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Picture of BobHale
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An item on the "Separated by a Common Language" blog. We're all familiar with the vocabulary differences between the US and UK versions of English but perhaps the usage differences are less famliar.

I found this article quite interesting. Do the US members of the board agree with what it's saying?
 
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As far as I can see, "like" is missing in all those examples for me.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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I'd use "like" in most of those examples. The British wouldn't?
 
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Yes, I agree with most of what the blog said, but some of the BrE expressions ("[he] made me look a fool;" "...trying to appear a total gentleman"), for me, were wobbling on the brink. I might be as likely to say, "He appeared a total gentleman" as to say "He appeared to be a total gentleman." I would not say "He appeared like a total gentleman," and can't tell you why. I would say instead, "He acted like a total gentleman."

Also, in the first BrE example, "I feel shit," most Americans would say either "I feel like shit" or "I feel shitty."

The whole "went down a bomb" thing would go completely over my head!

Wordmatic

P.S. interesting guest blog by a student about the widespread British belief that American's don't understand irony.
 
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In the blog "Solo" states "I always thought the typically AmE expression ‘I could care less’ to be a particularly stupid grammatical error on their part..." I concur - it's idiotic.
 
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‘I could care less’

This is just one of those (many) ukases I don't understand. It's perfectly grammatical, and, to me, it makes (logical) sense. The person who utters it implies that she cares little for whatever subject is under discussion, and that her concern, while towards the bottom of the scale, could be less. In other words, she does not have the time, desire, or spare energy to care less. It seems in line with other positive idioms with negative meaning, e.g., yeah sure, I could give a shit. It's rhetoric. Cf. in Shakespeare Mark Anthony's speech over the corpse of Caesar: "Brutus is an honourable man; so are they all, all honourable men."


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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quote:
‘I could care less’

I've always thought this was a dumbing down of the actual "I couldn't care less"(which makes more sense).


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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I've always thought this was a dumbing down of the actual "I couldn't care less"(which makes more sense).

Nope. It's an intensifying of the original negative construction, implying more negation. A rhetorical device. (See above.)


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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‘I could care less’


Language Log has a lot about this. What's most interesting to me are all the other phrases that seem to mean the same thing, whether or not they are negated.

(1) a. Eddie knows squat about phrenology.
b. Eddie doesn't know squat about phrenology.

(2) a. That'll teach you not to tease the alligators.
b. That'll teach you to tease the alligators.

(3) a. I wonder whether we can't find some time to shoot pool this evening.
b. I wonder whether we can find some time to shoot pool this evening.

(4) a. You shouldn't play with the alligators, I don't think.
b. You shouldn't play with the alligators, I think.

(5) a. I couldn't care less about monster trucks.
b. I could care less about monster trucks.
 
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And my favourite

She has the morals of an alley cat.
She doesn't have the morals of an alley cat.
 
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It's an intensifying of the original negative construction, implying more negation

If I couldn't care less, which is the absolute nadir of caring, how can this be intensified? Using your thought, "unique" can be "even more unique", which to my mind is impossible.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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Using your thought, "unique" can be "even more unique", which to my mind is impossible.

Exactly. Comparison and superlation are relative. You can always turn the knob to eleven if ten isn't enough. Just like writing a word in all caps re-empahsizes it. Doesn't work for many, but it has bugger all to do with grammar. It has to do with imagined logical limitations to language.

By your argumentation that language never changes, one oughtn't to use lesser or least, as these are grammatical abominations. Less used to be the comparative form of little. Using lesser is like using more better.
quote:
"When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone. "It means just what I choose it to mean--neither more or less."
"The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."
"The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master--that's all."
I cannot imagine curtailing my linguistification for Miss Thistlebottom or her cockamamie rules.

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


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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I wonder if that's the most quoted section of the book.
 
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One cannot avoid failing to miss the ironies in this discussion!

Wordmatic
 
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quote:
I cannot imagine curtailing my linguistification for Miss Thistlebottom or her cockamamie rules.
My thoughts, precisely, when I've been given some ridiculous editorial changes. I love that phrase!

We all have our favorites, of course. One of mine is "alumna" instead of "alumni" for a woman. I can't stand using "alumni," but I suppose there is an acceptance of it. That's what I've been told when I objected.

