers would have been quite distressed to find me writing in American. I find the American obliviousness to British spelling quite amusing. I once was hired by an American company to write a technical manual for a product sold only in the United Kingdom. When I submitted my first draft they fired me on the spot since I obviously couldn't spell as I (quote) "insisted on sticking all those u's after the o's!"

It is obvious that your writing should be localized to the majority of readers. This is no time to be stubbornly patriotic. You are trying to write quality articles that are designed to get people all over the world to read and appreciate them, whether or not these readers happen to live under the stars and stripes. Therefore is it too much to ask that when you are writing an article which is directed primarily to British English speakers from Australia to Zimbabwe that you show the common courtesy of using their version? After all, British English came first!


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    • profile image

      WhydThatHappen 5 years ago

      What if I'm talking about Fifty Shades of Grey?

    • Thomas Swan profile image

      Thomas Swan 5 years ago from New Zealand

      Nice hub. I wonder if hubpages downgrades the hubscores of articles written in British English because it thinks it contains spelling mistakes?

      Also, your story of the technical manual really resonated with me. I've interacted with Americans who think I can't spell, and it's quite annoying. I suppose you have to laugh, but it's never nice for people to think of you as dumb. Did you try to explain to the editor that he was in the wrong? I would have a hard time containing my anger in that situation, but it could have been reconciled with a polite explanation couldn't it?

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Mr. Biden is a well known firebrand who shoots off his mouth and then thinks. That is a completely ghastly racist comment for a VP candidate to make. What it refers to is that many U.S. immigrants from the Indian Subcontinent work in fairly low-paid retail jobs, such as 7-Eleven convenience stores and Dunkin' Donuts fast food outlets. I fully expect Mr. Biden to drop the N-bomb soon and then realize his gaffe, look at the camera and say "But Barack really isn't black... is he?" :)

    • starcatchinfo profile image

      starcatchinfo 9 years ago

      HI HAL,

      Can you explain to the remarks of Mr. Biden [ referring to Indian Immigrants ] quoting, "you cannot go to 7-Eleven or a Dunkin' Donuts unless you have a slight Indian accent."

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks starcatchinfo! I appreciate it!!! In answer to your question, I swear on my gramma's grave (...and I loved my gramma... sob... sob...) that I have summarized my entire perspective on successful Hub writing on:

      I really don't have anything at all to add, but if you'd like to send me some URLs, I'd be happy to review them for you and make whatever suggestions I can! Thanks!

    • starcatchinfo profile image

      starcatchinfo 9 years ago


    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      I admit, mushy peas are a bit of an acquired taste. But when you do get the mushy peas habit, it's next to impossible to break! I'll be glad to serve you the ends of the roast. They're always medium to medium-well. I'll keep the center that is still nice and pink! Bon appetit! :)

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Can you hear me gagging over the mushy peas!!! GROSS! They look and smell disgusting....I'd rather eat maple syrup.

      However, you cook that roast a bit more, and I'm in for the rest of the dinner 'cause it sounds great. Think I'm hungry.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      The perfect meal: medium rare roast beef, yorkshire puddin', mushy peas and a huge trifle for dessert. That is the sole exception to the well deserved badmouthing of traditional Brit food! YUM!

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Love Yorkshire Puddin' with lots of gravy - YUM! Much better than maple syrup, eh?

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Nah, the Brits put LEMON JUICE on their pancakes. Traditional British food was never really... er... edible! :) All except yorkshire puddin'!!!!

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You're welcome.

      Re the syrup....maybe if you put it on a 10" stack of fluffy pancakes that has 1/2 lb. of butter already melted on them, but no, it's too sweet for me. Must be my British blood line - do they like maple syrup?

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      How the CBC could pre-empt the Platts and the Barlows for Lamaze and Hickstead is beyond me. :) Are you sure that you're not some foreign spy? You can't be Canadjan without pouring maple syrple over EVERYTHING! :) And thanks for becoming my fan. I appreciate it!!!!

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      You do realize that we Canucks cannot watch Coronation Street until THE NEVER-ENDING OLYMPICS are over!

      Naturally Molsons!  Beats the stink outta Labatt's.  You can have my share of the syrup, though, eh?

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Canucks... harumph... just another bunch of Molson-swilling, maple syrup-sodden, eh-spouting, libertarian bleeding heart puckheads. Of which I happen to be one! GO CANADA! We definitely need more medals at the Olympics though. We got a late start but we're coming on strong! I too prefer the British versions, especially that lovely typical Home Counties or Received Pronounciation English. I find it so soothing and intellectual! But then again, I'm a dyed in the wool Coronation Street freak, so I can also appreciate the gritty turn of a Mancunian phrase! :) Fred Elliot! Why did you have to die? We miss you!!! :( Thanks for your comment!

