Welcome to this month's edition of Cephalopod Coffeehouse, a cozy gathering of book lovers for the discussion of works they have enjoyed over the previous month. If you wish, check out The Armchair Squid's Coffeehouse and add yourself to the discussion list. This month for me was the month of nonfiction - I will admit, I do love non-fiction books and the book I finished this month was truly educational. I learned a lot and it gave me food for thought.
I finished That's Not English! on December 8 and I would recommend this book highly. As you all know, I work part time for a library and I'm always seeing interesting books while I am shelving. That's Not English! was that case - I saw this in the 400s (400s are the language reference books) waiting to be shelved and the book jacket grabbed me.
Before I began shelving, I paged through the book and read a little bit (yes, I will admit, I do read sometimes on the job... and I read while I'm on hold at my new full time job - that is totally allowed, though). The author, Erin Moore, is an American that became an expatriate when she married her British husband. Growing up Moore was always an anglophile and she spent time studying in the UK when she was in college. However, when she and her husband decided on moving to the UK full time, that's when she felt a bit of culture shock. Although she thought she was well polished on Britishisms, she realized she was experiencing what other expatriates felt: that although American English and British English share the same words, they have different meanings in America and Britain. What might be funny in American English could be downright offensive in British English. Or it could be a case where something is positive in American English, but it's not a positive term in British English, or vice versa.
She highlighted eight of the most common words for confusion. With the different sections of words, she talked about the cultures in both places. The book wasn't only linguistics, but cultural and historical as well. Yankee is one word she used - in Britain, Yankee is used to describe Americans in general. Yankee wasn't a nice term for Americans during the Revolution, as we all know, and usually when a British person says that, it can be a mixed bag nowadays. In America, there are a lot of different meanings for Yankee. To Northerners, a Yankee is someone from New England; to New Englanders a Yankee is someone from Vermont only and loves their pie; to a Southerner, a Yankee is a Northerner and usually has a negative connotation in the South. I knew about the Southern/Northern thing as I'm in to the Civil War, but I never knew that about New England.
I was drawn to the book mostly because of my friendship with Andrew. He is British, but he and his family lived in the US for over a decade before going back to the UK. We always talk about Britishisms compared to Americanisms and he always comments I know a bit more British phrases than he does. Haha. I'm glad I read That's Not English! I would recommend it - the book is a fascinating read.