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Language barrier - American English

I know there have been other threads on language barriers but specifically I’ve been thinking about how American English has become the standard International English used by people who don’t have English as their native tongue. Even though I am a British English speaker, I often find myself translating in to American English when talking to or messaging non-British guests in an effort to avoid confusion. But even since using this forum (a couple of weeks) I’ve learnt (learned) a few new things that I didn’t know before. Here’s a couple of examples:

It seems that Americans use “inquiry” when referring to either an inquest or a question. While in British English we still make the distinction between inquiry and enquiry. So, specifically in the context of Airbnb, we receive an enquiry not an inquiry.

I’ve discovered that a pillow case in America is a sham!

I’ve even found myself using the word “vacation”. And “right now” is rapidly nudging “at the moment” aside. It’s cultural imperialism I tell you!! :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:


No a pillow case and a sham are two different things. A sham has a different opening, on the back. A pillow case is open at the end. A sham is more decorative.


Oh! In that case (no pun intended) I’m not sure I’ve ever encountered a sham.


Here is a wayfair search which includes both bed pillows with cases, and shams with cases.


Oh, one of my favourite (note the ‘u’) subjects!

I’m English and have lived in the USA for over twenty years. People still don’t understand me. I have trained myself to say ‘vacation’ too.


In french it’s vacances


Hilarious…I laughed out loud about the sham!


It’s just not a word we use.

I think the grammatical/spelling differences are the hardest!

“The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.”
–James D. Nicoll


Quite so! And there are so many regional variations even within the (comparatively) tiny UK. A good example, the humble swede (vegetable known as rutabaga in the USA is know as turnip in Cornwall. Don’t ask me what we’d call the smaller white and purple thing that everyone else calls a turnip!


Even within places a couple of miles from each other. Yorkshire people endlessly conduct the breadcake/teacake debate :slight_smile:


I think theres also a form of international English. Im Dutch, I learned British English. But when I talk with non English speaking people I use a kind of telegram / basic English. Not a lot of people would understand me when I talk British or American English. And it is so convenient for me to use this basic English. Nobody cares about any mistakes I might make. :slight_smile:

Interesting. I too live in the UK and would never dream of using Americanisms rather than UK English on BnB or elsewhere when dealing with people whose first language isn’t English (far too confusing and complicated for my poor brain and in my view uncessary) .

I wouldn’t agree that US English is used by most as standard international English. (although it’s more likely to be used by foreign nationals who have attended US schools, come from South and Central America etc). Where are your guests coming from?

I’d say 50% of my guests are from countries where English isn’t their first language, they in the vast majority used UK English and It’s never caused any confusion.

My family don’t have English as a first language, live in various parts of the world and none of them use American English.

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Geddy3 – you lot have Babycham which is to real booze as a pillow case is to an American Sham!


:grinning: Maybe in the 70s and 80s. Come visit and I’ll take you to the cider farm just up the road. We’ll eat pasties first of course…

Well I’m sure glad I just looked up “pasties” and found another meaning than what I was hoping you didn’t mean…Lol!


Thanks for this perspective. Although I do feel that I’m hearing more and more Amercanisms amongst British people.

Aubergine/eggplant and spoilt/spoiled…I’m with @jaquo bring back the ‘U’!!


As BBC America says ‘Humour is funnier with the ‘u’’ :slight_smile:

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I’ve been looking for this ever since this topic started. The differences between American and English is something I once ranted about.

Here at this link.

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