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Posted on3 April 2013

Britspeak – is it your cup of tea?

While the Brits get ready for the Easter break, many Americans, on the other hand, will be gearing themselves up for spring break… just one example of the various differences between British and American English – Britspeak!

The man to whom we owe the progression of these differences is Noah Webster, who played a key role in channelling American English off on its own course after he published the first dictionary of American English following the Declaration of Independence. In an attempt to stimulate the development of a defined and separate language for a new, budding nation, Webster also sought to simplify spellings of the English language, which he judged to be illogically complicated, so that they made more sense phonetically. He even wanted to change women to “wimmen” and tongue to “tung”, but neither were implemented (cue a sigh of relief from the Brits).

Although here in Blighty that dreaded ‘z’ replacing an ‘s’, or the dropping of a ‘u’ for reasons which seem unfathomable to us can really get our goat, it’s interesting to observe that not only do we still employ a wide range of Americanisms, some terms currently regarded as typically American (for example, ‘candy’ and ‘diaper’) actually have their roots in British English but simply fell off the radar by the early 1900s when their usage in Britain gradually decreased.

However, it would also seem that linguistic waves are travelling the other way across the Atlantic, where numerous “Britishisms” are sneaking their way into the media and everyday speech in America. ‘Chat up’, ‘cheeky’ and ‘sell-by date’ are just some of the British terms which have enjoyed a more widespread use in American English in recent years, as well as ‘ginger’ to describe someone with red hair. Although a word which may appear firmly entrenched in British English, this didn’t truly take off in America until Harry Potter first hit the shelves in 1998. In fact, it is claimed that many popular British TV shows such as Top Gear, Doctor Who, and Downton Abbey are contributing to this phenomena of ‘Britishisation’, hints of which have even been picked up in a speech made by President Obama.

If you’re trying to target either the American or British market, it’s paramount that you tailor your material accordingly. Even though there is evidence to show that terms are becoming increasingly interchangeable between British and American English, adapting to those subtle differences between the two could be key in ensuring that you reach the correct audience effectively.

Here at Atlas Translations we offer Anglicisation and Americanisation services to meet all of your needs. If this is something that you feel that you or your business could benefit from, please feel free to get in touch with Atlas Translations on +44 (0)1727 812725 or email for more information or a free, no obligation quote!

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