Do Britons often find American English uncomfortable to read? - Omnibus Edition

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Moviefans

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello,

I was taught mainly in British English, but now I have to use a coursebook which I've found uses articles in American English. And I find I feel quite uncomfortable, and I can feel quite a lot of difference in BE and AE when I read them.

Do Britains also feel the same way reading American english aritcles?

Can you distinctively judge the style of the following sentences are AE, not BE?

Bill Gates is the riches private citizen in the world. Is it a little redundant to add "private" here? Since citizen always means a person instead of an organization.

Every morning, when his alarm clock goes off, the software tycoon is $ 20 million richer than when he went to bed. Is the word "tycoon" rather American stylish?

He is not shy about spending it. The meaning is clear, but I just feel this way of expression is quite casual? What is the British way to say this?

He has built a mansion that he's packed with high-tech gadgetry and TV monitors, some taking up an entire wall. Here again "gadgetry" is unfamiliar to me, is it an American style word?

The reason why Microsoft has been so succssful is because Bill Gates saw that his fortune lay in software, no hardware. Shouldn't it better be "The reason why... is (that)..." getting rid of "because".

Sometimes when I want to express my feeling of uncomfort in readin g American English, I just cannot find good examples. Maybe that is because I don't really know what's the detailed difference between them. I can only feel American English is so not like British English. Although I can work out the structure, I'm inevitably lack of sensitivity when reading American English.
 
  • invictaspirit

    Senior Member
    English English
    In my opinion (as a Brit) you are being too sensitive and perhaps seeing differences that are not there. :)

    Firstly, all of the phrases/words you suggest are widely used in the British media and in writing and often speech.

    "He's not shy about..." even sounds more British than American to me. We say it all the time. "Gadgetry" is a very common word in the UK. "Private citizen" would be used here to distinguish Gates from super-rich Emirs and other monarchs.

    I never feel uncomfortable reading AE, and indeed, one can seldom notice any huge difference. Here and there, yes. But it's extremely subtle. It's the American accent in speech where we would really notice the difference.

    By the way, your last example is just bad grammar...but not ebcause it is American. Many Brits would make the same mistake.
     

    bouncy.bouncy

    Senior Member
    American/British English
    I'm American, but my dad is British, and I've been there many times, so I guess I can say how I feel because it works the other way around, also.
    I don't see many differences on the grammar side of things, it's mostly just odd vocabulary terms, and if you speak one type of English well and you hear a word you don't understand, you can just ask what it means/is. I do sometimes have malicious thoughts about British English just because it does get annoying with the different vocabulary, either when reading or speaking.
    I think many of the things you mention have to do with the author's writing style. They don't have perfect grammar, not everybody does.
    And you may feel uncomfortable reading/hearing things produced by the media. I have lived my entire life with the American media, and today I despise most types/sources because of the way they write, speak, and focus their articles.
     

    Victoria32

    Senior Member
    English (UK) New Zealand
    Hello,

    I was taught mainly in British English, but now I have to use a coursebook which I've found uses articles in American English. And I find I feel quite uncomfortable, and I can feel quite a lot of difference in between BE and AE when I read them.

    Do BritainsBritons also feel the same way reading American English aritcles?

    Can you distinctively judge the style of the following sentences are AE, not BE?

    Bill Gates is the richest private citizen in the world. Is it a little redundant to add "private" here? Since citizen always means a person instead of an organization.

    Every morning, when his alarm clock goes off, the software tycoon is $ 20 million richer than when he went to bed. Is the word "tycoon" rather American stylish? Yes defintely! VL

    He is not shy about spending it. The meaning is clear, but I just feel this way of expression is quite casual? What is the British way to say this?

    He has built a mansion that he's packed with high-tech gadgetry and TV monitors, some taking up an entire wall. Here again "gadgetry" is unfamiliar to me, is it an American style word? Yes it is!

    The reason why Microsoft has been so succssful is because Bill Gates saw that his fortune lay in software, not hardware. Shouldn't it better(I'd say rather here..) be "The reason why... is (that)..." getting rid of "because".

