Friday, June 12, 2009

Variations on English

English in different parts of the world... Links and comments are welcome! Because I'm going to England in a month and a few days, I'm reviewing how I could get myself in trouble or seem rude and tacky. This is one of my favorite sites about that:

The Septic's Companion:
A British Slang Dictionary—A dictionary of British slang, written by a Scotsman living in America

It's been linked on my English Oddities page for a long time, and I was one of the contributors before it was a book, so cool! It's more fun that some of the other dictionaries I've seen, though I just love dictionaries and I love stories of words.

Hema Bharadwaj wrote recently that her son, Raghu, is having a hard time in India because the English is so different from what he learned in the U.S. My favorite part of watching "Slumdog Millionaire" was hearing the game show host's English.

I had lunch with my friend Charles Thursday. He's English, and told of a road trip to the Midwest last year or so, and of being in a restaurant with three friends of ours who grew up in New Mexico (one in Texas and New Mexico) who all ordered water and that was fine, but when he tried to order water, the waitress couldn't understand what he wanted at all, no matter how much he repeated it. That's because the main sound in the word "water" in that part of the U.S. is a heavy "r" and Charles has no "r" at all. Plus he pronounced the "t" in the middle of "water" as though it were, well... a "t."

Once I sang in a folk club in England. Maybe at St. Neot's, in a pub. Maybe in a different folk club meeting in a different pub. It was the late 1970's. I sang The Titanic, and showed them the singalong parts, and when they got to their part I laughed because I was used to " the bottom of the the sea" sounding like a southwestern U.S. "boddum" and got that very hard "t" from a group of Brits!

1 comment:

Elisha said...

I often joke with English friends that during the revolution one country must have switched all the names of desserts and baked goods around to confuse the other. It's our little mock conspiracy theory to explain why when you go to England a cookie is a biscuit and a biscuit is a scone and our pudding is custard (sort of) and their pudding is cake (sort of).

I've been wondering lately about how English and American accents have diverged over time; I remember reading something years ago about Appalachian English being more similar to the British English of a few centuries back than modern British English is, but I can't remember the source so it could be an urban myth. Still I've been really curious about what Americans sounded like in the 1700s and 1800s; I've heard recordings of Teddy Roosevelt and such from around 1900 and the accents were quite different from modern ones, but recorded sound only goes back so far. What I'm curious about is how long it took before American accents started to sound very different from English ones. Does anyone have any clues about this topic?


Related Posts with Thumbnails