The proper English and American English thread

Cold_Collation

LE
Book Reviewer
In an attempt to save the Search for an Ally Star thread, I'm just putting this here.

People can now crap on about spelling, grammar and so on.

Oh, and just because it's always worth seeing again:

 

Helm

MIA
Moderator
Book Reviewer
Close the thread.
english-traditional-simplified.jpg
 
To set the historical record straight, I've copied my previous post on this subject here.

At one time people spelled words however they felt like. The same applied to names, and people would even spell their name differently at different points in their life. With increasing education however, spelling became more standardised and systematic and in "standard" English the most common forms viewed as being correct were the ones adopted as being the "official" ones.

There is a school of thought that there is no such thing as "correct" or "incorrect" spelling, but that any form of spelling which achieves its goal of communicating an idea is "correct". I don't subscribe to this theory and believe that their are right and wrong ways to spell words and that following a common recognised standard aids in clear and rapid communication.


In prior centuries opportunities for education were fewer, and many people had much less formal education. The result of that was that misspellings were quite common, and the nature of the Latin alphabet that we use means that some misspellings were more common than others. See the paragraph near the end of this post for more on this point.

World Englishes: A Critical Analysis


Here's Webster saying that the "honor" (sic) of the newly independent US required them to have a language system of their own.

As an independent nation, our honor requires us to have a system of our own, in language as well as government.

Here he is stating that the separation of "the American tongue" from English was "necessary and unavoidable".

... several circumstances render a future separation of the American tongue from the English, necessary and unavoidable. ... These causes will produce, in a course of time, a language in North America, as different from the future language of England, as the modern Dutch, Danish and Swedish are from the German, or form one another: Like remote branches of a tree springing form the same stock; or rays of light, shot from the same center, and diverging from each other, in proportion to their distance from the point of separation.

Here he is stating that English as spoken in the UK should not be the standard for the US, as English writers were "corrupted" and the English language in the UK was "on the decline".

Great Britain, whose children we are, and whose language we speak, should no longer be our standard; for the taste of her writers is already corrupted, and her language on the decline. But if it were not so, she is at too great a distance to be our model, and to instruct us in the principles of our own tongue (Webster, 1789).

Webster was not alone in seeking to create a linguistic divide between the US and Britain. A number of leading US revolutionary era politicians promoted this idea as well. Here is John Adams (a prominent American politician) saying that language has an influence on government and the mood of the people, and that the US government should therefore seek to influence the language. Other prominent American politicians of that era also made similar statements.

It is not to be disputed that the form of government has an influence upon language, and language in its turn influences not only the form of government, but the temper, the sentiments, and manners of the people. The admirable models which have been transmitted through the world, and continued down to these days, so as to form an education of mankind from generation to generation, by those two ancient towns, Athens and Rome, would be sufficient, without any other argument, to show the United States the importance to their liberty, prosperity, and glory, of an early attention to the subject of eloquence and language.
Click to expand...

To go back to Webster, here he is stating that creating a difference between systems of spelling would create a "national language" and that this would become a symbol of national unity.

The question now occurs, ought the Americans to retain these faults which produced innumerable inconveniences in the acquisition and use of the language, or ought they at once to reform these abuses and introduce an order, and regularity into the orthography of the American tongue? [...] A capital advantage of this reform [...] would be, that it would make a difference between the English orthography and the American [...] a national language is a band of national union. [...] Let us seize the present moment, and establish a national language as well as a national government.
Click to expand...

Here is an academic paper on the subject. TRANS Nr. 16: Jessica Walker (University of Western Australia): Thomas Jefferson and the new American language Here the author states that by incorporating common spelling errors into a new official standard to replace the ones viewed as being correct in England, this would give American English a unique appearance in print and so add to the feeling of national identity.

To consolidate the use of Americanisms Noah Webster proposed that the spelling system of English be reformed to give American English a unique appearance in print. He was no more worried about the degeneracy of the language in Great Britain or the distance between America and the former colonist but rather about giving America a linguistic identity that matched its newly attained national identity. He saw it a marvellous opportunity to incorporate the common spelling errors into a standard that would be purely American.

So "Americanisms" in spelling arose as a conscious program by prominent political figures in the US to create and promote a distinctively "American" form of the language in an effort to promote national feeling and to distance the post-revolutionary US from "England" (the British Empire). That this effort happened among other things to include incorporating common misspellings as the new "official" way of doing things is inherent in the nature of the Latin alphabet and that the spoken form of the language was not as readily alterable.

P.S. Note in one of the above quotes from Webster that her refers to "North America" rather than the US. It would appear that the conquest of Canada by the US was something that was a common idea at that time.
 
There is English and then there is that weird language that Americans speak - a sort of pidgin English.
 
