Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Although I was born in and live in America I still enjoy the British version of English and this tends to show through sometimes. Perhaps the five years I enjoyed England whilst in the USAF has something to do with this.

For example, words that end with "-ward" in the US tend to be "-wards" in the UK, like backwards, afterwards, forwards, inwards, outwards, downwards, upwards, etc.

Then there are words like dreamt vs. dreamed, and leapt vs. leaped. For some reason I have no problem switching from "dreamt" to "dreamed," but I cannot stand the idea of using "leaped." In the end I used "dreamed" and "leapt" – sometimes either is okay as long as the text is consistent. But I might change my mind about this...

Now take burnt vs. burned. There's an argument that says "burnt" is an adjective whereas "burned" is a verb, so you might say "the burnt house" and "the house burned."

Another funny one is crept vs. creeped. You can say "creep into a tent" or "he crept into the tent" but "creeped" is normally reserved for "he creeped me out" (a different meaning altogether).

It seems like Americans just stick "-ed" on the end of everything, like spelt vs. spelled. But then along comes the word "dived" which is used primarily in the UK and is laughed at in the US. Just to be awkward the US uses "dove."

Moving on to might vs. may, many think "may" is preferable. You can say "I may go to the party" or "I might go to the party," and some will say that "may" is more correct, and that "might" is used in past tense such as "I might have gone to the party if I had known about it." So why do I use "might" far more often? I don't know if this is a British vs. American thing, or just me. In any case I decided to leave all my uses of "might" and my occasional uses of "may" – a guy could drive himself mad worrying about this stuff!

When I was at school, the plural of "hoof" was always "hooves." But the plural of "roof" is not "rooves," it's "roofs." So why can't I use "hoofs" instead? Turns out I can, according to both my American AND British dictionaries. Who knew? Not me, apparently. It's funny what you learn and then have to unlearn.

In England it's "storey/storeys" when referring to floors of a building, and "story/stories" for tales. In America it's just "story/stories" for both. I kind of miss the "-ey" ending. (Just as an aside, in England the lowest level of a four-storey building is the ground floor, with first, second and third above. In America, a four-story building's lowest level is the first floor, with second, third and fourth above. There's a four-story building in my book and I removed the bit where it said they "entered the first floor" as that might confuse British folks!)

Some say that "anymore" is better than "any more" but "any time" is better than "anytime." To be safe, I've just stuck with "any more" and "any time."

Switching to a different subject, I wondered what dragon groupings are called. You know how you have a herd of elephants and a litter of kittens? Many of these grouping names are shared, for instance you can also have a herd of horses and a litter of puppies. But I was surprised to realize that, in addition to a flock of birds and a flock of sheep, you can also have a flock of elephants as well as a herd of sheep! I wasted many minutes on the internet looking up this stuff. Grr!

But what about dragons? There are no such things (no, really, they're make-believe), but I guess they're fairly close to alligators, so I used alligators as a starting point. So we have a bull (male), a cow (female), and a hatchling (young 'un). You can have a congregation or bask of alligators, so I guess that works for dragons too... only I would love to use a fleet of dragons, thinking I'd heard that term before. But it turns out I can't find much about a fleet of dragons anywhere, so maybe I dreamed/dreamt it!

There is a a phrase, "cute as a button." that I was once told should be "bright as a button." Well, it turns out that both phrases are fine, but "cute" is American while "bright" is British:

"Cute as a button" – as in the button quail, a small, gray and super fluffy bird.

"Bright as a button" – the British version of "cute as a button" which means "cute, charming, attractive, almost always with the connotation of being small."

This stuff could rattle around in your head for years to come. Sorry...

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