A British-American Compromise

I recognize that I am just one of tens of thousands of bloggers on the internet. I write my own blog, I read other blogs, and I general do what I can promote both my work and the work of other bloggers that I find to be of similar or better quality as I am. I also recognize that there are a significant number of bloggers in the world who speak and write in American English, while there are also a significant number of bloggers in the world who speak and write in British English, aka Queen’s English, aka Received Pronunciation.

As you might imagine, the differences between these two dialects of the same languages can cause for problems in many situations for both Americans and Brits. For example, the word “fanny” is a lighthearted way to refer to one’s buttocks in the USA, while the same word is another word for vagina if you’re in the UK((or Australia and New Zealand, for that matter)). This causes needless confusion for international travellers, business people such as myself who work with individuals across multiple countries, and the general populace of all nations involved.

I propose that Americans and Brits work together to bring the two dialects together to some commonality. While I recognize that this may not be a completely plausible exercise (after all, there are many regional dialects within the USA that can’t say words right…I’m looking at you, South Carolina), I feel as though I have some minor suggestions that can help us to get started on the right path. In the interest of fairness, for every change I’ve made to British English, I’ve made a similar change to American English, and vice versa.

Americans: Start pronouncing literally as “lit-tra-ly”
Brits: Start pronouncing garage as “gra-ge”

Let’s start with a pronunciation one, shall we? I’ve taken the single most annoying word to pronounce in both dialects((This assumes you’re pronouncing the words correctly for your dialect, of course. My mother pronounces “wash” as “warsh”, which is just stupid, but that doesn’t count for our purposes.)) and stricken it from the vernacular. Garage should not rhyme with carriage. It just shouldn’t. 99.9% of the time, Brits sound far more eloquent and educated than we Americans. You know what that .1% is? The word garage. Meanwhile, Americans’ overuse of the word literally is absurd and needs to be stopped((Literally.)). Changing the pronunciation of the word will force people to realize that they’re saying it, at which point hopefully they’ll stop abusing it.

Americans and Brits: Let’s standardize when the double L is used

You want to know why people hate learning English in any country? Because it’s a terribly inconsistent language. The case of the double L is a great example of this. Someone you need to talk to in order to get help is a counsellor or a counselor, depending on where you’re located. Likewise, words like distil(l), cal(l)iper, skil(l)ful, and marvel(l)ous exist just to piss off copy editors. And don’t get me started on jewel(le)ry, which adds multiple letters because no particular reason at all. New rule here: every L gets doubled if it ends a word, just like pretty much every other consonant in existence.

Americans: Replace “ass” with “arse”
Brits: Replace “mum/mummy” with “mom/mommy”

Another net improvement for both sides, I think. For Brits, you’ve now eliminated the possible confusion of having to teach your child that the thing in an Egyptian sarcophagus is not, in fact, your mother((Unless it actually is, in which case you’re a time traveller.)). Meanwhile, Americans make a curse word that is losing its power immediately have forcefulness once again((Although, I just realized Brits adding a R to ass is like my mom adding a R to wash. I’m not sure I’m okay with this anymore)).

Americans: Start spelling “check” as “cheque”
Brits: Start spelling “liquorice” as “licorice”

I know what you’re thinking, why wouldn’t you standardize the usage of the letter Q across these words? I considered it for a moment, as I do think there should be far more words with the letter Q in them, which is why I feel Americans should switch to the cheque spelling. But then I realized a very important point. There’s no liquor in licorice. Therefore, it doesn’t get to have liquor be part of its spelling. You’re all welcome.

Speaking of liquor…

Americans: Start spelling “whiskey” as “whisky”
Brits: Start spelling “tyre” as “tire”

When you’ve had enough alcohol, you have trouble spelling. It’s vital to alcoholics and college students everywhere that we shorten the spelling to whisky to save lives. As for tire, take the T off of the front of the word and see which one doesn’t sound stupid((To be fair, it’s really “wire” vs. “ire”, but just go with me here)).

Americans: Adopt the Oxford spelling of -ize/-ise words (see: realise vs. realize)
Brits: Drop the extraneous U from some words (see: color vs. colour)

My final point is nothing more than a way to help make both forms of English sound less angry. And by make both forms sound less angry, I mean make people reading cross-dialect less angry at potential misspellings. In having someone from the UK edit my book, they said something to the effect of “I was concerned you didn’t know how to spell, but then I remembered you’re just American”. What better way to get rid of that same stereotype and bring multiple countries together by fixing two of the biggest spelling differences that keep us apart?

Front page image credit freestock.ca

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19 thoughts on “A British-American Compromise

  1. I actually found learning English in school rather easy. It took me 4 years of barely keeping my grades over failing those classes but that had more to do with my generel ineptidute at learning languages and not knowing grammar in general than it is a statement about the English language. In comaprison to German, I found it easy.
    We were taught British English in school even though my accents always bordered more on American English and still does with the exceptions if when I watch lots of BBC shows back to back.

    As far as writing goes, I’m British English all the way, or as best as I can because sometimes I really have no clue which spelling belongs to which. And honestly, I vote for both countries keeping their spellings. As annoying as it can be, I don’t want to give up my copious implemetation of ‘u’s for the benefit of a united langage. It would never work which is completely okay. What would we all talk about?