    • Shirley Anderson profile image

      Shirley Anderson 9 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I happen to really like the British influence in our Canadian English. I suppose that stems from my familiarity with it, but it seems richer, fuller or prettier somehow. Maybe softer is a better term. The words don't seem so blunt, and have a lot of character. How poetic and girlie does that sound!?!

      That being said, American English is the one that I would choose for business purposes online unless I knew that my audience was a Canadian majority. I don't do this on HP because, let's face it - HP writing is more fun/love than money. So I just use what's comfortable and fun. After all, I AM CANADIAN.

      It has been my assumption for many years that American English is the world standard, with the obvious exceptions being the U.K. and Canada, and their territories. I'm not sure if I could pull off a third or twenty-third type of English.

      Although I'm sure it wasn't funny at the time, I had to chuckle about you being fired for writing the proper English.

      Good hub, Hal. Tons of work too, I'm sure.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks for your comments, AndyBaker and gypsy10!

    • profile image

      gypsy10 9 years ago

      There are a lot of difference in the English spoken in all English speaking countries.

      Certain words are used in different ways.

      Being from England I did have some trouble understanding some Americanism but I am learning quickly.

      I really enjoyed this article.

    • AndyBaker profile image

      AndyBaker 9 years ago from UK

      Very interesting article - thanks !!

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Thanks for your comments and kind words, Guru-C and Adsense Strategies! LadyGrey88, Mark Twain also said "Education: that which reveals to the wise, and conceals from the stupid, the vast limits of their knowledge." yes... I know that can be taken two ways... Twain was a genius! :)

    • Guru-C profile image

      Cory Zacharia 9 years ago

      Thank you, Hal, for the language lesson. I definitely have a lot of boning up to do.

    • profile image

      LadyGrey88 9 years ago

      I don't give a damn for a man that can only spell a word one way. -Mark Twain :P

    • AdsenseStrategies profile image

      AdsenseStrategies 9 years ago from CONTACT ME at

      Wow what a comprehensive Hub.

      I am an exPat Brit living in Canada -- I went to school in England till I was fourteen, then completed "high school" in Canada.

      There I was taught that Canadians may use either the British or the US standard spelling of any given word as long as they are CONSISTENT for that word.

      In practice what I tend to see and read around me on a daily basis (apart from French!) is British spellings -- obviously Canadian SPOKEN English is identical or at least in the ballpark of US English (depending on the person speaking) however.

      On the other hand, of people using the Internet, despite your mentioning places like India (where in any case virtually noone has English as a FIRST language) where access to either electricity or literacy are sparse, never mind access to computers or the Internet, the truth is that the vast majority of people using the Internet live in the United States.

      Add to this the fact that the US and Canada are the only two countries in the world (that I know of) where local phone calls are free (by and large), which also affects Internet access, and you get the answer to why US English and not British English is the dominating form of English on the Web.

      There, I've said my piece... or is it peace...? :-)

      See, if you're interested, my related hub:

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      t.keeley, thanks for the Irish history lesson! Much appreciated! Slainte chugat!

      Teresa McGurk, I think you forgot Esperanto in there. Interlingua too! :)

      Cailin Gallagher, but think... you'd have Gordon Brown as your President now! He's got to be better than the one you have... well... almost... :)

      noovnmom, so... you have a Randy husband, huh? You must be one lucky lady! :)

    • moovnmom profile image

      moovnmom 9 years ago

      I want to commend you on writing a hub that has generated interest and emotion and given us hubbers something to do!

      I'm not sure why it has prompted us to start the Revolutionary War over again.

      The only thing I really take exception to is to suggest that I have a 'TARGET' audience. I don't. I write for myself. I share something I find thought provoking, interesting and that you might as well. YOU meaning, any hubber, wherever he or she maybe. I honestly don't know where my readers may hail from. It is of no consequence. Since I write for me, I write in the style I was taught. I have not had the great fortune to have lived in so many areas of the world, as you have. So, I'm not as atuned or adept at writing to accomodate these differences.

      And, if I did have a 'target' audience of, say, British English speaking and reading group, Hub pages would not be my choice of publication. Rather,I would seek a publication that is mainly read by British English readers.

      Just out of curiosity, what country did Hub Pages originate from? Was that Great Britain, Canada, America or Zimbabwe? Oh well.

      BTW, if you call 'ketchup' tomato sauce, what the heck do you make marinara sauce out of? I'll have to ask my husband, Randy.

