There are huge differences between US and UK English that many people are unaware of. Perhaps through the experience of using computer spellcheckers that favour US spellings – the default setting of machines using a Windows operating system and Office software – many writers and readers think that this mainly concerns spelling patterns. For instance consider the following general examples, of which these are just a few of many:
colour, favour, harbour, honour, mould, rigour
fulfil, instil, skilful, wilful
organise, recognise, symbolise
centre, fibre, spectre
color, favor, harbor, honor, mold, rigor
fulfill, instill, skillful, willful
organize, recognize, symbolize
center, fiber, specter
-our change to -or spellings
single ‘l’ is doubled
double ‘l’ made single
but both spelling styles used in the UK (especially OUP)
-re spellings become -er
Then there is a mixed, sundry collection (UK/US spellings) such as aluminium/aluminium, programme/program, sceptic/skeptic, and tyre/tire.
· fag (cigarette) is a derogatory term for a gay man
· homely means unattractive (do not say this to a woman unless you want a slapped face)
· keep your pecker up – no explanation needed here
· rubber is often used in America for a condom
· a tramp (homeless person) is used to describe a loose woman. A much safer word for a vagrant would be a hobo or bum.
These are just a few but Christopher Davies in Divided by a Common Language estimates that 4000 words in common use in Britain have a different meaning or use in the USA. For over three centuries many Europeans have settled in the USA: Danish, Dutch, English, French, German, Irish, Italian and Swedish to name just a few. In fact in some parts French or German were once widely spoken. It is therefore not surprising that American English has become such a melting pot of languages.
Stephen York is a freelance proofreader with over 25 years' experience in book and journal publishing offering proofreading services to publishers, businesses, organizations, educational institutions, academics, students, and authors. He regularly proofreads in digital format a wide variety of media in an extensive range of specialist subject areas, including business, finance, economics, education, marketing, and real estate.