Re: American English to British English

Subject: Re: American English to British English
From: Sandy Harris <sandy -at- storm -dot- ca>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2001 14:54:00 -0400

Sybille Sterk wrote:

> Are there any guidelines on how to convert a document with British English
> spelling to American English? It's probably not enough to just use the
> spell checker? Is there anything else I need to change?

Others have made some good suggestions. Here's what I can think of beyond those.

(I'm a Canadian who spent some years teaching English overseas, mostly for British
organisations with a few Aussies and Canucks in a mainly British staff. These topics
were discussed in great detail. I also lived in the UK for 18 months.)

There are vocabulary differences, especially for various bits of machinery.

tube valve
elevator lift
sedan saloon
convertible roadster
station wagon estate car
truck lorry
parts of a car:
hood bonnet
trunk boot
convertible top hood (guaranteed to confuse Americans)
windshield windscreen
phone calls:
Fred called Fred rang

Depending on the topic of your document, these might matter a great deal
or not at all.

There are also some terms where Brits often use a genericised brand name,
e.g. tannoy for loudspeaker or hoover for vacuum cleaner.

My favourite Britishism is "sleeping policeman" for what we call a "speed
bump". That deserves adoption everywhere.

There are also syntactic differences, generally involving "colonial lag",
forms surviving on North America that have been dropped in the UK.

Most (all?) North American dialects have "gotten"; most Brits use "got" as
the participle.

Some subjunctives are lost in British English. I nearly fell over when I
first encountered this. "You had a call from Fred. He suggested that you
rang him back", from a university graduate working as an English teacher.
I would have to use "ring" in place of "rang" there. British colleagues
assuered me "rang" is perfectly acceptable to them.

Another example: North America" "I recommend that he be fired", but British
"I recommend that he is fired".

I think to get the conversion right, you'll need an editing pass. Change
anything that sounds odd.


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American English to British English: From: Sybille Sterk

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