    • Cailin Gallagher profile image

      Cailin Gallagher 9 years ago from New England

      Speaking as a Bostonion who is proud that we dumped all of that tea into our harbor, I certainly would not have enjoyed seeing U.S. history changed if we didn't kick the Red-Coats back to where ye belonged. The countries that did not revolt, ie. Ireland, were set-back years in their development. The King's English? No, thank you. Great hub, by the way. :)

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 9 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Ni hao, a todos. I must admit I got a quare gunk when I read your Hub, Hal. I even started feeling a bit guilty about using American spelling and vocabulary (I try to talk English when I'm on the phone with my mum, but sometimes I slip up). I've lived in the States for twenty-three years now (with two years off for good behaviour), and have been appalled, amused, and ultimately delighted at how plastic and malleable the English language can be. I've noticed, too, that my brother and mum sometimes use Americanisms -- gawd knows why -- but I wonder if language is going to become homogenized to a degree in the public domain. This would have the concomitant result of making us hard-headed types strive to maintain regional usage lest it be lost. Muito bem. Regional Ulsterisms it is, then, and I hope yis all enjoy it as much as we do. Or I'll deck yis all.

    • t.keeley profile image

      Tim 9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I'm going to chime in a wee bit on Dafia here...

      My family being irish and relatively recent to the USA, I don't believe we have the english to blame (as much as Ireland being under the British rule irks me, you can't blame them entirely). The Norse invaders prior to William the Conqueror had similar tradition...the point is those who rule a nation often define what that nation does, speaks, worships, etc. It's a historical trend and Americans and Englishmen were NOt the first or the last to be 'tyrannical' and remove the natives' rights to speak their own language. Let's face it, we as Americans often force native immigrants to learn english (something that is slowly slipping away though).

      Some historical correction as well: The celts did not invade all. They've been in England as far back as we have recorded history (read "How the Irish Saved the World" if you would please). The Celtic people are diverse and separated by numerous language barriers in their own rights: Scottish Gaelic is not Irish Gaelic, Welsh Gaelic is not Briton Gaelic, etc. Don't forget that the Saxons incorporated their language into the Briton's and eventually French was also blended into the mix (with some Latin) to form "Middle English" which is NOT Elizabethan English at all. I think Middle English might have been the most difficult language ever since it was a mutt of so many influences.

      Needless to say, your history of the Irish invading the Briton's land is actually very false. Once Romans decided to take over England and then leave (Hadrian's wall come to mind, King Arthur legend), the Saxons invaded and forced a large amount of Gaels out of England (Briton). This sent the Scots and Picts north to Scotland (duh) and the Irish to Eire (although I'm sure Eire already had native inhabitants of Celtic descent, mind you). Most of this information is pretty easy to access in your library, but it's a little known portion of history because it's not in your college history books (at least not in mine).

      Rome conquered and destroyed the Gaels first, so then the Norse, then the Saxons continued it until the British were entirely different from the irish in every shape and form, even were bred into by the Norse and French after 1000 AD. To say the Irish were destroyed by the british in language see what I mean. The english didn't sail across the channel and say 'hey learn our language or die' and in two weeks -- BOOM -- the Irish were anglicized...

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      The historical basis of the schism was that the Romans looked across the Irish Sea at an island constantly covered by fog which they called Hibernia and figured that whatever was there wasn't worth conquering. That allowed the Irish to maintain their Celtic ways and be spared the Latin invasion. It's too bad, since they missed out on some great Irish Craik! :)

    • profile image

      Peter Keay 9 years ago

      Now wait a minute, Dafla, it's not all of the current Brits who "took the Celtic languages away."  Many of the modern inhabitants of UK are in fact descendants of those poor lingual victims.  Calling them arrogant arses is a little bit too...

      But I do feel kind of sorry for the Celtic group, it's such a cool language group.  Verb-subject-object word order, counting by twenties, inflected many unique facets to it.  And I'm sure the Native American group is fascinating, too.  As each language dies, so does a particular worldview, and I'm not sure I want the "American English" worldview taking over the world.  Anyway, this is way digressing fromthe point of the post.  Sorry.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      ^Now, now... we shouldn't discriminate against the British! They have some choice words about the Colonials too! :)

      This is a great string of comments, and everyone has points that are valid.

      Crikey, I'm chuffed so many punters are taking a butchers and nattering! :)

    • Paraglider profile image

      Dave McClure 9 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Dafla - {{{Englishmen (and women) are arrogant arses to my opinion.}}}

      Sorry, but that is simply offensive.

    • Marian Swift profile image

      Marian Swift 9 years ago from San Francisco Bay Area

      Non-American English is taught in few (if any) American schools, so any knowledge we gain comes from life exposure. In fact, I don't even know of any adult evening courses in non-American English.

      I read books by British authors and am a BBCAmerica junkie. I've had friends and acquaintances from the British Isles, Australia and Canada. So I'm well aware that all are different from American English, and from each other as well. But ... I simply don't feel fluent enough to write in non-American English, for fear it would come off as illiterate or mocking.

