DEFINITION OF AMERICANISMS. 5
1.1 Sources of early Americanisms. 5
1.2 Americanisms in England. 7
LEXICAL AND GRAMMATICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF BRITISH AND AMERICAN VARIANTS OF ENGLISH.. 14
2.1 American and British English Lexical Differences. 14
2.2 Grammatical Peculiarities of American and British English. 18
DEFINITION OF AMERICANISMS
1.1 Sources of early Americanisms
... Whether or not Yankee comes from an Indian dialect is still disputed. An early authority, John G. E. Heckwelder, argued that it was derived from an Indian mispronunciation of the wordEnglish. Certain later etymologists hold that it originated more probably in an Indian mishandling of the French word Anglais. Others derive it from the Scotch yankie, meaning a gigantic falsehood. Yet others derive it from the Dutch, and cite an alleged Dutch model for “Yankee Doodle,” beginning “Yanker didee doodle down.” Finally, Ernest Weekly, in his Etymological Dictionary , makes the conjecture that it may be derived from the Dutch Jan (=John),possibly by back-formation from Jan Kes (=John Cornelius). Of these theories that of Heckwelder is the most plausible. But here, as in other directions, the investigation of American etymology remains sadly incomplete. An elaborate dictionary of words derived from the Indian languages, compiled by the late W. R. Gerard, is in the possession of the Smithsonian Institution, but on account of a shortage of funds it remains in manuscript.
From the very earliest days of English colonization the language of the colonists also received accretions from the languages of the other colonizing nations. The French word portage, for example, was already in common use before the end of the seventeenth century, and soon after came chowder, cache, caribou, voyageur, and various words that, like the last-named, have since become localisms or disappeared altogether. Before 1750 bureau, gopher, batteau, bogus, and prairie were added, and caboose, a word of Dutch origin, seems to have come in through the French. Carry-all is also French in origin, despite its English quality. It comes, by the law of Hobson-Jobson, from the French carriole. The contributions of the Dutch during the half century of their conflicts with the English included cruller, cold-slaw, dominie (for parson),cookey, stoop, span (of horses), pit (as in peach-pit), waffle, hook (a point of land), scow, boss, smearcase and Santa Claus. Schele de Vere credits them with hay-barrack, a corruption of hooiberg. That they established the use of bush as a designation for back-country is very probable; the word has also got into South African English and has been borrowed by Australian English from American. In American it has produced a number of familiar derivatives,e. g., bush-whacker and bush-town. Barrère and Leland also credit the Dutch with dander,which is commonly assumed to be an American corruption of dandruff. They say that it is from the Dutch word donder (=thunder). Op donderen, in Dutch, means to burst into a sudden rage. The chief Spanish contributions to American were to come after the War of 1812, with the opening of the West, but creole, calaboose, palmetto, peewee, key (a small island), quadroon, octoroon, barbecue, pickaninny and stampede had already entered the language in colonial days. Jerked beef came from the Spanish charqui by the law of Hobson-Jobson. The Germans who arrived in Pennysylvania in 1682 also undoubtedly gave a few words to the language, though it is often difficult to distinguish their contributions from those of the Dutch. It seems very likely, however, that sauerkraut and noodle are to be credited to them. Finally, the negro slaves brought in gumbo, goober, juba and voodoo (usually corrupted to hoodoo), and probably helped to corrupt a number of other loan-words, for example banjo and breakdown. Banjo seems to be derived from bandore or bandurria, modern French and Spanish forms oftambour, respectively. It may, however, be an actual negro word; there is a term of like meaning, bania, in Senegambian. ...
LEXICAL AND GRAMMATICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF BRITISH AND AMERICAN VARIANTS OF ENGLISH
2.2 Grammatical Peculiarities of American and British English
... • In most areas of the United States, the word with is also used as an adverb: I'll come with instead of I'll come along, although it is rarely used in writing. Come with is used as an abbreviation of come with me, as in I'm going to the office – come with by speakers in Minnesota and parts of the adjoining states. This possibly arises from German (kommst du mit?) in parts of the United States with high concentrations of German American populations. It is similar to South African English, where the expression comes from Dutch, and is used by Afrikaans speakers when speaking English. These contractions are not used by native BrE speakers .
