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British vs. American English

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August 08, 2005, 21:22
Kalleh
British vs. American English
quote:
If I heard someone say "desperately sorry" I would almost interpret this as sarcasm

That very well may have been my problem, Sean! I did sense a tinge of sarcasm in it.
August 09, 2005, 14:21
Kalleh
In a very funny editorial in the Chicago Tribune today, they wrote about a study in the British Food Journal. The editorial writers reported, "In a new report, the journal says the consumers overestimate the dangers of dining out, and--how's this for British gentility?--'underestimate the contribution of their own domestic food storage and preparation practices to the overall burden...'" Big Grin

Yes, we would definitely be more forthright in the description, saying something like "...and don't take responsiblilty for their own filthy habits!"
August 19, 2005, 11:40
Kalleh
I've a quick question of our Brits: I know you often use an s when we use a z, such as in realize vs. realise, but would you use an s or a z in agonize? Is there a specific rule for when that is done?
August 19, 2005, 11:59
Dianthus
quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
I've a quick question of our Brits: I know you often use an s when we use a z, such as in realize vs. realise, but would you use an s or a z in agonize? Is there a specific rule for when that is done?


We write "agonise" - without the "z".
August 19, 2005, 15:27
arnie
quote:
Is there a specific rule for when that is done?

No. As with most spelling differences, it's a matter of style. The important thing is to be consistent. Don't spell it one way in one sentence, then the other a paragraph or so later. I happen to prefer agonise, too, but many people use agonize.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
August 19, 2005, 21:23
Kalleh
quote:
I happen to prefer agonise, too, but many people use agonize.

Okay, so in other words, I couldn't tell if someone was British or not by the use of the word "agonize," correct? I am playing detective. There is someone on another forum who says she is from "Devon," but I suspect in fact that person is a sock puppet. She used the word "agonize," and I thought I had her!

Now, "colour" or "humour" for example would always be written that way in England, right?
August 20, 2005, 00:58
arnie
quote:
I couldn't tell if someone was British or not by the use of the word "agonize," correct?

Right. The reverse would probably be true; if they used 'agonise' they are likely to be British (or Canadian or Anzac, etc.). 'Colour' and 'humour' are always spelt that way; note the use of 'spelt', not spelled, although the latter is also used. Wink


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
August 20, 2005, 15:17
Seanahan
I don't mind either way on colour/color, but to me agonize is clearly better, since this is less ambiguous in pronunciation. Of course, we still spell rise with an s, so I don't get too worked up over it.
August 21, 2005, 00:50
Dianthus
quote:
Originally posted by Seanahan:
I don't mind either way on colour/color, but to me agonize is clearly better, since this is less ambiguous in pronunciation. Of course, we still spell rise with an s, so I don't get too worked up over it.


The letter z is a relatively recent introduction to our alphabet. In fact, it was still new enough for Shakespeare to have Kent in King Lear insult Oswald by calling him "Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter!"

I found these links about the letter Z, which I think are absolutely fascinating:

New Zealand Listener

Samuel Johnson cites that quote from King Lear in his definition of Z.

The Straight Dope discusses the difference between the US and UK pronunciation of the letter Z.

Bill Casselman has quite a bit to say on the subject too.

Pseudodictionary - fun Smile.

Wikipedia
August 21, 2005, 07:24
zmježd
quote:
The letter z is a relatively recent introduction to our alphabet.


News to me. It was dropped from the early proto-Italic alphabets, but reintroduced in the Latin one and used in writing Greek loanwords. It occurs, although rarely in Old English.

[Correct typo.]

This message has been edited. Last edited by: zmježd,


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
August 21, 2005, 09:59
Seanahan
On a similar note, I've read the letter v was also a late comer to the alphabet party.
August 21, 2005, 10:23
zmježd
The Romans had a letter that looked a lot like a V and it stood for both a vowel, modern u, and a consonant, modern v (but which was very likely pronounced like our w). The Greeks had a letter called the digamma, which looked like like an F (and was pronounced like our w). This was later dropped in classical times: e.g., oinos (οινος) 'wine' used to be written (and pronounced) *woinos (*Ϝοινος); cognate with Latin vinum, English wine. This letter went back to the alphabet the Greeks adapted from the Phoenicians. The Romans adapted the digamma to be their F, f. (NB, that Greek ph, th, and kh (φ, θ, and χ) were not originally fricatives (i.e., f, ɵ, and x).)


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
August 21, 2005, 12:34
Dianthus
quote:
Originally posted by zmjezhd:
quote:
he letter z is a relatively recent introduction to our alphabet.


