Friday, 23 November 2012

British English Vs American English



I had never in my life met someone who didn’t know there was a difference between British and American English until I joined Twitter. Everyone in Australia seems to know, and it seems that knowledge is widespread in Canada and Britain as well. I also know many Americans who do know there are differences, but by the same token the only people I’ve yet met who didn’t know were also Americans (not that I have, of course, interacted with people of every country on Earth).

I respect your right to change your own language, but I draw the line at being told I’ve misspelled something just because I’ve used British English. The most notable example was when someone tweeted a response to my tweet of my blog post, including the word ‘judgement’ in the title. This person helpfully pointed out I’d misspelled ‘judgement’. Um, no, that’s correct spelling in British English. 

This person clearly hadn’t even read my Twitter bio, or they might have twigged to the fact that a lawyer, of all people, is highly unlikely to be misspelling a word like judgement. To add insult to injury, this person didn’t even have the courtesy to apologise or acknowledge their mistake when I replied it is correct spelling in British English – and I was polite about it too. This level of ignorance is up there with the Republicans who wanted to come to Australia after the election because we have a male, Christian president – but at least that was also amusing!

That was an annoying experience, but far more concerning how this affects writers. It's not generally required to change British English to American English when submitting novels to American markets (thankfully, because that would be painful and laborious, and quite frankly I'd need an editor for that), but some short story markets do require it, and I tend to change all my short stories for the American market just to avoid the debate. Aurealis in Australia is the only market I know which requires all submissions to be in British English. Worse than this inconvenience, is the fact I know authors who self-publish using British English (because, hey, that’s their native language) and then get bad reviews from ignorant readers who complain that the book contains multiple instances of bad spelling and had a poor editor, because they don’t know those words are British English. 

I don’t run around leaving bad reviews of books written in American English because of spelling errors, so why is this happening in reverse?

I have a theory. For reasons I don’t entirely understand, books written in British English are often converted into American English for the American market – this includes not just changing spellings, but changing a word where the name of something in British English isn’t the same as it is in America e.g. a ‘Mac’ in Britain is a raincoat, and these types of words get changed. Harry Potter, for example, was changed significantly for the American market. If you bought Harry Potter in America, I can guarantee you it’s different to my copies purchased here in Australia. 

The reason for this, I’m told, is because Americans don’t understand British English. Say what? American English isn’t translated into British English for the UK, Australian and Canadian markets. What are publishers trying to say? That we’re cleverer than the American market, or it doesn’t matter if we don’t understand? Well I do understand, and I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t understand, and that’s because I’ve been exposed to American English from a young age.  If this tendency had never been catered to, the American market (as a whole, and distinguishable from the individuals who comprise it) would have as much knowledge of British English as I have of American. 

The problem we have now is that this practice in the past has generated a level of ignorance in the American market that now we have to perpetuate the practice in order to avoid bad reviews saying words are misspelled. My horror reached new peaks when Momentum Publishing here in Australia (the digital imprint of Pan McMillan) stated they publish all their digital books in American English, even though the authors are Australian and would have written it in British English. I know why they’re doing it, I’m just appalled it’s become necessary.

What are your thoughts on this practice? Why do you think it started? Do you think it should continue? Were you aware, generally, of the differences between the two styles of English? Do you see value in all parts of the English-speaking world being aware of the general differences between British and American English? Do you think British English should be converted to American? How about American to British? If you’re an American writer, how would you feel if asked to convert to British English? And how would you feel if you were required to convert to British English, but I wasn’t required to convert to American English? I’m fascinated to hear others viewpoints on this issue. 

If I ever self-publish, I can see myself putting a big notice at the front that says the book is written in British English! Not that it will help – people don’t read that stuff. 

A particular sore point for me because the word 'artefact' appears frequently in my novel, and I'm heartily tired of being told I've misspelled it
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65 comments:

Dionne Lister said...

