Why Do Americans Think They Know English Better Than The English?


Photo by madstreetz.

I’ve been in the US three months. Although before coming here I’d heard about how many things Americans have made their own, I was startled to find how many more things are different.

This is really all in jest, but seriously? Someone please explain to me why a biscuit is called cookie? I have had to explain that there are different categories of hard (and sometimes soft) unleavened, sweet, baked products. And what’s with sidewalk? Walk on the pavement, please. And throw your garbage in the trash can? Throw your rubbish in the dustbin, please.

And why do youse call aluminium aluminum—like what is that? And then there’s eggplant and zucchini instead of aubergine and courgette, and apartments for flats, and trunk for boot, and the hilarious one: fanny pack for bumbag. Let me inform you all: never go to England and say fanny—it means vagina over there…not bum.

I’ve been working at the writing centre here, helping people improve their written assignments, and I say, “You need a full stop here.” And my client says, “What?” So I’m like, “A full stop. Okay, that’s not what you guys call it here…” I point. “This.” My client: “Oh, a period!” Really? And on top of that, you call speech marks quotation marks…youse need some kind of help.

But, if I’m honest, I really don’t mind all those colloquialisms, I just get annoyed by color favorite honor realize recognize. You guys say the ‘u’ doesn’t need to be there; it does, in English. And it tickles my chin when youse pronounce the ‘t’ in often, and I remember how people laughed when I ­specified the difference between sweaters, hoodies, jumpers, and cardigans; I can’t help it if youse are simple.

Then there’s how you guys find it funny that the English say maths, when it’s because we understand that there are numerous types of mathematics, then you all changed noughts and crosses to tic-tac-toe, which I really do not understand, and before I forget, youse don’t use the word ‘queue’!

Like I said, I jest, because the real issue here is how America has just simplified the language of the English but tell me I’m wrong, me who comes from England.

I understand how language works, and language is a beautiful thing, but please, Americans, stop telling me I’m wrong when I use s instead of z and put my ‘u’s in words that truly need them, and when I pronounce ‘z’ zed and not zee, and when I say bin, and when I say trousers and not pants because pants in English is one’s underwear. There are so many other, more complex ways youse have simplified English, like not having both centre and center and metre and meter as words (they mean different but related things in each case).

It’s hard being British in America; youse love my accent and not my language, but it’s okay, the Oxford Dictionary has defined American English as Simplified English, so that’s that.


PS: Let me tell you how sad it was writing this—Microsoft Word set to American English spellcheck does not recognize so much of my English.

PPS: The English don’t use ‘youse’ so much the way you guys use ‘ya’ll’, I was just doing that to annoy youse.


Tolu Adeyeye is a first year fiction writer at Virginia Tech. She is the fiction editor for the minnesota review.


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