Finding the #Write #Words? No. 12 Divided by a Common Language

Continuing the description of books on words in the list from post 1, which you’ll find here.

Book 12: Divided by a Common Language

Paperback, 248 pages, including an index. It was published by Mayflower Press in 1997; my version is the edition published by Houghton Mifflin Books in 2007, and I bought it for £2.49 in 2008. You can obtain a used copy for around £3.30. The current version (the 2007 edition) is available in paperback for £12.32.

The book is subtitled ‘A Guide to British and American English.’ It provides 19 chapters, ranging from ‘Tips for the Tourist’, through ‘For the Technically Minded’ to ‘Cockney Rhyming Slang’, and has lexicons for UK-US and US-UK to make it easier to find those frequently misunderstood and/or misspelled words in either rendering of the lingo.

I bought it for when I need to make a character hailing from the US more plausible, and when I’m reading an American book with multiple US references and few contextual clues: that happens a lot in US writing, as the nation tends to believe the whole world understands their culture; a false notion, hinting at arrogance.

Opening randomly, at pages 110/111, I find listings as follows:

This section of the book falls in Chapter 12 ‘Idioms and Expressions’, subtitled ‘Some British Expressions’ and is in the form of a table with two columns giving the UK expression in 1 and its US equivalent in 2.

Page 110 starts with: ‘UK  from the year dot – US  from the year one’ and continues alphabetically to ‘UK  home and dry – US  home free’. And page 111 begins with ‘UK  if the cap fits – US  if the shoe fits’ and ends with ‘UK  not the done thing – US  not socially acceptable

There are some surprises along the way, and other examples that are probably very well known on both sides of the pond.

I’m currently writing a novel where one character was born in the USA but has lived some years in UK, so I’m consulting the book to get her conversational content as authentic as possible. A useful addition to my library of books on language and words, I think.

English is a complex language, made up of words from many countries, and it borrows some rules of grammar, punctuation and even style from those originating lands, which makes it interestingly familiar to learners but also frequently frustratingly baffling to the same students.

Those learning the English Language will find help on pronunciation here. And you’ll find a friendly group on Facebook through this link.

Post 2 is here, post 3, post 4, post 5, post 6, post 7, post 8, post 9, post 10, and post 11 here.