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a light hearted look at linguistic differences across the Atlantic

Divided by a common language - a light hearted look at linguistic differences across the Atlantic

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Eventually, the pronunciation of the words themselves changed as people from different countries arrived here and learned English. Brand new words and expressions started to come into everyday use. After the revolutionary war it wasn't surprising that Americans liked the fact that their English was different from British English. Noah Webster chose spelling that was simpler and more phonetic in the first American dictionary, which was aptly named Webster's, and was published in 1828.

Since the industrial revolution, new technologies and inventions have occurred on both sides of the Atlantic - with Americans and the British creating new words for things. It made the differences even more distinct.

Misunderstandings Today

So, what happens when an American and an Englishman start talking, and think they are speaking the same language, but in fact, don't understand everything that is being said? It can lead to confusion, frustration, embarrassment and sometimes hilarity.

As a coach and intercultural specialist I work with people on both sides of the Atlantic and have learned to use British AND American words at the same time. For example: Car park - parking lot; handbag - purse; boot - trunk; lift - elevator; And I am also aware of different pronunciations of things including fillet, ballet and basil.

But even with years of exposure to both kinds of English I can still find myself coming a cropper, throwing a spanner in the works and getting into a real pickle! In business the consequences can be dear or costly.

In business In Britain, to table something means to bring it TO the table for discussion. In the USA it means to put it aside. I was in a meeting when an American suggested tabling a topic - and a British colleague opened a whole discussion around it. The outcome wasn't as planned. The American got annoyed with what he saw as English arrogance and someone who deliberately did it to make him angry, while the Englishman was bemused at the lack of interest and hostility around the table.

Another story comes from an Englishman who was at his wits' end with an admin assistant who never got around to doing his work. His American colleagues always seemed to get preferential treatment. What was really happening here? He would ask 'Would it be possible to get this fax out today?' and she would put his request at the bottom of her pile of work. The Englishman meant 'This fax is urgent and must be sent before 5.00' in American English.

Expat Health Insurance Partners

Bupa Global

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Cigna has worked in international health insurance for more than 30 years. Today, Cigna has over 71 million customer relationships around the world. Looking after them is an international workforce of 31,000 people, plus a network of over 1 million hospitals, physicians, clinics and health and wellness specialists worldwide, meaning you have easy access to treatment.

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