Bwahahahaha! Love it. I'm with you. If they don't want to spell it the original way at least be aware different spelling exists. The one that gets me is arse as opposed to ass - an ass is a donkey/horse hybrid and arse is a bottom ;).

Miranda kate said...

I am British, I live in Holland - the Dutch don't know either. Their television is ALL American though. When proof-reading a work document I asked them if it should be in British or American English, they looked at me blankly, then had to find out. And yes, it had to be in British, what a nightmare! I will put a disclaimer at the beginning of my novel to say that it is written in British English.

But didn't you know America rules the world? why else must we change everything to suit them!


Great blog post, and I will be spreading the word!

Cinta García said...

I totally agree with you, Ciara. I am Spanish, but I use mostly British English. Some time ago I wrote articles for a site, and the person who ran the site used to correct some spellings in my article, claiming they weren't correct, as for example "enquiry" and "inquiry". This person alleged that I was misspelling the word. When you explain that it is absolutely correct in British English, they still insist on using the American spelling. I find it funny, but not so when people start abusing my writing because of that. So I am glad that someone went on a rant about this topi ;)

Gareth Young said...

I think American English took hold because it simplified words. And, in a lot of cases, I really think it makes sense. English is such a mongrel language that there are all kinds of archaic spellings and peculiarities that when you're taught them at school you just grow to accept them. Let's think about it though, is COLOR so bad? Colour is fine. Neither is really spelt how they're pronounced so why don't we just spell colour/color...kullur? (A similarly constructed word - velour - is not pronounced vellur it's actually pronounced veloooor lol).

Just for the record, I'm from Scotland and i live in the States. It's a giant pain in the arse when I try to write because I've gone from being great at spelling to not knowing how to spell the simplest words. I've also endured the occasional abuse for using words that appear misspelt to American brains. I used the word WHILST and was then expected to verily, thee and thou for the rest of the day. lol.

I can take some of the little spelling differences...the one thing that really makes me grind my teeth is the infuriating way HERBS is pronounced ERBS over here. AAARRRGH. Okay, you can argue maybe that's a little French thing creeping in but NO...no its not...because no one pronounces CROISSANT correctly...and they sell those at every flipping McDonalds on Earth.

*Deep Breath* Ok. I'm done. :0) Thank you for the great post Ciara!

mooderino said...

I wonder which version the Chinese are taught. Obviously they'll have the final say on how we spell things after they take over.

Wander said...

Might be that some of us unlettered americans are fully aware that there are differences...were I to day fag in England one there might think I was refering to a cigarette now yhe same word spoken in america id a derogative term for a homosectual. And a flat over there could be a home wherevas here you might think they were referring to a larg container of berries. But I'm American so obviously I'm Too stupid to realize there has been a language shift.
When writing the body of your work of course you want your reader to understand what you are saying. So...it is just strange that that wouldnt make sence to anyone. Now, that doesn't hold true to dialog... it is compleatly acceptable have an accent.

So to answeryour question...yes writing should be translated to american for the American market and British for the colonial markets, or all you end up frustrating your reader. American enhlish and Brittish english are two different languages, so...what is more important spelling or book sales?

This was written from my phone...so spelling will be just a smidgen off...

Wander

cent "

Wander said...

Spellig...way Off:-) lol

Karen de Lange said...

I completely agree! I will be self-publishing in the next few months, and I'm agonising over whether or not to convert to American English. I would need to pay to have it done, because if I tried to do it myself I would undoubtedly miss things. I frequently buy books from America and have no problems reading them; but like you I have heard of authors receiving bad reviews for writing in British English.

Megan Paasch said...

I'm American, and it irritates me when British words and spellings are converted to American English. I'm intelligent enough to figure out the meaning of unfamiliar expressions from their context. I wish I could say the same for everyone. Actually, I think people like me are more numerous than whoever makes these decisions believes. It's just that the ignorant few are the ones you'll hear from. The rest of us have no reason to comment. At least, I hope that's the case.



