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The Queen’s English versus American English | Typing and Transcription

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british american englishWhen embarking on typing or engaging in transcription services in the English language there is an international issue that one needs to consider carefully, “What do we mean by English?”

The English language was introduced in America following British colonisation in the early 17th century during the time of the Great British Empire.

Over the years, English spoken in the United States and in Britain has changed significantly to the extent that the witty playwright Oscar Wilde once commented that “The English and the Americans have everything in common except for language!”

The different usage of the English language has become more of an issue as a result of globalisation brought about by the success of the Internet. Software giant Microsoft dealt with this issue in a way which aggrieves most English people. It provides users of its software products with the choice of selecting “American English” (the default option) or else opting for “International English”. This approach rather disingenuously ignores the fact that the English language, as its name suggests, belongs to England.

In England, the English language used in its purest form is referred to as the Queen’s English. Any deviation from the Queen’s English is therefore considered improper and this includes the American usage of the language.

Unfortunately, the impact of Hollywood movies on a global basis has only helped spread the improper American usage of the English language to the extent that many people learning English as a second or subsequent language now use it improperly.

So when audio transcription work is undertaken in the English language for international clients what version of English are they expecting to receive? Typing in the Queen’s English is the correct approach, but would such a transcript appear alien to an American reader?

Some of the differences relate to spelling, some to grammar and, on occasion different vocabulary my lead to a great deal of embarrassment due to people speaking at cross purposes.

For example, if an American commented that he liked an Englishman’s pants then eyebrows would be raised. The word pants in the Queen’s English refers to underwear. Of course the American would not be complimenting the Englishman’s underwear but instead would be complimenting his trousers. As you can see, the vocabulary used on either side of the Atlantic in order to describe the same thing is very different.

Similarly, a vest to an American is a waistcoat to an Englishman. A vest in England refers to what the Americans call an undershirt.

Even more scope for embarrassment occurs in relation to the word suspenders. The shoulder straps holding up and Englishman’s trousers or an American’s pants are braces in the Queen’s English but are known as suspenders to Americans. The word suspenders in England refers to what the American’s call hold up stockings for women. So if an American gentleman enters a shop in London (which he would call a store rather than a shop) and informed the shop assistant that he wanted suspenders for himself then it would be assumed that he was a man wanting to wear women’s clothing!

Such are the differences in the use of the English language that if school children in England were to spell and write as the American’s do then they would fail their English Language exams. So when typing a document from audio dictation in the English language what is the typist supposed to do?

More particularly, when using any form of spell check built into software made by an American company results in the correct English spelling of a word being highlighted as incorrect. This also creates issues when typing a piece of transcription work. The typist may deliver the work with spelling absolutely correct according to the Queen’s English, but when the client opens the work on his computer he will see many words underlined by his spell checker giving the misleading appearance that the typing work is full of spelling mistakes!

Some examples of different spelling and grammar:


The Queen’s English Spelling

 American English Spelling

colour color
analyse analyze
favourite favorite
ageing aging
Kilometre, theatre Kilometer, theater
mum mom
cosy cozy
realise realize
dialogue dialog
traveller traveler
cheque check
jewellery jewelry
tyre tire
Neighbour Neighbor
Anaesthesia, Gynaecology Anasthesia, Gynecology


The Queen’s English Grammar American Grammar
She’s eaten too much ice-cream. She ate too much ice-cream.
They’ve already seen the show. They already saw the show.
I haven’t read the book yet. I didn’t read the book yet.
Take your homework with you to school. Bring your homework with you to school.
You’ve got taller this year. You’ve gotten taller this year.
Move anti-clockwise Move counter-clockwise
Continue for one mile and turn left. Continue for one mile and take a left.
Where are you? Where you at?
Hello, how are you?
Hi, what’s up?

Even numbering is different. One billion in the Queen’s English refers to one million million, while American’s consider it to be a mere thousand million [so a proper English billion is one thousand times larger than an American billion.]

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Bill Gates of Microsoft are both billionaires in America but not even close to being billionaires in the eyes of an Englishman.

