American English peculiarities

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John Lawler

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Feb 15, 2002, 9:16:58 AM2/15/02
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For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".

Of course, not being a sociolinguist or dialectologist, I really have
never thought much about which of the many peculiarities of English are
peculiar to *American* English. So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me
which features of American English strike English English speakers as
curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.

Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.

-John Lawler http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler U Michigan Linguistics Dept
------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Our language can be seen as an ancient city: a maze of little streets
and squares, of old and new houses, and of houses with additions from
various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs."
-- Ludwig Wittgenstein, 'Philosophische Untersuchungen'

Scotty

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Feb 15, 2002, 9:40:04 AM2/15/02
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"John Lawler" <jla...@arkanoid.gpcc.itd.umich.edu> wrote in message
news:uL8b8.180$Cf5....@news.itd.umich.edu...

> For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
> Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
> this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
> Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".

If I had used the word "gotten" in an English essay at school, my teacher
would have taken me outside and shot me. As a result, I find it sounds very
clumsy, yet I often see it in Americana that is otherwise nicely written.

I should point out I'm Scottish and far from an expert (in anything) just
interested.

Scotty


david56

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Feb 15, 2002, 10:36:19 AM2/15/02
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John Lawler wrote:
>
> For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
> Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
> this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
> Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".
>
> Of course, not being a sociolinguist or dialectologist, I really have
> never thought much about which of the many peculiarities of English are
> peculiar to *American* English. So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me
> which features of American English strike English English speakers as
> curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
> bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.
>
> Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
> very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
> described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
> pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
> least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.

There are a few past tenses which are purely American. "Snuck" in place
of "sneaked" is the one which springs to mind, although I have a certain
fondness for this.

--
David

The address is valid today, but I will change it at to keep ahead of the
spammers.

Never underestimate the power of human stupidity.

Frances Kemmish

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Feb 15, 2002, 10:39:39 AM2/15/02
to
John Lawler wrote:
>
> For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
> Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
> this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
> Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".
>
> Of course, not being a sociolinguist or dialectologist, I really have
> never thought much about which of the many peculiarities of English are
> peculiar to *American* English. So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me
> which features of American English strike English English speakers as
> curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
> bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.
>
> Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
> very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
> described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
> pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
> least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.
>

Your question started me thinking about the things I had trouble with
when I first moved to the US in 1985. The cases where Americans used
completely different words (like 'lift' and 'elevator') were fairly
easy to get used to - although I still have trouble with 'hood' and
'trunk' for 'bonnet' and 'boot' for some reason. But when the same
words didn't refer to quite the same things were much harder; the
image I see when when you talk about 'vest and knickers' are not the
same as my American friends would see.

What gave me most trouble, though, was the whole rhythm or cadence (I
don't know what the right word would be here) of sentences. When I
went back to England, after my first year over here, that was what my
friends commented on about the way my speech had change - not the
words, or the accent, but the emphasis at different points in a
sentence. I probably haven't explained that very well, but I hope you
understand what I'm getting at.

The other difference that surprised me was that Americans seemed to
use many more specific terms for everyday things than I would use. For
instance, when describing shoes, I hear Americans talk about oxfords,
mary-janes, loafers etc, where I would use terms like lace-up, buckle,
or slip-on shoes. I wouldn't expect any English person outside the
shoe trades to use anything more specific.

Fran

Jaspreet

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Feb 15, 2002, 10:54:44 AM2/15/02
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"John Lawler" <jla...@arkanoid.gpcc.itd.umich.edu> wrote in message
news:uL8b8.180$Cf5....@news.itd.umich.edu...
> For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
> Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
> this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
> Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".
>
> Of course, not being a sociolinguist or dialectologist, I really have
> never thought much about which of the many peculiarities of English are
> peculiar to *American* English. So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me
> which features of American English strike English English speakers as
> curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
> bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.
>
> Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
> very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
> described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
> pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
> least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.
>
> -John Lawler http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler U Michigan Linguistics Dept
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
Do the views of a person who studied in India count? If yes then here are a
few things that seemed peculiar to me when I moved in to N. America.
1. Usage of "with", such as
1.1 "Did you talk with him?" instead of "Did you talk to him?"
1.2 "Are you chasing after him?" instead of "Are you chasing him?"
1.3 "Are you meeting with him?" instead of "Are you meeting him?"

2. Usage of "drink." I was taught that drink should be used only in generic
sense.
For example,
N. America - He's drinking coffee.
My education - He's having coffee. (Of course, I've changed now.)
(This is not to start a discussion, I'm sure this has been beaten to death
here)

3. "Did" instead of "do" in the following special case.
(In a store, the sales associate showing the item and asking) "Did you want
this item?"

John Dean

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Feb 15, 2002, 11:01:56 AM2/15/02
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"david56" <bass.a...@ntlworld.com> wrote in message
news:3C6D2AF3...@ntlworld.com...

> John Lawler wrote:
> >
> > For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
> > Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
> > this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
> > Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".
> >
>
> There are a few past tenses which are purely American. "Snuck" in place
> of "sneaked" is the one which springs to mind, although I have a certain
> fondness for this.
>
and 'dove' for 'dived' - used to puzzle me as a kid when I watched 'Sea
Hunt'

This page from the 'John Bull / Uncle Sam' website might offer inspiration
:-
http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/british/brit-6.html


--
John Dean
Oxford
De-frag to reply


david56

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Feb 15, 2002, 10:59:31 AM2/15/02
to
John Lawler wrote:
>
> For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
> Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
> this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
> Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".
>
> Of course, not being a sociolinguist or dialectologist, I really have
> never thought much about which of the many peculiarities of English are
> peculiar to *American* English. So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me
> which features of American English strike English English speakers as
> curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
> bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.
>
> Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
> very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
> described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
> pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
> least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.

The insistence on replying to questions couched in any form with the
"do" verb. So, "Have you got an apple?" in English requires the
response "Yes I have", but in US English comes out as "Yes I do". This
irritates me more than anything else as it just doesn't work. "Yes I
have got an apple" is good, but "Yes, I do got an apple" is nonsense.

dcw

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Feb 15, 2002, 11:19:36 AM2/15/02
to
In article <3C6D2AF3...@ntlworld.com>,

david56 <bass.a...@ntlworld.com> wrote:
>John Lawler wrote:
>>
>> For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
>> Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
>> this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
>> Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".
>>
>> Of course, not being a sociolinguist or dialectologist, I really have
>> never thought much about which of the many peculiarities of English are
>> peculiar to *American* English. So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me
>> which features of American English strike English English speakers as
>> curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
>> bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.
>>
>> Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
>> very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
>> described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
>> pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
>> least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.
>
>There are a few past tenses which are purely American. "Snuck" in place
>of "sneaked" is the one which springs to mind, although I have a certain
>fondness for this.

Yes, it sounds more sneaky, somehow.

Also "dove", "spit" (for "spat"), "fit" (for "fitted"), "treaded" for
"trod" mentioned here recently (there are probably more like this), and
"proven", though that's used in England as well, at least for some
purposes.