Also, we don't require British movies or television shows to dub over their original soundtracks with American English before airing them here. Why on Earth should it be different for the written word? Boggles the mind.

This bothers me so much, in fact, that I ordered my copies of the Harry Potter books from England when I found out they'd been changed for the American audience. I do the same when I hear of significant changes in other books as well (not minor spelling changes, but entire changes of expression and phrase). I want to read them as the author has written them!

Rayne Hall said...

It's one of my pet peeves. The books I write are in British English, and when I edit multi-author anthologies, I keep each story in its original form of English to preserve the author's voice. However, many readers don't appreciate it, and leave negative reviews.

Either they're not aware that British English uses different words, different grammar and different punctuation, and complain about "riddled with spelling errors" and "awful grammar" and give it 1 or 2 stars. I've just received another one of those - someone who gave "Haunted: Ten Tales of Ghosts" 1* ("I couldn't get past all the grammatical errors! Proof read PLEASE!") - see
http://www.amazon.com/Haunted-Ghosts-Fantasy-Stories-ebook/dp/B006PW4TNG/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353709886&sr=8-1&keywords=haunted+ten+tales+of+ghosts .

Or else they are aware of the difference, but deem British to be an inferior aberration ( "This book is British English! Authors should learn proper English before publishing a book! 2*)

I feel sorry for the first type; I can forgive ignorance. But the arrogance of the second type annoys me.

Rayne Hall said...

I can answer this question, because twenty years ago, I was working in China, editing language teaching materials. The official version, as taught in schools and tested in exams was a hodgepodge of British and American, of contemporary and Victorian. Even the teachers and examiners weren't aware that there were different ways of spelling. My attempts to draw their attention to this, let alone to keep the English consistent at least within one story, met with aggression: they were not interested in learning good English; they were interested in passing exams, and for the exams, they needed the officially sanctioned hodgepodge.
But then, the exams also involved multiple-choice tests with political slogans in English. The version praising Chairman Mao in English was always the correct choice, regardless of grammar.
That was 20 years ago, and it like to think that political correctness these days is compatible with grammatical correctness, though I wouldn't count on the Chinese having great awareness of British vs American English.

Rayne Hall said...

Some years ago I mentioned the queen's ass in a historical fantasy story. In British English, this is a perfectly decent reference to the monarch's female donkey, but Americans ranted about the vulgarity of Rayne Hall's writing style.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Both types frustrate me. I realise such reviewers are not to blame for their ignorance, but nevertheless it really riles me the wrong way to be told I've misspelled something. I can't recall the last time I genuinely misspelled something (as opposed to a typo). The second type is just intolerable - who decided American was 'proper' English? Oh no, wait, I know who. I have some fabulous, lovely American friends, but none of them are 'that type' - the type that thinks if it is American then, by default, it's better.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I am SO glad you're irritated! I'd be irritated too - it does smack of the suggestion that you're not clever enough to figure it out, doesn't it? I have read books in American English where I didn't know what something was - not so much the spelling, but how the same word in British and American English means different things. If it really bugs me and I need to know - there's always Google! It's not that hard. Some people apparently can't figure it out - but you'd think that maybe if you see the SAME words misspelt over and over again maybe it might suggest there's something else going on than bad spelling...

Ciara Ballintyne said...

If I self-publish, I don't think I could bring myself to change from British English to American. Like you've said, it's not that easy - I've done it for my short stories submitted into the American market (and either did an Ok job of it or they've made allowances because I'm Australian as none of the feedback has said riddled with errors...) but a whole novel is entirely another proposition. It's a big, hard job, for no guaranteed gain. Those reviews sure would be annoying though...

Ciara Ballintyne said...