• The word also is used at the end of a sentence in AmE (just as as well and too are in both dialects), but not so commonly in BrE, although it is encountered in Northern Ireland. Additionally, sentence ending as well is more formal in AmE than in BrE.
• Before some words beginning with h with the first syllable unstressed, such as hallucination, hilarious, historic(al), horrendous, and horrific, some British writers prefer to use an over a (an historical event, etc.). An is also preferred before hotel by some writers of BrE (probably reflecting the relatively recent adoption of the word from French, where the h is not pronounced). The use of “an” before words beginning with an unstressed “h” is more common generally in BrE than American. American writers normally use a in all these cases, although there are occasional uses of an historic(al) in AmE. Unlike BrE, AmE typically uses an before herb, since the h in this word is silent for most Americans.
• In AmE absent is sometimes used to introduce an absolute construction (Absent any objections, the proposal was approved.). This usage does not occur in BrE .
Word derivation and compounds
• Directional suffix -ward(s): British forwards, towards, rightwards, etc.; American forward, toward, rightward. In both dialects, distribution varies somewhat: afterwards, towards, and backwards are not unusual in America; while in Britain forward is common, and standard in phrasal verbs like look forward to. The forms with -s may be used as adverbs (or preposition towards), but rarely as adjectives: in Britain as in America, one says “an upward motion”. The Oxford English Dictionary in 1897 suggested a semantic distinction for adverbs, with -wards having a more definite directional sense than –ward.
• AmE freely adds the suffix -s to day, night, evening, weekend, Monday, etc. to form adverbs denoting repeated or customary action: I used to stay out evenings; the library is closed Saturdays. This usage has its roots in Old English, but many of these constructions are now regarded as American .
• In BrE, the agentive -er suffix is commonly attached to football (also cricket; often netball; occasionally basketball). AmE usually uses football player. Where the sport's name is usable as a verb, the suffixation is standard in both dialects: for example, golfer, bowler (in Ten-pin bowling and in Lawn Bowls), and shooter. AmE appears to sometimes use the BrE form in baller as slang for a basketball player, as in the video game NBA Ballers. However, this is derived from slang use of to ball as a verb meaning to play basketball.
• English writers everywhere occasionally (and from time immemorial) make new compound words from common phrases; for example, health care is now being replaced by healthcare on both sides of the Atlantic. However, AmE has made certain words in this fashion that are still treated as phrases in BrE.
• More generally, AmE has a tendency to drop inflectional suffixes, thus favoring clipped forms: compare cookbook vs. cookery book; Smith, age 40 vs. Smith, aged 40; skim milk vs. skimmed milk; dollhouse vs. doll's house; barbershop vs. barber's shop. This has recently been extended to appear on professionally printed commercial signage and some boxes themselves (not mere greengrocers' chalkboards): can vegetables and mash potatoes appear in the U.S .
• Singular attributives in one country may be plural in the other, and vice versa. For example, the UK has a drugs problem while the United States has a drug problem (although the singular usage is also commonly heard in the UK); Americans read the sports section of a newspaper, while the British are more likely to read the sport section. In America, software is referred to as computer codes, whereas the same software in the UK would be computer code. ...
- 1. Algonquin Words in American English, by Alex. F. Chamberlain, Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. xv, p. 240. Chamberlain lists 132 words, but some are localisms and others are obsolete.
- 2. An Etymological Dictionary of Modern English; New York, 1921, p. 1651.
- 3. Passing English of the Victorian Era; London, n. d., p. 68.
- 4. Cleveland Coxe: Americanisms in England, Forum, Oct., 1886.
- 5. The Note-Books of Samuel Butler; New York, 1917, p. 389.