    Also, this is not an American/British problem. The German spoken and written across Germany, Switzerland and Austria suffers from similar problems. And I assume it’s the case for all languages that are native to more than one country.

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    1. I’d have to think this is an issue native to more than one language. I know that there are pronunciation differences in Spanish in Mexico versus in Spain from my travels, however I don’t think there are many spelling differences (vosotros words aside, that is).

      I’ve never had a desire to learn German, despite the fact that most people in my family have taken German courses in school at some point in their lives. I’ve been told it’s far easier than English by native English speakers, however the two native German speakers I know (three now with your feedback) have all said this isn’t the case.

      Obviously this piece is intended to be a humorous piece. You’re quite right though. If it were not for the fact that British and American English don’t match, whatever would we talk about?

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      1. Spanish suffers from a HUGE pronunciation and slang disparity between nations. I am fluent in Spanish, but my professors were from here, Mexico, or Venezuela, and as a result I lit-rally can’t understand a word of Argentinian Spanish. And forget Portuguese, holy shit.

        My husband speaks German as a second language and he has said it’s harder than English. It’s a very complex language and has a lot more grammar to it than English has (at least to speak it on a common level…I spoke English just fine before I knew what a subjunctive tense was).

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          1. Ooooh ooh ooh do you do the lishp? Please tell me you do the lishp.

            I CAN use and understand vosotros, but that’s because I taught myself. I had planned to study abroad in Spain. It would have helped if I’d finished college.

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          2. I can do the lishp and will slip into it if I’m talking to someone from Argentina, but I hate it. I prefer the vosotros forms to the ustedes forms, but that’s just me.

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        1. I find German incredibly difficult and I don’t see the problem with English. Not that mine is perfect but damn German has so much grammar. And just the spelling alone of all nouns beginning with an upper case letter but sometimes verbs can be nouns or at least look like it and OMG, it makes my head explode and 27 years later, I still can’t do it right, at least not always. And don’t get me started on punctuation, cause I can’t do that, if my life depended on it.

          My Englsih HS teacher never taught us English punctuation, he just said it was so weird and there weren’t any real rules to follow. Which is why my commas in English are a mess as well but hey, at least I don’t get confused with upper and lower case spelling.

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          1. He didn’t say there were none, just that they were not as clearly defined as say in German. It was a basic English course. (Not that knowing there are rules helps me anyway, re German grammar)

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    2. It’s okay…I’m a native American English speaker and I start speaking with a bit of a British accent when I watch a lot of BBC shows too.

      And, apparently, when I’m drunk in Brighton and I’m on day 5 of my England trip. I’ve decided I’m suggestive. I start speaking English with a touch of a Turkish/Armenian accent when I’m around my brother and father for a while too.

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      1. I tend to forget my own German accent when I’m around other Germans with other accents. It’s weird.

        While I was in London this year, I loved using the word blimey. I’m in a completely different mindset depending on where I’m travelling and what öanguage is spoken, it’s funny and amuses me greatly at times.

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  2. This was amusing to read. As a Brit, I cannot stand the word ‘ass’, and da fuck you playing at with the cheque business, and what are you doing with the word tyre. Lets not complicate matters, tire is it’s own special word, as in to tire out.

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    1. I appreciate that you caught the humoristic tone of this piece. The fact that you’re editing my book and the times you confused my American spellings with being misspellings (which they are to you) was actually part of what prompted me to write this post.

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  3. I had always thought I could totally pass a British spelling test, but apparently I would fail on the word “tyre.” I had no idea they spelled it that way. That’s super weird.

    I’d be willing to compromise on most of these (although in a lot of the cases you mentioned, I actually prefer the British way…not tyre or whisky though. Tire should have an i, and whiskey should have an e), but the ass/arse and mommy/mummy one seems backward to me. I hate arse. Probably because I know more Americans who try to say it and sound stupid than I do British people. It’s also the #1 preferred word for butt in porn stories, and it always sounds just wrong and throws the whole thing out of whack. They use arse in the middle of totally American spelling, colloquialisms, and slang, and for some reason EVERYONE DOES IT. I think a memo must have gone out to all the internet porn-writers. And it throws a girl off, you know?

    And mummy is way cuter than mommy and therefore better despite the confusion with ancient linen-wrapped dead people, and I will stand by its superiority till the day I die.

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    1. Coming from someone speaking in UK English, mummy is fine. Coming from someone speaking US English, mummy sound pretentious. I won’t say it, especially around my family, as they already make fun of me for using words much larger than those they’re used to. I’ll give you arse being awkward in pornography though. Perhaps we can keep it as ass when people take their clothes off in front of a camera?

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      1. Or on paper. The biggest offender is erotica. And yes, that’s a fair arrangement.

        I can’t bring myself to say mummy either. Although I can say “mum” to people if it’s not MY mom, who’s just “Mom” to me. But I can be like “is that your mum?” and I already have a west coast accent in the south and I say certain words like a New Yorker (ya want some coawfee?) so people just think I’m weird anyway, and no one even blinks.

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