American English has grown steadily in international significance since World War II, parallel to the growth of U.S. political, economic, technological and cultural influence worldwide. American English is currently the dominant influence on "world English" (cf. British English) largely due to the following:
American and British English are both variants of World English. As such, they are more similar than different, especially with "educated" or "scientific" English. Most divergence can be ascribed to differing national histories, demographics, and cultural development, and the way in which national language has thus developed differently in parallel with the differing national needs.
- Population: U.S. vs U.K. (SAE/SBE ca 70% vs 17% of all native English; Dibul #68)
- Wealth of the U.S. economy vs. the U.K., & influences
- Magnitude of higher education in America vs the U.K.
- Magnitude of the publishing industry in America
- Magnitude of global mass media and media technology influence
- Appeal of American popular culture on language and habits
- International political and economic position of the U.S. (cf. Kennedy)The following general categories of difference between standard American English (SAE) and standard British English (SBE) each have their own sociolectic value:
I. Different Pronunciation, Although Same Spelling — (Top)
- Advertisement (advert, ad)
- Controversy, Laboratory, Secretary
- Leisure, schedule, dynasty, dance
- Renaissance, oregano, migratory, clerk [bank, office], ate
- 'PC'-influence examples: harass & harassment, Uranus, etc.
II. Different Spelling, Although Same Pronunciation
- Colour — color, Centre — center
- Cheque — check (noun form [bank]; verb "to check" the same)
- Defence — defense (noun form), Licence (noun form) — license
- Alright — all right; Manoeuvre — maneuver; tyre — tire
- Ageing — aging; Whisky (Scotch) — whiskey (U.S. & Ireland)
- Gaol — jail
III. Same Term, Different But Similar Spelling and Pronunciation
- Aluminium — aluminum
- Polythene — polyethylene
- Maths — math (shortening of "mathematics")
- Rise — raise (more money in salary, wages)
IV. Same Words, But Different or Additional Meanings
- I married a homely girl. The opening of our new play was a bomb!
- We all had tea and biscuits. (cf. Harry Potter, 'crumpets' vs 'English muffins', etc.)
- The corn harvest was exceptional this year.
(cf. US "maize" or "sweetcorn"; GB "any cereal" or "wheat", Scotland "oats", etc.)
- We needed a torch for the dark trail. (cf. flashlight, or GB 'electric torch', flaming torch)
- IBM made over a billion dollars last year. (cf. "thousand million"; 'changing' GB standards)
- The committee tabled the motion (GB: put it on the table).
- Nigel and Trevor purchased 7-day Travelcard season tickets.
- Ralph needs to write an essay for his university course.
- GB 'Trousers' = US 'Pants'; US 'Pants' = GB 'underwear pants'
US 'It was a tremendous storm; my pants got all wet' would in GB refer to 'underwear pants' rather than 'outerwear pants' [trousers]
- GB 'Jumper' = US 'Sweater'; US 'Jumper' = GB Pinafore [dress].
GB 'I'm getting warm; I think I'll take off my jumper' would refer in SAE to 'taking off my dress' instead of 'taking off my sweater'
V. Grammar, Syntax, Punctuation, General Usage — (Top)—
- (U.S.) Finnair has a flight to London today.
(G.B.) Finnair have a flight to London today. (large collective nouns)
- (U.S.) England has (...) played well today, even if it lost.
(G.B.) England have played well today, even if they lost.
- (G.B.) The Government are acting like themselves again.
- (G.B.) Have you got your grade in history yet?
(U.S.) Have you gotten your grade in history yet?
- (G.B.) He went on a course. How many were on the course?
(U.S.) He was in a course. How many were in the course?
- (G.B.) We lived in the High Street. (cf 'street people' ...)
(U.S.) We lived on Main Street ("on" plus article plus High/Main)
- (G.B.) He's in hospital with a broken leg.
(U.S.) He's in the hospital with a broken leg.
- (G.B.) I have got a car. vs. (U.S.) I have a car. I got a car. (different implications)
- (G.B.) We weren't able to catch him up
(U.S.) We weren't able to catch him, catch up with him, catch up [with him].
- One was different from/than the other.
- Date writing, number/word order (Never use only numbers!)
- Use of commas and periods inside quotation marks
- Business letter salutations, colons vs commas
- 'Honorifics': Mr. or Mrs. or Dr. Smith (U.S.) vs Mr or Mrs or Dr Smith (GB), etc.
VI. Divergence and Overlap
- To post vs to mail a letter — an art gallery vs an art museum
- Autumn vs fall — tap vs faucet, luggage vs baggage, shop vs store, etc.
VII. Same Concept, Different Terms or Expressions; (or)
Same Word, Differences in Style, Connotation and Frequency
- Hire a car — rent a car (hire-purchase vs installment plan)
- Petrol — gasoline; Saloon — sedan, Estate car — station wagon
- Boot — trunk (storage area); silencer — muffler (to reduce exhaust noise)
- Fortnight — two weeks; Goods train — freight train
- Barrister vs. solicitor — lawyer, attorney-at-law
- Sweet (vs "sweets") — dessert; red whortleberries — lingonberries
VIII. "Inventiveness"; Spinoffs; Combinations; Allusions to Brand Names
- Hamburger — cheeseburger, beefburger, fishburger, lobsterburger ..
- Hotel, motel, floatel, boatel
- Hardware, software, firmware, shareware, freeware, vaporware; "treeware ..."