LOL I evidently hit a sore point... I agree some of them are simplifications, but a lot of them neither spelling is superior to the other. And then of course there are examples like route - pronounced in British English like root, but in American English like rout - and buoy - pronounced in British English like boy, but in American - I don't know, like nothing else I've ever heard LOL - boo-eee? In some cases American English attempts to spell things the way they sound, and in others attempts to pronounce them the way they look! Not even consistent within itself. Wouldn't it have made more sense to change buoy to boy than start calling the damn thing something ridiculous? It took me forever to figure out what a boo-eee was in American TV!

I hadn't thought whilst was so archaic. Of course, my (American) editor also told me bosom was archaic. Perhaps we had both best start theeing and thouing left right and centre - I mean center ;-)

Ciara Ballintyne said...

If someone says to me 'You've written this in British English, would you mind if we change it to American English?' I'd be annoyed, but could probably accept that. It's a politely worded request. 'You've misspelt this - fix it' is presumptuous, ignorant and arrogant!

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I wouldn't necessarily expect a country whose primary language isn't English to know. I don't even know the names of the Chinese dialects... It's interesting that they didn't know the difference, but then when they checked, there was a mandated form. You'd think in that case they would have educated their people on the fat there are two kinds, and you must use this one.

American rules the world? I must have missed that memo. I think I did get one that said... hold on... let me just find it. Here it is - yes, the memo that says a fair portion of the population THINKS American rules the world.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

A perfect example of where American English moves AWAY from phonetic spelling! Because of course ass and arse are pronounced differently. Well, maybe not if you have an American accent... but I guess that just means they are mispronouncing as well as misspelling ;-)

Ciara Ballintyne said...

So what exactly do they call an actual ass then?

Greta van der Rol said...

Very, very true. I'm another Australian. We seem to be able to manage two versions of English. However, I use US English in my books because my editor is an American and the books are published through an American group.

I've seen the sorts of comments Rayne Hall mentioned and I'm gobsmacked at the people who leave reviews which only show up their own ignorance. But I suspect there's no easy answer to any of this.

Wander said...

You already write with a minimum of accent...so that would make it easier on you

Wander said...

A donkey...

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I found I knew a lot of US English, but there are some variations of spelling that I've recently learned one is British and one is American. I didn't think either were wrong, I just thought they were two valid alternatives, but the experience has made me wonder how many other examples there may be I'm unfamiliar with. I find converting short stories to US English painful and laborious.

There is no easy answer. And digital books are making it worse. Publishers producing ebooks have to pitch to the American market for any book that's published on amazon.com, but the problem is that countries like Australia, who don't have their own Amazon store, are also buying there. So our exposure to American English will increase while our exposure to our own British English decreases as consumption of ebooks rises and paperbacks falls.

The simplest solution would be some education in the US education system on the mere existence of British English (which I'm told by an American friend currently doesn't exist) but of course that's hardly an easily-achieved solution.

Christopher de Mers said...

I can assure you many Americans can read, understand and enjoy British as well as American English. The quality of the content is what matters - not the wrapping.

Christopher Hurt said...

Americans certainly have potential to be ignorant. I remember a story some time in fourth grade, and I had no idea what a lavatory was. When I read All Quiet on the Western Front, I had to understand that a lorry was a wagon and a motor lorry was a truck. Fortunately, I love Top Gear, which in the U.S. is shown on BBC America, and I thoroughly enjoyed when they referred to lorry drivers as lorryists. Anything automotive enthuses me, and I have become more aware of the use of British English through appreciation of Australian performance saloons. An on-line purveyor of Japanese products since 1997, Peter Payne writes to the J-List side blog, where he discusses Japanese culture from an American perspective while living in Japan. He returns to his native San Diego around the time of the comic convention. Japanese students learn British English first and American English later, although I can not find Payne's exact post to prove the accuracy of my statement. Payne once spoke about when his wife forbid him from helping their son study for the high school entrance exam.

SJIHolliday said...