A very noticeable point is "did" for "have done", as in "Did you eat yet?"
for "Have you eaten yet?".

Things like "You've got it, don't you?" break the English English rule
for tag questions. We'd say "You've got it, haven't you?", or possibly
"You have it, don't you?".

"I'm going upstairs and make the beds", which I remember from some film,
happens occasionally in American. I've never heard it in England.

Positive "anymore". Fortunately, I've only met that here, not in real
life. I find it utterly weird.

David

PS: "Here" above means AUE. Sorry if that upsets anyone.

Murray Arnow

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Feb 15, 2002, 11:46:08 AM2/15/02
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david56 <bass.a...@ntlworld.com> wrote:
>There are a few past tenses which are purely American. "Snuck" in place
>of "sneaked" is the one which springs to mind, although I have a certain
>fondness for this.
>

We Americans aren't completely ignorant: we don't use "feack" as the
present tense of "fuck."

Michael J Hardy

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Feb 15, 2002, 11:53:30 AM2/15/02
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Scotty (alan....@markelintl.com) wrote:

> If I had used the word "gotten" in an English essay at school,
> my teacher would have taken me outside and shot me.


"Gotten" was imported into America from England, where it
was formerly standard. How many of the "American English peculiarities"
to be compile is that true of? I'm guessing maybe 2/3 of them.

Mike Hardy

Michael J Hardy

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Feb 15, 2002, 12:00:47 PM2/15/02
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dcw (D.C....@ukc.ac.uk) wrote:

> Positive "anymore". Fortunately, I've only met that here, not in real
> life. I find it utterly weird.

This American does not wich to be accused of positive "anymore".
I saw it used in a Calvin & Hobbes scotch-taped to an office door, and
walked by it every day for a couple of years wondering what the word
meant. -- Mike Hardy

Pat Durkin

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Feb 15, 2002, 12:15:59 PM2/15/02
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"John Lawler" <jla...@arkanoid.gpcc.itd.umich.edu> wrote in message
news:uL8b8.180$Cf5....@news.itd.umich.edu...
> For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
> Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
> this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
> Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".
>
> Of course, not being a sociolinguist or dialectologist, I really
have
> never thought much about which of the many peculiarities of English
are
> peculiar to *American* English. So I'm asking you[pl] to please
tell me
> which features of American English strike English English speakers
as
> curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
> bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English
expectation.
>
> Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not
really
> very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can
be
> described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic,
and
> pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations,
or at
> least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.
>

"Call", in U.S. instead of "ring". I believe "call" in BrE still
carries the meaning of visiting or dropping in on, while in the U.S.
we use the word to mean to make a phone call. I guess I have seen the
U.S. usage for "phone" as "call" also caused some comment in a thread
here recently (rather than "to telephone"). Actually, in the U.S. we
do use "call on", and a few other versions to indicate "drop in for a
visit".

Most of my "awkward usage moments" travel in the other direction,
which I suppose is expected. There are idioms used at times when
simple English is standard on both sides of the pond. Torch vs flash
or flashlight has been discussed.

That English roommate of mine, 40 years ago, taught high school
physics. Rather than saying "Has the bell rung yet?" she said "Has
the bell gone? " I am not sure about her use of "Do, Did", as in
"Did the bell go?"
She used the expression "run up the blinds (or windows)", and "draw
the door".

She was very embarrassed, as were her students, when she asked them to
take out their rubbers. (I then learned from her about "French
letters", and explained to her the additional contextual understanding
of "rubbers" to refer to those slip-on shoe protectors that are
optional for "boots" and "galoshes" . I don't know what the British
call those. (I mean, other than "engineer" or "cowboy" boots.)

In Dr. Who, what was the name of that call-box (phone booth)?

In other threads, "hob" has been used, I believe, to reference a
normal cooking stove, (a kitchen range), while upon first view to me,
it called up a fireplace (the front, or warming step), or as in M-W :
2 hob Function: noun
1 : a projection at the back or side of a fireplace on which something
may be kept warm.

Another British expression, to "knock up", caused some laughter.

david56

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Feb 15, 2002, 12:18:14 PM2/15/02
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Pity.

david56

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Feb 15, 2002, 12:25:03 PM2/15/02
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Pat Durkin wrote:

> That English roommate of mine, 40 years ago, taught high school
> physics. Rather than saying "Has the bell rung yet?" she said "Has
> the bell gone? " I am not sure about her use of "Do, Did", as in
> "Did the bell go?"
> She used the expression "run up the blinds (or windows)", and "draw
> the door".

"Draw the door"? I think not. "Draw the curtains", perhaps? And "run
up the blinds" means to make them on a sewing machine, which seems a
little unlikely.

>
> She was very embarrassed, as were her students, when she asked them to
> take out their rubbers. (I then learned from her about "French
> letters", and explained to her the additional contextual understanding
> of "rubbers" to refer to those slip-on shoe protectors that are
> optional for "boots" and "galoshes" . I don't know what the British
> call those. (I mean, other than "engineer" or "cowboy" boots.)

As a Summer Camp counsellor in Pennsylvania, I was often ambushed by 12
year old girls asking me what I called an eraser. I didn't like to
disappoint them, so I replied "rubber" and was rewarded by them running
off, giggling.

>
> In Dr. Who, what was the name of that call-box (phone booth)?

TARDIS - Time And Relative Dimensions In Space. We call the standard
ones "phone boxes", but the TARDIS was a Police Box.

Padraig Breathnach

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Feb 15, 2002, 1:13:49 PM2/15/02
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jla...@arkanoid.gpcc.itd.umich.edu (John Lawler) wrote:

>For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
>Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
>this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
>Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".
>
>Of course, not being a sociolinguist or dialectologist, I really have
>never thought much about which of the many peculiarities of English are
>peculiar to *American* English. So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me
>which features of American English strike English English speakers as
>curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
>bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.
>
>Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
>very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
>described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
>pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
>least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.
>

I might comment on a greater propensity in the US to use the word
"evil", but I won't.

Just tell them to read Bill Bryson's "Made in America". Or, if you
feel inclined to cheat, read it yourself and give them bits of it
without disclosing your source.

Second matter: there might be occasion for an Irish mini-boink; keep
the possibility in mind.

PB

Richard Fontana

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Feb 15, 2002, 1:29:20 PM2/15/02
to
On Fri, 15 Feb 2002, dcw wrote:

> Also "dove", "spit" (for "spat"), "fit" (for "fitted"), "treaded" for
> "trod" mentioned here recently (there are probably more like this), and
> "proven", though that's used in England as well, at least for some
> purposes.
>
> A very noticeable point is "did" for "have done", as in "Did you eat yet?"
> for "Have you eaten yet?".
>
> Things like "You've got it, don't you?" break the English English rule
> for tag questions. We'd say "You've got it, haven't you?", or possibly
> "You have it, don't you?".

I think that's a substandardism in the American case -- someone who'd
say "You've got it, don't you?" would probably also say "you don't got
it". Anyway, it sounds unfamiliar to me otherwise.



