Ya Gotta Love American English

I’m kinda goin’ out on a limb here, but I’d say all English-speaking countries have their regional dialects and idiomatic expressions that are peculiar to a certain part of the country.  For anyone out there who has ever taught English to non-native English speakers, that’s obvious.  Just sayin’.

But I’m not sure if as many countries just change the language by creating new words like the Americans do.  In one of my graduate level linguistic courses, my professor summed it up in a nice, neat little package.  “Americans are linguistically lazy.”  Wow.  Being physically lazy is bad enough.  But to be physically and linguistically lazy? Idk.

Caveat:  I have spent most of my life living in the suburbs and more rural areas of southern New York State. I lived for 4 years in Ohio in college, and certainly there were different idiomatic expressions and accents there.  But bear my Hudson Valley New York perspective in mind as I wax eloquent on fake new words.  And just in case I was doing it right now, I looked up “wax eloquent vs. wax eloquently” and wax eloquent won.

segovia-Catedral-Alcazar-cPhoto: http://www.spain.com

In 1974, I lived and studied in Segovia, Spain while completing undergraduate work for my college degree in Romance Languages.  Part-time, I taught English to some of the employees of local stores and restaurants.  On the first day of class, a girl asked me what “djeet” meant.  She wrote it down for me.  I told her it isn’t a word in English.  A few others said that yes, it is.  We went back and forth while I was trying to figure out what language they were talking about. Perhaps Egyptian? Or Russian? How could I guess when I knew nothing about languages other than English and some of the Romance languages.  Then it dawned on me.  “Djeet” is actually four separate words in English that become one in American English.  See for yourself.

Person A:  Djeet lunch yet?

Person B:  Nah I don’t wanna. I’m gonna later.

Person A: Well I’m kinda hungry so I’m gonna eat now.

Can you imagine explaining that one?  “Oh, they are saying “did you eat yet.” Djeet.  They looked at me like I had sprouted wings. Then they all practiced.  I was like no no no you don’t wanna learn to speak like that.  They asked why? Ummmm….just ‘cuz.

On my first day living with my Spanish family, the mother of the family said that they knew 2 words in American English.  “Yeeeeeeeeeees” and “nooooooooo.”  Oh, man, I never thought about the fact that we draw those two words out for a looooooong time. I don’t think they do that in the U.K.  I think they probably clip the words to the correct length with “yes” and “no.”  If the above isn’t proof enough, it was common to see “Se Habla Inglés” and “Se Habla Americano” signs in the same shop windows.  Geesh.

se-habla-ingles-sign

Frequently we don’t even say yeeeees and noooooo.  Yeah and nah.  Jeez, even writing them down here is making me cringe.  Nope, I don’t say “nah” but I do say “yeah.”  Yup, that’s right.  I do.

A difference, obviously, is if one is writing formally or informally.  Formally, we would write “I want to go to the cafeteria.  Do you want to go with me?”  But if someone actually said the words aloud like that, it would turn heads. Informally, want to and going to become wanna and gonna.  Or wunna and gunna, depending where in the United States you live.  Which causes a problem for students because thanks to social media sites such as Twitter, abbreviating words is a plus.  Which then carries over to formal writing.  “R they gonna have a civil war in country X?  Idk.  But history teaches us…..” and on and on.  🙂

Do you guys in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the Bahamas and other English-speaking countries change words?  american english vs british english

About Barb Knowles

The things that are important to me are family, friends, teaching, writing, languages and using my sense of humor to navigate this crazy world. Please join me on this blogging adventure...
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60 Responses to Ya Gotta Love American English

  1. George says:

    I have come across that too
    many times here in our country. I have the most difficulty when I travel in be southern states. Sometimes I have to pause for a moment and slow down the words to translate. Other times different parts of the country use different words to say the same thing. I know some countries have dialects that are so different the north can’t understand what the south is saying. Oh wait…I know that all too well…:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I’ve mentioned this before, but there is a show and I can’t remember the name of it, that is a reality show set in Louisiana. When the “old-timers” speak, closed -captioning comes on. But I think the fact that we completely change words is more unique than our pronunciation or word usage.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ireland? Yes! We most certainly do. For exanple, I thought djeet meant what we use an insult ‘eejit’ which is really a form of ‘idiot’. Many more just like it! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Paul says:

    I’m just gonna throw some words/phrases out there and you let me know if you know what they mean.

