The English language has been greatly enriched by the Americans. Since the 18th
century, Americans have created new words or changed and added new meanings to British
English words. The British are sometimes critical of American English, often without
realising how many words they commonly use owe their origin to the United States.
There is a slightly comical tendency of Americans to use somewhat pompous or wordy
language in order to make their utterance less offensive, banal or negative. For
example, an airline crash was described as "the involuntary conversion of a Boeing
727". An American hospital invented the phrase "negative patient outcome"
for a death. The Pentagon once described toothpicks as "wooden inter-dental stimulators".
Fortunately we can thank the Americans for a much more positive contribution to
the English language. They have invented many new words which have helped to keep
the English language a flexible, expressive and precise tool.
Did you know that the following common words were coined (or adopted from other
languages) by Americans?
In addition, Americans have proved adept at giving new meanings to old words. For
example, they took the simple three-letter word "fix" and gave it so many
uses that the dictionary of American English has seven columns of text and 5,000
words of elucidation to discuss these uses.
Here are a few examples:
I fixed (arranged) my hair before going out.
She fixed a meal for us.
They are fixing (getting ready) to go out tonight.
We fixed up (repaired) our house over Easter.
American English contains many instances where speakers have changed nouns into
verbs. Examples include: to interview, to package, to corner, to engineer, to notice,
It is also fascinating to realise that Americans have preserved words that have
long since lapsed in Britain. Americans, for example, continue to use the word fall
(autumn) which was in common use in Britain until the end of the last century and
is now no longer used there. On the other hand, there are words whose use in the
UK lapsed but which were kept alive in the USA and which have once again entered
British English: to wilt (to droop), or to drool (to salivate with
Reading for meaning
When you read an article, you can often guess the words you do not know from the
Find words or expressions in the above article which have the following meanings:
Notes on American English
There a few grammatical differences between the ways that Amercians and British
Simple past v. Present perfect
Americans tend to use the simple past for talking about new and recent information
particularly when just, already and yet are included.
They have just opened a new factory.
They just opened a new factory.
Americans use on rather than in or at with certain
in the team
on the team
in Surrey Street
on Surrey Street
at the weekend
on the weekend
Americans generally omit to after the verb write:
I wrote to the authorites.
I wrote the authorites.
Americans use with after the following verbs:
meet, speak, talk
We are meeting the authorites next week.
We are meeting with the authorities next week.