Book review: That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us, by Erin Moore

Book cover from Goodreads

If you choose to swear, and you want your swearing to be understood on both sides of the Atlantic, you can’t go wrong with the classic, the universal, the little black dress of swears: fuck.

 

In That’s Not English, the seemingly superficial variations between British and American vocabulary open the door to a deeper exploration of historical and cultural differences. Each chapter begins with a single word and takes the reader on a wide-ranging expedition, drawing on diverse and unexpected sources. In Quite, Moore examines the tension between English reserve and American enthusiasm. In Gobsmacked, she reveals the pervasive influence of the English on American media; in Moreish, she compares snacking habits. In Mufti, she considers clothes; in Pull, her theme is dating and sex; Cheers is about drinking; and Knackered addresses parenthood.

Moore shares the lessons she’s had to learn the hard way, and uncovers some surprising and controversial truths: for example, the “stiff upper lip” for which the English are known, was an American invention; while tipping, which Americans have raised to a high art, was not. American readers will find out why bloody is far more vulgar than they think, what the English mean when they say “proper,” and why it is better to be bright than clever. English readers will discover that not all Americans are Yankees, and why Americans give—and take—so many bloody compliments, and never, ever say shall. (Well, hardly ever.) Taken from Goodreads.

A couple of years ago I read an article on the BBC, something about both the UK and the US speak English but barely understood each other. I have always have an interest in language and how it evolves over the years, but the last time I read a book about language, I ended up giving it a one star for how boring and uninteresting the content was. But, I had high hopes for this book; if not for the topic then for the comparison between the UK and the US.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book.

I mean, I did say I had high hopes, it just surprised me so that I did enjoy it so much. Turns out, this book is not only about language but also about the difference in culture between the UK and the US, and I kept on having this small smirk every time both countries are being compared on certain objects, from the most mundane things to how both countries view and take vacation.

What I got the most from reading this book is how Indonesians almost, if not all, took everything from the US. We view taking a leave from work from vacation as the ultimate sin of all, like we don’t deserve it, like it’s not our rights. We think that by taking a leave, it means that we’re not being responsible with our work, and that we are avoiding our responsibilities. And when we do take a leave, we tend to take a small number of it, and are always ready to take calls from office when need to be. It’s ridiculous. We work, therefore we are entitled to have a break as per our rights. Man, we need to follow the UK more on this thing.

Oh, I may be new to this, but I just knew that sod in sod off, actually is short from sodomite.

And I wouldn’t know that had I not read this book. See how interesting it is to read books about language. The more you know.

Okay, aside from that I have to admit that after several topics and with the same formula of writing, the book gets quite boring. I was missing that fun feeling that was so persistent when I first pick up the book. I was surprisingly sad when I felt that boredom kicks in. I really didn’t want to admit that I could get bored, because I genuinely did enjoy the book from the very beginning. To me, it felt predictable after awhile.

Nevertheless, I would still recommend this book. Because I mean it when I said that I enjoyed this book tremendously and that it was a very interesting. Apart from the boring and predictable way the book was written (not the style of the writing, mind you), this was still indeed an interesting and informative book, which you could learn a lot from. If anything, the tidbits will make a good opening of conversation if ever you need one.

Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️☆☆

Title: That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us

Author: Erin Moore

Genre: Humanities, Humour, Nonfiction

Goodreads link

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