That’s Not English

It’s entertaining, it’s charming, it’s informative, but…ultimately it’s disappointing. Every chapter shows great promise…and then it suddenly ends before that promise could be fulfilled.

That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us, by Erin Moore,  is a book for the modern age of short attention spans. Does everyone have ADD these days? Packing 31 chapters into a mere 215 pages, Moore uses linguistic differences to explain cultural differences between Britain and the U.S.  That’s a fine idea. You’ll learn 31 words and phrases, each of which appears to mean the same thing on both sides of the pond but actually turns out to have quite different meanings (in the American sense of “quite”); these words illustrate various aspects of British and American cultures. So far, so good — a great topic, and I learned something from each chapter. But then, as I said above, the chapter always ended before I had learned enough. Moore whets the appetite but never reaches the main course. Maybe that’s all she intended.

I don’t mean to sound negative. There are, of course, plenty of other books about this general subject, and Moore’s effort is a worthy addition to the collection. Look through the 31 words/phrases listed below and see how many of them you can confidently analyze by explaining the cultural differences between American and British usage. If you can already do that for 25 of them, don’t read the book. If you can’t, and if you don’t require depth, then read the book…but follow it up with further research.

  1. quite
  2. middle class
  3. moreish
  4. mufti
  5. gobsmacked
  6. trainers
  7. sorry
  8. toilet
  9. cheers
  10. knackered
  11. brolly
  12. bespoke
  13. fortnight
  14. clever
  15. ginger
  16. dude
  17. partner
  18. proper
  19. OK
  20. whinge
  21. bloody
  22. scrappy
  23. pull
  24. shall
  25. sir
  26. yankee
  27. skint
  28. crimbo
  29. tip
  30. tea
  31. way out


Categories: Books, Linguistics