Ramona Marks



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Bangs vs. Fringe, Pants vs. Trousers

Ack! English is a group of languages. There truly are many kinds of English. Beyond the obvious British vs. American English, it turns out that Canadians are somewhere in between. Australians have an incredible range of idiomatic expressions and slang words whose meaning is mysterious to other English speakers. And unless you've bumped up against these difference through travel, you probably have no idea that they exist.

I have one regular client in the UK and he has requested that I use British English spelling and "no Americanisms". I do my best to avoid "Americanisms" but I'm sure some slip by. How do I know if it sounds particularly American?

Spelling is easy, thanks to the availability of country specific dictionaries in the spell checker. Recognize becomes recognise. Organization becomes organisation. Center becomes centre. 

My favorite lessons in the variety of English include a couple of doozies; the use of a word in one country will illicit laughs in another. For example, in the US, 'bangs' refers to the hair on your head that is shorter, falling towards the eyes, covering the forehead. In the UK, it's the third person singular slang for getting laid. Brits use the word 'fringe' for the hair covering the forehead.

Thong may be a kind of underwear in the US, but in the rest of the world they're shoes. Flip-flops. If you're in Australia and someone asks if you've got thongs, try to think of footwear.

And what will someone in the UK think of when you say 'pants'? Pants is short for underpants and never a replacement for trousers. If you're in the UK and you say you're not wearing any pants, it means you're going commando. Which is probably an Americanism.