Everyone who lives in the United States knows that English is the language spoken since the colonists settled in our country. But do the British people speak the same language as we do, or should we call their language British English and ours as American English?
Many of our citizens speak with various dialects, but our English is different from English spoken around the world. We therefore need to refer to our language as American English. All other forms of English, we refer to them as British English.
Through many past centuries the British government colonized many countries including Canada, Australia, New Guinea, and India. Any English spoken in these countries may be also called British English because their English language has been influenced by colonists from Great Britain.
How different is our English from the British version. All our history enthusiasts all know that several centuries ago Gaul (now France) occupied the British Isles and much of their language was assimilated in the present British nations and their previous colonized possessions. Many of these words are also evident in our language, but during the 20th century some have been revised to eliminate “our” phrases and words like neighbour, colour, and favour. Many of our late 19th century authors’ works can be found to still have some of these spellings like Booth Tarkington and Richard Harding Davis.
Let’s investigate some of the present differences between our English and the British. British words like licence and defence may be recognizable in our language where the final “c” is replaced by our “s.” Another variance may be found in our language which uses a double “l” where the British use only one. A few examples might be: enrollment (enrolment), fulfill (fulfil), and skillful (skilful).
The British seem to have a romance with Latin derived “que” words which are replaced by our own “ck” words. They are evident in our words such as check (cheque) and racket (racquet).
In our language where we drop the “e” to form a suffix to the original root word, the British keep that “e.” Lets consider examples like aging (ageing), argument (arguement), and judgment (judgement). Sometimes some of our dictionaries will accept the British spelling as a secondary correct spelling such as arguement and judgement as correct.
One might not recognize some of our words when visiting England such as sausage (banger), sweater (jumper), and truck (lorry). Some other differences might be found in the vocabulary for a car such as muffler (silencer), hood (bonnet), and trunk (boot). Some of the other British terms seemed to be very outlandish compared to ours like treacle (molasses), to be made redundant (to be laid off), peckish (hungry), marrow (squash), torch (flashlight), dust bin (garbage can), perambulator (baby carriage), and courgette (zucchini).
Recently when viewing the English movie “The Kings’ Speech,” early in the movie the king’s therapist excused himself because he was detained in the “loo” (bathroom). As an aside, do you remember when some of you were young, that the bathroom was called a lavatory (where one washes one’s hands). Today’s term of “bathroom” is not used for taking a bath except possibly in one’s home.
One outstanding difference is that many of our holiday customs are quiet foreign to those Britishers. Recently in a teacher exchange between the two countries, the American’s child attempted to go “tricks or treating” on Halloween. When he appeared at many of their neighbor’s doors, he was sadly rebuffed.
Despite the various differences in the two languages, you can still watch your language.
Michael Ricci is a former English teacher and is the founder of the New York Spelling Bee. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org