> "I'm going upstairs and make the beds", which I remember from some film,
> happens occasionally in American. I've never heard it in England.

I'm not aware of that either. I'd expect "I'm going upstairs to make
the beds" or "I'm gonna go upstairs and make the beds".


> Positive "anymore". Fortunately, I've only met that here, not in real
> life. I find it utterly weird.

I do too; I wasn't aware of it before reading about it on AUE, but now
I see it from time to time, and occasionally hear it (from non-East
Coast people).

Richard Fontana

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Feb 15, 2002, 1:31:50 PM2/15/02
to
On Fri, 15 Feb 2002, Jaspreet wrote:

> 3. "Did" instead of "do" in the following special case.
> (In a store, the sales associate showing the item and asking) "Did you want
> this item?"

I think that use of "did" is a polite usage of some sort. I wouldn't
expect it to be used in relatively personal communications.

Richard Fontana

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Feb 15, 2002, 1:35:45 PM2/15/02
to
On Fri, 15 Feb 2002, Frances Kemmish wrote:

> What gave me most trouble, though, was the whole rhythm or cadence (I
> don't know what the right word would be here) of sentences. When I
> went back to England, after my first year over here, that was what my
> friends commented on about the way my speech had change - not the
> words, or the accent, but the emphasis at different points in a
> sentence. I probably haven't explained that very well, but I hope you
> understand what I'm getting at.

When I talk to British speakers I find that I adjust my
intonation to a typically British (I think specifically Southern
England) cadence or intonation pattern. There's a completely different
way of doing the "questioning tone of voice". In both standard AmE and
familiar BrE you have rising pitch, but it's a different *type* of
rising pitch. I wonder if this extends to Uptalk.

Jack Brown

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Feb 15, 2002, 1:48:06 PM2/15/02
to
"david56" <bass.a...@ntlworld.com> wrote in message
news:3C6D3063...@ntlworld.com...

> The insistence on replying to questions couched in any form with the
> "do" verb. So, "Have you got an apple?" in English requires the
> response "Yes I have", but in US English comes out as "Yes I do". This
> irritates me more than anything else as it just doesn't work. "Yes I
> have got an apple" is good, but "Yes, I do got an apple" is nonsense.
>

"Have you got an apple?" seems awkward to this American. Instead, I would
say "Do you have an apple?" or "Did you get an apple?" In which case, the
answer "Yes, I do/did" works. It seems to me that the difference is more
complex than just substituting "have" with "do".

Jack


djarvinen

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Feb 15, 2002, 1:54:23 PM2/15/02
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jla...@arkanoid.gpcc.itd.umich.edu (John Lawler) wrote in message news:<uL8b8.180$Cf5....@news.itd.umich.edu>...

Hmm... we had an Irish friend (Mary) who (whom? sorry...) we
introduced to a friend of ours named 'Randy.' She became so convulsed
while trying to contain her laughter she could hardly speak. That
combined with her embarrassment was quite an entertaining sight.

The whole issue of names and meaning is fascinating. When we lived in
Germany, we were more or less 'forced' to change our first names (Dick
& Chloe, Chloe being pronounced Klo, not Klo-ee) as we soon found out
that we were being introduced as "Fat & Toilet". We migrated quite
smoothly to Richard and Chloe-Ann.

DJ

Carl Burke

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Feb 15, 2002, 2:14:03 PM2/15/02
to
david56 wrote:
...

> The insistence on replying to questions couched in any form with the
> "do" verb. So, "Have you got an apple?" in English requires the
> response "Yes I have", but in US English comes out as "Yes I do". This
> irritates me more than anything else as it just doesn't work. "Yes I
> have got an apple" is good, but "Yes, I do got an apple" is nonsense.

Does it also bother you when we elide 'do'? For example,
replying to "Have you posted to a.u.e. today?" with "Yes I have."
rather than "Yes, I have done." (Hearing 'have done' without
an object always throws me, as a native US English speaker,
so I was wondering if it's as annoying in the other direction.)

--
Carl Burke
cbu...@mitre.org

John Varela

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Feb 15, 2002, 2:08:48 PM2/15/02
to
On Fri, 15 Feb 2002 15:59:31 UTC, david56 <bass.a...@ntlworld.com> wrote:

> So, "Have you got an apple?" in English requires the
> response "Yes I have", but in US English comes out as "Yes I do". This
> irritates me more than anything else as it just doesn't work. "Yes I
> have got an apple" is good, but "Yes, I do got an apple" is nonsense.

Yes, I do have an apple.

--
John Varela

Evan Kirshenbaum

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Feb 15, 2002, 2:14:50 PM2/15/02
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Richard Fontana <rf...@sparky.cs.nyu.edu> writes:

> On Fri, 15 Feb 2002, dcw wrote:
>
> > Things like "You've got it, don't you?" break the English English
> > rule for tag questions. We'd say "You've got it, haven't you?",
> > or possibly "You have it, don't you?".
>
> I think that's a substandardism in the American case -- someone
> who'd say "You've got it, don't you?" would probably also say "you
> don't got it". Anyway, it sounds unfamiliar to me otherwise.

It sounds perfectly unremarkable to me. And no, I wouldn't say "you
don't got it". Does it sound just as bad to you if you replace "it"
by "one" or "a copy of the report"?

--
Evan Kirshenbaum +------------------------------------
HP Laboratories |To express oneself
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 |In seventeen syllables
Palo Alto, CA 94304 |Is very diffic
| Tony Finch
kirsh...@hpl.hp.com
(650)857-7572

http://www.kirshenbaum.net/


Alan Jones

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Feb 15, 2002, 3:01:29 PM2/15/02
to

"John Lawler" <jla...@arkanoid.gpcc.itd.umich.edu> wrote in message
news:uL8b8.180$Cf5....@news.itd.umich.edu...
[...] I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me

> which features of American English strike English English speakers as
> ...markedly different from English expectation.

>
> Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
> very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
> described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
> pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
> least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.

The use of the subjunctive in e.g. "It is important that this be done". The
subjunctive is virtually obsolete in BrE except in formal legalese and in
(if this is a subjunctive) the set expression "If I were you ...", and even
that use is fading away.

Alan Jones


Simon R. Hughes

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 3:46:14 PM2/15/02
to
Thus Spake John Lawler:

> So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me
> which features of American English strike English English speakers as
> curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
> bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.
>
> Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
> very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
> described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
> pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
> least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.

Pragmatic differences? What about the inability of each country to
detect and appropriately respond to the irony of the other?

If you find yourself able to explain it, please post the answer
here.
--
Simon R. Hughes -- http://www.geocities.com/a57998/subconscious/
<!-- Lots to write; nothing to say. -->

Don Aitken

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 3:46:18 PM2/15/02
to
On Fri, 15 Feb 2002 14:16:58 GMT, jla...@arkanoid.gpcc.itd.umich.edu
(John Lawler) wrote:

>For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
>Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
>this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
>Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".
>
>Of course, not being a sociolinguist or dialectologist, I really have
>never thought much about which of the many peculiarities of English are
>peculiar to *American* English. So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me
>which features of American English strike English English speakers as
>curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
>bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.
>
>Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
>very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
>described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
>pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
>least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.
>

One which always strikes me as odd, and in a rather different category
from most others, is the construction "One needs to check his facts".
In BrE "one" is a pronoun like any other, and the sentence can only be
"One needs to check one's facts". The AmE form cannot be called
anything other a grammatical error; I know there is some theory by
which it is justified, but, if it's "peculiarities" you're looking
for, this one belongs right up there.