      If people use their own native brand of English with eloquence, well, then I'm a happy reader!

    • profile image

      dafla 9 years ago

      What possible difference does it make how old a country is as to whether their language is the correct one? If we want to go that route, why don't we all speak Chinese? We may all have to one day, you know.

      But remember, the English are the ones who took the native Irish language away from them and FORCED THEM to speak English. It's so sad, because so few people can now speak true Gaelic, that it's becoming a dead language.

      So I think I won't let you do that to my native language. Besides, if we Americans really wanted to speak the native language, there would be many to learn, since the NATIVE languages belong to the NATIVE AMERICANS!

      I'm sure that there were native Brits..oh, yes, there were those nasty Celts, so is that why you took their language away? You were mad at them for invading your country? Do you realize how many of your "proper English speaking" citizens are descended from the Celts? Well, I know my ancestors from Cornwall, England, and Wales were.

      Englishmen (and women) are arrogant arses to my opinion. Whoops! Did I just use a true English word?

    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 9 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Yes, Peter Keay, I agree.  I have to laugh when I hear people in the U.S. saying that English Only should be the policy of the country.  That means we would need to rename California, Nevada, Colorado, Montana, and even Louisiana, Kentucky, Ohio and indeed most of the states, since these names come from languages other than English.

      I live near Chicago, which is a First Nation or Native American word.

      And even words we use such as the names of our major political parties - Republican and Democrat - come from languages other than English.

      In short, English is a rich mosaic of many languages and the people who speak any variation of Modern English are also a rich and diverse painting of cultures, peoples and ideas.  To deny that is to attempt to deny the history and origins of English as a modern language.

      And Jeanette M, I also agree with you.  Any one of us can learn to modify the usage of words and spellings to accomodate the needs of the reader.  I have to laugh at a current commercial where a young businessman from the U.S. uses one of those personalized credit cards and the German clients begin to laugh at him for using a "Kindergarten card" with a superhero logo on it.  It would be the same if one was visiting clients in Japan and failed to understand the business card tradition, or if one bowed too low.

      Customs are important and are definitely very different between cultures.  To ignore them is to chance losing a client or even committing an act of very deep and personal insult.

    • profile image

      Peter Keay 9 years ago

      Chef Jeff: Yeah, the number of words English gets from other languages in absolutely amazing.  Some come from such diverse languages as Bengali, Zulu, Tagalog,'s definitely by far the richest language in the world in this respect.

    • profile image

      Jeanette M 9 years ago

      I have clients in the US and the UK. It's simple enough to modify the spelling accordingly. The majority of work for web writing on the job boards seems to lean towards US English.


    • Chef Jeff profile image

      Chef Jeff 9 years ago from Universe, Milky Way, Outer Arm, Sol, Earth, Western Hemisphere, North America, Illinois, Chicago.

      Actually, as a teacher I struggle to get my students to speak any English as at!  Even those born here seem to have a limited vocabulary and most can not write a proper sentence.

      That said, many people I know who were born in the U.K. do not speak English very well.  The numbers of people who speak "The Queen's English" are a small minority.  Having been to "East Anglia" I notice a lot of Scandinavian accent and word history in their usage of English.  And that is to be expected since the Danish and Norse invaders of that ancient land did not speak English at all.

      And in Scotland most people speak what is, to the uninformed, a variation of Scottish and English mixed well together.

      I have taught myself to read and write in Eald Englisc, Old English, and this has helped me to spot the words which have come into the language from other languages, such as garage from French, loo from Louvre, (or as some claim, Waterloo, since Napoleon's picture was on the bottom of many an English bed pan, or piss pot as my English friends have often called it.)  Also, loo is a slang word.  The proper usage would be W.C. for water closet.  Bedpan might also be used to describe the Bedford to St. Pancreas rail line service.

      Many of the words you listed are known to me since I pride myself in having traveled to many places, and also having learned the local patois (oops! Another French word!).  I also know a lot of people from Jamaica, and the English they speak in just as incomprehensible to the English as it would be to most North Americans.  Also, Nigeria, where English is an official language, is very different from the English spoken on the streets of Leeds or Manchester or York.

      In short, I see the irony and I enjoy the humour of you hub, and while I agree also that at times we Americans get a bit too full of ourselves, I also know that English is not the same in every nation that claims it as an official language.  Heck, it's not even the same in Mississippi as it is in California, which is then different from the colloquial used in Maine! (To use a strictly ego-centric American point of view)

      Oh, and while the ou combination used in words such as humour is indeed a part of modern British English, that ou combination actually comes from the French spelling of words.  The combining of Norman French and the various dialects of Old English formed the Middle English which evolved into the New British English spoken in its many regional dialects throughout England today.  Never forget that for a period after 1066 England was a Norman French colony where Norman French was the official language.  That eventually blended with English.  The English-speaking residents, in order to better their station in life, learned and used Norman French in official settings.

