English English and American English: The Highs and Lows
George Bernard Shaw is reported to have said, “England and America are two countries separated by a common language.”
That’s a nice witticism, although I don’t think it’s true. I believe the common language of the Anglosphere (Britain, Canada, Australia, the United States, and to a lesser extent, Hong Kong, Singapore, India) has been a great cohesive force. And the common institutions are probably just as important.
You’re unlikely to find a more avid Anglophile than me. I have English ancestry. I love English literature (especially the English literature of the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries). Winston Churchill and Maggie Thatcher are two of my heroes.
And I love our common language, including—for the most part—the quirky differences. For example, I like the British way of ending words with “our” (e.g., favour, Saviour). The word “centre” just looks better than “center.” The English “take decisions,” while Americans “make decisions.” “Take” sounds more forceful.
I’m generally fine with English grammar, except that the English propensity to put the quotation mark inside the period will never look right to me. And why the heck can’t Mr and Mrs have a period (Mr. and Mrs.)?
Where Americans use completely different words for the same thing, I’m usually fine with the English word: “lift” is better than “elevator”; “flat” is more charming than “apartment.” I’d never call the “bathroom” the “water closet” or “WC,” but I don’t object. I’m neutral on whether a car has a “boot” or a “trunk.”
There are two particular English words that just sound wrong. The first is “nappy” for “diaper.” Sounds like baby-talk to me. And the one that I can never accept is “lorry” for “truck.” Lorry sounds like a small, furry animal. To give the big rig its due, you’ve got to have a hard consonant like the “k” sound in truck (perhaps Dave can give us the definitive decision on whether he drives a “lorry”).
But on the whole, I love to hear the English speak English. Even when Piers Morgan is babbling inanity after inanity, his accent provides him some cover: somehow the King’s English sounds authoritative. Think about Winston Churchill: can you imagine not agreeing with every word he uttered as he uttered them?
So Ricochetti, what do you like and not like about English English and American English? Feel free to throw in examples from Canadian English, Australian English, or the English spoken anywhere else in the old British Empire. Red Feline is invited to help us out with a bit of Highland English as well (speaking of which, I love the word “kirkyard” in place of “churchyard,” especially when it’s pronounced by a real Scot).