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Divided by a Common Language: A British/American Dictionary Paperback – Jan 1998


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Paperback, Jan 1998
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin (Jan. 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0966094573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0966094572
  • Product Dimensions: 24.8 x 14.1 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,944,805 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Growing up in England I watched television from America, read the National Geographic and thought I was fully conversant with American English. I was surprised to find that upon arriving in the USA I was barely understood by the staff at the counter. Cultural differences assaied me and without the help of a dear friend who had spent much of her adult life in the US I would have not have mastered the learning curve of surviving in America quite so easily.

I have endeavoured to save fellow Brits the indignity of asking the most rudimentary of questions as to the meaning of words such as: ornery, check mark and skycap. Many may feel that learning the differences in cuture and speech when arriving in America is all part of the travel experience. I think the savvy traveller needs to be ahead of the game and know when and how much to tip, the names of the coins and most importantly the faux pas' that one can make that get you noticed, but for the wrong reason.

I hope that readers of this book will get a chuckle from time to time and also question the origin of words and expresions they use without thinking.

Product Description

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 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.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 Dec. 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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 Nov. 2000
Format: Paperback
I recently came back from a trip to Australia. Not only was this book invaluable for everyday communication, but the section on Australian slang saved me from being totally lost when talking to Aussies. A must for any traveler to a country where British English is spoken. The comprehensive list of word comparisons make this a serious reference book, but the expressions and idioms are what make this book fun to read! Explanations on acronyms such as ZIP code and Amtrak, as well as unraveling the mystery as to why Americans drive on the right and Brits on the left make this a great book for resolving disputes. My only criticism is that I would have liked to have seen a few more of the humorous illustrations which help to lighten up the book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 July 1998
Format: Paperback
I stumbled upon this book by accident. I don't believe the author meant this as an entertaining book, but a serious reference source for British and American travelers. Just by scanning the pages you can see how misunderstandings can occur even though we are speaking the same language. The example of "Keep your pecker up" in Brit is the same as "Keep smiling" on this side of the pond could certainly lead to some bizarre encounters. The author limits the work to common and current phrases, which makes the book manageable. Who would have know that Americans in Britain should wear a "Bum Bag" instead of a "Fanny Pack". As with any travel its good to know the language, even if you already think know it. Divided by a Common Language is a must for any Anglophile. Tom Wilson Tampa, FL
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By PD on 16 Aug. 2010
Format: Paperback
An interesting read but nothing ground breaking. Like so many of these books they talk about Britain and British English as though time has stood still. Too many (if not all) of the examples appear to date from the 1920s. When you read it there is a strange feeling as though you're watching a pre-war black and white film with a lot of received pronunciation. If it's free to read then read it but otherwise don't waste your money.
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