    Eavestrough
    Double Double
    Two-Four
    Toque
    All-dressed
    Chesterfield
    Pencil Crayon
    Zed
    Toonie

    Liked by 1 person

    • tj6james6 says:

      Paul: Snort!
      Eavestrough, if this isn’t that thing that catches water off the roof and routes it to the ground instead of having it rain down on us then I don’t know what it is.
      Double Double 2 cream, 2 sugar in your TIMMIES! Or coffee, or tea
      Two-Four…2-4. a case of 24 beers
      Toque…definition wise is a small hat with a small brim or none at all. Here in Canada it’s a winter hat! Usually wool and knitted. I could have sworn it was spelled tougue but the spell checker and the dictionary are telling me it isn’t. Huh.
      All-dressed…chips which have everything but the kitchen sink seasoning them
      Chesterfield..derived from the British word. Couch in modern jargon.
      Pencil Crayon…I just learned over the Christmas break that American’s don’t know colored pencils as pencil crayons. *shrug. Goooooooooooooo figure.*
      Zed…the last letter of the English alphabet.
      Toonie…Two dollar coin, twice the worth of a Loonie.

      Thanks for the laugh :).

      Liked by 3 people

      • Barb Knowles says:

        So I guess I was wrong! Here, eavesdrop means to secretly listen in on others conversations. I’ve always assumed it is derived from dropping over the actual eaves to listen-in back in the day. We call the trough thing gutters. And I did know that zed was the last letter of the alphabet now that you mention it. But not here. We say zee.
        Thanks for this! Hysterical how different these are.

        Liked by 1 person

      • tj6james6 says:

        I know :). I’m American born, Canadian raised from the age of almost 9 (age was a big deal way back then.)
        Lol, your version of eavesdropping over the eavestrough is hilarious!
        I do beta/edit work for fanfiction authors and my spell checker goes nuts over the differences in spelling sometimes!
        Things like color vs colour, neighbor vs neighbour…pretty much any word where the u follows an o in Canadian/British English, the Americans removed it after their emancipation from England.
        There are other differences, too, I just can’t think of many off the top of my head at 8:00 am on a Sunday morning! Oooohhhhh, other than we, at least in Ontario, have more French inspired words since our second official language is French (not that Canadian and France French are that closely related)
        The zee vs zed controversy sometimes has me rolling on the floor. I always ask them, Canadians, if that call that black and white striped, horse like animal a zedbra! They don’t, they call it a zehbra! *snort*
        Even though I did most of my schooling here, and still get teased for it, I still call it zee 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        Both zehbra and zedbra are hysterical. I never realized how many words we use that derive from French as well until I started teaching ENL. The kids will ask me about words like armoire, which is armario in Spanish. I can’t think of the other ones off the top of my head. I’m blaming 8:00 for that as well ha. I’ve said a kazillion times “Oh that’s because we use the French word in English.” They ask why don’t we use the English word in English. Some of the others will pop in my head once I’ve finished my coffee.

        Like

      • tj6james6 says:

        What a lot of ESL students don’t understand, a lot of native speakers don’t understand it either, is English is not an original language (Latin is an original language, lol) so it needs to take its words from somewhere.
        All words are derived from somewhere whether it’s Latin, Greek (which I would love to learn), Arabic, Yiddish or some other equally impossible language :D.
        In a nutshell English is the bastardized words (Oooooooooooozzzzzz, side note which I learned just recently. Words like bastardized are North American while bastardised is the British form!) of all the other languages.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        And now you’ve brought up the z and s difference! Yes to the languages based on the Roman Latin. Here we say Romance Languages, which has nothing to do with romance and is a bastardization of Romans. We could go on and on. And in the US, we have a lot of words that are Spanish, and some from the native languages of North and South America. Phew!

        Like

      • tj6james6 says:

        It is a lot, I agree.
        I always wondered why they were called Romance languages when I don’t consider French a romantic language at all. But that could have something to do with the version of French I was forced to learn. Canadian French is NOT France French just like New Orleans French (Cajun) is not France French. It’s bastardized as a minimum.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        Romance is definitely supposed to be Romans. For example (while I took French in college I’m very weak in it so I don’t know how the French say this), Spanish is “un idioma, or lenguage, romano.’ I never understood the Romance part either, until I learned that we changed that too. While I find this conversation fascinating, we’ve strayed waaaaay far from the funny part of this thread.

        Like

      • tj6james6 says:

        Lol, I know, but it was still interesting which I generally what keeps me coming back, although humour is definitely up there too.

        Like

      • Barb Knowles says:

        Yeus, yeus iut ius. Now I’m going to add “u” to lots of things. ha

        Like

      • Barb Knowles says:

        I’m on your blog now, which I have been following for a while. Thanks to your review, I’ve put Vampire Miami on my to-read list. Am I being an eejit (ha)? I can’t find the comments section. Help!

        Like

      • tj6james6 says:

        Lol, okay, I will look in a minute. Some times WP will be a pain and untick the comments box even though I know it is ticked when I hit post.