Oh my god, this post has infuriated me!! People really don't realise they are different? Honestly? *deletes expletives* And no, they should not be translated according to US/UK. It's not just the words, it's the style, the sentence structure, everything... I like reading good books, in any form of English. I like to read one type, then another. The differences are unique to the author as well as the language spoken. Why did English need to be simplified? Why did... *stops typing before rant goes crazy* Great post, Ciara. But it scares me. A lot.

LeonQ said...

American English is actually the more traditional English. Both America and Britain pronounced and spelled words the same back when America was a British colony. Then after the mid 18th century the British came to be more influenced by the French language -- with French spelling and pronunciation creeping in (i.e. programme, colour, etc). It's the British who changed, not the Americans. Then the British, with their new French influenced version of English, prompted their remaining colonies (Australia, Canada, India, etc) to adopt their version. America, more recently, through pretty much becoming the global cultural and corporate hegemon over the last 70 years, is prompting the world to instead adopt its version. This is all done through the popularity of American books, tv shows, movies, video games, music, etc.



Just as Britain's dominance made people cater to its version in the 19th century, so too has America's dominance done the same in the 20th and early 21st century.

Shell Bryson said...

I don't think I've ever seen 'banque' used here in the UK. Always 'bank'. It's not as if banks haven't been in the news a lot over the last few years...

Ciara Ballintyne said...

So far as I am aware, 'banque' is a French word that never made it into the Englisg language.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Many variations of spelling were used pre 18th century. Then spelling was standardised, and America standardised them differently to England. Incidentally, the spelling was standardised before Australia was colonised, so they didn't 'prompt' us to adopt such spelling - it simply came here with the colonists. American English was then standardised sometime after that, too, so British English would have largely come to the American colonies with the settlers.

The supposed notion was to simplify the language, and some instances do show more phonetic spelling, but I don't agree this is achieved across the baord. In any case, America can spell it however it likes, but I will object to being told I'm misspelling a word due to sheer ignorance.

Rose Lee said...

Nice Post.English is necessary Language to improve skills British and American English Skills Guide to be consider

Lewis Clapp said...

Correction:
After the American revolution, just to spite the British empire, Noah Webster changed (dumbed down) the spelling and grammar of English to create 'American English'
So therefore the person below is wrong.
Good day to you too sir.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Thanks for sharing. Given some of the Anti-British sentiments floating around at the time, that wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Bob said...

As a South African whose country uses British English, I object very much to having American English rammed down my throat constantly. I'm fine with there being two versions, but I hate being told my version is wrong by the ignorant and arrogant.

ENKL said...

Late to respond but I found this interesting, I never thought about this creating problems. I've lived in both British English and American English countries and never found it difficult.


Just a thought that I had - maybe it's simply the fact that the US has a larger population than the UK, Australia, and Canada combined (correct me if I'm wrong). And American English is widespread; that's what we learned growing up in Japan.
So maybe it is just that there happen to be more people who potentially wouldn't realize the difference?

Ciara Ballintyne said...

It's a bit of a chicken and egg question - do we not realise the difference because it's widespread, or is it widespread because we don't realise the difference? I think it's probably the first. Our exposure to it has educated us to know the differences.

I don't object to reading American English. I'm smart enough to figure it out. I only object to being told that when I've used British spelling I've mispelt (ha, perfect example there) something.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Yes, lavatory and lorry are not really used in Australia either, so I completely understand what you mean! It's interesting that Japanese students learn both forms of English.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I should certainly hope to think so. I am sure it's a minority who are ignorant, sadly it's a minority causing quite a bit of trouble for authors from countries using British English :-(

Timothy Todd said...

Everyone assumes we're just a bunch of stupid Americans. I've never told someone they misspelled a word for using British English. I really read over it without noticing.



I suspect publishers may push people to change it because there is already a great deal of dissent in American language. Either way, that's the publishers deal. I would venture to say: "if you don't want to change it, find another publisher." I know that isn't fair, but business is a product of compromises.

I'm not too sure if you know, but in the United States the word "ignorant," has a really negative connotation. It doesn't really mean "not knowing," here, but more synonymous with "bigoted."


