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Reviews127 Understanding British English. 1989. Margaret E. Moore. New York: Citadel Press Book, Carol Publishing Group. 240 pp. $9.95. This engagingly amateur bi-national glossary interprets Briticisms for Americans. The core of the book (206 pages) is a list of expressions with distinct forms or uses in the UK. Each expression is given a short gloss, often only a synonym. A twelve-page appendix lists riming slang expressions. Among the strengths of this volume are the number and variety of its entries. With what is unusual reticence for a publisher, the cover does not boast about the number of entries in the book, but I estimate that there must be upwards of 6,000. That number includes the old warhorses we all know and expect, like flat 'apartment', lift 'elevator', and underground 'subway'. It also includes less hoary, but still obvious Briticisms like lag 'to insulate', monkey nuts 'peanuts', and stroppy 'bad-tempered, difficult to deal with' as well as a large number of seldom cited forms like proofed 'waterproof as in "She wore a raincoat of blue proofed silk" andsupply 'substitute' as in "If you need a supply teacher while Miss Adams is away, I believe Miss Mead is available." The expressions in this glossary were collected, the front matter tells us, over a six-year period from British magazines, newspapers, television programs , and an impressive total of 1,100 books by British authors. A group of friendly Britons served as sources and consultants. These sources—printed and oral—enabled Moore to gather the variety of terms she has recorded, many of them refreshingly unhackneyed. As a result, her book is a valuable checklist of possible Briticisms to supplement other British-American studies like those in the reference list at the end of this review. A noteworthy feature of the book is the number of entries that have grammatical relevance, a subject undertreated in most studies of BritishAmerican differences. Grammatical matters are not dealt with systematically, or often even explicitly, but a fair amount of raw material for their study is scattered throughout the book. I counted more than 160 entries for grammatical items (some duplicates, however); there are doubtless others I missed. Those that I noticed are systematically arranged and listed below. Boldface terms are the lemmas under which the subjects are treated in Understanding British English; those lemmas are frequently inconsistent and unhelpful but are preserved here to assist the reader in finding the information in Moore's book. Glosses and examples are quoted or paraphrased from Moore. Comments in square brackets are mine. Nouns Lettuce is a count noun. Notional rather than formal concord, (a) Singular collective nouns with plural verbs: "He said his firm were moving" [frequent], (b) Plural noun with a singular determiner: "We go to Wales each holidays" [rare?]. 128Reviews Singular innings: "He'd had a good innings." Plural flies = fly (on trousers): "How do you tell a man his flies are undone?" Singular note in take a note: "A young barrister learns to take a quick and accurate note of what is being said." Nouns from verbs: "I gave the flat a good clean." "I'd like to have a look over the house." "His column is always ajolly good read." "In the morning we'll have a re-think." "We'll have another think about it in a few days." Pronouns First person plural for singular: "Post this for us? It's only a letter to my wife." Second person plural: "I'm ready if yon lot are" [often derogatory or antagonistic]. Relative: "You know what children are." [Moore suggests how as the American equivalent, but "what children are like" is good American, so the difference is not in the relative but in the complementation.] Noun Modifiers Absence of a determiner converts some nouns into quasi-proper use: at University, in hospital, member of staff. Possessive pronouns are used as determiners with proper names, not for contrast (as in "my Robert" distinguished from "your Robert"), but as a signal of intimacy: "Liz gets up to tricks, don't you, our Liz?" Generic toothache with the definite article: "I suffered as a child from the toothache." [Moore gives as an American...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 127-137
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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