- Suburb, exurb, technoburb, cyburb; citizen, netizen
- Smoke/fog = smog; "to litter"/"to bug" = litterbug
- Cosmetics/pharmaceuticals = cosmeceuticals, pharmaceuticals/farming = pharming;
- Sexploitation, cityscape, zeroscaping (xeriscaping; xeric plants)
(also 'hard landscaping' and 'soft landscaping' to 'hardscape' and 'softscape')
- "Metrosexual" — jetrosexual; magazine — fanzine; catalog — magalog
- "Half and half"; "A six-pack of PBR tallboys . . ."
- "Let's go and visit the Colonel ...." (Colonel Sanders & KFC vs military)
- (Roz, on Frasier): "I'm going to climb into a hot tub with my good friends Ben and Jerry"
IX. Euphemistic References — (Top)
- Senior citizen, emeritus professor
- Security officer, hair stylist, household manager
- Powder room, ladies' lounge; motion discomfort bag
- A "pre-owned" car (cf "used" & "used-car salesman")
- "The loved one..." (cf death and funeral jargon generally)
- "To deselect, dehire" employees; to "downsize, right-size" the company
X. "Equality" Vocabulary
- Fireman — firefighter, Policeman — police officer
- Mailman — mail carrier, Salesman — sales person
- Manmade — artificial, synthetic, manufactured
- Maid — house cleaner. Stewardess — flight attendant
- Chairman — chairperson, Chair, presiding officer, (chairperchild — cf "PC jargon")
XI. "Politically Correct" Terminology (Jargon)
- Elderly or "old" people vs 'senior citizens'; seniors; 'older' adults, adults 55 & older
- Differently-abled or physically-challenged (vs "handicapped")
- "People of Color" vs "colored people" or "coloreds" or "blacks"
- "Canola" vs "rapeseed" oil
- Animal companion vs "pet", Native American vs "Indian"
- 'Stay-at-home mom' vs "housewife" (not 'married to one's house')
- International Wildlife Conservation Park (former Bronx Zoo — "zoo" connotations)
XII. "Black English" (specific terminology in cultural context)
- Everybody look down at they feet; I ain't afraid of nuthin'
- You ugly, man; I the baddest cat around; He be good.
- Boy, Nigger, Soul food, Honkie, rapping, gig, cool!
XIII. Yiddish and Ethnic Jewish Influence on SAE
- Schlock, Goy, Schlemiel, schlep, chutzpa, nebbish, shtik
- He should live so long! I should have such luck!
- He's complaining yet! This I need? All right already.
- Fat-shmat, so long as she's happy. Smart, he's not ...
XIV. Many Other Ethnic Influences, Constantly Changing . . .
- "Gay" liberation movement (drag, closet, fairy, fruitcake, 'to out' — 'he was outed')
- Organized crime, crime syndicate (vs "Mafia")
- "Chicano" (vs 'Latino' or 'Hispanic') culture vs "wetbacks," etc...
XV. Jargon; "Professional" influences, Media conveyance ...
- Computer: fonts, multitasking, up/downloading, blogging, flaming, autoGoogling
- Drugs: Cocaine (coke, leaf, snow, angel dust); crack, valise, kilos, brick, 'trips'
- Social Position: Yuppie, Buppie, Puppie, Dinks, Woofs ...
- Business: Power breakfast, Valium picnic, warm fuzzies ...
- Youthisms: dork, nerd, geek, dweeb; psyched, pumped, barf...
- Technology and Media in Culture: technocrat, technopeasant, techno-potato, tech-nomads; virtual corporation, telecommuting, edutainment, 'terrestrial' TV (vs satellite); [broadcasting to] 'narrowcasting',
XVI. Regional Variation, Identity, StereotypingVariation in Terminology
Terms for general, unknown, 'anonymous' or 'stereotypical' persons
- Soda vs Soda Pop vs Pop vs Coke vs 'tonic', etc. (see map from www.popvssoda.com)
- 'Ice cream soda' vs 'milk shake' vs 'shake' vs frappe vs cabinet
- 'Rubber band' vs 'gumband' (Pittsburgh region), etc.
The South vs California
- "Uncle Sam" (U.S.) vs "John Bull" (U.K.)
- John Doe, John Q. Public, Joe Citizen
- Joe Blow, Joe Shmoe, Joe Six-Pack, "Mac", "brother", "sister"
Varying implications (region, education, ethnic) of "non-grammatical" language
- "bourbon and branch," "blues, banjos, Billy Bob, Bubba & Baptists" "good ole' boys," "ice tea, grits & red-eye; pecan pie"
- Southern California "Valley Girl" language and culture, cf. "Awesome," "mondo," "tubular" (Rhonda, Tracy & Kelli) [see also Clueless language and Clueless mp3 sample]
- (a) "He ain't done nothin' yet" (uneducated, rural?)
- (b) "He done et over at th' Hatfields" (hillbilly...)
- (c) "You be late...the food be cold." (Black English)
XVII. "Four-letter words", Obscenities and Implied Obscenities
- Damn, fart, piss, crap, turd, shit, fuck, cunt; vs GB bloody, bugger, bollocks, sod, etc.
- "A five-letter woman married to a four-letter man."
- His daughter was a thespian who matriculated at the state college.
She came to the party with a homo sapiens!
- The dean said he was an extrovert. He masticated during the meal.
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