US / UK language difference

Discussion in 'Community' started by dobbin, Jun 25, 2003.

  1. dobbin macrumors 6502a


    Jan 28, 2002
    Reading posts on the net is a great way to learn about other countries different use of language. I don't mean differences in meanings of words (eg pavement/sidewalk, trousers/pants, crisps/chips, but actual differences in certain phrases.

    One phrase which I've noticed a lot from American posters on MR is "I could care less about ....."

    In England we would say "I couldn't care less about...." to mean the same thing.

    for example, an American might say "I could care less if Dell release a new machine, I still won't buy one".

    You would mean that you don't care that Dell has released the machine. But to me, the words "I could care less" implies that you do care a bit.

    I would say "I couldn't care less if Dell releases a new machine" and logically this means that my caring is as low as it can be and I can't care any less.

    Is it just me, or does the US way of saying this not make sense at all?

    There are other examples of differences that I've noticed, but I can't remember any at the moment!
  2. wdlove macrumors P6


    Oct 20, 2002
    Personally I would use the sentence, "I could care less if Dell release a new machine, I still won't buy one". I'm not great at English, but I go on how something sounds. To me your version is the correct use of English!
  3. Mr. Anderson Moderator emeritus

    Mr. Anderson

    Nov 1, 2001
    I don't think that that's the best example - because I would say 'could't' which in this case means the least amount of caring...

    Any other phrases you've noticed?

  4. Zaid macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2003
    Other than spelling the ones that i can think of off the top of my head are:

    Americans use different past participles (or simple past forms) for certain words
    (American) vs (English)
    gotten vs got
    burned vs burnt
    learned vs learnt
    spelled vs spelt
    spilled vs spilt
    spoiled vs spoilt

    The american forms sound somewhat old-fashioned to me (even though they are strictly speaking more regular) they sound almost quasi-shakespearean as in a learnéd man. . Is the english form a 'new' irregularity? That would be consistent with American preserving many older forms of english expression. Can any of the linguists here provide us with an answer to this one?

    (dunno if that counts as spelling as the pronunciation is slightly different)

    also americans use the simple past tense were we tend to use the present perfect. e.g.
    (American) vs (English)
    I just had lunch vs I've just had lunch
    I already read that book vs I've already read that book.
    (may be wrong on this one, its just something i've noticed from some american movies)

    Some Prepositions
    My personal fav pet hate is using the verb to write without a preposition. e.g.
    (American) vs (English)
    Write me soon vs Write to me soon
    (though we seem to accept the analogous email and (tele)phone, possibly because those words also double up as the appropriate noun??? i dunno)
    Others include
    On the weekend vs At the weekend
    On a team vs In a team
  5. dstorey macrumors 6502a

    Dec 14, 2002
    I've noticed that americans tend to put 'already' at the end of sentences will you stop that already, which an english person wouldn't tend to do...the closest would be stop that right now and we would tend to say have you already done that more than have you done that already, i guess...but i suppose either is correct. I heard alot more people say 'oh really?' at a response to a statement.
  6. MOFS macrumors 65816


    Feb 27, 2003
    Durham, UK
    It sounds even worse when you break down the phrase to "You write to me soon" (in English) vs "You write me soon" (American). If you speak those out to yourself, the American version sounds like a "Me Tarzan you Jane"-esque phrase! Not a criticism of American English, merely noting little idiosyncracies of the languages!

    PS: Why is "English English" called "International English"? I know USA has a larger population than England, but thats never stopped the Spanish speaking Americans calling "Spanish Spanish" "Spanish"!
  7. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

    Jun 25, 2002
    Gone but not forgotten.
    It all depends on where you live in the United States as well.

    In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where I used to live, we walked on the pavement as well. :) I learnt about that while I lived there. If you look at the names of area cities and towns, you'll find that there was quite a U.K. influence: Bristol, Gloucester, Upper Darby, LLanerch, Exton, Treddyfrin, Bryn Mawr.

    You'll find as you move south and east, this dissipates and the proper :D American forms come out. I think there is one truly American inconsistency and it's about soft drinks. The original term was soda pop. You'll find that on the east coast, it's soda and west of there, it's pop. This gives the prank phone call "Do you have pop in the can?" "Yes" "Will you let him out?"

    We also don't have a controversy with the word controversy. :)

    A most unusual language, this English.
  8. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    "Could care less" is an expression, and even though it means more or less the opposite of what's being said literally, it is commonly understood. This usage bangs off my ear because it's, well, careless.

