American and British English : comparison

American and British English : comparison

American and British English : comparison : American speech and written language have developed new elements in vocabulary, phrasing, structure and pronunciation. However, many older usages of English have been preserved in America which have disappeared from Britain. In American English, gotten as the past participle of get, fall for Autumn, aim to for the English use aim at, and faucet for tap are in use. These are older usages of English. American has developed new ways of speech, partly through differing conditions of life and partly because of many influences from other languages.

American and British English : comparison

The primary difference between English and American is in the rhythm and intonation of speech. There are common words with different shades of meaning Politician has a disparaging sense in America ; Solicitor means a canvasser or beggar in America ; clerk means a shop assistant.

The English of educated standard American is just as much a ‘good English’ as that of educated London. ‘Clipped Syllables’ which the American hears in Englishman’s pronunciation as against the ‘drawl’ and ‘nasal tone which the Englishman notices in American are in reality differences in rhythm and intonation. Such differences are enhanced by changes of meaning in the same words, new words, in both British and American English. The point is whether these two types of English produce two distinct languages or they will draw nearer together with the increased freedom of intercourse. It may be that American English will absorb the British English.

American English has considerably influenced British English in the last quarter of a century. American’s leading position in commerce, films, and finance has produced a body of slangs in English which has entered the good colloquial usage. The word canvus came to England as a political term from America. The use of cut for reduction was originally American. This is now fixed in good English. Sense as a verb has been imported from America although old-fashioned scholars frown upon the use as a substitute for perceive or feel.

The films are a prolific source of slangs. Vividness and force in metaphorical expressions are characteristic of much American English. There are metaphors from America taken up into spoken English and are now a part of colloquial good English such as the phrase to get down to brass tacks. “The use ot the verb to fix tor a wider number of senses is due to the American influence, as for example, I’ll fix it for you’, or “Try and fix it so that he escapes”. Executive as noun in English is under American influence as in business executives’. Party machine is American.

Slang expressions like dumb for stupid, frame-up for ‘trumped up charge’, blue for ‘depressed’, pass out for die or faint have not yet reached good colloquial uses. The noun ‘pull in the sense of special individual influence is American. There are many slangs from the film industry and from American ‘gangster’ and low life.

In some ways it appears that the recent ‘American influence has done something to revitalise British English, especially in vivid metaphor. But vivid expressions used in mere stereotypes phrases may seem an impoverishment rather than enrichment of speech. Superfluous use of American expressions in British journals shows the weakness or disadvantage of the cheaper American influences because the British English was wel provided with appropriate words. But journalism is a special profession which has been Practised on a vaster scale in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Mr Churchill with his talent for simple beauty of phrase has shown at one and the same time the influence of American English and of Shakespeare by beginning a speech with the words “Before the fall of the autumn leaves.”

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