Insightful, but the comic in the actual blog really catches the undertone of this blog.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Most of the Americans I know are thoughtful, educated and well aware of the differences, which makes it even more disappointing when one of the other kind contributes to creating a negative impression of America - I'm sure all countries have their minorities who do this, sadly.

Plenty of people are self-publishing and avoiding restrictions imposed by publishers, and then still get pushback from readers. I've had a few people say if it's published on Amazon.com it should be in American English, without apparently realising that Australians also shop there (as we don't have an Amazon of our own) so even if you ditch the publisher, there are ongoing problems. I'm toying with publishing in both forms of English as a way of circumventing the problem.

I wasn't aware of the conotation of ignorant in America, that's interesting to know, thank you (crosses that word off list for upcoming visit to States LOL).

I probably did write this blog in a fit of pique, truth to be told.

CJ said...

It's not "British English". It's English, as spoken in England. It's English and American English.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Me too. Nothing like being told you mispelled it when you didn't.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Technically, you are correct. That said, the common usage of the term 'British English' has evolved because of precisely the problems I pointed out in this post.

Sherry Durham said...

We left British rule so we aren't required to use the French inspired spelling the British use. And I don't believe it is ignorance because that means we do not know or realize the difference. It is more that we choose and prefer our spelling because we can. Call us arrogant if you will but not being under British rule we can and will use our correct spelling! Ha ha ha!

Ben said...

Excellent article and I completely agree. I hate even having to see things like favorites, color practicing, program, disk, catalog and center constantly on the internet - even on British sites. As well as 'cart' for trolley, 'check' for tick, Then there are the annoying things like World War 2 instead of the second world war, June one instead of the first of June. Filling out a form instead of filling it in, being good when it means feeling well. Trailer for caravan, pants for trousers, life vest for life jacket, vest for waistcoat, bangs for fringe, can I get for may I have, hey for hi, knee-jerk for reflex reaction, recess for break, vacation for holiday, stuff for things, hooky for truant, guy for bloke and guys for girls, alternate for alternative, paper route for paper round, sidewalk for pavement, fender for bumper, hood for bonnet, trunk for boot, subway for underground, elevator for lift, first floor for ground floor, apartment for flat, I am English and I call my language English, not British English (as the Scots, Irish and Welsh have their own languages) and I detest the way the media is slowly Americanising the way we speak and write. American expressions, meanings and slang are constantly pushed at us (town hall meeting, touching base, mission statement, brain storming, for free, in store, smart, dumb, spicy, muffin, cup cake, entree, van, railroad. On top of all this is the huge confusion about the pronunciation of words that at one time we had no problem with - complex, research, refresh, decade, router, glacier, adult, address, often, comparable, quantitative, legislative, innovative, monetary, finances, accomplish, conjure, contribute, leverage - there are plenty more. It gets particularly depressing when BBC Radio 4 (even that title has been Americanised) once a bastion of good pronunciation and use of English - even they constantly use American words, slang and pronunciation. I suppose it's all inevitable but we shouldn't give up English so easily. Thank goodness we have a wealth of well-written English Literature to read - including authors like Henry James - to remind us what a beautiful and rich language English is. And there are the old films (not movies!) where you can still hear beautiful English spoken - even old American films. When English was a spoken clearly, not gutturally or with all the consonants clipped or slurred.

dan said...

Lol... arse is another one, it should be ass!! I am Italian, and I've studied both... I have such a confusion at times. By the way, nice post. I stumbled into it because I'm writing a novel and I really couldn't figure out whether to choose one writing or the other. I was tending towards the British, and I've confirmed my choice here... Hoping that my American readers will not be angry at me.

rashmi said...

I am an Indian.We were ruled for 150 yrs by British .So British english ios widely used here.But being a large exporter of Software to America and having a number of outsourced jobs of American companies in India ,now our country is also used to American English.Few days back when I moved to USA and my son started going to American school ,even I was confused by some words .Like "fullstop" is called "period" here,"Vest" called "Undershirt","poloneck" called "turtleneck" etc

ThreeRs said...

