Monday, August 23, 2010

Born in the USA, part 4

I have one particularly pedantic British friend. We jokingly joust over the nuances of the British English vs American English usage of the language; whether license should instead have two c's, if "vitamins" is pronounced like "vitriol" or "vitality," or what the correct plural of "octopus" is (it's octopodes).
But on the train, headed north toward Berwick-upon-Tweed, I overhear more of the very British butcherings of the English language.
"Nah, it's much more better than the other time..." a girl says.
A male voice: "...daunt do pez," which I learn - upon discovering he is playing a card game with his acquaintance - was meant to be "don't do pairs."
The kindly bus driver who tried to direct me to the rail station shortly after I moved to the UK, whose reference to some kind of "hatchwye" turned out to be a directive to walk under the "archway."
Americans are rightly to be blamed for "y'all," but the British are hardly innocent.

3 comments:

  1. I enjoy how English is a changeable language which evolves and doesn't just have a single correct way of operation (though I'd certainly agree that there are some incorrect ways).

    Octopodes is a fun thing for us pedants to remember, but it is not the correct plural. The OED, which is about as proper as you can get, at least in the UK, says:

    "Plural octopuses, octopi, (rare) octopodes"

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  2. Paul - I agree, it's mostly an exercise left to the pedant, but lately I've trusted the Oxford English Dictionary less and less (especially if it's the resource the "writers" over at the BBC webpage are using!). I'm even less inclined if they list "octopi" as a correct plural for octopus; the etymology of the word is Greek, meaning that a Latin plural is inappropriate. ;-)

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  3. yeah, fair enough! You might prefer Chambers dictionaries for UK English. They explicitly say "octopi is wrong"! ;-)

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