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Across the Pond: 12/08/09

Across the Pond by Storyheart (Barry Eva) synched up with Anita Shreve's latest novel, A Change in Altitude when both decided to highlight the oddities of American English. Both fall into the trap of a blanket assumption that all Americans speak the same dialect and use the same words.

The word in question that had me putting on the brakes to run an informal poll on the name of a particular type of intersection. What I learned is that in most (not all!) of the United States, the name for a circular intersection is "traffic circle." Most of the rest of the English speaking world (including most of California) calls it a roundabout. However, both books insist that the United States calls it a "Rotary." That's only true in Massachusetts.

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In all fairness to Across the Pond, the young adult story of Fred and his trip to the United States while his parents are in holiday in Australia, is set "an hour from Boston." I would still have preferred either parent to have said, "In Massachusetts we say..." but they never do.

The reason I'm making such a stink over regionalisms is because a big part of the plot is Fred's homework assignment to compile a list of differences between British and American English. There are the more obvious ones like boot vs. trunk, bonnet vs. hood and lift vs. elevator.

Another time though that the book seems to slip up is in Fred's internal dialogue. He's a football fan (soccer) and Brit (the American teenage girl) is a baseball fan. He makes comparisons between the fans of football to those of baseball but he always thinks the word soccer. Why? My guess is to avoid confusing American readers who don't know there are two sports called by the same name. Really; trust me, we know. Some off us even know that in other countries, our football is called gridiron (not that's played anywhere else) to not be confused with Aussie rules football (which is a nice bridge between rugby and American football).

Although Across the Pond had me grumbling and scratching my head at some of the included language lessons, I enjoyed the book a great deal. It's a short, easy read. Storyheart does seem to understand American culture as an ex-pat now living in Connecticut. Fred and Brit are likeable and believable teenage characters. 
What about you? Is it a roundabout, a rotary or a traffic circle? Do you have another British to American English story you'd like to share? Leave it in the comments, I'd love the hear it.

I received this book for review and have since released it through BookCrossing.

Comments (2)

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Comment #1: Tuesday, December, 8, 2009 at 18:44:41

Barry Eva

Thank you so much for the review, and the information. Living in CT and really only knowing the eastern states, I had only heard about Rotary. Not that there are many in this area, I think I've seen one in Mass and that was it, where as in the UK they are about every 100yds.

The football stuff I know is more conman these days after all US will be playing England in the World Cup. Also you want to check Gaelic Football against Aussie Rules there is a couple of good games almost the same. I am still getting into trouble using English sayings etc at work even though I have now been "across the pond" for ten years.

Once again, thank you for your review and comments, I'm glad you enjoyed the book


Comment #2: Tuesday, December 15 at 22:19:21


I will have to check out Gaelic Football rules. When I was in Tasmania I loved watching Aussie football.

I have two roundabouts on my street that I drive through four times a day. Your book and Anita Shreve's latest just happened to both use the word rotary which made me stop and think about all the different names for a roundabout. Any book that makes me stop and think and do some extra research gets high marks from me.

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