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dispossessed
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 3:47:28 AM

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After a month of enjoying much of the content of thefreedictionary I am getting increasingly frustrated by the fact that it has only American English as the English option.

I am English, and I have lost several games of spelling bee because of the American use of 'z' where we use 's'.

I have been completely flummoxed by common American words and usages in hangman and word of the day.

And the choices made for quote of the day, article of the day and this day in history are persistently America-centric.

I really love the idea of the site . . .the fun and giving ethos is perfect for me.

But I feel the distance growing not closing between me and the users of faucets and sidewalks and elevators.

Is there any plan for an English freedictionary site?
thar
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 4:04:23 AM

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I think that is just a commercial reality - lots more Americans and people learning American English.
And students practicing for SATs or whatever.Whistle
The forums probably have more BEs than AEs among the most active members at the moment. Or at least a pretty equal spread.
The Realist
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 5:13:47 AM

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Stop with your pathos, and get with the program.
TheParser
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 5:58:04 AM
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Hello, Dispossessed:

The United States once had a president who would say, "I feel your pain."

I, too, feel your pain.

As Thar said, it does seem that "American" is becoming the standard for many people throughout the world.

Some years ago, an Australian gentleman wrote a short note to the London Review of Books, one of your most prestigious and highbrow magazines. He "ordered" it to change to American spelling. The editor printed the gentleman's note under this headline: What nerve!

You may have heard that there is a somewhat similar problem related to the Chinese language. China uses simplified characters in writing. But many Chinese communities (Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc.) continue to use the traditional characters. When students here in the United States study Chinese, there is often a "vigorous" disagreement as to which kind of characters to teach their students.

I know that you are very proud of your language, and you should be.


James

TL Hobs
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 6:08:27 AM
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I don't know about the rest of you fellers, but I speak Arkansas.

and I don't use the TFD to do my homework.....

dispossessed
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 7:15:03 AM

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I have no problem with American English.
I love learning new usages and new words.
I understand that languages are dynamic and ephemeral.

I just want to be able to play games in my own language :)
Joy Frohlich
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 10:12:30 AM
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I can understand how dispossessed feels, I have also got spelling bee wrong sometimes. I just try to remember the correct answer is in American English. In Germany, we have TV programmes teaching English & they give the American version first such as "hood" for a car and they say in English, it is called "bonnet". They also said a "realtor" is called in GB a "real estate agent". That is wrong. However, I have lots of fun with TFD and enjoy playing Hangman in English, German, Dutch & Norwegen. You can also look up a word & choose a translation e.g. in Spanish, then click on the Spanish word & click on the pronunciation. If you don't get to No. 1 in points, it does not matter, you have learnt a lot along the way.
FounDit
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 11:37:57 AM

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What strikes me as strange is that, since Farlex (TFD) is based here in the U.S., in Pennsylvania, why anyone would expect it to have a British English foundational focus?

If it were founded, or based, in Australia, would you also expect British English?

If it were based in England, would we U.S. citizens and Australians expect American spelling?

Very odd to my mind.
Luker4
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 11:45:18 AM

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So many Englishes out there...............Think



TheParser
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 12:36:35 PM
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Luker4 wrote:
So many Englishes out there...............Think






Very insightful comment, Luker!

I have read that as the years roll by, the current varieties of English (American, British, Australian, Singaporean, Indian, Ghanaian, etc.) will become even MORE different from one another.

When we brag that English is the international language, we are actually referring to American / British English.

Maybe in a few hundred years, the word "English" will mean something different to various speakers.

(In other words, will English go the way of Latin, which developed into French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, and Romanian?)
dispossessed
Posted: Sunday, July 20, 2014 12:43:29 PM

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I did not say I expected it . . .I just asked a question.
Briton
Posted: Monday, July 21, 2014 9:44:11 PM
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I'm with you, dispossessed.

All you did was ask a question and make a comment about the problems you were having with the puzzles. I have the same problems and it is frustrating to lose a puzzle because of the American spellings, some of which I didn't know. I accept it and move on.

No-one is expecting TFD to turn completely BE, but a member making an observation should not be answered by sarcasm and rudeness. Luckily most of us are not like that.

221BBaker
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 12:28:59 PM

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thar wrote:
I think that is just a commercial reality - lots more Americans and people learning American English.
And students practicing for SATs or whatever.Whistle
The forums probably have more BEs than AEs among the most active members at the moment. Or at least a pretty equal spread.

