The information in this knowledge base can be browsed through via the list of contents on the terminology page. The sources of this information are British and American newspapers, magazines, novels, TV broadcasts, and contacts with native speakers. References to these sources can be found in the background information (notes). Other sources, such as dictionaries, style guides, and websites, have been listed in the bibliography.
terminology lists with British and American-English words
The terminology lists of the knowledge base contain approx. 5200 words that are typically British or American. But the lists are not complete yet. For one thing, they contain only a small number of examples of British and American colloquialisms and slang words. The same goes for the examples of typically British and American combinations of words (collocations). For a more comprehensive list of collocations, refer to John Algeo’s British or American English, 2006.
differences between British and American English
There is often a need to adapt and ‘translate’ British books for the American market. Moreover, some British TV shows, such as the acclaimed automobile program(me) Top Gear, have never been broadcast in the US because they are incomprehensible to Americans without subtitles. Most misunderstandings arise from the hundreds of words that exist on both sides of the language divide (same word), but whose meanings are different. Sometimes these meanings can actually be each other’s opposites.
use of British English by Americans
In the U.S., familiarity with typically British words will often come about through language- and literature classes at school and via film and TV. But in everyday speech, these words occur rarely or not at all, because they are felt to be too formal or quaint. However, in written American texts, British words are sometimes used for ‘literary’ effect (stilistic variation) or to give an exotic image to things. For example, ‘village’ for ‘small town’, ‘autumn’ for ‘fall’, ‘coffin’ for ‘casket’, ‘duvet’ for ‘comforter’, ‘trilby’ for ‘fedora’, ‘dressing gown’ for ‘bathrobe’, or ‘macintosh’ for ‘slicker’.
use of American English by Britons
British people are frequently exposed to ‘typically American’ words through TV, film, music, international commerce, etc. A number of Britons (the purists) regard American English as careless and sloppy. Others regard it as ‘cool’, direct and modern (plain language). This is especially the case in the world of media, entertainment, politics and commerce. For example, ‘movies’ for ‘film’, ‘awesome’ for ‘terrific’.
regional English and international English
British words that are actively used by Americans will be marked with an asterisk (*) in the terminology lists. This also goes for American words used by Britons. In addition, there are British or American-English words that are obsolete or obsolescent or that do not occur nationwide (regional).
For example, the word ‘soft drink’ has the following American-Englsih regional variants: soda, pop, coke, tonic. In the terminology lists, such regional and obsolete/obsolescent words are placed between parentheses. In the ‘notes’, the frequency and distribution of words is illustrated by quoting sample sentences with their source references.
review and update of the knowledge base
The database is continuously reviewed and updated. So comments and suggestions are always very welcome.