News to me. It was dropped from the early proto-Italic alphabets, but reintroduced in the Latin one and used in writing Greek loanwords. It occurs, although rarely in Old English.


I probably didn't phrase my post very well (I was posting fairly late at night - never a good idea Frown). As you've just said (and one of the links I posted also says), the use of Z was still fairly "exotic" and not commonplace until relatively recently (about 400 years or so ago).
August 22, 2005, 04:25
Richard English
quote:
I couldn't tell if someone was British or not by the use of the word "agonize,"

Probably not. But if your saw the spelling, "analyze" you would know it was an American writer. We always use an "s" in ending with "y" - "analyse".


Richard English
September 05, 2005, 16:08
Kalleh
I apparently made a faux pas on Wordcraftjr by defining "tush" or "tuchus" as "arse" for the British. Arnie edited the post for me (thanks!) because the word is not acceptable in England for kids to use.

When I told someone about that, she said the same is true of "bum." She said that she has known Canadians to punch Americans in the mouth for saying "bum." Is that the same in England? She said that it is a contraction of "bottom" and not acceptable.
September 05, 2005, 16:28
Dianthus
quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
I apparently made a faux pas on Wordcraftjr by defining "tush" or "tuchus" as "arse" for the British. Arnie edited the post for me (thanks!) because the word is not acceptable in England for kids to use.


That's right.

quote:
When I told someone about that, she said the same is true of "bum." She said that she has known Canadians to punch Americans in the mouth for saying "bum." Is that the same in England? She said that it is a contraction of "bottom" and not acceptable.


It does mean "bottom", but it's a very mild word in Britain - certainly much milder than the word you first used - so you wouldn't get punched in the mouth if you said it over here Smile.
September 06, 2005, 05:22
Graham Nice
quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
I apparently made a faux pas on Wordcraftjr by defining "tush" or "tuchus" as "arse" for the British. Arnie edited the post for me (thanks!) because the word is not acceptable in England for kids to use.


Do you see our arse and your ass as different words or just different pronunciations?
September 06, 2005, 05:57
Seanahan
Well, they started out as different ways to pronounce the same work, but they have different connotations. Of course, defining what is means to be a word is not as easy as you'd think, and at some point the two are the same word, and at some other they are separate. I think they are the same word, but I have nothing to back me up on that, except the law of conversation of R's.
September 07, 2005, 20:51
Kalleh
I see them as the same, though of course never having lived in England I can't be sure. That's why I was mortified at my post. I had used the American word "ass" too, and I realized that I shouldn't have used that for kids, too. Unfortunately, "ass" has become not such a bad word anymore, at least around here. Yet, I realized that I shouldn't have used it.
September 07, 2005, 21:05
Seanahan
"Asshole" is definitely considered a swear, as is just "ass", and referring to the animal walks a fine line. Still, using "ass" is like "shit", nowhere near the letter of the "F-bomb", as good a euphemism as any.

My friend made up a word "asholic"(uh-shole-ic), meaning basically asshole-ic, and that is the first meaning, describing a person. "Ass" can be used to describe a smell, and you can probably guess the smell. I have a friend who uses it to describe things which are broken, "This computer is ass".

I certainly wouldn't use the word around children, but then again, if they're boys over the age of 10, they probably use it themselves.
September 08, 2005, 00:39
Richard English
In the UK an ass is a donkey or an idiot. It's handy to have a different word that describes a posterior.


Richard English
September 08, 2005, 01:06
Dianthus
quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
In the UK an ass is a donkey or an idiot. It's handy to have a different word that describes a posterior.


A "silly ass" was a bumbling, good-natured, but not very intelligent person described to perfection in the short stories of P. G. Wodehouse in the 1920s and 1930s. He (and silly asses were always "he" and always upper middle class or higher) was constantly getting into awkward situations of his own making, from which he was ingeniously extricated by his long-suffering manservant or fiancee.
September 08, 2005, 02:54
braket
Nobody ever says "ass" here, but it's not an unfamiliar term. I've seen it used often enough on TV or in print to take it as it's intended -- sometimes animal, sometimes idiot but more often "buttocks", in overlap with our own version of "arse". Perhaps the overlap in meaning extends to the more specific "date" region, as our "arse" occasionally does.

It's common here to call an idiot a donkey (or a goose), but we would rarely call one an ass, let alone an arse.

You can get the "arse end" of a deal, and you'll find a thousand similar uses in slang. But even on its own "arse" is still a flexible word. A lucky shot at a Aussie pool table is "arsey"; if you're lazy then you just can't be "arsed" mowing the lawn; and if you get the "arse" from work then there's no need to come Monday.