Are you sure about that? I agree there are more AmE speakers than speakers of any other variety of English considered independently. However, most varieties of English all around the world maintain more links BrE, as their population still has usually more cultural links with Britain than with the USA, Hollywood notwithstanding. As an example, the Rugby World Cup or the Cricket World Cup probably get a few billion viewers among people who actually play those sports professionally in their own countries and speak English. There's no equivalent to that in the American area of influence.
When I was a kid I stayed in Dublin for the summer at an Irish family's place. When I saw so many Brit comedies on the telly I asked was it usual for them to watch American comedies on TV, and my host told me:‘In Ireland we prefer to laugh at the English’.

As for people learning English as a foreign language, I wouldn't be so sure either. At least in Europe, many very widely taught systems rely on RP, as an accent very few people actually use, but everyone understand. Of course American English is taught as well. I guess English as a foreign language is 50% either variety.

If we talk about learning English in high education, I think students reading English in European universities outside the UK or Ireland, are allowed to use any form of English they prefer, as soon as they are consistent. But then, you have to read English Literature; Spencer, let's say:
‘But yet more mindfull of his honor deare,’
Hold on! Did you see that? Can't you see how weird it looks when you apply Webster's spelling to classic literature? It never ceases to amaze students when we read American books such as the Norton Anthology of English Literature (otherwise excellent books,except for this flaw)and find the odd American ‘color’ in a classic poem. And we can count ourselves lucky we do not have to deal with ‘wimmen’ for women, or ‘tung’ for tongue…

But, dispossessed: considering this is an American site, I think they have the right to use American spelling. Of course they do! Surely you have plenty games to choose from in English English spelling.
I don't worry about the games, but I admit I still find it weird when I look up a word… let's say ‘centre’ and I get:
n. & v. Chiefly British Variant of center. A variant? I would have sworn it's the other way around! The oldest, most widely used spelling can't possibly be the variant of a more modern way.
But I get it: that's the way it is. It isn't as if this were the only on-line dictionary available, right? You can always check the OED, and get both ways. After all, both are supposed to be English.
thar
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 12:35:07 PM

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I agree, I guess I was speaking in terms of commercial pulling power.

And, to be fair, the American way of spelling things like center, and theater, with an -er, is the older English way - it is the spelling in Britain that has changed, not the American original. So you could call it a variant. Just a very well-established one!Whistle
Edit - of course the -re is even older, but then you have to say the word in English is a variant of Anglo-French, Old French, Latin, Greek, PIE, gruntgrunt....Whistle

221BBaker
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 12:55:30 PM

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thar wrote:
I agree, I guess I was speaking in terms of commercial pulling power.

And, to be fair, the American way of spelling things like center, and theater, with an -er, is the older English way - it is the spelling in Britain that has changed, not the American original. So you could call it a variant. Just a very well-established one!Whistle


Are you quite sure about that?

I know some words are usually taken as Americanisms, but are of English origin. The word ‘soccer’ pops to mind…

However, all these American spellings like honor, color, afterward, center, theater, etc were a political-linguistic move design at the turn of the 19th century by one man, the philologist Noah Webster, who proposed a spelling reform to promote an American education. A way to gain distance from the ex-metropolitan power.

He published his American Dictionary of the English Language, and all the words that spell different from, not only BritE but possibly any other form of English (I think with the possible exception of Canadian in many cases), do so due to this reform.

http://www.merriam-webster.com/info/spelling-reform.htm

The case of Latin evolving into Spanish, Italian, French and others, (and having a huge weight on English, directly and through French) took a millennium to happen. For English to become something else experts think evolution will come through the www, and probably a different process altogether. There's probably no room for languages to ‘dissolve’ into a group of different languages, but the other way around: words from eastern languages, Spanish, French or German, on a base of English, creating some international English, different to present day varieties, to be used online and on international communication.
Who knows!
dave freak
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:04:49 PM
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With all due respect, I think that the whole discussion is simply pointless. What's all the kerfuffle about? Like it or not, English came to America from England, so British English is the original one in relation to American English. However, there is no point in saying which of these two is "better", or superior. The language is one and the same, but culture is different. Culture contains language; is the wider concept than the latter. Since The Free Dictionary comes from the USA, we shouldn't wonder the interface is American, should we?
dispossessed
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:11:07 PM

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I do wish I had never said anything.

