[Thanks to Matt Owen for this guest post and his perspective!
Matt is a social media manager and part time alpenhorn champion from London.]
Hey there! I’m Matt, and I’m from England. I was trying to write a few words for Mango on the differences between UK and US English. I thought it would be fun.
Unfortunately I can’t do it.
I mean, I can write the words down easily enough, but it’s nearly impossible for me to point out the differences.
Because Microsoft Word won’t let me.
As in all fields of combat, the US tends to rely on technology to dominate the battlefield, and the battle for control of the language has been running since you guys decided you were probably better off without the King sticking his royal nose in your business.
And yeah, I’ve tried changing my settings (which incidentally, read “English” or “UK English” – make of that what you will), but every time I save or reopen a document, Microsoft discards all of this.
I’ve tried to convince it that I like spelling "Favour" like that, but it won’t take the hint. Or do me any favors.
Of course, this isn’t the only way American English has become the version most of the world speaks. When Britain was at the height of its powers, it spread the language by forcing people to use it to buy and sell, and by using it in churches and schools across the globe.
America on the other hand simply visits any given country, and quietly builds a Starbuck’s around anyone speaking another language.
I’ve already mentioned the war of independence, and John Adams himself was (unsurprisingly) a great fan of "Americanisms", happily announcing that he thought the US would do a great job of “Polishing the language”.
What John forgot to mention was that we Brits had been polishing away ourselves for several hundred years already, and people continue to do so on both sides of the Atlantic.
To really understand the differences, you have to delve further back into history.
Despite the name, English is actually something that crawled out of the mud of French, Saxon and pig-Latin [He’s kidding about the pig-latin part, ightray, Attmay? -Rachel].
You can also add a few other factors to those weird roots: A history of being invaded by nearly every country in Europe (quite why the Romans were so keen on trooping all the way from sunny Lazio to get their hands on a small grey island with nothing but a bit of tin and constant rain going for it remains a mystery), and books written by semi-illiterates on printing presses that couldn’t handle all the letters.
Take the word ‘Ye’ for example, it only exists because old printing presses had a symbol that looked like a ‘Y’ instead of a ‘TH’.
Next up, Britain went through an industrial revolution a bit earlier than most countries, with the billowing smog in London, Birmingham, Manchester, and Liverpool filling the local people’s sinuses and having a similar effect on the local accents – they all make you sound as though you’ve got a clothes-peg on your nose [For Americans: case in point; we say clothes pin -Rachel].
Meanwhile, in the US, something more profound was happening. We like to call it “Hollywood”. The movie industry has a huge history of imposing standards on across the world.
Here’s a question for you – what noise do frogs make?
If you answered "Ribbit", it’s because that’s the noise frogs from Southern California make, most other places they go "Bloik".
And English is the same. All over the world, countries got used to the language of Shakespeare through films, where trousers were pants, pavements were sidewalks and words followed the general American rule –pronounce it how you spell it.
This approach is sensible, but wouldn’t really work in England, where no word seems complete without a hidden ‘H’ or a silent ‘U’ in the middle. This is why tourists constantly ask me the way to “Li-ses-ter Square”. It’s actually pronounced “Les-ter”, but spelled “Leicester”.
Meanwhile, my American workmate gets weird looks when she asks for Pleated Pants in stores here. In the office, any businessman who wears ‘Suspenders’ probably shouldn’t mention it if he wants that promotion (If you want to know why, try using Google.co.uk to look the word up –just don’t do it while you’re at work!).
We’ve also got different words for commonplace things: some make more sense, some make less. Want to give me a call? I’ll take it on my mobile. It’s a phone, and it’s mobile. Makes sense yes? ‘Cellphone’ actually means ‘battery powered phone’. When you think about it, that’s just weird.
On the other hand, a Truck sounds much better to me than a Lorry…
The differences don’t stop there either: remember the history bit earlier? England has a pretty long tradition of battling with France at every given opportunity, so that any word sounding vaguely French is considered low class, so the Toilet is the ‘Loo’, although you guys might say ‘restroom’. A few years back an Aunt of mine told me that when she first visited back in the 80s, she honestly thought that a restroom was just a quiet area where you could go and sit down and read a book for a while…
And then there’s slang. In the US, English has had a healthy injection of Dutch, German, Spanish, Yiddish and Eminem to help it along, In England we just go for weird rhyming slang (Apples and pears= stairs, dog and bone = phone), text speak and references to weird English sitcoms from the 70s. In other words, If we fancy an ace night out we get bladdered down the nags, and hopefully there’s no aggro involved innit, y’get me?
I’ve tried to come up with an American equivalent for that last line. Let’s just say a few beers after work doesn’t quite sum it up…
Meanwhile the yoofs have well and truly looted the language for all it’s worth. Where I live, most kids is speakin the Jafaican mon [Matt explained this to me as "fake-Jamaican" -Rachel] (when they aren’t stealing ‘Trainers’ from the local sporting goods store), usually in a weird accent that arrives in Hackney after swinging through Kingston Town and early 90s South Central LA. Don U be letting the feds catch ya janga sistrin innit?
