British vs. American English

Diceva Oscar Wilde: “We have really everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language”. Già, negli USA e negli UK si parla inglese ma: attenzione! Al di là di accenti e slang differenti alcune parole oltreoceano significano proprio tutt’altro, e la gaffe è dietro l’angolo… Ci spiegano tutto Chuck Rolando e Mark Worden!
LANGUAGE LEVEL C1 (ADVANCED)

Chuck Rolando (Standard American accent)

Just having a little chat (1).

Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

Yes, a nice little chat here. I’m speaking with my very nice British accent, and Chuck is speaking with his even nicer American accent.

Chuck Rolando
And, of course, yes, and you can hear the difference and he sounds much more educated (2), more polite (3) than I do…

Mark Worden
Oh, dear!

Chuck Rolando
There’s nothing… nothing I can do about that, you know. We Americans from the colonies, as they say. Anyway, there are some major differences and you do have to be careful (4) when you use English vocabulary, as opposed to American vocabulary, in which situation. I can just imagine an American on a street and observing some kid walking by (5), and… and maybe she looks at him and says, “Ah, look at that guy, he forgot his suspenders and his pants are down around his fanny.”(6) Now, that sounded perfectly normal to me, as an American, but to Mark it meant something, well, rather different.

Mark Worden
Well, it sounds rather like the opening scene of a porn movie, but perhaps you could explain some of these terms….

Chuck Rolando
Some of the terms…

Mark Worden
Let’s start with pants, for example.

Chuck Rolando
Yes, an American wears pants which are, for Brits, trousers. We’ve always had that. And what about suspenders, Mark?

Mark Worden
Well, just stay on pants, because pants for us are what you probably call underpants, so…

Chuck Rolando
Men or women, though?

Mark Worden
Absolutely, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Chuck Rolando
OK. Interesting.

Mark Worden
Suspenders, where I come from, are the rather sort of frilly (7) things that women have… some women wear to attach their underpants or pants to their stockings (8), but obviously in American English it means something else.

Chuck Rolando
There you see it, there it is, and you made it sound so important, you made it sound so… Shakespearian, those underpants and stockings, I love it! But anyway, yes, the suspenders for us are the ones that (Southern accent) the country boys where to hold up  (resumes normal accent) their pants, which are trousers for… for Mark.

Mark Worden
And for Mark and for other British people what Chuck calls suspenders are in fact braces (9).

Chuck Rolando
And that’s a good one because kids growing up who may have a problem with their teeth – in America – wear braces (10) on them, to help get them in shape (11). So there you have it, another variation on the theme, hm?

Mark Worden
Although, funnily enough, in British English braces are also the things that you wear on your teeth.

Chuck Rolando
Oh, so you do say it. OK.

Mark Worden
Yes, but the word here in this phrase that worries me even more than the others is, of course, fanny, Chuck. Please explain that one to us.

Chuck Rolando
Yes, you see, because for… it’s… they’re both very close to each other, our terms, aren’t they?  Because, for an American, a fanny is a bum (12), it’s a rear end (13), whereas for Mark a… the  fanny happens to be a… a lady’s front end.

Mark Worden
Yes, I think the… the Latin term is “pudendum.”

Chuck Rolando
Ooh!

Mark Worden
But I’m sure we could spend hours discussing terms…

Chuck Rolando
That’s a good one…  yes.

Mark Worden
But it’s probably better if… if we don’t.

GLOSSARY

1    just having a little chat: semplicemente, chiacchierando
2    educated: istruito
3    polite: educato
4    careful: attento
5    some kid walking by: qualche ragazzo che cammina
6    he forgot… fanny: in American English: ha dimenticato le bretelle e i pantaloni gli cadono sul sedere. In British English (è volgare): ha dimenticato il reggicalze e le mutande sono giù intorno alla figa.
7    frilly: decorato con balze, fronzole
8    stockings: calze
9    braces: bretelle (Br-Eng)
10  braces: apparecchio per i denti
11   shape: forma
12   bum: sedere
13   it’s a rear end: è la parte posteriore

SPEAK UP EXPLAINS   

Pants, underpants, trousers. Pantaloni, mutande, pantaloni. L’equivoco sta nei termini pants e underpants. Se per gli americani i pants sono i pantaloni, per i britannici i pants sono le mutande, mentre i pantaloni sono i trousers. Per gli americani le mutande sono underpants (o underwear), in inglese britannico si chiamano anche knickers.



Vuoi saperne di più sulle differenze tra American English e British English? Vuoi approfondire la tua conoscenza della cultura americana? Corri in edicola! Dal 24 agosto al 24 ottobre 2017 trovi: I Want You to Speak American, uno speciale di Speak Up interamente dedicato all’inglese americano.

Sul sito di Speak Up, invece, è sempre disponible la prima edizione: Let’s Speak American!

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One Response to “British vs. American English”

  1. Hi,
    Being an English mother-tongue ESL teacher and a natural bilingual, I feel very comfortable with both sets of words, British and American. Coming from Australia, the vocabulary there is closer to British English, but since we have always had a huge American influence through music, art, literature, sport, entertainment, movies (films:)), we just grew up accepting American words just as we did the British ones. I’m from the 1970s generation, but the younger generation of today are even more influenced by the U.S. than we were.

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