    Another difference of phraseology is the American use of "too" where a Brit would typically say "as well." I always try to remember to substitute "as well" for the Americanism when I'm in the UK -- I get less of that little smile the British (esp. the English) reserve for Americans who speak like true Yanks.

    A curious recent transference to American English is the UK English expression, "at the end of the day." Politicians in the US have become totally enamored with this one recently.
  9. Zaid macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2003
    Yeh agreed, :) Call International English, English and call American English, American English :)

    Mind you the Aussies also have their own particular brand of the language :) , as do South Africans and Kiwis (though to a lesser extent)

    I know when i first got to Britain there were a few south-africanisms that i had to lose. e.g. we use the word couple to refer to a few rather than strictly 2, which is how brits use the word. Also Just now in england means immeadiately wheras (strangely ) in SA it means in a while, and the SA pronunciation is more akin to juust now.

    Also south africans write their exams, whereas brits sit theirs.

    I think quite a few of these South-Africanisms are the effect of Afrikaans.
    Edit : spelling
  10. britboy macrumors 68030


    Nov 4, 2001
    Kent, UK

    That it is. It can be perfectly demonstrated by an email i received ages ago. Try explaining it to a foreigner.....

    We must polish the Polish furniture.
    He could lead if he would get the lead out.
    The farm was used to produce produce.
    The dump was so full that it had to refuse more refuse.
    The soldier decided to desert in the desert.
    This was a good time to present the present. (And this last could mean "gift" or "era of time ")
    A bass was painted on the head of the bass drum.
    When shot at, the dove dove into the bushes.
    I did not object to the object.
    The insurance was invalid for the invalid.
    The bandage was wound around the wound.
    There was a row among the oarsmen about how to row.
    They were too close to the door to close it.
    The buck does funny things when the does are present.
    They sent a sewer down to stitch the tear in the sewer line.
    To help with planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
    The wind was too strong to wind the sail.
    After a number of injections my jaw got number.
    Upon seeing the tear in my clothes I shed a tear.
    I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
    How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
  11. MrMacMan macrumors 604


    Jul 4, 2001
    1 Block away from NYC.
    I couldn't care less about this thread.

    If you get it, you get it, and if you don't, why the bloody hell not? ;)

    "On the weekend vs At the weekend
    On a team vs In a team"
    This is where I am confused, how can you do something 'at the weekend' IMO the american (left) are better.

    I think most people switch off on the bottom example.
    "I am in that team.
    On the Team over there."
  12. shadowfax macrumors 603


    Sep 6, 2002
    Houston, TX
    why did you post in here, eh?

    of course, i am really posting to ask you to make more sense of that post. were you making a joke? i don't get it.
  13. Lyle macrumors 68000


    Jun 11, 2003
    Madison, Alabama
    And here in the southeastern United States, it's "Coke". Even if the soft drink in question isn't a Coke. ;)
  14. strider42 macrumors 65816


    Feb 1, 2002
    Its definiltey not pop on the west coast. thats more of a mid-west thing. its called soda by most people around here (SF Bay area) and everywhere I've travelled on this coast.

    Interestingly, there are some parts of the US more faithful to the original language than England is. For instance, originally the name "berkeley" was pronounced Barkley. England and most of the US says Berkeley. Some places in New England still would say barkley.

    And someone will haev to explain to me why liecester square (not sure if I spelled that correctly) is pronounced very similar to lester in england.

    One of my favorite ones I've come across, is a friend of mine saw the term "glanced over" in something written by her mother. She thought the person was literally looking over the object and to the other side, whereas in actual fact, the term meant to look at the object quickly (I glanced over the report, for instance). Didn't even occur to me to think of it like she did. Dunno if its a british thing really, but my parents are british, and as it turns out, her parents were educated in English by british people. I thought it was funny anyway.
  15. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    One of our British friends can correct me if I'm wrong, but I'd expect them to pronounce "Berkeley" as "barkly," as in "I heard a dog barking near Berkeley Castle."

    Another favorite speech difference is the British penchant for the casual rhetorical question. As often as not, an American will make a declarative statement, as in "It's a nice day." The British more often will inquire, "Nice day, isn't it?" I like this cultural habit, because it invites a sociable reply.

    One Americanism that can get you funny looks in the UK is responding to a statement with, "Really?" I'll bet most Americans don't realize how often they do this. I remember one irritated Brit shooting back with, "Yes, I just told you." He figured his veracity was being questioned, and if you weren't accustomed to this reply, that's what you might well think.