--
Don Aitken

James Adams

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Feb 15, 2002, 4:51:58 PM2/15/02
to

"Murray Arnow" <ar...@iname.com> wrote in message
news:a4je0h$arm$1...@bob.news.rcn.net...

Could be our Puritanical upbringing: we just don't talk about it while we're
doing it.


Pat Durkin

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Feb 15, 2002, 5:00:52 PM2/15/02
to

"Richard Fontana" <rf...@sparky.cs.nyu.edu> wrote in message
news:Pine.GSO.4.21.020215...@sparky.cs.nyu.edu...

> On Fri, 15 Feb 2002, dcw wrote:

>
> > "I'm going upstairs and make the beds", which I remember from some
film,
> > happens occasionally in American. I've never heard it in England.
>
> I'm not aware of that either. I'd expect "I'm going upstairs to
make
> the beds" or "I'm gonna go upstairs and make the beds".

Anymore I don't make the beds ( I leave that to my guests). I used
to, and before that, it was "to dress the beds".
"To red up" was used for general "neatening", but I didn't use "red",
my Grandma did.


>
> > Positive "anymore". Fortunately, I've only met that here, not in
real
> > life. I find it utterly weird.
>
> I do too; I wasn't aware of it before reading about it on AUE, but
now
> I see it from time to time, and occasionally hear it (from non-East
> Coast people).
>

It is also a pretty folksy way to say "I didn't used to, but now I
do". Anymore the winters are pretty mild hereabouts.

david56

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 5:15:35 PM2/15/02
to

You've changed the verb if this is a response to "Have you got an
apple", which is OK if you use the whole sentence. But the shortened
version grates, to my UK ears.

Richard Fontana

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 5:53:43 PM2/15/02
to

That's an interesting interpretation ... does that suggest that users
of "positive anymore" actually retain a sort of negative association
when using it?

David Tomkins

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 6:31:14 PM2/15/02
to
"John Lawler" <jla...@arkanoid.gpcc.itd.umich.edu> wrote in message
news:uL8b8.180$Cf5....@news.itd.umich.edu...

> So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me


> which features of American English strike English English speakers as
> curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
> bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.

What about the US "accommodations" (pl.) where BrE says "accommodation"
(sing.)?

Another thing I've noticed from watching US TV is the use of the definite
article (the) with "hospital". E.g. "Jane's going into THE hospital on
Friday." In BrE that would be "Jane's going into hospital ..." (No use of
the definite article).

As per your request, to me these US usages sound "odd".

Many others odd (or personally infuriating) usages have already been
mentioned: 'dove' instead of 'dived'.

One that hasn't (surprisingly IMHO) been mentioned yet is "bathroom". I
don't see this one as just a difference in terminology like lift/elevator,
bonnet/hood or boot/trunk. To me "bathroom" means what it says -- a room
with a bath in it. When US children "go to the bathroom" at school they are
not really going to a room containing a bathtub. In Australia I'd say "go to
the toilet". I think in BrE you would also say this (or alternatively
'lavatory' in place of 'toilet').

This leads me to my next point: 'school'. In the US one can use the word
'school' to mean 'university' (or similar). This usage sounds very 'odd' to
me. A 'school' is the institution one attends for twelve or thirteen years
BEFORE gaining admission to a university! If someone were to ask me (as a
university student) which 'school' I attended, I (being slightly offended)
would naturally reply that I have *finished school* and am now at
university! It took me some time to work out that Americans use the word
'school' to refer to tertiary as well as primary and secondary education!

One point of note is that in the pronunciation of words the syllable that is
emphasised sometimes differs. I always hear (on the TV and in the movies)
Americans saying "MAGazine" (heavy emphasis on first syllable), whereas I
(an Australian) would say "magazINE" (slight emphasis on second syllable).
Another one is "weekend". Typical US emphasis is on first syllable
(WEEKend), whereas I would place a slight emphasis on the second syllable
(weekEND).

There's one more which I'm not sure is typically American: adversary. I was
taught that the correct emphasis is on the first syllable: ADversary. I have
heard Americans say adVERsary. Is this the typical AmE pronunciation, or is
this considered a mispronunciation in AmE?

There are other numerous other examples (eg AmE adverTISEment, BrE
adVERTisement) but I think I've sufficiently illustrated my point about
syllabic emphasis.

DT

___________________________________________________________________
for those interested in sending me something other than spiced ham, my real
address is dtomkinsATpncDOTcomDOTau


Gary Vellenzer

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 6:31:28 PM2/15/02
to
In article <uL8b8.180$Cf5....@news.itd.umich.edu>,
jla...@arkanoid.gpcc.itd.umich.edu says...

> For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
> Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
> this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
> Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".
>
> Of course, not being a sociolinguist or dialectologist, I really have
> never thought much about which of the many peculiarities of English are
> peculiar to *American* English. So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me

> which features of American English strike English English speakers as
> curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
> bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.
>
> Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
> very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
> described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
> pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
> least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.
>
> -John Lawler http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler U Michigan Linguistics Dept
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> "Our language can be seen as an ancient city: a maze of little streets
> and squares, of old and new houses, and of houses with additions from
> various periods; and this surrounded by a multitude of new boroughs."
> -- Ludwig Wittgenstein, 'Philosophische Untersuchungen'
>
Does American English have peculiarities? I thought it was a set of
average English dialects with features not shared by some British
dialects. :-)

Gary

Pat Durkin

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 6:47:53 PM2/15/02
to

Why, yes. I think you have it. When I were a kid I wouldn't have
noticed its use as anything unusual, but anymore I hear it, and
wonder.

Gary Williams

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 7:13:27 PM2/15/02
to
Richard Fontana <rf...@sparky.cs.nyu.edu> wrote in message news:<Pine.GSO.4.21.020215...@sparky.cs.nyu.edu>...
> On Fri, 15 Feb 2002, dcw wrote:

> > Things like "You've got it, don't you?" break the English English rule
> > for tag questions. We'd say "You've got it, haven't you?", or possibly
> > "You have it, don't you?".
>
> I think that's a substandardism in the American case -- someone who'd
> say "You've got it, don't you?" would probably also say "you don't got
> it". Anyway, it sounds unfamiliar to me otherwise.

I agree with Evan. I don't know _why_ I would do this. I think "You
have it, don't you" would be standard; at least dcw recognizes it as
standard in England. Somehow in the mental filing process "have got"
has gotten stuck together with "have" and been placed in the same
envelope, so that when looking for the tag verb, the one that would go
with "You have it" is pulled out.