I recently publicly, to some sharp intakes of breath by the indigenous seppos, observed their mis-pronunciation of the word croissant.

They say, KRU-SONT. The first few times I bought some and the bakery person said, "kru-sont" to me I was looking around to see if I had picked up the correct box. There is a French youtube cookery chappy who also got a tad pissed with this mis-pronunciation. He had some mugs made up with the correct phonetic spelling clearly emblazoned on them, KWA-SON.

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I still have terrible problems sometimes with the way the language is butchered, re-purposed and mis-pronounced. Only last week the daughter, who creates the online content for a financial company, was told by her boss not to use the word WHILST in an article, cuz 'mericans don't use WHILST. The daughter checked, it's in Websters Dictionary, which the daughter expressed a desire to insert into her bosses arrse,..... sideways, sharp edges intact.
 
@terminal
A former colleague (a retired French naval Captain) collected first editions.
His pride and joy was one of the first books printed in the new colony, ie Pilgrim Fathers era.
I was interested to note that the spellings that differ from ‘standard’ English were all in the book, eg color, labor, honor, etc. So they date back to that time.
I have, in the past, been known to cite this to US friends and colleagues, with the rider ( and a smile): ‘Clearly, the Pilgrim Fathers were illiterate, and Americans have carried that forward to this day.’
Some smiled, some didn’t.
 
"Write me"
Too bloody idle to add, "a letter".
 

Eyes_Right

Old-Salt
I frequently used to correct people in the US when using words of Germanic origin with the "ei" or "ie" combination. I was taught (beaten?) that the sound is made by that last letter of the combination - ei is an "eye" sound, ie is an "ee" sound. Then, just recently, I discovered that in the US, Yiddish use of those combinations tends to switch those rules. Now there are some good reasons why Jewish people might choose to ignore German grammatical structures, but this was certainly news to me.

Doesn't stop me correcting people of course, An ass is an ass, after all.
 
I suppose American English is more like English of old. Like the Z in ize instead of ise but earlier English had ize as in Enterprize.

They may muck up the pronunciation of croissant (the Spanish spell it cruasan which is the same pronunciation but looks silly although places like Lidl and Aldi use croissant) but things like erbs (which sounds terrible to us without the h) is generally said like that in most countries.

Same as OregANo as we say but most countries pronounce it oREgano as the Spams do. We were, after all, experts at changing place names to suit our Anglo Saxon mindset. Peking, Bombay, Calcutta and so on. Even people's names like Cristoforo Colombo in Italian or Cristobal Colon in Spanish (he was Italian but was sponsored by Spain). Name changes, whether goods, places or people, get Anglicized (SWIDT) and, eventually, Americanised.
(Oh, aluminum and aluminium are because of patents at the beginning and a fight between a Brit and a Yank on what to call it (speaking of which, we call them all Yanks when that is also wrong, just a certain Northern area).

The two big mistakes are the way they call that tasteless, fizzy gnat's pee beer and the paper stuff we normally use to separate slices as bacon.

(Standby for the white knighting spams (and plastic spams) to say there are thousands of micro breweries with decent beer and importing Canadian bacon - you still have to drink their beer ice cold in case you actually taste it and Canadian bacon is just one step up from paper).

Bit like the reason they drive on the right. Ford didn't think they'd be adroit enough to change gears with their left hand.
 
I frequently used to correct people in the US when using words of Germanic origin with the "ei" or "ie" combination. I was taught (beaten?) that the sound is made by that last letter of the combination - ei is an "eye" sound, ie is an "ee" sound. Then, just recently, I discovered that in the US, Yiddish use of those combinations tends to switch those rules. Now there are some good reasons why Jewish people might choose to ignore German grammatical structures, but this was certainly news to me.

Doesn't stop me correcting people of course, An ass is an ass, after all.

Hence the number of Brits that call that fizzy white wine Ryesling instead of Reesling.
 
@terminal
A former colleague (a retired French naval Captain) collected first editions.
His pride and joy was one of the first books printed in the new colony, ie Pilgrim Fathers era.
I was interested to note that the spellings that differ from ‘standard’ English were all in the book, eg color, labor, honor, etc. So they date back to that time.
I have, in the past, been known to cite this to US friends and colleagues, with the rider ( and a smile): ‘Clearly, the Pilgrim Fathers were illiterate, and Americans have carried that forward to this day.’
Some smiled, some didn’t.
If you look at 19th century records you will find that people didn't even spell their own name consistently. Literacy was fairly widespread, but of an indifferent standard in many cases.

As I pointed out in my post above however, Webster made no bones about it that his version of spelling was deliberately different from the broadly accepted standard for political reasons. It was a political project to differentiate the USA from Britain.
 