But then I don't feel like many people read what I wrote anyway.

Ho Hum
dave freak
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:19:07 PM
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Chillax! Everything is OK.
tunaafi
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:19:55 PM

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dave freak wrote:
Like it or not, English came to America from England, so British English is the original one in relation to American English.

I don't agree with that.

Some Angles/Saxons/Jutes came to England, and their varieties of a Proto-Germanic language eventually evolved into English. We could easily claim that the 'original' stayed somewhere in Scandinavia/Germany - or perhaps wherever Proto-Indo-European first emerged.

Between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, some of their descendants went to North America, leaving the 'original' in Britain - or perhaps they took the 'original' with them, and the language in Britain went its own way.

The fact that English as we know it today first appeared in what is now England does not mean that English/British English is any more 'original' than any other variety. All the Englishes spoken today are 'descendants' of the English spoken in England before c. 1500. All have since changed. The variety spoken by the descendants of those who did not leave England is no more 'original' than any other.
dave freak
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:25:42 PM
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Of course, you are right. I had it all in a British history course. I wasn't precise. It's very complex to explain. Thank you for pointing this out, tuna. All I meant was that English was shaped by many different peoples on the British land: The Celts, the Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans etc.
tunaafi
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:38:30 PM

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dave freak wrote:
All I meant was that English was shaped by many different peoples on the British land: The Celts, the Vikings, the Anglo-Saxons, the Normans etc.

Slightly off-topic, but I have somewhere in my files a couple of interesting articles suggesting that the English progressive/continuous forms are one of the very real influences of the Celtic languages on English. If anybody is interested enough to ask a question about this in another thread, I'll see if I can find them.
thar
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:41:43 PM

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Hey, I am just here for the pointless conversation!

But I agree with tuna -language is a cultural organism, not a sacred cow.
But, on the point of continuing the pointless bit, I know Webster did his thing, but I think the English of Shakespeare and before (when spelling was a fairly flexible thing) the ending was -er? Anyway.
English, of all languages, has no purebred line. It is a great mongrel that first amalgamates all those different languages, and then spreads out into the world and evolves all its varied incarnations.
For instance, and I quote this because it has come up before so it is on the forum, you mention the word 'ransack' to an English speaker and it means to pillage, search violently, destroy. It comes from a Norse word meaning to search for valuables, and in Icelandic it means to examine, research, sift through evidence carefully. There is even a government office for it. Language variations, in dialects, meanings and spellings, are a product of their culture, ideals, and history. Knut, Webster, and all!

Whistle
dave freak
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 3:54:49 PM
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I agree with you both. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Caxton, Burns, Webster and many more...Very important figures of the history of the varieties of English. In the second year we had British history, whereas this year we are going to take American history. My memory is good, but short. Whistle

What I remember about Caxton is that he is credited with standardising the English language, that is, homogenising the local dialects. From my notes:

asked - axed - axyd

eggs - egges - eggys

fellow - fellow - felowe - fallow - fallows

Great Vowel Shift not completed at that time.
LMcL
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 4:21:21 PM
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Briton wrote:
I'm with you, dispossessed ...

No-one is expecting TFD to turn completely BE, but a member making an observation should not be answered by sarcasm and rudeness. Luckily most of us are not like that.

---

To be fair, Briton, dispossessed's observation did come across as a bit of a whine -- whinge if you prefer (Sorry, dispo). Was FounDit's reply really so rude? It seemed equally observational. The Realist's comment I'll grant you, assuming he or she wasn't being facetious.

dispo, your "Ho Hum" notwithstanding, looks like people are definitely reading what you wrote.
LMcL
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 4:31:57 PM
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tunaafi wrote:
dave freak wrote:
Like it or not, English came to America from England, so British English is the original one in relation to American English.

I don't agree with that ...

The fact that English as we know it today first appeared in what is now England does not mean that English/British English is any more 'original' than any other variety ...

---

Good point, tuna. British English isn't more English, just more British.
dispossessed
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 5:20:35 PM

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I did not say I expected the site to be British English.

I did not say British English was in any way preferable or superior to American English.

I did not say British English was in any way more original or authentic than American English.

I asked if there was any plan for a site where British English was an option.

And then all these replies just argue with each other about stuff I did not say . . . .

I would still like the spelling bee to accept alternate spellings which it is possible for the dictionary to recognise (recognize!), or have a mode to play in British English.



tunaafi
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 6:02:51 PM

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dispossessed wrote:
And then all these replies just argue with each other about stuff I did not say .