Gary Williams

Pat Durkin

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Feb 15, 2002, 7:22:43 PM2/15/02
to

"David Tomkins" <see_my_s...@for.my.real.address> wrote in
message news:3c6d...@occy.pnc.com.au...

>
Typical US emphasis is on first syllable
> (WEEKend), whereas I would place a slight emphasis on the second
syllable
> (weekEND).
>

When I have heard this pronounced by Australians, it seems to me I
hear a dual emphasis, with the stronger stress on END.

> There's one more which I'm not sure is typically American:
adversary. I was
> taught that the correct emphasis is on the first syllable:
ADversary. I have
> heard Americans say adVERsary. Is this the typical AmE
pronunciation, or is
> this considered a mispronunciation in AmE?

I am wondering about the Americans you heard say "adVERsary". That,
to me, sounds more British than AmE. But your ear is your ear.
Merriam-Webster (Online)lists : 'ad-v&(r)-"ser-E (secondary stress
on -ser ). That is what I use.

Now in the U.S. we do say anniVERSary, with a secondary stress on the
first syllable. (aawwwck, M-W lists the preferred or more frequent
pronunciation as: "a-n&-'v&rs-rE, -'v&r-s&- What a betrayal!)


>
> There are other numerous other examples (eg AmE adverTISEment, BrE
> adVERTisement) but I think I've sufficiently illustrated my point
about
> syllabic emphasis.

In the U.S. I hear both, and use the second version. I see that M-W
lists adverTISEment as the norm.

But your point is certainly well-taken.

Michael J Hardy

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 7:43:45 PM2/15/02
to
Pat Durkin (p...@hotmail.com) wrote:

> Anymore the winters are pretty mild hereabouts.


This usage of "anymore" is typical of the one in the comic
strip I walked past every day for years, scotch-taped to an office
door, and wondered every day what it meant. And I would not have
understood what "anymore means" in the sentence "Anymore the winters
are pretty mild hereabouts" if I had not seen it in discussions of
English usage. -- Mike Hardy

Evan Kirshenbaum

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 8:14:05 PM2/15/02
to
"Pat Durkin" <p...@hotmail.com> writes:

> "David Tomkins" <see_my_s...@for.my.real.address> wrote in
> message news:3c6d...@occy.pnc.com.au...
>

> > There's one more which I'm not sure is typically American:
> > adversary. I was taught that the correct emphasis is on the first
> > syllable: ADversary. I have heard Americans say adVERsary. Is this
> > the typical AmE pronunciation, or is this considered a
> > mispronunciation in AmE?
>
> I am wondering about the Americans you heard say "adVERsary". That,
> to me, sounds more British than AmE. But your ear is your ear.
> Merriam-Webster (Online)lists : 'ad-v&(r)-"ser-E (secondary stress
> on -ser ). That is what I use.

I've heard it with stress on the second syllable when it's used as an
adjective ("an adversary proceeding"). MWCD/ol doesn't give a
specific pronunciation for this use, but they define it as

Main Entry: 2adversary
Function: adjective
Date: 14th century
1 : of, relating to, or involving an adversary
2 : having or involving antagonistic parties or opposing interests

I'm not sure, but I think that I might use stress on the second
syllable for sense 2 to distinguish it from sense 1. The word doesn't
come up often enough for me to be sure, though.

--
Evan Kirshenbaum +------------------------------------
HP Laboratories |Giving money and power to government
1501 Page Mill Road, 1U, MS 1141 |is like giving whiskey and car keys
Palo Alto, CA 94304 |to teenage boys.
| P.J. O'Rourke
kirsh...@hpl.hp.com
(650)857-7572

http://www.kirshenbaum.net/


Heron Stone

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 8:40:09 PM2/15/02
to
> Another thing I've noticed from watching US TV is the use of the definite
> article (the) with "hospital". E.g. "Jane's going into THE hospital on
> Friday." In BrE that would be "Jane's going into hospital ..." (No use of
> the definite article).

a question...

How would you say it if Jane was going, not for a medical
procedure, but to serve a subpoena to a doctor there.

In American we go to school to learn, but go to THE school
to deliver new comoputers.

Is there a similar distinction in BrE?

heron
--
Nature, heron stone
to be commanded, her...@mediaone.net
must be obeyed. http://homepage.mac.com/stoneheron/

Robert Bannister

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 8:46:50 PM2/15/02
to
david56 wrote:

> John Lawler wrote:
> >
> > For a change, I'm asking for information from a.u.ers, especially
> > Rightpondian ones. I've been invited to give a lecture in London
> > this May (on my way to a holiday in Ireland) at Birkbeck College's
> > Linguistics program on "American English Peculiarities".
> >
> > Of course, not being a sociolinguist or dialectologist, I really have
> > never thought much about which of the many peculiarities of English are
> > peculiar to *American* English. So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me
> > which features of American English strike English English speakers as
> > curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
> > bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English expectation.
> >
> > Then I'll see which ones I can come close to explaining. I'm not really
> > very interested in pronunciation differences; they exist, they can be
> > described, that's good enough for me. Syntactic, lexical, semantic, and
> > pragmatic differences, on the other hand, might have explanations, or at
> > least can be precisely described; they're what I'm looking for.
>

> There are a few past tenses which are purely American. "Snuck" in place
> of "sneaked" is the one which springs to mind, although I have a certain
> fondness for this.

I like 'snuck' too, but purely American past tenses are 'fit' for 'fitted',
'spit' for 'spat', 'grit' for 'gritted' (teeth).

--
Rob Bannister

Pat Durkin

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 9:34:20 PM2/15/02
to

"Michael J Hardy" <mjh...@mit.edu> wrote in message
news:3c6dab41$0$3926$b45e...@senator-bedfellow.mit.edu...
I don't speak using 'anymore' that way, but I do hear it from time to
time. What is that cartoon you are referring to? Can you describe
it? I believe I read your reference to it earlier in this thread.

CyberCypher

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 10:10:24 PM2/15/02
to
Richard Fontana <rf...@sparky.cs.nyu.edu> held forth in
news:Pine.GSO.4.21.020215...@sparky.cs.nyu.edu:

> On Fri, 15 Feb 2002, dcw wrote:

[...]


>>
>> Things like "You've got it, don't you?" break the English English
>> rule for tag questions. We'd say "You've got it, haven't you?",
>> or possibly "You have it, don't you?".
>
> I think that's a substandardism in the American case -- someone
> who'd say "You've got it, don't you?" would probably also say "you
> don't got it". Anyway, it sounds unfamiliar to me otherwise.

I wouldn't write this in formal English, but I certainly would say it
in a casual conversation, and, no, I wouldn't say "You don't got it".
Maybe it's my peasant and working-class backgrounds sticking their ugly
heads up, but I think it's just normal, standard, middle-class American
English.


>
>> "I'm going upstairs and make the beds", which I remember from
>> some film, happens occasionally in American. I've never heard it
>> in England.

This is also a typical Americanism in my experience. If I lived in a
certain unamed House, I'd probably start howling about how barabaric it
is, but it's just the way most Americans talk when they misuse the
language

> I'm not aware of that either. I'd expect "I'm going upstairs to
> make the beds" or "I'm gonna go upstairs and make the beds".