I also find it interesting that different animals change "ass/arse" expressions. Here at least, "pig's arse" is an interjection expressing disbelief, and to be the "cat's arse" is quite a compliment (as for "duck's nuts" and "bee's knees"). "Couldn't give a rat's arse" is very common too, maybe even universal. I'm sure there are plenty more.
September 08, 2005, 19:24
Kalleh
Wow, you Australians seem to have a lot of different meanings for "arse." I just love the cultural differences of English! I think it would be so fun to call someone a "goose!" That's my new insult!
quote:
I certainly wouldn't use the word around children, but then again, if they're boys over the age of 10, they probably use it themselves.

Well, I really feel like a plug nickel now! I can't say that I consider 'ass' on the same level as 'shit,' but if you do, Sean, I should have been more sensitive. Thank heavens for arnie!
September 26, 2005, 04:25
Chris J. Strolin
This was posted in the OEDILF Forum and I thought it might be of interest here. It began when Richard English pointed out a difference between British and American English:
_______

Richard English wrote:
"...robin: a large thrush having an olive-gray back, a black throat streaked with gray and a dull red breast..."

Which is not, of course, the definition of a robin - it is the definition of an American robin - a very different bird from the small, cheeky and quite un-thrushlike robin of the UK.
________


Besides having a sharp ear and a keen eye when it comes to writing limericks, our own Richard English possesses great wisdom when it comes to all things avian. To this end, may I suggest as a suitable nickname for our esteemed colleague: "Birdwizer."
September 26, 2005, 06:35
Richard English
As we say in England, my interest in birds is confined to the two-legged variety.


Richard English
September 26, 2005, 20:22
Kalleh
Yes, I recall the "robins" we saw when we were in England. They really are totally different from ours.
September 26, 2005, 23:03
tinman
quote:
Originally posted by Richard English:
As we say in England, my interest in birds is confined to the two-legged variety.

Is there any other kind?

Tinman
September 27, 2005, 01:39
Richard English
quote:
Is there any other kind?

No. Which is the point of the joke.


Richard English
October 02, 2005, 18:32
Kalleh
I was listening to NPR today as they interviewed Chris Roberts, from England, about his books on nursery rhymes. I wasn't able to catch everything he said, but he was talking about one nursery rhyme that he said Americans may not get because they don't use "left leg" or "left foot" to meant that...I think the "that" was something to do with sex, but I am not sure. I put "left leg" and "British phrase" into Google, but came up with nothing.

Does anyone know what this might have been? I even went to the NPR transcript to see if I could find out, but I must not have the software to be able to listen to it.
October 02, 2005, 21:25
tinman
Goosey, Goosey Gander

Goosey, goosey gander,
Where shall I wander?
Upstairs and downstairs
And in my lady's chamber;
There I met an old man
Who would not say his prayers,
I took him by the left leg
And threw him down the stairs.


According to Roberts (Heavy Words Lightly Thrown), "goose" was a term for prostitute. "Goose" (or "goosebumps") also referred to the swellings of venereal disease and those so inflicted were "bitten by a goose." Venereal disease was rampant, "Upstairs and downstairs / And in my lady�s chamber." A quote in the OED Online says, "In the times of popery here were no less than 18 houses on the Bankside, licensed by the Bishops of Winchester..to keep whores, who were, therefore, commonly called Winchester Geese." (1778). The OED Online also gives one of the many slang meanings of the verb goose: "To poke, tickle, etc., (a person) in a sensitive part, esp. the genital or anal regions; sometimes, more specifically, = FUCK v. 1."

The "old man" was the Catholic religion. The New English Prayer Book, published by Archbishop Cranmer for the Church of England, was in English rather than in Latin, and was promoted by Protestants. but Catholics refused to use it, however, and would be punished. "Left leg" or "left footer" was an English term for Catholic. So the "old man" refused to say his prayers (from New English Prayer Book) and was punished by grabbing him by the "left leg" and throwing him down the stairs.

This site gives a different origin.

Roberts' new book is Cross River Traffic: A History of London's Bridges.

Tinman

This message has been edited. Last edited by: tinman,
October 05, 2005, 21:33
Kalleh
quote:
"Left leg" or "left footer" was an English term for Catholic.

Oh...thanks, Tinman! Yes, now I remember. Roberts had thought Americans might not have heard "left leg" used that way. I know that I haven't.

Is it a common phrase for "Catholic" in England?
October 06, 2005, 11:34
arnie
quote:
Is it a common phrase for "Catholic" in England?
Nope. Although anti-Catholic bias has died down quite considerably since the 16th century...