      Pig and pork, two words of which one is from the Norman French, the other from Eald Englisc.

      Anyway, great hub and I immensely enjoyed reading it!  Carry on! 

      Here is some Eald Englisc upon which you may ruminate. 

      Seo Niwe Englisce spraec (on Niwum Englisce: English) is West-germanisc spraec, þe fram Englalande aras. Heo belimpþ, swa seo Þeodisce spraec and seo Niðerlendisce spraec to þaem Westernan twige þaera Germaniscra spraeca.

      And some info on the origins of English: 

      Old English (also called Anglo-Saxon,[1] Englisc by its speakers) is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written in parts of what are now England and southern Scotland between the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century. What survives through writing represents primarily the literary register of Anglo-Saxon.

      It is a West Germanic language and is closely related to Old Frisian. It also experienced heavy influence from Old Norse, a member of the related North Germanic group of languages. &nbs...

      Both are from Wikipedia, which I normally do not like to use, except in this care I know and trust the authors’ scholarship. 

      Wes þu hal!

    • profile image

      Peter Keay 9 years ago

      Oh, I'm in no way supportive of UK English speakers changing to American English.  But I'm also not in support of the reverse, considering American English's domination of the "first-language" population and considerable share of the overall.

      I even kind of adopted a UK accent when teaching English in that Ukrainian orphanage...somewhat subconsciously, it was just what all the other (Soviet-taught) teachers did.

      I'm also very supportive of a clear statement of when I see someone with weird facts or numbers, I'll usually try to help even if the conclusions are fully reasonable. Nothing like wrong facts to smear the HubPages community.  So, nothing personal.

    • JamaGenee profile image

      Joanna McKenna 9 years ago from Central Oklahoma

      For the record, Hal, I didn't see why certain readers got their knickers in a knot over this hub promoting UK English. It's a big planet, and America...a rather "new" country, btw...only occupies a small part of it. How immature and arrogant that Americans think people in much older countries should adopt US English and its euphenisms!

      I think this is a lovely hub, very well-written. Good job! But I don't know how you managed to not bust out laughing when Mr. Bollocks was in class! ;}}

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      Dave McClure 9 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Mostly, you're just talking about US and UK spellings which were drifting apart anyway, though the process was hastened and cemented by Webster. When you start to bring in different words, you'd have to admit that there's at least as much variation around UK itself as between UK & US. Possibly more.

      Ever read The Times of India? This quality broadsheet uses very different language from The Times in UK. The spellings are the same, but the phraseologies are poles apart, the Indian English having retained much of the floridity of 19th Century English.

      Finally, while I enjoyed the read, may I respectfully direct you to my hub about using numbers in text? India has 1,129,866,154 people? And here am I thinking there are 1,129,866,153 ;)

    • morrisonspeaks profile image

      morrisonspeaks 9 years ago

      English is an international language. no question about that. It's the only common language for everybody!

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      funnebone: You have it half right. You can hate French Canadians. That's fine. Most English Canadians do anyway! (... running and ducking... BTW, I happen to have a very good friend who is a French Canadian, so that was a joke... don't report me to the Canadian Human Rights Commission!)

      Peter Keay: Yes, don't ever get on the wrong side of a Spaniard who has been dipping into the Sangria all night... :)

    • profile image

      Peter Keay 9 years ago

      LOL, yes in regards to Europe you definitely have a point.

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      funnebone 9 years ago from Philadelphia Pa

      Hal we have already put 6 language choices on our atms. I think we have done our part to recitfy any language barrier. Plus hating Canadians is a universal language. JK

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Peter, I definitely see your points and they are excellent ones. However, when I lived in southern Spain, the vast majority of people spoke English to deal with the tourists, but if you said they lived in an English speaking country they'd paint your butt red and throw you in the bullring. I used "official" status for English as the criterion. Most certainly a different criterion can be applied to modify the results.

    • profile image

      Peter Keay 9 years ago

      Perhaps you should read my comment before replying.  I didn't say that 116 million Americans don't have English as their first language.  Actually, I gave the real numbers for that question, too, but what you did was subtract the number of American first-language English speakers from the number of TOTAL first-language speakers in the WORLD.

      Anyway, here's the real point... 

      Signage caters to typical tourists and travellers.  I lived in Ukraine for a while.  Kyiv also had many many signs in English.  But 99% of Ukrainians or more can't speak it (fortunately, I speak their two languages, Russian and Ukrainian).

      Out in the villages, though, where a majority of the population lives but where tourists are hard to find, you don't see English.