I'd hope for that, but expectations are just attachments, and
attachments lead to disappointments all too often.


>
>> Positive "anymore". Fortunately, I've only met that here, not in
>> real life. I find it utterly weird.
>
> I do too; I wasn't aware of it before reading about it on AUE, but
> now I see it from time to time, and occasionally hear it (from
> non-East Coast people).
>

I first heard it in Iowa City in the 1970s.

--

Franke: Working class but prefers "I ain't got" to "I don't got".

Pat Durkin

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 10:51:09 PM2/15/02
to

"Evan Kirshenbaum" <kirsh...@hpl.hp.com> wrote in message
news:zo2aw7...@hpl.hp.com...

Curiouser and curiouser. Since M-W lists the adjective form, below
the noun form, and doesn't usually put the sound description unless it
varies from the original, I would assume it (the adj.) is a
homophone of the noun.

I found this link discussing conversion of the noun to an adjective.
(My 1970 Am Heritage, and 1972 Webster's have adversative, no
adjectival use of adversary, or even adversarial.)
http://dictionary.cambridge.org/define.asp?key=adversary*1+0 lists
adversarial as the adjective.
Am Heritage 2000 (sound file provided)
http://www.bartleby.com/61/49/A0104900.html


Aha, Websters 1913:
http://www.freedictionary.org/cgi-bin/Dictionary?Form=Dictionary1&Stra
tegy=*&Database=*&Query=adversary

or : http://makeashorterlink.com/?L22653C6


4 definitions found

From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) :

Adversary \Ad"ver*sa*ry\, a.
1. Opposed; opposite; adverse; antagonistic. [Archaic] --Bp.
King.

2. (Law) Having an opposing party; not unopposed; as, an
adversary suit.

From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) :

Adversary \Ad`ver*sa*ry\, n.; pl. Adversaries. [OE.
adversarie, direct fr. the Latin, and adversaire, fr. OF.

Not being sure of the accent (single ' and double") marks, I looked up
Anniversary.
The secondary stress and the primary stress accents are placed after
the syllable in question.

I am surprised that that leaves the _ad_ syllable with a secondary
stress in the noun form of adversary, and no primary stress. The
adjective form, however, shows the " primary stress on the _ad_
syllable. In anniversary, secondary stess ' on(after) _An_ in both
the adjective and noun forms, and " for primary stress follows the
_vers_ syllable.

If I have erred in understanding these strange accent markings, you
will please let me know. Meanwhile, unless someone shows me a
standard pronunciation of adversary stressing the second syllable, in
either the noun or adjective form, I won't consider changing the way I
use the word. (by standard, I mean something other than a restricted
"jargon" usage as in Law, or Government ). Usage is my god, I
suppose.

Searching for: "anniversary"
Found 2 hit(s).
----------------------------------------------------------------------
----------
Anniversary (Page: 59)
An`ni*ver"sa*ry (#), a. [L. anniversarius; annus year + vertere,
versum, to turn: cf. F. anniversaire.] Returning with the year, at a
stated time; annual; yearly; as, an anniversary feast. Anniversary day
(R. C. Ch.).


----------------------------------------------------------------------
----------
Anniversary (Page: 59)
An`ni*ver"sa*ry, n.; pl. Anniversaries (#). [Cf. F. anniversaire.]


>

Tony Cooper

unread,
Feb 15, 2002, 11:33:19 PM2/15/02
to
Richard Fontana wrote:
>
> When I talk to British speakers I find that I adjust my
> intonation to a typically British (I think specifically Southern
> England) cadence or intonation pattern.

I find that if I speak quite loudly and exaggerate the words
with mouth motions that the British tend to understand me
quite well. I am constantly impressed with how quickly they
pick up English when exposed to it.


--
Tony Cooper aka: tony_co...@yahoo.com
Provider of Jots and Tittles

Ben Zimmer

unread,
Feb 16, 2002, 12:06:11 AM2/16/02
to

I wouldn't put too much stock in the veracity of the online version of
the 1913 Webster's Unabridged. There's clearly an error if it shows a
word with secondary stress but no primary stress-- in that dictionary
all words of more than one syllable have at least one primary stress
mark. Looking at my print version of the dictionary, I see that both
the noun and adjective forms of "adversary" have a primary stress mark
on the first syllable and no secondary stress mark. (I suspect that
this is just a scanning error, since the primary stress mark is just a
tad thicker than the the secondary stress mark.)

> Meanwhile, unless someone shows me a
> standard pronunciation of adversary stressing the second syllable, in
> either the noun or adjective form, I won't consider changing the way I
> use the word. (by standard, I mean something other than a restricted
> "jargon" usage as in Law, or Government ). Usage is my god, I
> suppose.

The online version of Webster's 1913 leaves out a note that's in my
print edition: in Milton the noun form of "adversary" often had primary
stress on the second syllable. Nothing about second-syllable stress for
the adjective.

In any case, I think the real Pondian distinction has to do with the
word's *third* syllable: AmE ['&d v@r "sEr i] vs. BrE ['&d v@r s@r i].

--Ben

Pat Durkin

unread,
Feb 16, 2002, 1:11:32 AM2/16/02
to

"Ben Zimmer" <bgzi...@midway.uchicago.edu> wrote in message
news:3C6DE8C3...@midway.uchicago.edu...
>
> Pat Durkin wrote:
> >
> > or : http://makeashorterlink.com/?L22653C6

> >
> > From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) :
> >
> > Adversary \Ad"ver*sa*ry\, a.
> > 1. Opposed; opposite; adverse; antagonistic. [Archaic] --Bp.
> > King.

> >


> > From Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913) :
> >
> > Adversary \Ad`ver*sa*ry\, n.; pl. Adversaries. [OE.
> > adversarie, direct fr. the Latin, and adversaire, fr. OF.
> >
> > Not being sure of the accent (single ' and double") marks, I
looked up
> > Anniversary.
> > The secondary stress and the primary stress accents are placed
after
> > the syllable in question.

> > If I have erred in understanding these strange accent markings,


you
> > will please let me know.
>
> I wouldn't put too much stock in the veracity of the online version
of
> the 1913 Webster's Unabridged.

I agree there is a strange thing going on there. The people who put
up the website should be informed, I suppose.

> There's clearly an error if it shows a
> word with secondary stress but no primary stress-- in that
dictionary
> all words of more than one syllable have at least one primary stress
> mark. Looking at my print version of the dictionary, I see that
both
> the noun and adjective forms of "adversary" have a primary stress
mark
> on the first syllable and no secondary stress mark. (I suspect that
> this is just a scanning error, since the primary stress mark is just
a
> tad thicker than the the secondary stress mark.)

In my reading font I get those mismatched single ("accent grave") v
double quotes in this dictionary. The single is fainter than the
double.


>
> The online version of Webster's 1913 leaves out a note that's in my
> print edition: in Milton the noun form of "adversary" often had
primary
> stress on the second syllable. Nothing about second-syllable stress
for
> the adjective.