        Liked by 1 person

      • tj6james6 says:

        The comments and pingbacks were unticked, thanx, it’s fixed now. At least it should be.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        I’ll check in a minute. I’m glad I asked!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Eaves dropping…people stood under the eaves at the windows to listen in, with the rain dripping on them as back-in-the-day there were no gutters…

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        To talk seriously about this for a minute, it’s interesting how the effects of colonization trickle over into language. I don’t know why we dropped the “u” here. And always wonder if you pronounce the ‘u” or if it is silent. In Latin American Spanish, they dropped the vosotros form of verbs because it was connected to the more formal Castellano. But that doesn’t make sense to me, because usted is a shortened, bastardization of Vuestra Merced, which was a way to address royalty in the court and church. “Your grace or your honor.” So you would think (or one would think, in England) that they would have dropped that form and not vosotros. Oh well. Language geek I am.

        Like

      • tj6james6 says:

        More of a geek than me, lol, since I didn’t understand most of that :D.
        I can tell you that we do NOT pronounce the ‘u’ in colour, neighbour, etc., it’s pronounced the same as the American version.
        I’m not 100% positive but I believe the powers that be dropped the ‘u’ after the Colonies won the Revolutionary War and their independence from the British colonies. It was one of many ways they said eff you to England without being so crass.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Barb Knowles says:

        Haha I go on and on about languages, and I am probably wrong about some of the details. I had a many year break between undergraduate and graduate work. If I had started graduate work later (which I needed for my teaching certification) I would have continued on to a doctorate in linguistics. To time consuming and I really wanted to do that because I’m obsessed and would have found the course work interesting. Your editor job sounds fascinating.

        Liked by 1 person

      • tj6james6 says:

        It can be, depending on how well they know the English language and what their relationships with a dictionary and thesaurus are like. Oh, and Grammarly.
        Unfortunately it’s work I do for free because it’s something I enjoy.
        My money job is factory work *shrug*. It pays the bills and lets me do other things I do enjoy more.
        I haven’t had time to peruse your site recently, do you have a section where you teach us about linguistics?
        I’ve always enjoyed learning and loved English in school. I think that was more because I got to read, in class a lot of the time, than because of any interest in the intricacies but the older I get the more I do want to learn about stuff like that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Barb Knowles says:

        English and history were my favorite courses. Speaking of that word, why don’t we in the US spell it corses? And thanks for checking out my blog. I don’t have a section about linguistics, because I am far from a expert. I just think that word origins, including in English where we have the Saxon words, are wildly interesting. It’s a thought though, thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

      • tj6james6 says:

        Quite welcome.
        I’ve always wondered why we didn’t just spell things phonetically. Remember when they used to tell us to sound it out?
        Words like pneumonia, psychology, psychiatrist and a very, very long list of others, just can not be sounded out and spelled correctly.
        My boyfriend has a story from his school days.
        He was still in grammar school: they went back after Christmas break and one of their assignments was to write about what they did during the break.
        He asked the teacher how to spell pneumonia (grade 3 I think) and, naturally she told him to look it up.
        Needless to say that paper did not get a good mark because she neglected to tell him that the word started with a ‘p’ when she told him to look it up. He was livid when he learned that. When she asked him why he wanted to know in the first place she told him he could have just said he had the flu.
        I laugh about it but he was really angry since she could have just told him that in the first place.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      Ummmmm…..let’s see. Eavestrough must be our eavesdrop. Two-four=soon? Pencil crayon=colored pencil? Toonie=cartoon? Chesterfield is a brand of cigarettes and maybe a raincoat? Are you sure we both speak English? I haven’t a clue as to the others. You have to provide the Canadian dictionary.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Bea dM says:

    The hamburger clip is hilarious!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh yes! In Singapore we have Singlish and we get pretty good at bastardising English that only Singlish native speakers can understand. It’s a language on its own and STILL English. It’s hilarious! Like “makaning” which means eating. Or calling someone idiot and we go dumb-dumb. Heee..heee.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m an American living in the UK for the last 15 years. What you describe definitely happens here. Two come immediately to mind…

    Tintintin- It isn’t in the tin.
    Ouat (to my American ear it sounds like oat) somehow this means “anything”.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Sorry! I meant to say it happens here in the UK. The examples are UK pronunciations.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Val says:

    I’m a Brit living in Wales, UK. This is what I ask my husband on alternate nights (as we take turns with the cooking): “wojawonf’suppa?” To which he might reply (as a fellow Brit) “uh? I d’no.”

    Your post made me laugh (and wince a bit!). It’s not so much changing words as running them into each other in the speed-speaking way that we all have in our own language.A hell of a lot of American English has made it’s way across to us, and – probably from us over to you, also.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Barb Knowles says:

      I LOVE wojawonf’suppa and immediately knew what it was. This is great! And I’m very happy that you took the time to read and comment on this. Here is our conversation. Ready?
      “Djeet?”
      Nah
      “Wojawonf’suppa?
      I d’no.

      Perfect

      Liked by 2 people

  9. “It’s a thoght, thogh.” LOL

    Liked by 1 person

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