American and British English


The differences between the way the language is used by the two countries provides an endless source of material for comedians. Here is British comedian Michael McIntyre on a TV show discussing some of the differences.

That reminded me of this great Eddie Izzard routine.

Comments

  1. says

    Two peoples, separated by a common language…

    I remember when I was a kid on a train from London to Dover, to catch the boat(*) a nice fellow came up to me with a twinkle in his eye and asked my 12-year-old self “blargh garble gah blarggggh ia fgtaghn bargle?” And I think my eyes got really big and I shoot my head. More blargling and argling and he patted me on the head and walked away. It wasn’t until hours later that I realized that was a serious highland scottish accent and he was asking me if I wanted some tea. He probably walked away thinking there was something wrong with me and I was definitely sure that there was something wrong with him.

    (* It was that long ago)

  2. Rob Grigjanis says

    Marcus @3:

    I realized that was a serious highland scottish accent

    Highland accents are much easier to understand than other Scottish regional accents, to a non-Scotsperson. To Gaelic-speaking Highlanders, English was a foreign language which they had to learn, whereas to Lowlanders it was just another dialect of their language, which is much more problematical, comprehension-wise. Maybe the guy was Glaswegian.

  3. Rob Grigjanis says

    OT: Managed to get through about five minutes of the new Sherlock on PBS before the nausea took hold. Moffat and Gatiss can fuck right off.

  4. Holms says

    Not sure what the problem with Moffat and Gatiss, but Jonathan Ross can certainly sod off.

  5. Callinectes says

    I used to enjoy this avenue of humour, but I gradually became put off by the assumption that everything about British English is not only right but original and historical and perfect, while everything about American English is necessary a deviation from the purity of the source. Which is obvious crap.

  6. Robert,+not+Bob says

    That’s not what we use the word “pavement” for! It’s the ground that’s… paved. Including both street and sidewalk.

    @#8 Yes, you’re right. British English-all however many dialects there are-has changed as much as American English since we diverged.

  7. EigenSprocketUK says

    #8 Callinectes – very true. I used to think that British English was the pure source, but I grew up.
    If I die and go to Hell, I am confident that Jonathan Ross and Michael McIntyre will be there with mandatory-to-watch endless interviews of each other to plug a continuous stream of their warmed-over merchandise.

  8. Mano Singham says

    I think linguist John McWhorter said it best in his excellent and highly readable book The Power of Babel. He said that the idea that there is a standard version of a language and that dialects are deviations from it is wrong. All we have are dialects. If we want to choose one as the standard, there is nothing to stop us. But there is no compelling reason to prefer any one over the others.

    It is analogous to evolution. As Charles Darwin realized, there is no pure form of any species from which everything else is a variation, as had been thought. Variations are all we have.

    Incidentally, I had not heard of Jonathan Ross and Michael McIntyre until I saw this clip and had no idea that they aroused such ire! I assumed that they were run-of-the-mill British TV show hosts and comedians.

  9. Reginald Selkirk says

    Incidentally, I had not heard of Jonathan Ross and Michael McIntyre until I saw this clip and had no idea that they aroused such ire!

    I had never heard of McIntyre before, and probably never will again. I don’t see anything especially ireful about calling a fecking idiot a fecking idiot.

  10. says

    No serious linguist believes in “superior” languages or accents. Only in prestige. At least when it’s native speaker accents. But don’t you dare having a non-native English accent! Then people who cannot say “hello” in any of the other two languages you speak will get all superior…

    As for British and American: Have mercy on us poor folks who are getting our vocabulary all over the place (not to mention the spelling).

    Marcus Ranum
    I had that experience starting a job a mere 15 km from my home town. There’s a serious dialect line running close by and on my first they somebody from “across the border” asked me something I needed to translate first…

  11. Holms says

    #11, Mano
    I don’t know the other guy, but Ross’s comedic style has struck me for a long time as being incredibly smug and bland.

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