I must say, I sometimes become mildly annoyed when someone refers to my language as “American”. Sometimes I force myself not to jump into professor/reprimand mode to explain that English is English. Except, apparently it’s not — or, it is and it isn’t.
|George Bernard Shaw|
“The United States and Great Britain are two countries separated by a common language,” as George Bernard Shaw famously proclaimed.
Is it simply vocabulary — a word here, a word there? For example (left American English, right British English):
Candy store = Sweet shop
Diaper = Nappy
Appetizer = Entrée
Baked potato = Jacket potato
Balcony = Dress circle
Bangs = Fringe
Bathrobe = Dressing gown
Beer = Lager
Buddy = Mate
Busy = Engaged
Drugstore = Chemist’s shop
Eggplant = Aubergine
Eraser = Rubber
Elevator = Lift
Trunk (in a car) = Boot
“We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language,” Oscar Wilde, said.
Let me explain. . . I have two close English friends who live in France and we never have problems communicating either in English or in French, however, we address verbally/orally the same situations with dissimilar words. I tend to speak in superlatives while they almost always prefer understatement.
Never have I heard either one say OMG(!), Wow(!) or Fab-u-lous(!) expressions that are simply not in their repertoire or if they are they are most likely used for situations that rightfully elicit such a response. They are more likely to say something like: “Interesting, not bad (also very French, as in pas mal), quite nice, well done,” and so on. “Well done” is a huge compliment.
When I am with them I try to tamp down my use of overly hyperbolic words because, when I think about it, where does one go — semantically speaking — when we overuse “best” when “good” or “better” are more appropriate?
My favorite friend and I laugh about a time she was introduced to an American who exclaimed, “I am so blessed to have finally met you!”
“Quite honestly, I had no idea what to say to the woman,” she said. “Finally I mumbled something like ‘it’s so nice to meet you’ or something equally lame.”
Now she and I always sign-off our e-mails or telephone conversations with “I’m so blessed to know you,” then we LOL.