We haven't been arguing about what you did or did not say. The discussion moved on, that's all.

Quote:
I would still like the spelling bee to accept alternate spellings which it is possible for the dictionary to recognise (recognize!), or have a mode to play in British English.

In an ideal world, we'd have that. However, this appears to be an American-owned/managed site. The cost in work and money of catering for us Brits is probably not a realistic option. I am pleased that the site exists. I can live with its transpondial bias.
LMcL
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 6:18:48 PM
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dispossessed wrote:
I did not say ...

I did not say ...

I did not say ...

I asked ...

And then all these replies just argue with each other about stuff I did not say ...

---

I think I, for one, got all that, dispo. It's just that these forums, if nothing else, get people started. Sometimes, the thread gets lost, sometimes it just goes on a tangent. I don't really get the sense that anyone is calling you out, at least not seriously. Your questions were valid, and so were the irritations/frustrations you felt. For whatever it's worth, even as a native AE speaker, I get puzzled by the answers allowed on some of the games. For example, the Matchup game will sometimes offer such obscure synonyms that only God or the Devil could divine them. Or the new game, Words Within Words, will sometimes disallow some fairly common words and yet recognize some astonishingly obscure ones. It all seems rather arbitrary. Fortunately, I only play these games as a kind of mindless ritual and not because I take them or the points attached very seriously.
221BBaker
Posted: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 6:31:22 PM

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tunaafi wrote:
dispossessed wrote:
And then all these replies just argue with each other about stuff I did not say .

We haven't been arguing about what you did or did not say. The discussion moved on, that's all.

Quote:
I would still like the spelling bee to accept alternate spellings which it is possible for the dictionary to recognise (recognize!), or have a mode to play in British English.

In an ideal world, we'd have that. However, this appears to be an American-owned/managed site. The cost in work and money of catering for us Brits is probably not a realistic option. I am pleased that the site exists. I can live with its transpondial bias.


You're right, mate! No one is blaming you for it. It's just a lively conversation

If I contributed to rock the boat, I apologise. And if you think about it, what you ask can't be so difficult. I mean, there are loads of people who'd rather play that game with BrE spelling. I had trouble with that same thing myself… :-D

Romany
Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 5:34:11 AM
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FOUNDIT: -

Just a query from your post: You seemed to think that Australian English uses AE spelling and/or grammar?

While it certainly uses a lot of purely Oz-syncratic vocabulary, metaphors and similies it uses BE grammar, base-vocab., spelling and pronunciation...i.e. places the stress in the same places etc.

Bloody 'ell mate, come right!
Luker4
Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 5:41:40 AM

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Why don't people just choose One English variant and use it everywhere Whistle Whistle so that pointless conversations like this could be avoided Whistle








Romany
Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 6:23:33 AM
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Hey, steady on, Luker! "Pointless discussions"?

I think discussions about the English language are fascinating and that, the more we discuss its differences, anomalies, variations, the more we learn about why it has become so widely spoken.

As to choosing one single variant...setting aside the howls of outrage from all the variants which WEREN't chosen, I think we would lose a lot of the richness of the language.

Also, the variants reflect the culture of the countries in which they are spoken:

American go for speed and change and facility....they can't be doing with extra letters in words which they think are extraneous (color)

Britishers are more traditional and see the links to the past in their language as important - also they are closer to Europe where the Romance languages are spoken, and keeping the spellings they have helps in communication i.e. French-derived words etc.

The Aussies are so laid back they couldn't even be bothered to finish half the words they use like 'arvo' for 'afternoon'; 'servo' for service station.

The South African English speakers are outnumbered by the hundreds of different languages surrounding them, so use a lot of those in daily conversation to be more easily understood.

Jamaicans had English imposed upon them a few centuries back so they cling on to African cadence and grammars.

The Indians were taught by stalwart and stern Victorians and their English usage preserves some of the most expressive words in the language.

It's a fascinating study and learning more about the way different variants developed and are used is, to me anyway, endlessly entertaining.

tunaafi
Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 7:06:03 AM

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Romany wrote:
Hey, steady on, Luker! "Pointless discussions"?

I think discussions about the English language are fascinating

Hear! Hear!
Luker4
Posted: Wednesday, July 23, 2014 7:20:55 AM

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I know that, just provoking Whistle


Good answer Applause
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