      Signage is no factor in whether or not a country is "English speaking," though it may be mistakenly considered one.   "English speaking" is the major factor in whether or not a country is "English speaking."

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      I speak a little Portuguese from my youthful days on Toronto's College Street when it housed at least half of the total Azorean population. All the other Portuguese phrases I know would get me banned from HubPages though! :)

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 9 years ago from Portugal


      I didn´t know you also spoke Brazilian :D

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      I may have discovered the Pole in Polemical... :)

      Ao pe da letra! Olha a situacao! Ninguem merece! :)

    • funride profile image

      Ricardo Nunes 9 years ago from Portugal

      Well Hall I see you discovered the Polemical Hub´s Love :D , lately your hubs are getting lots of attention and disputed comments. As a Portuguese I also find difficult to understand some of the words used by Brazilians (even though they have the biggest "Portuguese" speaking country).

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Shadesbreath, you saw what I did to SirDent when he discriminated against a group of people (Muslims), so do you want me to unleash the fires of hell against you as well?

      Oh, ok... I'm just kiddin'! It's all in good fun! And their chicks are hawt, but they prefer to call them birds! :)

    • Shadesbreath profile image

      Shadesbreath 9 years ago from California

      Dude, don't get me started.   For one, if every EX-empire insisted that the tenents of the language as it existed prior to the dismantling of their conquered territories was to remain the rule, how much of the world would still be speaking Latin?  All of Italy at the very least.

      As for the Brits, I love you guys, but y'all don't even know how to use a "Z." Words like "generalise" or "nationalise" etc. as y'all write them should have one, but your guys's never do.  Sound them out if you don't agree.  "Generalized" is pronounced jen-er-a-lyZZZed... NOT jen-er-a-LICED. 

      I reckon it's because you people drink so much damn tea with your pinkies hoisted up in the air like you do that your fingers are stuck all up there forever now.  I bet y'all can't even bend your pinkies down to push the "Z" key on a qwerty keyboard no more even if you wanted to, so rather than just admit it, you cling to Olde Worlde grammar instead.  We don't mind though.  We think you limeys are cute with your inward-facing fists all curled back and kinda rotating infront of you when you box... oh... and how hawt your chicks are when they talk with that yummy accent they have.   So, given these facts, I will let this article slide with a wink and a big fat swill of beer that I got out of the refrigerator, which means its cold, you know, as in not luke warm.  Not tempid like yours.  Cold beer.  Mmmmm. 



      (Another fun read, btw)

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Harya, Hoser! Check these out. Beauty, eh?

      40 SIGNS THAT YOU MAY BE CANADIAN:1. You stand in "line-ups" at the movie, not lines. 2. You're not offended by the term, "Homo Milk" 3. You understand the phrase, "Could you please pass me a serviette, I just spilled my poutine" 4. You eat chocolate bars instead of candy bars. 5. You drink pop, not soda. 6. You know what it means to be on pogey. 7. You know that a mickey and 2-4's mean "Party at the camp, eh!!" 8. You can drink legally while still a 'teen. 9. You talk about the weather with strangers and friends alike. 10. You don't know or care about the fuss with Cuba,it's just a cheap place to travel with good cigars and no Americans. 11. When there is a social problem, you turn to your government to fix it instead of telling them to stay out of it. 12. You're not sure if the leader of your nation has EVER had sex and don't want to know if he has! 13. You get milk in bags as well as cartons and plastic jugs. 14. Pike is a type of fish, not some part of a highway. 15. You drive on a highway, not a freeway. 16. You sit on a couch not a chesterfield - that is some small town in Quebec! 17. You know what a Robertson screwdriver is. 18. You have Canadian Tire money in your kitchen drawers. 19. You know that Thrills are something to chew and "taste like soap". 20. You know that Mounties "don't always look like that" 21. You dismiss all beers under 6% as "for children and the elderly". 22. You know that the Friendly Giant isn't a vegetable product line. 23. You know that Casey and Finnegan are not a Celtic musical group. 24. You participated in "Participaction". 25. You have an Inuit carving by your bedside with the rationale, "What's good enough protection for the Prime Minister is good enough for me". 26. You wonder why there isn't a 5 dollar coin yet. 27. Unlike any international assassin/terrorist/spy in the world,you don't possess a Canadian passport. 28. You use a red pen on your non-Canadian textbooks and fill in the missing 'u's from labor, honor, and color. 29. You know the French equivalents of "free", "prize"and "no sugar added", thanks to your extensive education in bilingual cereal packaging. 30. You are excited whenever an American television show mentions Canada. 31. You make a mental note to talk about it at work the next day. 32. You can do all the hand actions to Sharon,Lois and Bram's "Skin-a-ma-rinky-dinky-doo" opus. 33. You can eat more than one maple sugar candy without feeling nauseous. 34. You were mad when "The Beachcombers" were taken off the air. 35. You know what a toque is. 36. You have some memento of Doug and Bob. 37. You admit Rich Little is Canadian and you're glad Jerry Lewis is not. 38. You know Toronto is not a province. 39. You never miss "Coaches Corner". 40. Back bacon and Kraft Dinner are two of your favourite food groups.