    Sometimes when I want to express my feeling of undiscomfort in reading American English, I just cannot find good examples. Maybe that is because I don't really know what's arethe detailed differences between them. I can only feel American English is so not like British English. Although I can work out the structure, I'm inevitably insensitive to the differences when reading American English.
    I feel the same discomfort and for the same reasons, although in New Zealand we are moving from BE to AE (and have never used BE all that much anyway... but my parents were BE speakers although only my father actually was born in Britain... I have taken the liberty of tidying some of your usages if I may...
     

    Moviefans

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Thank you for your correction. I had been just wondering the appropriateness of some uncertain parts of my sentences before you pointed out them to me. But the webpage turned very slowly at that time, and I thought maybe some of the friends would point out to me. So I left to do some other things.

    Besides, "I was taught mainly in British English" should better be "I was mainly taught British English", because I am an non-native as far as English is concerned.

    Thank you all for your communication with me, especially for those who have same feelins with me. For it is you who make me feel so not lonely in this aspect.
     

    jabogitlu

    Senior Member
    USA-English
    I sort of know what you mean. I'm native AE who gets most of his news off the BBC world site. Sometimes the sentences those Britons come up with...! ;-) Only kidding, of course.
     

    clairanne

    Senior Member
    english UK
    hi

    I think us "Brits" are used to hearing American English regularly on TV so we don't really find it particularly alien. It always seems strange to me that some of our TV shows that are exported to the States are reported to have been changed for an American audience - is this really so?
    The only real difference I notice in reading is the spelling eg "colour" and "color" and the odd slang expression that means something completely different. I can still remember the look of amazement on my mother's face in the 80's when "Pam Ewing" in "Dallas" mentioned that someone "tapped her on her fanny".
     

    Paulfromitaly

    MODerator
    Italian
    I do sometimes have malicious thoughts about British English just because it does get annoying with the different vocabulary, either when reading or speaking.
    I assume it's your American blood which finds BE vocabulary annoying..;)
    (I bet some Brits would say the same about your AE vocabulary..)
    From my point of view it might be annoying memorising BE - AE different translations for the same Italian word.
     

    pidgeon

    Member
    English/Swedish
    I feel that you can definately tell if you are reading AE from the point of view of a Brit.
    He is not shy about spending it is the only one which I would consider to be BE or AE, I wouldn't know the difference.
    I reckon that you just read things in a different way, whether they are written in AE or BE.
    I guess it depends whether you have learnt AE or BE, and I do find it weird how foreigners speak in Britain with an american accent!
     

    MarcB

    Senior Member
    US English
    I agree with the two "Brits" here especially when reading I hardly notice any differences, just an occasional spelling difference: learned/learnt etc.
    The vocabulary of both seem to be merging. Speaking is more obvious due to accents.
     

    winklepicker

    Senior Member
    English (UK)
    I don't mean to be controversial, and certainly not to insult anyone, but there is one further perception some Brits have of AE. I'm talking about a commonly-held perception here, not my opinion and not a fact, so please don't flame me!

    It involves over-complication. For instance, one could translate your examples:

    AE: Bill Gates is the richest private citizen in the world.
    BE: Bill Gates is the richest man in the world.

    AE: Every morning, when his alarm clock goes off, the software tycoon is $20 million richer than when he went to bed.
    BE: Every morning, the software tycoon wakes up $20 million richer than when he went to bed.

    AE: He has built a mansion that he's packed with high-tech gadgetry and TV monitors, some taking up an entire wall.
    BE: He has built a house packed with high-tech gadgetry with some TV monitors taking up an entire wall.

    AE: The reason why Microsoft has been so successful is because Bill Gates saw that his fortune lay in software, no hardware.
    BE: The reason that Microsoft is so successful is that Bill Gates saw his future in software, not hardware.

    In the UK, George Bush is commonly lampooned for making words longer and more complicated than they need to be. Impressionists will commonly start their spiel with 'My fellow Americanifications'.

    This is interpreted by some Brits as a pretension to greater intellectual powers than one actually commands. It amuses them that the BE verb 'to burgle' makes the AE and BE noun 'burglar', and that AE then extends this to a new verb 'burglarize'.