(...) Bit like the reason they drive on the right. Ford didn't think they'd be adroit enough to change gears with their left hand.
The following is the most plausible explanation that I have read about why some countries drive on the right and some drive on the left.

The reason that people in the UK drive on the left has to do with carts. People had driven on the left through much of history, even the Romans did (archaeologists have studied ancient cart tracks at Roman mines in Britain to determine this). Driving in the right was the result of newer large four wheel cargo wagons developed in France.

Someone driving a traditional two wheeled farm cart would normally sit on the front of the cart behind the horse or oxen. The driver would have to sit off to one side so that his whip could clear the load on the cart. Since most people were right handed, that meant sitting to the right.

On most roads wagons would drive down the middle of the road (the Irish seemed to still drive their cars this way the last time I was there). When two approaching carts had to pass one another however, they would have to move to one side of the road. In order to avoid tangling up their wheels they would have to pass such that they approached one another from the driver's side so the driver could look out and see the wheels, which in turn meant that each cart would have to move to the left. There are even records of medieval bylaws requiring this for specific bridges.

So in this manner the principle of driving on the left was established, and this was the practice in much of Europe.

However, in the 18th century, if not before, the French established a national network of good highways. Large four wheeled cargo wagons were developed to take advantage of these highways. With these wagons the driver would sit on one of the horses instead of sitting on the wagon. In order for the (right handed) driver's whip to reach all of the horses most effectively, the driver sat on a left hand horse. This in tern led to the practice of passing, and so driving, on the right, for the same reasons as outlined above. The influence of the wagon freight companies was such that they had the laws dictating this practice made in their favour.

When Napoleon marched across Europe he had French practices put in place in the countries he conquered. I imagine this made sense from a logistical perspective in a continental empire.

None the less, a number countries in Europe (e.g. Sweden) retained driving on the left until the mid 20th century when the increasing numbers of automobiles travelling across borders made a common standard worth the effort of making the change.

Britain retained driving on the left for several reasons. One is that most places in Britain are near a navigable waterway or the sea, which meant that long distance freight transportation went by barge or ship rather than by freight wagon. Another is that Britain wasn't conquered by Napoleon. Yet another is that Britain is an island, so until recently it was much less common for people to drive their automobiles to places which drove on the right.

The US drive on the right because they copied and made use of French style cargo wagons, and so went through a similar process.

In Canada, different provinces drove on different sides of the road. The left side ones switched to right side over time as the country was connected together by highways in the 20th century. Australia and New Zealand are islands, so there was no real reason for them to change.
 
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Russ Abbot

Clanker
Many so-called "Americanisms" were frequently used in England in earlier times. For example if you pick up a copy of Henry Fielding's "Tom Jones" published in 1749, he speaks of Hookers for prostitutes. So the guys and gals in the US are frequently using old words from English (how quaint). There is only English, the US people can be proud of the fact that they speak the language of England. The only other major language in the US is Spanish. So until the US adopts Spanish (or Chinese) they will per force, speak English.

So there you have it, the USA is owned by England. Great.

(PS if you get a chance pick up a copy of Fielding's Tom Jones, very funny and bawdy book! Great read. Another one is "Joseph Andrews")
 
I suppose American English is more like English of old. Like the Z in ize instead of ise but earlier English had ize as in Enterprize.

They may muck up the pronunciation of croissant (the Spanish spell it cruasan which is the same pronunciation but looks silly although places like Lidl and Aldi use croissant) but things like erbs (which sounds terrible to us without the h) is generally said like that in most countries.

Same as OregANo as we say but most countries pronounce it oREgano as the Spams do. We were, after all, experts at changing place names to suit our Anglo Saxon mindset. Peking, Bombay, Calcutta and so on. Even people's names like Cristoforo Colombo in Italian or Cristobal Colon in Spanish (he was Italian but was sponsored by Spain). Name changes, whether goods, places or people, get Anglicized (SWIDT) and, eventually, Americanised.
(Oh, aluminum and aluminium are because of patents at the beginning and a fight between a Brit and a Yank on what to call it (speaking of which, we call them all Yanks when that is also wrong, just a certain Northern area).

The two big mistakes are the way they call that tasteless, fizzy gnat's pee beer and the paper stuff we normally use to separate slices as bacon.

(Standby for the white knighting spams (and plastic spams) to say there are thousands of micro breweries with decent beer and importing Canadian bacon - you still have to drink their beer ice cold in case you actually taste it and Canadian bacon is just one step up from paper).

Bit like the reason they drive on the right. Ford didn't think they'd be adroit enough to change gears with their left hand.
Please Sir, tell us the story about why our thick fat in-bred cousins are called Yanks?
 

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