On a similar theme, a millionaire in England is a person that earns more than one million each year, whereas a millionaire in America is a person with net wealth that exceeds one million – quite a difference!

Perhaps it is a cultural thing. American’s like to claim to be the biggest and the best at most things and so is it any surprise that their use of the language conveniently allows them to claim more millionaires and billionaires per capita than anywhere else in the world?

Comprehensive glossary of different terms.


The Queen’s English American English
aerial (radio/TV) antenna
American football football
anorak parka
articulated lorry trailer truck/semi trailer
aubergine eggplant
autumn fall
bank holiday legal holiday
bank note bill
bap hamburger bun
bat (ping pong) paddle
bath bathtub
bath (v.) bathe
bathroom bathroom/restroom/washroom
big dipper roller coaster
bill check (restaurant)
bill/account account
billion = million million billion = thousand million
biscuit (sweet) cookie
black or white?(coffee) with or without?
blackleg/scab scab
black treacle molasses
blind (window) shade
block of flats apartment house
block of flats apartment building
blue jeans dungarees/jeans
bomb (success) bomb (disaster)
bonnet (car) hood
book (v.) make reservation
boot (car) trunk
bootlace/shoelace shoestring
bowler/hard hat derby
braces suspenders
break (school) recess
briefs/underpants shorts/jockey shorts
broad bean lima bean
bureau de change currency exchange
butter muslin/cheese cloth cheese cloth
candyfloss cotton candy
caravan trailer
caretaker/porter janitor
car park parking lot
catapult slingshot
cattle grid Texas gate
centre (city/business) downtown
central reservation median strip/divider
chairman (business) president
chemist druggist
chemist’s shop pharmacy/drugstore
chest of drawers dresser/bureau
chips French fries
cinema movie house/theater
class/form (school) grade
cloakroom check room
cloakroom attendant hat check girl
clothes peg clothes pin
conscription draft
contraceptive/condom rubber
convoy caravan
cooker stove
corn flour corn starch
corporation/local authority city/municipal government
cot/crib crib
cotton thread
cotton reel spool
cotton wool cotton batting
courgette zucchini
court shoe pump
cream cracker soda cracker
crisps chips/potato chips
cul-de-sac dead end
cupboard closet
curtains drapes
desiccated (coconut) shredded
director (company) manager
directory enquiries information assistance
directory enquiries directory assistance
district precinct
diversion detour
drain (indoors) sewer pipe
draper drygoods store
draught excluder weather stripping
draughts checkers
drawing pin thumb tack
dressing-gown bathrobe
dual carriageway divided highway
dummy pacifier
dungarees overalls
dustbin/bin garbage can/trash can
dynamo generator
eiderdown comforter
state agent realtor
estate car station wagon
fair (fun) carnival
filling station / petrol station gas station
film movie
first floor second floor
fish slice spatula/egg lifter
fitted carpet wall to wall carpet
flannel wash cloth
flat apartment
flex electric cord/wire
fly-over overpass
football/soccer soccer
fortnight two weeks
foyer lobby/foyer
full stop (punctuation) period
funny bone crazy bone
gallery (theatre) balcony
gangway aisle
gaol jail
garden yard
gear lever gear shift
giddy dizzy
give a bell(to phone) give a buzz
goods truck (railway) freight truck
goose pimples goose bumps
gramophone/record player phonograph/record player
greenfingers green thumb
grill (v.) broil
guard (railway) conductor
gym shoes/plimsolls sneakers/tennis shoes
tennis shoes/trainers sneakers/tennis shoes
hair grip/kirby grip bobbie pin
handbag purse/pocket book
hardware housewares
headmaster/mistress principal
hire purchase installment plan
holiday vacation
homely (=pleasant) homely (=ugly)
hoover (n.) vacuum cleaner
hoover (v.) vacuum
housing estate sub-division
ice/sorbet sherbet
iced lolly popsicle
icing sugar powdered sugar
icing sugar confectioner’s sugar
identification parade line-up