I'm an American. I remember being in school some twenty or thirty years ago, and using British spellings on spelling tests and such because I'd learned them from reading, rather than from studying the vocabulary list. My teacher would always mark them not as wrong, but as "not the preferred" spelling for over here -- and would ding me a bit for not studying the material. ;)
Anyway, subsequently I learned about the differences and gained an appreciation for how both are right. I don't know when or how that attitude changed in the intervening time, but I was horrified to see how Harry Potter was edited for the US market. They even changed "the baker's opposite" to "the bakery". Why?! Why change it at all, and why change such ridiculous things? I find it, and the tendency of some Americans to correct British spellings, very frustrating. I think it does make us look ignorant and foolish.
Also: I disagree with CJ: ignorant over here means lacking knowledge. If CJ feels it has a connotation of "bigoted", perhaps that's because many ignorant people are.
However, I do think it's a two-way street. Your comic points this out: it's not enough to think your spelling is right, you have to make fun of us for ours. And trust me, that's every bit as annoying, because it's not just the "ignorant" among you. We might correct you (inappropriately) but we don't (generally) mock you. Whereas it seems like mocking us is standard operating procedure.
For the record, though, I do try to defend the differences. I've seen reviews complaining about British spellings and commented to correct the reviewer's perception. And although I often point out errors when I review, I try to be aware of where the author is (or appears to be) from. I've never corrected British spellings, for example, but I did point out that a single use of "nowt" was strange -- either the character should be written with an accent or not, don't piecemeal it.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Wow, that was a lot of examples! I admit some of them I didn't know, and it appears that English in Australia has been adulterated with more examples of American English than I was even aware. How sad :-( I find altered pronunciations frustration too. Like route, pronounced like root in English, but in American English route is pronounced like rout (sometimes, but not always I think, just to complicate it further...)

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Yes, I know what you mean. I've had some very confusing conversations with American friends that left us all dizzy at the end and unsure what we were even talking about.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

It's interesting that you say there's mockery of the American spelling, because I've not generally come across that position. I'm not disagreeing with you, just saying it's not something I have personally witnessed much of. I chose the cartoon not to mock those who use American spelling (because I am more than happy for American spelling to be used within America) but to highlight the two points of view - and largely because of the word used in the example, which I've had 'corrected' by writing teachers when studying writing online. Certainly no mockery was intended by my use of it.

I agree with you about changing minor points in books. It seems pointless, and how long does it take to go through a book and make all these changes?

I'm relieved to know you disagree about the word 'ignorant'. I probably use it a lot, and would hate for people to have thought I was saying bigoted when I intended no such thing.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Yes arse is British, ass means a donkey LOL. But in America ass is used for both. I have used British English for my book, and so far I've not had any reviews saying the spelling is bad, although I am aware of writers who've had that experience.

George said...

It's a shame that England is part of 'The UK' as everyone calls it now, The British Isles, Great Britain, United Kingdom - so many different names. The French speak French and their country is France - no argument - but I wonder how they label the French spoken and written in France as opposed to Canadian French or Swiss French. If England were still a separate country we might not have to put up with the silly label 'British English'!

George said...

I'm glad there are still people who care :) I've been
watching a few Australian films lately and I enjoy Australian pronunciation -
you can hear old-fashioned English pronunciation coming through, and so much
more pleasant and full of character than the language used in the clichéd
Hollywood offerings (with some exceptions of course). Great when
Australian (and English) actors can speak without having to put on American
accents to suit the American mass market.

George said...

