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Divided by a Common Language: A Guide to British and American English Paperback – September 26, 2007


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Divided by a Common Language: A Guide to British and American English + Brit-Think, Ameri-Think: A Transatlantic Survival Guide, Revised Edition + The UK to USA Dictionary British English vs. American English
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Reprint edition (September 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618911626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618911622
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #825,496 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is a fascinating collection full of all kinds of surprises." (Minneapolis Star Tribune)

From the Author

Serious reference or humorous, yours to decide... Having grown up in England, I ventured forth at the aged 20 to visit relatives in New Zealand. How could I possibly know at that time that England was never going to be home again.... After seven years down under, I settled in the United States in 1980. Twenty years later I am still fascinated by American culture. The linguistic differences are enormous. The words "tailback" and "dustman", mean nothing to the average American and probably never will in the foreseeable future. Brits coming over on "holiday" still use the terms, "bathing costume", and "flannel", much to the amusement of Americans within earshot.

In this book, I have tried to cover every aspect of the differences between British and American English, from spelling differences to pronunciation differences; even comparing different idioms and expressions used on the other side of the pond. I hope you enjoy the book with all its intrinsic humor, but I think having read the book, you'll be just as fascinated as I am by the vast linguistic gulf that separates the two countries. By the way, did you know that Americans have not always driven on the right? The details are in the book. Christopher Davies (CDavies324@aol.com) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


More About the Author

I was born in the UK where I lived until the age of 20. I headed out to see the world and spent some time in New Zealand and Austalia before finding the shores of S.W. Florida in 1980. I have lived in Florida for 30 years now, and though I visit the UK regularly, I now consider it home. I recently was out in California where I saw the Stanford University campus where my father taught before he moved to London.

I became fascinated with the differences in English around the world, and in 1990 I started compiling a list of word comparisons. My research into South African English was done by proxy. I found several people who helped me with words and expressions used there along with some websites.

I found so many errors and archaic terms in almost all the British dictionaries I consulted when they referenced American terms (such as natatatorium and shooting iron) that I decided to go ahead and get a book out with modern comparisons such as GPS (US) to SatNav (UK) and DSL to ADSL etc. Words are slowly creeping across the Atlantic - I think Anderson Cooper is to blame for many of them! I'm a big fan of AC360.

Customer Reviews

Even Webster's is revised every few years!
Al the Pal
Most books give a good translation between British and American English, but this book goes into a little more detail on the oprigins and reasons for the differences.
Michael A. Smith
Despite this, I'd recommend this book for those curious about linguistic differences, or someone considering relocating from one side of the pond to the other.
Amazon Customer

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

42 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Victoria Tarrani on March 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
This is sheer enjoyment for readers, writers, editors, and crossword puzzle enthusiasts.
Christopher Davies has written a delightful dictionary that is comprised of:
* Two cross language lexicons
. UK-- Stone the crows! US -- Holy cow!
. US -- pumps (high heels); UK -- court shoes
* Cartoons that depict the US or UK interpretations in a humorous manner.
* Term classifications these explanations are lists of words and what they mean to each culture. "If an American asks you to crack a window, he wants you to open it slightly."
* Other variations which includes Canadian, Australian, South African terms and their American equivalent. A chip wagon is a van on the side of the road from which snacks are sold. However many Americans use colloquialisms such as lunch truck and roach coach, which are not listed in this dictionary.
* Words that have different meanings such as S.T.D. (US Sexually Transmitted Diseases and UK Subscriber Truck Dialling.)
* Idioms and expressions such as (UK) feel peckish (US) have the munchies.
* What not to say. "Bugger" is not polite in England; the UK phrase "give me a tinkle" should be replaced with "give me a call."
The chapters headings are: What happened to English in America; Tips for the Tourist; Practical Information; For the Technically Minded; Institutions and Services; Differences in Customs and Etiquette; Driving Terminology; Pronunciation; Spelling; Sundry Terms; What not to Say; Idioms and Expressions; UK-US Lexicon; US - UK Lexicon; Explanations; Notes on Symbols; Some Other Variations of English; Miscellaneous Information.
I love dictionaries. At 194 pages, Davies provides entertainment and information. It is a five star jaunt into words and meanings.
Victoria Tarrani
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38 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on March 24, 2004
Format: Paperback
I am an American and I have a very good friend from London. Recently my friend came to visit America, and while he was here I pulled out my copy of this book to see what he thought. While many of the terms were accurate, there were a significant number of entries that were outdated, completely off the mark, or close but not quite applied correctly. I handed my friend a red pen and he proceeded to rewrite some entries. He commented several times that the author "must have never been to England or spoken with actual English people" as there were so many phrases with inaccurate UK definitions or usages.
We did like the pronounciation comparison charts, though, and had a good time saying each of the words and comparing pronounciations. And making fun of the other person where necessary.
Overall I'd say, it's a good reference for an overall picture, but if you plan on incorporating any of the phrases into your vocabulary, have it checked by a native first.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 4, 1998
Format: Paperback
Taking his cue from George Bernard Shaw's, "England and America are two countries divided by a common language", Christopher Davies, of Great Britain, New Zealand, Australia and the U.S., has penned, "Divided By A Common Language" with the subtitle, "A British/American Dictionary Plus, published by Mayflower Press. Divided, there's that word again, into sixteen sections interspersed with humorous illustrations, Davies takes us an historical, as well as practical, journey, even pointing out the differences between American and British plumbing! In the vocabulary portions we find the U.S. word "diaper" translated into "nappy", (familiar to watchers of British TV, ie, telly, shows).The U.S. slang "shut up" becomes "belt up" in the U.K. The examples are numerous and sometimes funny, sometimes surprising. In the restaurant section I was intrigued with "spotted dick" which is a suet or sponge pudding with currants. Also "bubble & squeak" which is a fried mashed potatoes and veggies patty. The handsome red, white and blue cover sports the two countries' flags, tempting you to sample its contents. Do, you won't be disappointed. A must-read for transatlantic travellers plus those who just love words and their derivations. Davies has appeared on many television shows and his book has been showcased on nationwide PBS channels and featured in the British publication Union Jack. Buy it--you'll like it! I await, with anticipation, the sequel.
Iris Forrest, Editor Ageless Press, Sarasota, Florida
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 22, 2001
Format: Paperback
Any American who wants to get past what you can learn about British words and phrases in a dictionary will benefit from this book.
Divided by a Common Language helped me overcome long-term misunderstandings about what I had been reading in English books. Some British words have an ordinary meaning in American English that is quite different from their British meaning. For example, the British "marrow" is a "large zucchini." For decades, I have been expecting to find beef marrow on my plate in England because of that misreading. I also thought that the British "paraffin" meant a petroleum-based wax as it does in the U.S., whereas it means "kerosene" in the U.K. In reading about someone going for paraffin in novels, I have been wondering what on earth they were going to make with all that wax. If you read this book, you will probably find your own examples of where you thought you knew what was going on . . . but really didn't. I suggest that you start with the British/American Lexicon to learn the most words with the least effort.
The book also has a useful section on British and American phrases, that should help you avoid inadvertently saying what will be perceived as vulgarities across the pond. For example, refer to "retrieving and returning baseballs" rather than "shagging flies" (make your own guess as to what that means, but it isn't nice).
In the vein of the potential for humorous miscommunications, there are a number of cartoons that show what John Bull and Uncle Sam are thinking about when the same word or phrase is said. "My wife loves pot plants, Sam" conjures up John Bull thinking about potted flowers while Uncle Sam imagines a garden full of marijuana plants.
I found four weaknesses in the book that you should be aware of.
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