immersion heater(electric) water heater
interval intermission
ironmonger hardware store
jab (injection) shot
joint (meat) roast
jug pitcher
jumper/sweater/pullover sweater/pullover
kiosk/box (telephone) telephone booth
kipper smoked herring
knickers (girl’s) underwear/panties
knock up (tennis) warm up
knock up (call from sleep) in American slang this
means to get a woman pregnant
label tag
larder pantry
lavatory/toilet/w.c./loo john/bathroom/washroom
lay-by pull-off
(leading article in newspaper)
leader(1st violin in orchestra) concert master
left luggage office baggage room
let lease/rent
level crossing (railway) grade crossing
lift elevator
limited (company) incorporated
lodger roomer
lorry truck
lost property lost and found
mackintosh raincoat
made to measure custom made
managing director/MD general manager
marrow squash
methylated spirits denatured alcohol
mileometer odometer
motorway freeway/throughway
motorway super highway
nappy diaper
neat (drink) straight
net curtains sheers/under drapes
newsagent news dealer/news stand
nought zero
noughts and crosses tic-tac-toe
number plate license plate
off license/wine merchant liquor store
oven cloth/gloves pot holder/oven mitt
overtake (vehicle) pass
pack (of cards) deck
packed lunch sack lunch/bag lunch
panel beater body shop
pants (boy’s underwear) shorts/underwear
paraffin kerosene
parcel package
pavement/footpath sidewalk
personal call person-to-person call
petrol gas/gasoline
pillar box/letter box mail box
plaster/elastoplast bandaid
point/power point/socket outlet/socket
post mail
postal code zip code
postman mailman/postman
postponement raincheck
pram baby carriage/baby buggy
prison penitentiary
public convenience bathroom/restroom/washroom
public school private school
pudding dessert
purse change purse
pushchair stroller
put down/entered(goods) bought/charged
put through (telephone) connect
queue (n.) line
queue (v.) stand in line/line up
rasher (bacon) slice
reception (hotel) front desk
receptionist desk clerk
return ticket round trip ticket
reverse charges call collect
reversing lights back up lights
ring up/phone call/phone
roof/hood (car) top
roundabout (road) traffic circle
rubber eraser
rubbish garbage/trash
saloon car sedan
scribbling pad/block scratch pad
sellotape scotch tape
semi-detached duplex
semolina cream of wheat
shattered exhausted
shop assistant sales clerk/sales girl
sideboard buffet
sideboards (hair) sideburns
silencer (car) muffler
single ticket one way ticket
sitting room living room
living room living room
lounge living room
drawing room living room
skipping rope jump rope
skirting board baseboard
sledge/toboggan sled
smalls (washing) underwear
sofa davenport/couch
solicitor lawyer/attorney
sorbet sherbet
spanner monkey wrench
spirits (drink) liquor
spring onion scallion/green onion
staff (academic) faculty
stalls (theatre) orchestra seats
stand (for public office) run
standard lamp floor lamp
state school public school
sellotape adhesive tape
stone (fruit) pit
sultana raisin
surgery(doctor’s/dentist’s) office
surgical spirit rubbing alcohol
suspender belt garter belt
suspenders garters
swede turnip/rutabaga
sweet corn corn
sweet shop/confectioner candy store
sweets/chocolate candy
Swiss roll jelly roll
tadpole pollywog
tap faucet
teat (baby’s bottle) nipple
tea trolley tea cart
telegram wire
telephone box phone booth
term academic (3 in a year) semester(2 in a year)
tights pantyhose
time-table schedule
tin can
tip (n. and v.) dump
torch flashlight
traffic lights stop lights
traffic lights traffic signals
traffic lights stop signals
trousers pants/slacks
truncheon (police) night stick
trunk call/long distance long distance call
tube/underground subway
turnover sales/revenue
turn-ups (trousers) cuffs (pants)
undergraduates: undergraduates:
– 1st year – freshman
– 2nd year – sophomore
– 3rd year – junior
– 4th year – senior
unit trust mutual fund

For more see a detailed article on Wikipedia

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