The English language first came to America, when it was colonised by the British Empire in the late 16th century. Other parts of the world were also colonised by the British Empire, which by 1921 had dominion over 470 to 570 million people, which equated to about one quarter of the world&acute;s population. In the last 400 years, the diversity between the English spoken in the Britsh Isles and the United States, has continued to grow. This has brought about the two dialects known as British English, and American English.
The differences between the two dialects include punctuation, grammer, spelling, pronounciation and the formatting of dates and numbers. There are some words which are used in one version of English, but not in another. There are other words which might have two completely different meanings, depending on whether you are speaking in the British or American form of English. There have been alot of quotes, summing up the difference in British and American English. George Bernard Shaw, once said that the United States and the United Kingdom are "two countries divided by a commom language." Oscar wilde was another one who wrote "we have really everything in commom with America nowadays, except, of course, the language.
It, nevertheless, remains the case that although spoken American and British English are generally mutually understandable, there are enough differences to cause occasional misunderstandings or at times embarrassment, for example, some words that are quite tame in one dialect may be considered crude in the other. While it is considered that no one version is correct, there are still some important guidelines to follow. The most important one is to be consistant in your grammar, spelling etc.
Possession in English and American takes on two slightly different forms. A: Do you have a car?
E: Have you got a car?
A: He doesn&acute;t have any friends. E: He hasn&acute;t got any friends.
A: She has a beautiful new home.
E: She&acute;s got a beautiful new home. While both of these are considered to be correct, and accepted in both countries, &acute;have got, hasn&acute;t got, or have you got,&acute; generally tends to be spoken more by the English, while the Americans tend to favour &acute;do you have, he/she doesn&acute;t have etc. The main differences between British and American English tend to be in the choice of vocabulary. Sometimes, the same word in British and American, can have two different meanings. The word &acute;mean&acute; for example, in British English tends to stand for miserly or tight fisted. In American English, however, the same word can stand for angry or obnoxious.
Another common word with two meanings in British and American English is &acute;Rubber.&acute; The British use it as a word for pencil eraser, while the Americans use it to describe a condom.
There are countless other words with two meanings to them. Most dictionaries usually differentiate between the British and American, versions of the same word (when there is a difference.) One popular distinction is the teminology used for motor vehicles. A: Hood, E: Bonnet. A: Trunk, E: Boot A: Truck, E: Lorry Some prepositions that differ between British and American English include. A: On the weekend, E: At the weekend. A: On a team, E: In a team. A: Please write me soon, E: Please write to me soon. The verbs, listed below have two acceptable forms of the past simple/past participle in both American and British English, however, the irregular form is generally more widely spoken in British English (the first verb listed in each line) and the regular form is more common to American English. Burn: burnt or burned Dream: dreamt or dreamed Lean: leant or leaned Learn: learnt or learned Smell: smelt or smelled Spell: spelt or spelled Spill: spilt or spilled Spoil: spoilt or spoiled. Here are some general differences between British and American spellings:
Words ending in -or (American) -our (British) color, colour, humor, humour, flavor, flavour etc.
Words ending in -ize (American) -ise (British) recognize, recognise, patronize, patronise etc.
One way to be sure you are being consistent in your spelling is to use the spell check facility in your PC (if you have one.) That way you can choose between British an American English.
Author: Peter Flinn
Date of post: 2007-02-06