Here is an English phrase I hadn't heard before. The article was quoting the BBC on Michelle Obama's recent visit: "The family spent about 2 1/2 hours at the pub, which is around the corner from the U.S. Embassy in Grosvenor Square, with Mrs. Obama enjoying a meal of sirloin steak and chips and her daughters tucking into the traditional fish and chips," the BBC said.

Tucking into?
 
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Very common phrase here: sitting to eat (with implications of enjoying the meal).
 
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I doubt that the fish and chips served to the Obamas bore much resemblance to 'traditional' fish and chips, bearing in mind the sort of poncey food that's liable to to served in a pub in the area of Grosvenor Square.


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.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by arnie:
I doubt that the fish and chips served to the Obamas bore much resemblance to 'traditional' fish and chips, .


Ah, soggy yellowish bits of fried potato served with a sponge like greyish fish claiming to be cod and wrapped up in an unnaturally orange coating of something that tastes predominantly of fat. Possible accompanied either by an egg that has been pickling in vinegar for a month or two or an unpleasant greenish goo that is only very vaguely pea-flavoured.

All served wrapped up in thoroughly unhygienic newspapers.

Is that the kind of "traditional" you were thinking of?
 
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One of mine is "alumna" instead of "alumni" for a woman. I can't stand using "alumni," but I suppose there is an acceptance of it. That's what I've been told when I objected.

It's more complicated than that. Latin alumnus (< alumno, alumnare, 'to nourish, bring up') means, literally, 'that which is nourished, brought up', but developed another meaning of 'nurseling, pupil, foster-son'. The ending -us is masculine with a plural in -i, and the feminine is -a with a plural in -ae. If you have two or more women who attended the same university, they would be alumnae.If only males or a mixed female-male group would be alumni (in Latin, this is simply how grammatical gender works). To make it more confusing in English, we pronounce alumni, the way the Romans (roughly) pronounced alumnae, and alumnae, the way they did alumni. (I belong to the University of California Alumni Association, but to the Mills College Alumnae Association (they are still single sex at the undergraduate level, but co-ed for the graduate school).)


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by BobHale:
Ah, soggy yellowish bits of fried potato served with a sponge like greyish fish claiming to be cod and wrapped up in an unnaturally orange coating of something that tastes predominantly of fat. Possible accompanied either by an egg that has been pickling in vinegar for a month or two or an unpleasant greenish goo that is only very vaguely pea-flavoured.

All served wrapped up in thoroughly unhygienic newspapers.

Is that the kind of "traditional" you were thinking of?

Pretty well. Smile

I'm not keen on pickled eggs or mushy peas myself, though. I've not seen newspapers used in chip shops for wrapping paper for many years; do they still use them round your way?


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.
 
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quote:
...alumnus...
alumni...alumna...alumnae


In the '80s when I was editor of an alumni magazine, we were very careful to get our Latin m/f s/pl endings right, but then gender neutral usage became more desirable, and, we began to see other schools' publications referring to "alumni/ae." Presidents of alumni/ae associations began sending letters to their memberships that began, "Dear Alumnus/a."

I held on and continued to refer to our publication as an "alumni" magazine. Zmj, I did not know that that was actually the accepted inclusive plural form. I just thought "alumni/ae" was so damned awkward.

So you are saying that the ancient Romans said "ah-LUM-knee" for "alumni" and "al-LUM-neye" for "alumnae?" Sorry--I don't know the IPA symbols.

Wordmatic
 
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quote:
Originally posted by arnie:
I've not seen newspapers used in chip shops for wrapping paper for many years; do they still use them round your way?


My best fish-and-chips dinner was 10 years ago, when I had a delicious fish-and-chips meal with my sister and two of her friends on the lawn of the Parliament building (the "Beehive") in Wellington, NZ. It was nice and cheap, bought from a little shop just across the street. The fish and the chips were both hot and very crisp, and they were served wrapped in newsprint, the kind of paper stock on which newspapers are printed--but new, never printed newsprint.

Never had the pleasure of the kind of fish, chips and peas served on Yorkshire Airlines! (I know it's old. I know we've seen it before. It's still funny.)

