In Short: Moore, an American living in Britain, explores some of the differences in American English and British English and what those differences say about the two nations.
“This book is a guide to English and American cultural differences, through the lens of language: the words we use that say the most about us, and why. It is a cultural history in miniature, and an expatriate’s survival guide–from The United Kingdom, to the United States, and back again.”
Why I Read That’s Not English: When the publicist for Gotham Books emailed me about That’s Not English, I knew I would need to break my self-avowed “no new books” policy as this is exactly the type of nonfiction that I love reading.
Thoughts in General: In That’s Not English, Erin Moore takes a look at 31 different words that have different meanings in the two countries–these words range from Quite, Clever, Dude, OK, to Tip, Sir, Pulling, and some words that I’m truly not familiar with (Crimbo–which is like American “X-mas”). Through the words that Moore chose to define, she provides the greater context through social and anthropological exploration. For example, she talks a great deal about what it means to be “middle class” in each country and how those differences show in the definition of our linguistic differences. In doing so, though, I felt she often generalized the nations as a whole. This was my greatest quip with the book, but simply taking a look at the language differences and the class differences in the United States alone could be a book in itself.
Moore’s writing style is light and conversational. There is plenty of snark throughout the book and there were times when I laughed (or snorted) out loud at her quips. There were other times when I looked at the book questioningly wondering if she was really going to go there. It would be a fun exercise to read this with a British friend to ask all of the “is that really how it is?” as I’m sure they would want to know in return. Because of the generalization, I can’t help but wonder how much of the book contains a bit of cultural stereotyping.
“But in the end I think the most authentic thing to do–no matter what your country of origin–is to own and celebrate your native accent and vocabulary. In other words, Chill out, dude. It’s okay to sound, like, totally American.”
Bottom Line: Generalization aside, this was a fun little book that provided a gateway to some deeper insight into the cultural differences of two nations that share a common language. Plus lots of “did you know” tidbits, which you know I love.
Interested in a copy? Let me know by leaving your email address in the comments and I’ll pick a winner by 5:00 pm Friday April 3rd.