As in my first response to David, it appears to be a BrE thing and not
standard U.S. talk.


>
> In any case, I think the real Pondian distinction has to do with the
> word's *third* syllable: AmE ['&d v@r "sEr i] vs. BrE ['&d v@r s@r
i].
>

LOL.

Alan Jones

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Feb 16, 2002, 3:30:59 AM2/16/02
to

"Heron Stone" <her...@mediaone.net> wrote in message
news:herons-C32B2D....@lsnewsr1.we.mediaone.net...

> > Another thing I've noticed from watching US TV is the use of the
definite
> > article (the) with "hospital". E.g. "Jane's going into THE hospital on
> > Friday." In BrE that would be "Jane's going into hospital ..." (No use
of
> > the definite article).
>
> a question...
>
> How would you say it if Jane was going, not for a medical
> procedure, but to serve a subpoena to a doctor there.
>
> In American we go to school to learn, but go to THE school
> to deliver new comoputers.
>
> Is there a similar distinction in BrE?

Yes, there is, and your examples are equally applicable to BrE; but it
appears from TV (perhaps not a safe guide) that many Americans use the
article where we in UK don't.

There seem to be other differences related to institutions. "In school"
seems to be used in AmE to describe the *status* of an undergraduate or
?even a post-graduate student: in BrE it describes the *whereabouts* of a
child. The British child is "at school" even during the holidays (or perhaps
in AmE that should be the "vacation" - in BrE a university term): "at" is
describing status. Switching the sense of "term", schools and universities
here have three terms a year; the AmE equivalent seems to be "semester", of
which presumably there are only two a year. An American "at college" (or
must it be "in college"?) is studying for a degree: a Brit "at college" is
perhaps simply over 16 and being educated, since in many parts of UK
"college" may mean a sort of school for people aged 16-18 (or even a 13-18
school, as in "Eton College" or "Winchester College") as well as part of a
university.

I expect that John Lawler could find other differences in the use or
omission of articles and of prepositions . For instance, I would point out
in response to another posting that in BrE the standard usage is "X is
different from Y", more colloquially "X is different to Y"; "different than"
is rather rare, though it seems common in AmE even in serious writing.

Once John has analysed our suggestions and the other material he is
collecting, I hope he will post his findings where we can all see them. The
distinctive grammars of AmE and BrE are not often covered in non-specialist
books or websites purporting to deal with AmE/BrE differences.

Alan Jones

Alan Jones


John Holmes

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Feb 16, 2002, 3:32:38 AM2/16/02
to

"David Tomkins" <see_my_s...@for.my.real.address> wrote in message
news:3c6d...@occy.pnc.com.au...
> "John Lawler" <jla...@arkanoid.gpcc.itd.umich.edu> wrote in message
> news:uL8b8.180$Cf5....@news.itd.umich.edu...
>
> > So I'm asking you[pl] to please tell me
> > which features of American English strike English English speakers
as
> > curious, funny, odd, peculiar, queer, rum, rummy, singular, strange,
> > bizarre, weird, or otherwise markedly different from English
expectation.
>
> What about the US "accommodations" (pl.) where BrE says
"accommodation"
> (sing.)?

Along the same lines: 'a savings' instead of 'saving'.


--
Regards
John

John Holmes

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Feb 16, 2002, 3:38:40 AM2/16/02
to

"Heron Stone" <her...@mediaone.net> wrote in message
news:herons-C32B2D....@lsnewsr1.we.mediaone.net...
> > Another thing I've noticed from watching US TV is the use of the
definite
> > article (the) with "hospital". E.g. "Jane's going into THE hospital
on
> > Friday." In BrE that would be "Jane's going into hospital ..." (No
use of
> > the definite article).
>
> a question...
>
> How would you say it if Jane was going, not for a medical
> procedure, but to serve a subpoena to a doctor there.

She would go to the hospital.

>
> In American we go to school to learn, but go to THE school
> to deliver new comoputers.
>
> Is there a similar distinction in BrE?

Yes. 'Hospital' follows the same logic as 'school' here. You would go to
hospital to have your appendix out, but to the hospital to serve a
subpoena or deliver computers.


--
Regards
John

AWILLIS957

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Feb 16, 2002, 6:05:52 AM2/16/02
to
> If I had used the word "gotten" in an English essay at school,
>> my teacher would have taken me outside and shot me.

I think I've heard Irish people say "gotten". Or am I mistaken?

Albert.

AWILLIS957

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Feb 16, 2002, 6:10:42 AM2/16/02
to
>A very noticeable point is "did" for "have done", as in "Did you eat yet?"
>for "Have you eaten yet?".

>
>Things like "You've got it, don't you?" break the English English rule
>for tag questions. We'd say "You've got it, haven't you?", or possibly
>"You have it, don't you?".
>

Yes, I find it odd when someone says, "Have you got it?" And the answer is, "I
do", which is, to my ears, the answer to "Do you have it?"

Albert Peasemarch.


AWILLIS957

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Feb 16, 2002, 6:32:34 AM2/16/02
to
>I wouldn't write this in formal English, but I certainly would say it
>in a casual conversation

It strikes me that a difficulty Mr Lawler may have in preparing his lecture is
that many of the notable differences are colloquial. Writers like William
Zinsser and E.B.White have produced a prose that is very similar in style to
that of British writers. The real differences may be at street level.

Many young English people are extremely well informed about American speech
patterns, and they may even use some of them. They may watch many American
programmes, admire American music, or take part in social activities, for
example drug-taking, in which many American words are used. There could be
people like that in Mr Lawler's audience. (Do lectures have audiences?)

Albert Peasemarch.


Padraig Breathnach

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Feb 16, 2002, 6:41:58 AM2/16/02
to
awill...@aol.com (AWILLIS957) wrote:

You may have. But it is far from the norm. Possibly the result of
watching American films or television shows.

PB

AWILLIS957

unread,
Feb 16, 2002, 6:44:12 AM2/16/02
to
Sometimes expressions have almost opposite meanings.

I once put up a message, and an American responded with, "Way to go, Albert."

I replied slightly shirtily, feeling that I was being dismissed.

But it turned out that "way to go" means "that's the way to go", not, as I had
assumed, "you've got a way to go [if you are to understand this subject]".

My stupidity.

Albert Peasemarch.

AWILLIS957

unread,
Feb 16, 2002, 6:48:06 AM2/16/02
to
P.Breathnach said:

>>I think I've heard Irish people say "gotten". Or am I mistaken?
>>
>You may have. But it is far from the norm. Possibly the result of
>watching American films or television shows.

Aha. Yes, I've only heard it from youngsters. And only a couple of times.

Albert Peasemarch.


