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Note 215 – A little bit of history about British and American English

The different dialects used in America and and United Kingdom are sometimes known American English and British English.  Peter Strevens, professor of phonetics since 1949 and author of British and American English, wrote: “British and American are seen as ‘families’ of varieties of common language, different, yet having equal merit”.

A few examples of differences include:

  • punctuation (where there are different rules on whether the comma or full stop goes before or after the speech marks)
  • spelling (colour v color and italicise v italicize)
  • date formatting (15/9/11 v 9/15/11).

Wikipedia explains that an attempt was made by Noah Webster to formalise the language by writing the first American dictionary of English Language in 1828.  This was mainly to convey to readers that the US spoke a different dialect or regional accent from Britain, but Peter Strevens view was that the proposal of standardisation was to state their preferred alternative to British English. 

My thoughts:  So was it Noah Webster that decided that criticise would have a ‘z’ instead of an ‘s’ in American English and humour would have no ‘u’?  And who decided that the date format would be different? 

As George Bernard Shaw once said, the US and UK are “two countries divided by a common language” (source Wikipedia).

Hope you enjoyed today’s blog.

Until tomorrow…

Freelance writer
(For information on my services as a freelance writer as well as details of my book and other blogs).

This blog post forms part of My Writing Challenge.
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About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer



  1. Pingback: Note 218 – How the Merriam-Webster Company was formed « My writing challenge - December 4, 2011

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