LeonQ isn't quite right there. American English started off as a kind of traditional English but that was long after the adoption of French words into the language, which happened in the centuries after the Norman invasion - 1066!!! Americans use these French-influenced words as much as the English do, words such as verdant, plumage, language, merchant, flower, grand, beauty - there is an almost endless list. Anglo-Saxon Old English produced strange spellings like plough, long before America was even discovered. Admittedly some American variations stem from the English spoken (and written with many different spellings) at the time of the Mayflower, gray and grey for example - but the divergence of the language from then doesn't mean that English is not now the language of England but of America. I don't think America will change its name to England but could change the name of its language to Americanish! America (Webster) deliberately simplified some spellings and dropped many English spellings - honour to honor, the verb to practise became to practice. Its like the American simplification of 'two hundred and three' to 'two hundred three'.
English as spoken in England by educated English people is still by far the most traditional form of English. We can read Dickens, Bronte and Austen and understand the meanings of the words far more accurately than Americans, who would notice more differences in spelling and meaning.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

I prefer it when they don't have to put on accents too. For a while there, Australian actors playing Australians had to put on an Australian accent because the real thing wasn't 'right'! e.g. Mick Brumby in JAG. Just horrible. And the American accent changes a voice so drastically - see Hugh Laurie in House versus his natural voice.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Apparently there is this thing called 'Australian English' too. I'm so confused now.

George said...

Of course, American spelling is perfectly correct for Americans!

George said...

Vive la difference! Though I think Australian English is hardly any different from English, though the accent is distinct - however, the accents in England are more diverse than in any other English-speaking land, were far more so before the advent of TV - extremely regionalised, even within cities and counties. Funnily enough, young people from the south east sound very similar to Australians recently, to my ear anyway. We don't mind these things a bit. It's just the relentless Americanisation that is depressing.

George said...

I had no idea that kind of thing was happening! I was watching a couple of old Russell Crowe films, set back in time, but I wouldn't have known if the accents were natural or altered to suit the era (one was 1940s and one early 1900s).
I think the modern American accent tends to require the voice to be produced lower in the throat, like Spanish, whereas old-fashioned English is lighter and more breathy. Listen to Diana Rigg in the 1960s Avengers for a good example of beautiful English.

KameronConner said...

I prefer British English over American English. The accent for British English is quite stylish than the American one. To get splendid ideas about accents of spoken English, I had come across Atticrecruitment. They are quite proficient in their task.

Lorna said...

After reading this an age ago, I went cheerfully (and hopefully) on my way, not expecting it to ever happen to me. Until it just did. I'm so pissed off and angry - not to mention frustrated. My book was professionally copy-edited and extensively proofread, so for it to be full of misspellings only leads me to surmise that the US reviewer doesn't know the difference between UK and US English.

What can I do? Risk saying soemthing and getting pulled into a nasty situation, or suck it up and hope that it doesn't affect my handful of sales. So dejected.

Lorna said...

And of course, in that post, I manage to typo the word 'something'. I give up for tonight.

Ciara Ballintyne said...

Oh no! This is such an awful situation. I'm fortunate not to have run into it myself yet, but I expect it still lies somewhere in the future. It's a really hard thing to deal with - I would want to correct that person (because I'm like that, can't help it) but it rarely ends well.

I've been told by some reviewers that it's not appropriate to directly challenge a reviewer in that circumstance, but if you really feel that something needs to be said, you could do a blog post - this addresses your concern, and gives you an opportunity to state your case, without naming or shaming the reviewer in question or forcing a confrontation.

Obviously such a post would need to be handled tactfully. I did something like this when my book was criticised as cliched for having a tantacled monster. I did a blog post about how the tentacles were a deliberate choice as a response to the fact that you nearly always nly find tentacles now in that dreaded subgenre of erotica - tentacle erotica. I didn't name the reviewer, or attack them, and acknowledged that they were entitled to their opinion, and that tentacles obviously didn't work for them, but these are the reasons I consciously elected to write about them.

Perhaps you could blog that a reviewer criticised the spelling in your novel, but to your knowledge there are no errors - and then use that to launch into a post about British vs American english in the same vein as this one, speculating that perhaps this is the reason.

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