Written on 18 September, 2018

Give Me Liber-tea or Give Me Death! (I’m Sure that’s how the Saying Goes)

The differences between our common language (English, in case you missed blogs one and two) started a long time ago. You see, Americans didn’t throw tea into Boston Harbor for nothing. We were sick and tired of being told what to do (taxation without representation!) and wanted political AND lexical independence. Not only did we beat the red coats, but we developed our own (dare I say it, better?) way of speaking and spelling too, as a matter of protest. And for the record, please don’t ruin my tea by putting milk in it. Actually, I’ll have coffee instead.

Localization Not Localisation

We Americans are very logical people, so we decided that words should be spelled just as they sound. This led to unnecessary letters being dropped from words leading to favorite, program and jewelry, for example. They changed s’s to z’s and ended words with -er instead of -re. I think we can all agree that this just makes life easier. I mean, come on guys, the word “program” doesn’t need any extra letters, and the double l’s (like in travelling) are just excessive.

But does it really matter if you write “colour” or “color”? The answer is, of course, “Yes!”, and not only because one of these is clearly wrong (I’m looking at you, colour), but also because the differences between American and British English are far more complex than just spelling.

Brits Love to Complicate Things…

Not only do Brits add needless letters to their words, but they insist on making their grammar rules more complicated too by adding “t’s” to some past tense verbs instead of “ed” so that will be burnt instead of burned and learnt instead of learned. These are supposed to be REGULAR verbs! Brits are also fans of using “have got” instead of just a simple “have”. In British English you might hear “I have got to put some petrol in the car.” While in American English we’d say “I have to put some gas in the car.” Speaking of cars…do you have a driver’s license? (US) Or have you got a driver’s licence? (UK) Even some nouns are spelled (note, not spelt!) differently. I hope you all LEARNED something here.

Do You Want Fries with That?

If the spelling and grammar differences aren’t driving you crazy yet, then just wait until you order food at a restaurant. Of course there’s the obvious differences that most people understand like chips vs. fries and crisps vs. potato chips, but why are there cookies called Digestives that don’t have anything to do with your body’s digestive system?

If you order flapjacks for breakfast, don’t expect to get the golden fluffy goodness that you’re used to, just expect to be thoroughly disappointed. And good luck ordering lunch! What is a butty and why are there so many words for sandwich? “What would you like for your tea?” is “What do you want for dinner?” to an American. The confusion related to food is endless! If you’re really hungry, don’t just order an entrée because you’ll most likely be left starving due to small portion size. Go ahead and order a starter as well as a main. Oh and don’t worry, they don’t only serve pudding for dessert! At the end of your meal, don’t forget to order the bill.

After all this, you’re going to need a vacation! I highly recommend you double check those flight dates, though. You’d be gutted to find out that 06/12/19 is December 6th, 2019! I heard the British Isles are a fantastic way to spend a fortnight…just don’t forget your mac!

If you, too, were surprised by how much British English we had to italicise to highlight the sheer number of US/UK differences here, then you might need our help choosing the right language variant for your needs! Get in touch at hello@surreytranslation.co.uk.