Thursday, November 30, 2006


An Irishman once commented that America and Britain are two countries divided by a common language.
Brits understand soccer and Americans know what trousers are. But other vocabulary differences cause problems.
One British charity worker offended her Texan hosts by saying “I could murder a fag!”. In British slang, she really wanted a cigarette; to the Texan it sounded as if she wanted to kill a gay person. If an American exclaims, “Nice pants!” Brits will think he is admiring their underpants, rather than their trousers. A Brit asking to borrow a rubber will cause astonishment in the United States, where rubbers are condoms, not erasers.
When an American asks for the bathroom in England, they will show him, a room with a bath. He should instead ask for the loo or lavatory, or look for sign for Gents, Ladies, Cloakroom or Public Convenience. The Brits will also be confused if he asks for the restroom.
There are also innumerable differences of idiom. At American junctions you must YEILD, on British roads you GIVE WAY. In the New York subway, they warn you to watch your step; on the London underground, to mind the gap. The British study the American War of Independence; in the US it’s celebrated as the Revolutionary War.
A British lexicographer Ernest Gowers considered British usage definitive, as English originated there. American journalist, HL Mencken, disagreed: “When two thirds of the people who use a language call it a freight train instead a goods train, they are right; the first is correct usage and the second a dialect!”. So they remain divide by a common language….

Taken from the magazine “Speak up”, the newsmagazine for your English –July 2006