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

4.0 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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  • Divided by a Common Language: A Guide to British and American English
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Product details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Company; Reprint edition (26 Sept. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618911626
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618911622
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 612,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

CHRISTOPHER DAVIES was born and raised in England and spent several years living in Australia and New Zealand. In 1980 he settled in Florida. The many unfamiliar expressions and pronunciations that he encountered in American English led him to write Divided by a Common Language.


Customer Reviews

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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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