I expect the prods in Northern Ireland have several unpleasant names for Catholics, but I've never heard "left leg" used.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
October 06, 2005, 15:50
Dianthus
quote:
Originally posted by arnie:
quote:
Is it a common phrase for "Catholic" in England?
Nope. Although anti-Catholic bias has died down quite considerably since the 16th century...

I expect the prods in Northern Ireland have several unpleasant names for Catholics, but I've never heard "left leg" used.


Maybe not "left leg", but definitely "left footer". See here. I only knew that because my ex-husband was a (very) lapsed Catholic.
October 06, 2005, 23:24
tinman
quote:
Originally posted by Dianthus:
Maybe not "left leg", but definitely "left footer". See here.

That site traces the etymology to the 1940s. But surely the term is much older than that. Roberts says "Finally, 'left leg' (or 'left footer') is an English term for Catholics, who were quite rigorously suppressed during Edward VI's (Henry VIII's son's) reign and, later, Elizabeth I's."

Tinman

This message has been edited. Last edited by: tinman,
October 07, 2005, 03:13
arnie
I think so too, tinman. That explanation looks decidedly iffy to me.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
October 07, 2005, 21:02
Kalleh
quote:
decidedly iffy

Interesting phraseology. What is it called when 2 opposites make up a phrase?
October 07, 2005, 21:36
Seanahan
Oxymoron?
October 08, 2005, 04:55
zmježd
Awfully good, very false ... situation normal?


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
October 08, 2005, 16:08
wordnerd
Quote: "Awfully good, very false ... situation normal?"

Yeah, right.
October 08, 2005, 18:36
Kalleh
Yes, of course, Sean, it's an oxymoron. Duh!

This message has been edited. Last edited by: Kalleh,
October 09, 2005, 19:43
Kalleh
I see that the word "spinster" will be retired by the British Government this December, along with the male counterpart, "bachelor." From now on unmarried Britishers will officially be called "single."

I gather this is because of gay marriages. I do realize that "spinster" has negative social connotations in the U.S., and I take it that it does in England too. Quinion said, "I can't feel the word is much of a loss." What about "bachelor"? Does that have a negative connotation in England? It almost has a positive one here, i.e. a "fancy free" connotation.
October 09, 2005, 21:39
markmywords48
For those of you who are not aware of it, British newspapers have an excellent term for gay men: "confirmed bachelor." I hope this will not fall our of favor because it includes the word "bachelor!"
October 09, 2005, 22:08
tinman
So, you can't be a confirmed bachelor now unless you're gay?

Tinman
October 10, 2005, 04:26
markmywords48
That's not what was stated.
October 10, 2005, 07:37
Cat
Yes, Kalleh, 'spinster' has negative connotations here: a woman (usually older) on the shelf, lonely (even if she insists she's happy as she is), whom nobody wants. A bachelor, on the other hand, evokes a much more positive image of someone footloose and fancy free, as you said: someone who's free to date whomever they want (as opposed to a spinster who waits in vain to be dated). And if a bachelor is happy with his status, he's more readily believed.

Even when the words aren't used, a single woman in her 30s and beyond evokes more pity/negativity ('what's wrong with her?') than a single man of the same age.

I've heard the word 'bachelette' being used, which is cute, but never really caught on. It's the attitudes that need to change though, not the words.
October 11, 2005, 21:05
Kalleh
Markmywords, it's nice to see you back.

Like Tinman, I thought you meant that "confirmed bachelor" was only meant for gay men. If it means either gay men or straight men, well, then it isn't very descriptive about sexual orientation, so I don't see why it would be a substitute for the word "gay." Here in the U.S. "confirmed bachelor" just means men who probably will never get married, gay or straight.

Cat, "spinster" and "bachelor" have the same connotations here in the U.S., and "bachelorette (the term here) has never caught on, either. "Single" is probably used the most often for men and women. I don't think "bachelor" is used as much as it used to be.
October 12, 2005, 05:11
Graham Nice
We also have the phrase gay bachelor.

As I understood it, this didn't mean homosexual. It had quite the opposite connotations.
October 12, 2005, 05:52
BobHale
I think this is the reason that the word bachelor is falling out of use. It seems in modern use to contain, especially when used by a newspaper, a slight implication (suspicion, maybe) of homosexuality.

This is unfortunate because there appears to be no term arising to replace it.


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October 12, 2005, 20:36
Kalleh
Well, as I said, "single man" replaces it, though it's not one word.

Unless I have missed the connotation, I don't think "bachelor" has the hint of homosexuality here in the U.S. American Wordcrafters?