    Not all AE speakers indulge in over-complication, nor is it exclusive to AE (if only!). We see the same thing in academic papers, sociology and jargon of all kinds.

    And this bit IS my opinion: simple is good.
     

    stranger in your midst

    Senior Member
    English / Scotland
    I think modern technology has helped stay the gap between the two varieties of the language. I can imagine without the prevalence of cinema, TV and the net they might have become much less mutually intellibgle, perhaps like Danish and Norwegian, or Castillian Spanish and Catalan.

    I suppose one of the advantages of being a fluent English speaker is one has an enormous range of registers at one's disposal, whereas with some European languages there are more 'set' manners of expression, and straying away from those seems odd.

    That said, American English does have a definite feel to it, from the perspective of a BE speaker.

    The difference is perhaps even more meaningful to foreign learners. Interestingly, the last time I was in Paris I reconnoitred the DVD department in FNAC and was stunned to realise they list the language options on American firms as, 'Americain/Francais/Allemand' etc, whereas British shops always refer to the language as 'English', pure and simple. Even in French adaptations of american novels one nowadays sees 'Traduit de l'americain'...!
     

    clairanne

    Senior Member
    english UK
    Hi

    I think the big difference that I have noticed between BE and AE is that American speakers are far more into correct grammar than we are. Unless studying for an English degree none of us are taught it unless we are learning a "foreign" language - French for most of us. When I started to learn French at age 11 it was the first time I had ever heard of past, present. perfect etc and I am 52 so English grammar has not really mattered over here for a very long time. Maybe that's why some people say that AE is a purer form of English. I was however taught elocution!!
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Errmm - no, well this BE-speaker feels no discomfort.

    There is so much AE stuff to read, and so much BE stuff to read, that the transition from one to the other, if there is a transition, is completely seamless. The incidence of really bad English is much more uncomfortable than anything in AE/BE - and bad English comes in both forms.

    I mean, really, I can switch from driving on the left to driving on the right and within a few hours feel completely comfortable. The idea that I might find the marginal differences between AE and BE uncomfortable when I happily accommodate the colossal differences between Pauline English and David English, is bizarre.
     

    Dimcl

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    Canadians probably have the least difficulty in the differences between AE and BE because most of us (of a certain age) were taught BE but have to live with the HUGE media influence of our neighbour to the south. Because we've all grown up with both, the differences are only noticeable in spelling and idioms. In fact, one area of "style differences" that used to be very noticeable was in advertising (I could immediately tell whether a print ad was American or Canadian, for instance, because of the "jingoism") but even that has become less noticeable over time.
     

    Random1

    Senior Member
    English - USA
    From reading the only way I can really tell the difference is from the different spellings. Colour and and color for example. Sometimes I can tell where people are from when talking to them through e-mail or instant messages from their usage of slang. Bloody and bullocks for example.

    As for AE being more casual, I would tend to believe our media is a little more relaxed than in BE. This is purely culture though. When both write formally, they are almost identical.
    French for most of us. When I started to learn French at age 11 it was the first time I had ever heard of past, present. perfect etc
    Same thing over here. I never knew the names of all the tenses until I started Spanish, although I knew how to use (most) of them correctly.
    It always seems strange to me that some of our TV shows that are exported to the States are reported to have been changed for an American audience - is this really so?
    I have heard they keep the American shows the same that they import over there. South park being one of them. :)
     

    gaer

    Senior Member
    US-English
    Many posts in this forum are written in manner that gives me absolutely no clue as their origin other than spelling.

    This may be due to the fact that many of our members are extremely careful to write using a "standard" that will not confuse people from around the world. :)

    Gaer
     

    panjandrum

    Lapsed Moderator
    English-Ireland (top end)
    This thread had wandered from a conversation about how BE-speakers feel when reading AE through the AE view of BE (fair enough) to a re-run of the repeat of the sequel to Son of AE vs BE Returns, IV (not fair enough).

    As it was functioning only as a place for AE vs BE chat, it was swept clear of all off-topic posts and closed.

    Since then, Son of Do Britons ... was born.