    • Bob Ewing profile image

      Bob Ewing 9 years ago from New Brunswick

      The purpose is to communicate and as long as that is achieved it matters little which version of english you use, only in Canada, pity.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      dafla the language you speak is your right. Please note that my Hub clearly states "when you are writing an article which is directed primarily to British English speakers from Australia to Zimbabwe that you show the common courtesy of using their version." It is advice designed to allow web writers to gain wide acceptance and readership from their targeted national audiences. I'm certainly not advocating that American speakers start typing in British English. I also stated that I write my Hubs in American English since that is my target audience for this particular avenue. However, we cross the line into ridiculous American elitism when we get into a situation as I did where Americans hired me to write for Britons and fired me when I used British spellings. We should all have the common courtesy to tailor our language to our audience, and when they are strictly geographically targeted, it is boorish to push a form of language which is not their own. You and everyone else are certainly free to write in Esperanto or Klingon, if you wish, as long as you realize that it will narrow the appeal of your web articles. As my good friend Ambassador Worf likes to say: tlhIngan maH! Heghlu'meH QaQ jajvam!

    • profile image

      dafla 9 years ago

      Well, Brittania might have once ruled the world, but it doesn't anymore, and it sure doesn't rule the internet. To say that I should write in a language that I don't even understand most of the time (British English) is absurd and arrogant.

      I'm totally insulted by this hub. To say that we have "butchered the Queen's English" is just...I can't even find a word in any language to describe that! The Queen does not own the freaking English language! Maybe we changed it because we fought long and hard to get free of England, and don't WANT to speak their English anymore.

      Our language contains elements of all languages, and that is why I love it.

      I'm from the U.S., and I'll write in the language that I was taught and have spoken all my life. If that offends you, just click the X and move on.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Sally's Trove: No anger at all from my standpoint. I don't believe that Brits go to bed fuming at how the Yanks have butchered the Queen's English, but I have met many Britons who look at American English with the same disdain Parisian French reserve for Quebecois Cheval! :)

      Eric Graudins: Can you please mail me one of those amazing meat pies sold just outside the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary? :)

      Pam Pounds: I have always been astounded at how a people who have always prided themselves on their individual freedoms allow their government to run roughshod over their liberties and very existence!

      Hot Dorkage: Have I ever told you how much I like your name?

      Peter Keay: If a nation has its street signs, store signs, etc. in English, then it is considered to be an English speaking country. There are many nations, such as the Netherlands Antilles where English is not an "official" language, but all of the signage, etc. is in English. We can argue the exact population percentage in India that speaks English completely fluently and at home, and it very well may be close to the figure you've stated. But the bottom line is that English is understood by the majority of Indians and when it is spoken, it is the British form. Even the vast majority of the 116 million Americans you claim don't have English as their first language still speak English in some form! I'm Canadian, thus very well acquainted with Canadianisms, and especially in the spelling aspect it is a very British form, with very little Americanism in it.

      REritr: You may be saddened to learn that since I spent my childhood in Canada and about 20 years in California and Florida, my accent is not too dissimilar to that of any US network TV news anchor. I don't even say oot and aboot!

      moonlake: A British realtor is an Estate Agent.

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 9 years ago from America

      What do the English call a realtor?

    • REritr profile image

      REritr 9 years ago from California

      My take is that American English has dominated the Internet no matter how it is used merely because cyber-space was an Aemrican explosion and phenomenon from its inception. Using the Internet was not instantly universal, as many countries did not have tha access to the hardware, phone lines or high-speed connections as rapidly as we did.

      I loved reading your hub, however. If I lived in the U'K. I would learn to speak your lingo, matching it with my penchant to adopt your accent and pronunciation as well. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    • profile image

      Peter Keay 9 years ago

      In addition, if the 800 million number is correct, and the US has 262 million speakers (also including second-language speakers), "84% of the world speaks!" should be "67%."  Not as convincing, though still a good thought.  I still support your article, you should just check your information a little bit more.

      In addition, Canadian English is usually considered "North American English." These 30+ million speakers deflate the percentage even more, to about 63%.

      Still a majority, but combined with the fact that about 66% of the worlds *native* speakers speak American English, I'm not convinced.

