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June 11, 2019

British English vs. American English: Still Two Separate Languages. Part 1

It is still not at all surprising that British English has been influenced by American English. America has a powerful influence on the world generally, and many foreign students now learn American English rather than British English.
British English vs. American English: Still Two Separate Languages. Part 1


What is surprising is that the two languages have remained quite far apart despite the globalization of communication. Britain still has 'pavements' while America has 'sidewalks'. Britain still has 'bonnets' and 'boots' in cars while America has 'hoods' and 'trunks'. In Britain, a 'vest' is something you wear under a shirt or other top (known as an 'undershirt' in America) while in America it is worn over a shirt and under a jacket (mostly known as a 'waistcoat' in Britain).


A 'nappy' is still a 'nappy', rarely a 'diaper'; a 'chemist' might be a 'pharmacy', but not a 'drugstore', and a 'motorway' has not become an 'expressway' – and not just because the term is hardly appropriate given the incidence of traffic hold-ups in Britain.

Even relatively new inventions have gone their different linguistic ways, so British English has 'mobiles' while American English has 'cell phones' (or 'cells').


However, things are beginning to pick up pace and more and more American English words are finding their way to British shores. French fries have made it across the Atlantic to Britain, and the British ‘lift’ is sometimes known by its American name, ‘elevator’.

The British ‘lorry’ is now quite often called a ‘truck’, an ‘aerial’ is frequently called an ‘antenna’ and ‘films’ are becoming ‘movies’.

Increasingly, this trend is fast becoming a two-way process and British words are also crossing the Atlantic with more and more Britishisms being spotted in American English. Tammys English Blog is collecting examples of them.

The globalization of our media and social media seems to be having an impact: British words like ginger, snog, trendy, afters, trainers, fortnight, peckish are appearing more and more regularly in American texts. 

Anything could happen in the future. But the major differences between the two languages have lasted a long time.

© Joseph Baidoo
Joseph Baidoo is a Ghanaian and is popularly known on social media as Misty Joe.

Note: This is a series on British English vs. American English: Still Two Separate Languages. Always visit this blog to learn more on this series.

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