Re: US style in Europe (was Punctuation tips (not that you need t hem!))

Subject: Re: US style in Europe (was Punctuation tips (not that you need t hem!))
From: Bob Gembey <bob -at- SUPERNOVA -dot- NL>
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 1999 12:48:00 +0200

Boy, this response gives me a lot to talk about. Anybody who's sick of
this thread should therefore just hit "delete" now.

<<It is important to distinguish British audiences from European ones.
Europeans used to learn English as second or third language; they learned
from us Brits. Now, many Europeans no longer learn English but instead
learn American, from American sources (direct or indirect).>>

Well, my British mother always used to correct people in America who said
she came from Europe, by saying "I'm not from Europe, I'm from Great
Britain, an island on the coast of Europe." I suspect that many English,
today, such as Dame Thatcher, feel the same way. But seriously, folks, my
children, at school in The Netherlands, are being taught British English,
which does not present them with a problem at home, but does at school,
where they are consistently being marked wrong for Americanisms. But, I
suspect that this, too, is just a case of the many Anglophile teachers
reacting to the constant flow of American culture in the Dutch media. I
must tell you, though, that I do have strong objections to my children
learning that the meal we serve in the evening is called "tea" -- to my
knowledge, a usage only common what the English call the North.

<<British audiences still learn English from native Britons. Many of them
unfortunately go on to bastardise their native tongue by absorbing

Once again, I must quote my dear mother, who used to say that English was a
bastard language, born of the (French) Norman conquest of the Angle-Saxons.
Long live Robin Hood and Ivanhoe!!!

<<I believe any British audience making a reasonably
informed choice would opt for the genuine article, i.e. English as she is
spoke in the land of the language's invention.>>

I do sincerely take offense at the suggestion that to say that the English
spoken in America is not genuine. But then again, I suppose at least one
of the dialects presently spoken in the British Isles might qualify as
such. On the other hand, many of the usages that were once common among
speakers in England, that later disappeared from the language, came back to
Britain thanks to their maintenance in the US. This sort of thing is true
for a number of languages -- Mexican Spanish maintains many structures
which seem old-fashioned to those in Spain, for example. A case in point
is a phrase like "that was pretty close." The use of "pretty" in this
sense, had pretty much (!) faded out of British usage -- it was quite
common up until about the time of Alexander Pope -- (it is a Germanism, as
the use of "pretty" in this sense is identical to the use of "schoen" in
German and "schoon" in Dutch). It is, though, commonly used in the US,
more so, perhaps, in the South and West than in the North.

<<In years to come, I would not be surprised if some European countries
American English as their sole frame of reference for using and learning
language. In such circumstances it would make little sense to write
for those audiences in anything other than US English. But this is not
likely to happen in Britain in anything like the foreseeable future.>>

To end this missive on an On-Topic note (finally!), I agree -- write for
your audience. If you are directing to an American audience, write in US
English, and to the rest of the native English speaking world, probably
British English is the safest bet (I assume that the Aussies and South
Africans, etc., prefer British English -- I'd like to hear from them on
that, and I wonder what the Canadians prefer). As for the non-native
speakers, well, if you can't afford to localize into their own language, I
would guess you can't afford to make a British version. From a
cost-benefit point of view, if I can only afford to make 3 versions of my
documentation, I would choose for the original English (in whatever market
I was targetting), followed by French or German (or perhaps Spanish,
depending on my other target markets). I think that neither the British
nor Americans would have as great a problem with the other's language, as
the French or Germans would.

From ??? -at- ??? Sun Jan 00 00:00:00 0000=

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