    • profile image

      Peter Keay 9 years ago

      Actually, in those countries, English is "an" official language, not "the" official language.  India has only 90,000,000 speakers of English, (not 1 billion!) Pakistan, 17,000,000, (not 160 million!) etc.  Please reference ; I know quote Wikipedia isn't always the wisest, but this is probably the best collection of information on the subject available.

      331 million people speak English as a first language.   215 are in the United States.  If we're going by first language, American wins out.  Of course, if we include all speakers, there are about 800-900 million in the whole world.  This still indicates that you need to have some kind of disclaimer by those numbers. 


    • hot dorkage profile image

      hot dorkage 9 years ago from Oregon, USA

      Not much of a problem for me. I try to avoid colloquialisms altogether. I try to keep my English as dialect neutral as possible, and since I write primarily internet things the English is fairly standard.

    • Pam Pounds profile image

      Pam Pounds 9 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest!

      I thoroughly enjoyed your hub - I especially liked how you refer to the IRS! Many Americans share the same perception. I too appreciated the research and information, and am making a pact to myself that the next recipe I publish should have demerara and gammon as the key ingredients!

    • Eric Graudins profile image

      Eric Graudins 9 years ago from Australia

      In Australia, we use a combination of UK English and US English.

      Therefore we are never sure what to use.

      People use colour/color, specialize/specialise, interchangeably and only the pedants seems to care.

      As a card carrying member of the Australian Pedants Club, I tend to use UK English most of the time.

      I generally use US spelling on hub pages, except when I want to totally confuse people by saying something like

      "Stone the crows mate, I hope your chooks turn into emus and kick your dunny down".

    • Sally's Trove profile image

      Sherri 9 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      What a delightful Hub. I was amazed to see the numbers of people living in countries where English is the official language. Great research! And bully for the Empire.

      Having worked as a communications consultant with international companies for many years, I can tell you that I and my clients found the differences between British and American English to be a challenge in the best of ways. We used our English language differences to build understanding within the business, not only about spelling and word choices, but also about perceptions. Lift vs. elevator became a point of humor and understanding when we took the time to enlighten each other.

      Although your Hub is extremely valuable in pointing out language differences and providing a compact history of the British Empire, I sense an anger in what you wrote. However, none of my colleagues across the pond are angry with what Americans have done to the Queen's English. Rather, they find what we've done amusing.

      Anyone who speaks or writes British English or American English in a global business environment for the most part accepts each others' differences.

      As for *...Americans who are blissfully ignorant of the variations and insist that they are right and the rest of the world is wrong*, those Americans perhaps are provincial in their thinking and need some global experiences, like a few trips abroad or an engagement with an international business adventure, or some friends to meet on the Internet. Maybe your list of various things we call by different names will help them.

      Best regards, Sally.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Those population numbers are from the countries where English is an official language. That means that generally store and street signage, legal contracts, etc. are expressed in English. In my travels to many of those countries, I have found English almost universally understood and spoken. We can argue, for example, that many Indians are not fluent in English, but then that number may be balanced by the millions of people in countries where English is not official who are fluent in the language.

    • profile image

      Peter Keay 9 years ago

      Interesting article. You may want to note that of all those numbers of people living in those countries, very few of them actually speak English. Those numbers give a badly inflated appearance...

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      Hi, robie2. It's 34 degrees Celsius (oops, sorry 93 degrees Frankenstein) outside, but my AC is humming and I'm perfectly chilled. :)

      Yes, of course, most educated and intelligent writers are aware of the difference which G.B. Shaw termed as "England and America are two countries divided by a common language." However, I've encountered plenty of Americans who are blissfully ignorant of the variations and insist that they are right and the rest of the world is wrong. In one of my UCLA classes there was a student named Hugh Bollocks and at no time did anyone other than me think it was hilarious.

    • robie2 profile image

      Roberta Kyle 9 years ago from Central New Jersey

      Whew Hal, chill out. What makes you think we don't know how to write and spell English just because we write in American on Hubpages? I know the difference between a tire and a tyre and a color and a colour. How I write depends on my audience, and your point is well taken. However, American English seems to be standard on the internet, and on Hubpages, like it or not.

      Going along with your theme of humerous differences, you have to love people who name foods things like "toad in the hole" and "spotted dick" and the first time I visited i was shocked when my host offered to knock me up in the morning LOL.

    • Hal Licino profile image

      Hal Licino 9 years ago from Toronto

      I don't drink coffee I take tea my dear

      I like my toast done on one side

      And you can hear it in my accent when I talk

      I'm an Englishman in New York

      - Sting, "Englishman in New York" :)

    • t.keeley profile image

      Tim 9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Absolutely lovely article. After being in London and experiencing the English spoken by the British, I could never go back to American. I will keep striving to expand my vocabulary and spelling to better my British - English literacy. Thank you so very much for this article!