US and UK use of English

One regular source of entertainment throughout the project has been the differences between American and British uses of the English language. Complete mis-understandings were rare: confusion and/or lack of comprehension were more common! Whilst these differences occur in both written and spoken English, they are more fun when they happen face to face during videoconferencing sessions.

Some differences can be seen to have dialect origins. Others can occur because a once common use dies out in one country but not in another.


Here are a few examples...

word (US) to describe a colleague
word (US) simply means an exciting/dynamic/interesting discussion
(UK) implies that the discussion was heated and that disagreements were vividly expressed
word (US) school break time
(UK) a break in Parliamentary or court proceedings
word (UK) a disorganised situation. No known US equivalent.
word (US) a teacher who deputises for other teachers (and not, as was assumed in the UK, a tent of some sort!)
word (US) rear, as in 'the backside of the school' backside (UK) rear, as in part of anatomy used for sitting.
word Formats for dates. The differences in US and UK conventions caused some confusion in e-mail until everyone became aware of the problem. (Does 4/3 mean 3rd March or 4th April?)

Participants at Boston Spa and Washington Irving schools drew particular attention to spoken English differences in sentence structure and grammar. Not surprisingly, this was most noticeable when Washington Irving students used rap in their conversation.


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