Nope, I don’t know what that means either…
Overall, the language we speak is vaguely similar, but history, immigration and culture have changed the two so that visitors from either side have to make a real effort. Whenever I write for a website, a good bit of my time is spent going through and putting ‘Z’ instead of ‘S’ in words – although in England even the letter would be pronounced differently, so bad news for any fans of Zed Zed Top out there.
On the plus side it means that the way we speak gets more and more interesting as we go along. The regional diction of newscasters doesn’t really match what people say in San Diego, or in Des Moines, and in England it has to be said that even the Queen (god bless you ma’am…) has a pretty weird accent compared to most of her subjects.
The reason English is so dominant on the world stage is because it’s inclusive, always happy to add in a new expression from a different country or a new technology – look for ‘Twiterati’ in Websters and the Oxford English soon. And hey, next time I walk into a diner and order a beefburger and chips, cut me some slack yo?Read More
Disneyland, one of the happiest places on Earth, already boasts a pretty impressive resume. With attractions in areas such as Paris, Florida, and Japan, the timeless brand can now add one more exotic location to its list: Hawaii! Though I have never visited the island, it has always been a dream to bronze my increasingly pale skin on one of Hawaii’s many exotic beaches (which, obviously, would include attending a traditional luau...food is never far from my mind). While I must admit that much of Hawaii’s appeal was inspired by the Saved by the Bell episodes that took place there years ago, the addition of a brand new, state of the art Disney resort is just the icing on the pa'i palaoa (Hawaiian for cake)!
The 840 unit resort and spa is located on the island of Oahu, just about an hour from Waikiki. Most notable about the resort is its strong ties to the Hawaiian culture. Even its name, Aulani, comes from a Hawaiian term that means “messenger of a chief or higher authority.” While Disney influences are strewn about the hotel (for instance, each room has a custom lamp featuring Mickey Mouse with a surf board), the main focus in both design and function is celebrating Hawaii. As a language learning advocate, one thing that stuck out to me was the adherence to the Hawaiian language. The Olelo Room lounge has all items labeled in the native language, including chairs (noho) and floor (papahele). Anyone working in the Olelo room will be fluent in Hawaiian and be able to speak with other staff members and other employees of the resort will undergo language and cultural training to keep the experience authentic for guests. You think they’re offering training with the brand new Mango Languages Hawaiian course? ;)
Every last detail, including the landscaping (inspired by an ahupuaa, an ancient Hawaiian land division system that extended from the mountain to the sea) pays homage to its Hawaiian roots. The main theme of Aulani involves canoes and an overall maritime theme, inspired by the Hawaiian voyaging canoe Hokulea. Joe Rodhe, head of Aulani’s creative crew, says the focus on canoes represents the “whole sense of arrival, journey, and … canoes are this sort of quintessential Hawaiian art form.” A Honolulu native, he recognizes the importance of a focus on the Hawaiian culture and recognizes that guests visits Hawaii “first and foremost for everything Hawaii has to offer” (The Oakland Press, 4 September 2011).
Aulani opened its doors yesterday to guests seeking an upscale experience and is expected to serve clientele from the West Coast and Asia. Free of most of Disney’s popular attractions, the resort seeks a different type of visitor, while still holding true to Disney’s sense of whimsical imagination. Though Hawaii will always hold a special place in my heart as the backdrop for my favorite television series, Lost, Disney’s new Aulani resort may now come in as a close second. So grab your Mickey ears, a lei, and be sure to book your stay at Aulani! Until then, aloha (yes, it means “hello” and “goodbye”... thanks, Miss Congeniality)!
What other locations do you think Disney should consider for future attractions that could offer a similar sense of language and culture?Read More
I love Montréal; the sights, the sounds, the food (try the poutine at La Banquise Resto), the people, everything! But let’s talk about the sounds.Read More
Working in events, I am lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel from time to time for work. Unfortunately, this was not the case for a recent trip to Puerto Rico taken by Jason Teshuba and Ryan Colpaert, our CEO and Director of Sales and Marketing, respectively. The rest of us Mangoes spent the week slaving away at the office while Jason and Ryan spent a week relaxing on the beach in sunny San Juan. Ok fiiiine, I will admit that their trip was not without purpose (and I promise I'm not still bitter). Our two jetsetters made their way to Puerto Rico to attend the 77th Annual World Library and Information Congress Conference and Assembly! The conference took place from August 13-18 and, according to the website, it brings together over 3,500 participants from more than 120 countries. The exhibition portion of the conference boasts over 80 exhibitors with a combined buying power of all delegates estimated at more than 1.2 billion dollars! Needless to say, it was an exciting opportunity for Mango Languages to attend the show for the first time, especially given this year’s exotic location.Read More
Kelly, one of our rockstar linguists shares loads of linguistic and cultural information on our new Hawaiian course with the Mango Elves. There is even a really cool picture of the owners in hula skirts! VERY funny!Read More
The following post is a guest blog from one of our Mangoes, Alana Wolfman. Alana recently returned from a Mediterranean cruise, where she traveled to Italy, Greece, Croatia, and Turkey. Here is a bit about her time spent in Venice.Read More