Wordmatic
 
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quote:
Originally posted by arnie:
I've not seen newspapers used in chip shops for wrapping paper for many years; do they still use them round your way?


No. I believe that they have gone to the way of all Health and Safety "hazards".

You remember the pub on the Black Country Living Museum? They used to sell terrific cheese and onion rolls from a plate in the bar. They are still for sale but now they are from a chilled cabinet behind the bar and wrapped in clingfilm.
Somehow they don't taste as good.
 
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Somehow they don't taste as good.

There's nothing like the taste of newspaper ink.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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It's more complicated than that.
But if we're speaking of one woman, it's an alumna, correct?
quote:
Very common phrase here: sitting to eat (with implications of enjoying the meal).
Okay, but what about "tucking into?" I have never heard of that.
 
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But if we're speaking of one woman, it's an alumna, correct?

Yes.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Reviving a thread We've talked a lot here about US/UK differences. A book I've read recently had some more - like "parking slots, instead of spaces or places. I've sure not heard slots here in the US, have you?
 
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What was the book? I never heard parking slots.. places or spaces yes but slots? Never
 
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The book is A Man Called Ove, and the author is Swedish. I thought it was a European thing. I guess not.

Another question - I am watching Lindsey Lohan's "Parent Trap" (one of the only movies where I think the remake is better than the original), and when the American (masking as an English girl) used the word "woozy," her grandfather suspected something. Is "woozy" not used in England?
 
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It is, so I don't understand why anyone would be suspicious.
 
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I've seen that movie a lot of times and have always wondered about that. I guess I'll never know.
 
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Kalleh, have you ever noticed in British novels how they say "She is going to hospital"? I have only heard it said this way in America, "She is going to the hospital". We add or they drop the "the".
 
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In England "going to hospital" and "going to the hospital" mean different things. The first means that there is something wrong and you will be a patient there, probably for some time. The second just means that the hospital is your destination - maybe as a visitor or an employee or even a taxi driver taking someone else there.

The phrases "in hospital" and "in the hospital" are similar with the first meaning you are a patient and the second just meaning that is where you are located.
 
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Also true for phrase like "in school" and "in the school" where only the first indicates that you are there as a student.
 
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Oddly enough, Americans usually say, "in school" the same way the UK English speakers do. Go figure...
 
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It is odd, Geoff. In hospital or university sounds so weird to me, though in school doesn't.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by BobHale:
In England "going to hospital" and "going to the hospital" mean different things. The first means that there is something wrong and you will be a patient there, probably for some time. The second just means that the hospital is your destination - maybe as a visitor or an employee or even a taxi driver taking someone else there.

The phrases "in hospital" and "in the hospital" are similar with the first meaning you are a patient and the second just meaning that is where you are located.


Thanks, Bob! I really didn't know there was a meaning difference. If we said, "I am going to the hospital" it could mean any of those things. You might qualify what you meant with someone you didn't know more than someone you did. For instance, if I worked at the hospital. My relatives and friends would probably know I worked at the hospital. A stranger might not. If I right now told someone who knows me that I am going to the hospital, they would know it would either be for an appointment (like today, when I went to the Wound Care Clinic for my foot) or that I was going because something was wrong with me. I could also qualify going to the the hospital by saying, "I am going to the hospital for an operation."

My niece who works at our local hospital, would say the same thing, but without adding anything either because all her friends and family know that's where she works. When I was a patient there in late December and early January she came to visit me when she wasn't working. If she told someone she was going to the hospital, she probably would have added, "to see my aunt who is a patient". We don't change it from "the hospital". We are more apt to add something more if needed.
 
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I think the UK version makes more sense. Do we blame Webster, or did our grammar evolve in an unclear manner?
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Geoff:
I think the UK version makes more sense. Do we blame Webster, or did our grammar evolve in an unclear manner?


Good question, Geoff! I am curious, too.
 
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In England "going to hospital" and "going to the hospital" mean different things. The first means that there is something wrong and you will be a patient there, probably for some time. The second just means that the hospital is your destination - maybe as a visitor or an employee or even a taxi driver taking someone else there.
I did not realize that, Bob, but it makes sense. In nother words, a nurse going to work at the hospital would be "going to the hospital to work," correct?
 
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