Donna Richoux

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Feb 16, 2002, 7:03:37 AM2/16/02
to
AWILLIS957 <awill...@aol.com> wrote:

> >I wouldn't write this in formal English, but I certainly would say it
> >in a casual conversation
>
> It strikes me that a difficulty Mr Lawler may have in preparing his lecture is
> that many of the notable differences are colloquial. Writers like William
> Zinsser and E.B.White have produced a prose that is very similar in style to
> that of British writers. The real differences may be at street level.
>

Well, I agree with you that 97% or so of standard American prose
resembles 97% of standard British prose. That's why we can understand
each other so well. But I disagree that the other 3% or so isn't "real."
Differences are real.

I bet we could pick any article displayed at the Times of London
website, and the American participants could identify at least one
"Briticism" in it. Vice versa for an article in the NY Times and the
Brits identifying an Americanism.

Maybe by "real differences" you mean "a really large number of
differences"?

I've been itching to give Prof. Lawler my answers, from an American
perspective, but he specifically asked the Brits for what they find
peculiar about American speech, not other possibilities.

By the way, the nearest E.B. White book to hand is "Stuart Little," and
opening it at random (p. 58-59) I find these terms, which I suspect you
may find American (this is tricky to identify in that direction):

a garbage truck from the Department of Sanitation
curb
(garbage) can
hoisted (?)
trash
banana peel
rice pudding (?)
"I bet I'm going to be sick at my stomach..."
being squashed (?)

Not to mention punctuation: double quotes around dialog, and also an
Oxford/Harvard comma before the "and" in a list.

--
Best -- Donna Richoux
An American living in the Netherlands

Charles Riggs

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Feb 16, 2002, 7:53:21 AM2/16/02
to
On Sat, 16 Feb 2002 11:41:58 GMT, Padraig Breathnach <padr...@iol.ie>
wrote:

Studies by Flann O'Brien have shown that what people eat has a
profound effect on how they act and talk. Why, a person coming to the
Emerald Isle becomes more Irish by the minute just from the water and
the spuds. (See The Best of Myles.) Since I believe most everything
Flann says, I blame these occurrences of "gotten" on the Irish
people's exceptional fondness for McDonald's hamburgers. Watch out for
more Americanisms to come. Americans, as Padraig well knows, are
everywhere -- just like the Boogie Man.

Charles Riggs

AWILLIS957

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Feb 16, 2002, 7:56:26 AM2/16/02
to
>Maybe by "real differences" you mean "a really large number of
>differences"

I suppose so, yes.

>By the way, the nearest E.B. White book to hand is "Stuart Little," and
>opening it at random (p. 58-59) I find these terms, which I suspect you
>may find American (this is tricky to identify in that direction):

I see what you mean. I only have a book of his articles. I have just flicked
through the openings of the articles, and it is difficult to find Americanisms.
The differences start to appear in the names for things, like "block". Most of
your examples are like that:

a garbage truck from the Department of Sanitation
curb
(garbage) can

trash
banana peel
rice pudding (?) (I think we do say that.)

But you could go round England and find all sorts of alternative names for
things. In my town, alleys are called "opes", for example, and woodlice are
called "cheeselogs". I suppose you could make a fun lecture on that basis, but
I still say it's harder, but certainly possible, to find the grammatical
differences.

Do have a glance at White's New Yorker articles. It seems to me that he was
either deliberately trying to avoid Americanisms or was influenced by the
British tradition of letters.

The reason I said (or tried to say) what I said was that many of the examples
being given on this thread are colloquial, and colloquialisms vary from the
standard anyway. We could make lists of UK colloquial expressions that sound
inaccurate too, but they cannot be taken as representative of standard British
English.

Albert Peasemarch.

CyberCypher

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Feb 16, 2002, 8:46:25 AM2/16/02
to
awill...@aol.com (AWILLIS957) held forth in
news:20020216064412...@mb-bg.aol.com:

"Way to go" is ambiguous. It can mean that you've done something very
good or something very stupid. Because it's primarily spoken American
English, in order to know what the speaker's intent was, one must hear
the tone of voice in which it was said and, if at all possible, see the
speaker's face.

--

Franke: Who hopes he has a long way to go before he kicks the
proverbial bucket.

John Lawler

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Feb 16, 2002, 9:12:38 AM2/16/02
to
Donna Richoux <tr...@euronet.nl> writes:
>AWILLIS957 <awill...@aol.com> writes:

>> >I wouldn't write this in formal English, but I certainly would say it
>> >in a casual conversation

>> It strikes me that a difficulty Mr Lawler may have in preparing his
>> lecture is that many of the notable differences are colloquial. Writers
>> like William Zinsser and E.B.White have produced a prose that is very
>> similar in style to that of British writers. The real differences may be
>> at street level.

>Well, I agree with you that 97% or so of standard American prose
>resembles 97% of standard British prose. That's why we can understand
>each other so well. But I disagree that the other 3% or so isn't "real."
>Differences are real.

>I bet we could pick any article displayed at the Times of London
>website, and the American participants could identify at least one
>"Briticism" in it. Vice versa for an article in the NY Times and the
>Brits identifying an Americanism.

>Maybe by "real differences" you mean "a really large number of
>differences"?

>I've been itching to give Prof. Lawler my answers, from an American
>perspective, but he specifically asked the Brits for what they find
>peculiar about American speech, not other possibilities.

Please, Donna, scratch that itch. I'd be delighted to get your
responses. I especially like the plural you use; the more the better.

I'd like to thank everybody who's responded so far, and urge everyone
else, regardless of Pondian preferences, to let me know what's weird
about American English, according to anybody.

>By the way, the nearest E.B. White book to hand is "Stuart Little," and
>opening it at random (p. 58-59) I find these terms, which I suspect you
>may find American (this is tricky to identify in that direction):

>a garbage truck from the Department of Sanitation

Yes, generic names for specific governmental agencies or offices.

>curb

Spelling, right?

>(garbage) can
>hoisted (?)
>trash

Should be "rubbish"?

>banana peel
>rice pudding (?)

Food names, especially names for prepared dishes, vary
wildly from place to place, never mind dialect to dialect.

>"I bet I'm going to be sick at my stomach..."
>being squashed (?)

>Not to mention punctuation: double quotes around dialog, and also an
>Oxford/Harvard comma before the "and" in a list.

An interesting test.
I think you proved your point.
As Burton observed in 'Anatomy of Melancholy',
"It is most true, stylus virum arguit, our stile bewrayes vs."

-John Lawler http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler U of Michigan Linguistics Dept
--------------------------------------------------------------------------
"Language is the most massive and inclusive art we know, a - Edward Sapir
mountainous and anonymous work of unconscious generations." Language (1921)

John Lawler

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Feb 16, 2002, 9:24:54 AM2/16/02
to
Alan Jones <a...@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote:

>Once John has analysed our suggestions and the other material he is
>collecting, I hope he will post his findings where we can all see them. The
>distinctive grammars of AmE and BrE are not often covered in non-specialist
>books or websites purporting to deal with AmE/BrE differences.

Be sure that I will, Alan. However, it'll be a while.

-John Lawler http://www.umich.edu/~jlawler Michigan Linguistics Dept
-----------------------------------------------------------------------
"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind." -- Kipling

Frances Kemmish

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Feb 16, 2002, 9:27:11 AM2/16/02