    The British also don't get "you're welcome," as a reply to "thank you." I'm not sure I do either.
  16. Foocha macrumors 6502a


    Jul 10, 2001
    "I could care less" is used to mean "I couldn't care less" because it's a shortened form of the sarcastic expression "like I could care less" - entertaining the ridiculous notion that I could care any less than I already do. - typically said whilst rolling your eyes and thowing your hands in the air.

    At least, I think that's where it comes from.

    I love to hear American tourists in London pronounce Leicester Square "Liesestor Square" - it sounds just as stupid as the first time I went to NYC and asked for directions to "Hewsten Street".

    I love this kind of stuff. I think it's harder for Brits to make themselves understood when they travel to the US, than visa versa, since we Brits are so used to watching American TV & movies. On the rare occasions when a British TV show is shown on American TV, it's always hidden away on PBS. Shame.
  17. WinterMute Moderator emeritus


    Jan 19, 2003
    London, England
    Just be careful next time someone from the UK asks you to lay the table, you'll get your d*ck stuck in the cutlery drawer:D
  18. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    One of the times I visited Britain (during the '80s I suppose it was), the American nighttime soap "Dynasty" was all the rage. The British liked to call the show "die-nasty," a cute pun on the American pronunciation of the word -- not to mention one of the major themes of the show. (The British English pronunciation is "dinesty.")

    As a matter of fact, that was kind of a difficult time for an American to travel in Britain. So much trashy American TV was appearing I think some people expected all Americans to come over wearing ten gallon hats and boots.
  19. bousozoku Moderator emeritus

    Jun 25, 2002
    Gone but not forgotten.
    I tend to do it during the weekend. :D
  20. MrMacMan macrumors 604


    Jul 4, 2001
    1 Block away from NYC.
    Yes, it was joke, seriously you have made that point like 100000000 times already, and you have called me on it EVERY time.

    It was also making a reference to the 'couldn't vs could care less' addressed above that post.

    Also this:
    Yes, using sarcasm.

    Gotta love tazo for completely random text. Keep it up.spam

    And I already said I'll do it NEXT weekend. :p

    Silly 100 variance of english.

    I think I might make my own, I'll use Yoday sayings and end 'that I will' to the end of everything, that I will. (Rurouni Kenshin)
  21. shadowfax macrumors 603


    Sep 6, 2002
    Houston, TX
    ah, i was not confused by the part i quoted, i was confused by the rest of what you said. and yes i do call you on it every time. losing is half of the fun. or something.

    the thing is, i don't think i have ever made a comment about that particular section of your profile. that said, you're about as fun to pick on as my sister was when she was your age (and i was a year older than you): very fun.
  22. tazo macrumors 68040


    Apr 6, 2003
    Pacific Northwest, Seattle, WA actually
    Can you please stop harassing me online here? OK? that would be great....
  23. shadowfax macrumors 603


    Sep 6, 2002
    Houston, TX
    don't worry about him. i think i've got his pecker a lot further in my pocket than he does yours. and it's very small, my friend, very small. no worries!
  24. Zaid macrumors 6502

    Feb 17, 2003
    I'm the opposite. The American on forms make no sense to me whatsoever. How can something be on a period of time? Whereas saying that an event will occur at that time reffered to as {the weekend, two o'clock, ...} is understandable to me.

    Also I interpret being on a team as, well, being on a team as opposed to being under it. Whereas being in a team makes sense as you are in the group or set of people constituting a team.

    I suppose both prepositional sets if taken literally are non-sensical, but the British usage somehow sounds better to me, guess because that's what i grew up with.
  25. IJ Reilly macrumors P6

    IJ Reilly

    Jul 16, 2002
    Neither "on" nor "at" the weekend is really a better way describing what you do on Saturday and Sunday. if you wanted to be precise, you'd say, "during the weekend" -- a more appropriate preposition for attaching to a period of time. I've never heard this expression used, though.

    Both American and Britons are victims of the vagaries of our somewhat-common tongue. It's such an arbitrary and difficult language -- I'm always impressed when people can speak it as a second language.

    BTW, reminds me of an oldie but goodie:

    Q: What do you call a person who speaks three languages?
    A: Trilingual.

    Q: What do you call a person who speaks two languages?
    A: Bilingual.

    Q: What do you call a person who speaks only one language?
    A: An American.

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