Lessons Learned #29

American vs. British English

When I decided to set my novels in Maine, US, I had no idea yet that I had to change my UK English to US English as well. When I sent my first draft (first fifteen or so chapters) to a friend of mine, she noted that I needed to ‘Americanize’ my English. For example, I had used ‘pound shop’ instead of ‘dollar shop,’ which of course needed to become ‘thrift store’ to be more accurate to what I had in mind (also known as ‘op shop’ for the Australians amongst us). There were many more words I needed to change, like mobile phone needed to become cell, drive needed to become driveway and car park needed to become parking lot.

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According to an article I found on a website, the American English differs from British English in vocabulary (of which I just gave a few examples), grammar and spelling. One of the grammar issues I noted in this article (of whom the name of the writer eludes me) is that of differences in possession. Apparently it is very British to say ‘Have you got any wine?’ The Americans would say ‘Do you have any wine?’ There were so many times I put the word ‘got’ in my own text! It came as a bit of a surprise to me how British I am 🙂 .

Fortunately there are many websites that will give you the American version of British words. The only thing I wasn’t sure of was the saying of ‘The car didn’t move and inch.’ Do the Americans still use this expression, even though they use the metric system for distances?

Fortunately you can switch to US English in Word and all your British ‘mistakes’ will be pointed out for you, in particular the verbs that need to have a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’ in the past tense, like ‘legalized’ and ‘motorized.’ It looks weird at first, but soon you get used to it and it becomes automatic. It surprised me that I am now able  to write American without thinking about it. It’s like writing in another language; you do or you don’t, there is no mix up of the two. Sure, I don’t know every single word, but hey, long live the internet!

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I heard some people don’t like reading American English, or British English for that matter. Why? Wouldn’t it be incredibly strange to read a cowboy saying ‘see you in a jiffy’? And when somebody in London talks about their ‘cell,’ the first thing that comes to my mind is a terrorist group. Stick to your culture, I have no problem with that, but be open to others’. Not wanting to read in the ‘other’ language is like shutting down half the library. What a waste!

I had hoped to embed a little You Tube video of Michael McIntyre here, where he explains why American English is different from British English, but my free wordpress subscription won’t let me. It is very funny though and I don’t want to deprive you of it. Just go to You Tube, type in or copy ‘Americans Don’t Understand English – The Jonathan Ross Show’ and enjoy!

Have a Wonderful Writing Weekend!

5 thoughts on “Lessons Learned #29”

    1. Damn, you are so right of course, was Michael McIntyre! I don’t know why I said Jimmy Fallon, I have his name in my head all the time… Anyway, changed it now, including my mobile auto-correct… 😀

  1. All bloody good stuff, but most of us don’t give a Bugger whether you wear your things on you feet or Danny, or whether you use a rubber to erase something, or to stop unwanted pregnancies! Personally, my dear, I prefer the King’s English (or Queen, as the case may be). XXX

    Sent from Bob’s IPhone

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    1. To be honest, I don’t have a preference for one or the other. The fact that they are different is just confusing as it basically is the same language. There are pros and cons for the both of them. Maybe I should start a new language which is a mix of them, making it all easier 😛 .

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