Well, enough of this serious stuff…Time to move to the lighter side.
Roger Cohen, a New York Times Op-Ed columnist had an entertaining piece on The Times’ website today about some of the differences between American English and English English.
It was titled “From Oops to Whoops.”
Cohen, a native Englishman, became an American citizen many years ago, and when he returned to his homeland for a visit a few years ago, he was a bit taken aback — after the intervening years — by the contrasting usages.
“My kids, New York raised, started on me from the moment we touched down. ‘Baggage REclaim?’ they asked at Heathrow…And then, driving into London and passing a petrol (gas) station, the incredulity of my son: ‘They don’t actually spell tires with a “y” do they?’ “
Cohen went on to point out some other differences, such as:
— You “pop” a dish into the oven; you don’t “put” it in the oven.
— Our “nice” equals their “lovely.”
— If you call someone on your “cell” in the U.S., over there you’re doing it on a “mobile.”
— “Two weeks” is a “fortnight.”
— When you set the table, you put out (pop out?) the “cutlery,” not “silverware.”
Cohen also informs us that “the flat that costs two million quid (three million bucks) with no lift is an overpriced London apartment with no elevator.”
The column struck a chord with many readers, generating more than 170 comments. Here are a few that I found particularly interesting or entertaining.
JRM from Athens, Georgia — “My daughter and I particularly love the signs in the Underground: Mind the Gap.”
Bill M from California — “The English people have a long history of interesting usages within the language they passed along to us but despite the creative idioms they are one of the few peoples on earth that form q’s (queues) and take their turns at bus stops and air terminals — a not widely shared civilized quality in much of the dog-eat-dog world of staying alive.”
MJRI from North Carolina — “One thing I noticed in England’s parking lots, no, ‘car parks,’ was that, while there were signs that said ‘Enter,’ there were no signs that said ‘Exit.’ Instead, those signs said ‘Way Out.’ It brought back memories of the hippie years.
(What MJRI was really thinking about was “Far out.”)
Sue from Queens — ” ‘Pop’ is one of my pet peeves; aha, so it comes from Britain. Too many of the principals on the cooking shows pop dishes everywhere. They can barely go two sentences without ‘pop this into the refrigerator,’ ‘pop it into the oven,’ ‘pop it in the sink,’ not just once per show but for every dish they make…pop, pop, pop. At least the ugly ‘hunker down’ is overused only during snow storms. A question, why do people in the theater insist on ‘theatre?’ ”
Socrates from Verona, New Jersey — “At least they speak English in England. In the United States…they speak…sort of…I dunno…kind of…like…English.”
S.G. from Brooklyn — “I was under the impression Mr. Cohen had traveled outside the U.S. before. It is never too late to realize that people speak differently in different countries. I was in Texas once.”
Jolly good, I say!