--for those who speak English as their second language or who just want to improve their writing
(Text-only version of Quirks of English)
Did you miss us? We had a busy stretch and moved our offices, but we're back.
The language and dialect that we grow up hearing will always sound the most natural to us, so it didn't surprise me when one alt.usage.english (listserv group) respondent claimed (albeit tongue-in-cheek) that Dubliners speak the best English. With people who speak English as their first language living in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the United States of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, South Africa, Kenya, Jamaica, and many other places, I'm sure that there have been claims to that distinction from cities worldwide.
English pronunciations vary so much that Taggart, a British detective television series, had to be dubbed before it could be sold in the United States. In the United Kingdom, people say ice 'cream; in the United States, we say 'ice cream. They analyse, modernise, and normalise; we analyze, modernize, and normalize. Our boots are on our feet and our cars have flats; their boots are on their cars and their flats are in their buildings. Their bathroom is a place to take a bath--only. If you say, "Have a nice day," to a gentleman in London, he may reply that he'll have whatever kind of day he pleases.
Differences go beyond spelling, pronunciation, and certain words and expressions. Some grammatical practices are different as well. For example, British writers put commas outside of quotation marks (unless they are part of the quotation), but the U.S. Government Printing Office Style Manual instructs writers always to place commas inside quotation marks. British speakers of English consider corporations and institutions to be plural collective nouns that should take plural verbs:
IBM have decided to lay off another 5000 employees.
This sounds wrong to ears that matured in the U.S.A., and the U.S. version of the online grammar checker Grammatik flags have as incorrect. (To be fair, note that the U.S. version of MS Word flags Grammatik as a misspelling.)
The English speakers of the United Kingdom prefer verbs that end in "ise" instead of "ize" and adverbs that end in "wards" instead of "ward." In the United States, toward is the more common, preferred term. In England, towards is. Shakespeare (1564 to 1616) used both terms. The King James Version of the Bible (1611) used toward, forward, and backward, but no towards, forwards, or backwards. The real shift seems to have occurred after our nonconformist forebears crossed "the pond."
Responsible NASA Official: Natalie L. Henrich,
Glenn Technical Publications Manager
Web Curator: Caroline A. Rist (Wyle)
Last updated: 4/22/2011