    This thread now contains The Best Of DBOFAEUTR and all of DBOFAEUTR II.
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    I came across the original discussion after panjandrum had brought down his axe. However, I was intrigued by the original post by Moviefans since it sounded very familiar. I checked it out and ascertained that it was an extract from the Headway Upper-Intermediate Students Book (OUP) and that said article was a reprint from a magazine 'The Week' (22 February 1997).

    Since Moviefans alleged that the article was written in AE, I would like to know if said magazine is British or American. Does anybody know?
     

    Moviefans

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    It's very helpful for me to know at last that the origin of this article is from Britain, not USA.

    In my first post, I mentioned that this article is out of a coursebook which has used many American English articles, because most of the articles discuss American college education, feelings of living in two different American cities, and American entertainment, etc.

    I just feel that the style of these articles is quite different from that of my textbooks (a very old-editioned series) used in my undergraduate days. Those articles give a strong sense of being British.

    And also because the writer of this very article is discussing an American billionaire, so I kind of made a rough judgement that it was more likely to be of American style than of British Style.

    Even though it may appear in a British magazine, can it be that the writer imitated the American style when writing this article?
     

    Moviefans

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Porteno,
    I'm afraid you made a mistake about the nationality of the magazine The Time, which is, according to what I have found on the net, a US magazine. Now you can check if it is so by clicking to this webpage:
    http://www.theweekmagazine.com
    Here there is such a line: The best of the US and internatonal media.

    Also an evaluation remark "there really isn't any US magazine in print today that is as encompassing as The Week." from An unbiased broad spectrum of the news. Better than most., from this webpage :
    http://www.amazon.com/The-Week/dp/B000066622

    So my conclusion: my vague impression wins again. That is a typical piece of American writing.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Hold yer horses, Pardner. The link you give first is for The Week. That magazine is published in the UK as well as in the US.

    Felix Dennis (born 1947) is a British magazine publisher. His privately owned company, Dennis Publishing, pioneered computer and hobbyist magazine publishing in the United Kingdom. In more recent times the company has added lifestyle titles to its range, including Maxim and The Week, which are published both in Britain and the US.
    wiki
    The Week is currently published in both UK and U.S. editions by Dennis Publishing Ltd.. An American edition was launched in April 2001.
    If the Wiki statements are true, then the US edition did not exist at the time your quote was published.
     

    Moviefans

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    Hold yer horses, Pardner. The link you give first is for The Week. That magazine is published in the UK as well as in the US.

    wiki

    If the Wiki statements are true, then the US edition did not exist at the time your quote was published.
    The time quoted is not from me, but from the friend who written the first post here. I don't know where it was written down. No information at my hands.
     

    cuchuflete

    Senior Member
    EEUU-inglés
    Well, you might ask him for more detail. I don't see a lot of point in speculating.

    Here is what we do not know:

    The name of the author. The nationality of the author.

    We have some apparent questions about the source of the article, and even its date of publication.

    On the basis of those uncertainties, are you prepared to state that you know that it was AE or BE? All I know for sure is that it is badly written. Badly written English is available worldwide. The language does not discriminate against users on the basis of nationality.

    Off to wind up Bill's alarm clock.
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    It's very helpful for me to know at last that the origin of this article is from Britain, not USA.

    In my first post, I mentioned that this article is out of a coursebook which has used many American English articles, because most of the articles discuss American college education, feelings of living in two different American cities, and American entertainment, etc.

    I just feel that the style of these articles is quite different from that of my textbooks (a very old-editioned series) used in my undergraduate days. Those articles give a strong sense of being British.

    And also because the writer of this very article is discussing an American billionaire, so I kind of made a rough judgement that it was more likely to be of American style than of British Style.

    Even though it may appear in a British magazine, can it be that the writer imitated the American style when writing this article?
    Of course, that could well be the case, or the author of the article could have been an American writing for a UK magazine. Without the identity of the author it is impossible to say.

    By the way, river, the article was absolutely fab!
     

    Porteño

    Member Emeritus
    British English
    Since I was responsible for bringing up this whole subject and obviously Moviefans does not have the information in his textbook, I have e-mailed The Week to ask them to supply the name and nationality of the author of the article in question, which was I believe, published under the title - "The man who could buy 100,000 Ferraris", or something like that.
     
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