That’s Not English by Erin Moore

Posted 1 April, 2015 by Trish in Reading Nook, Review / 27 Comments


That's Not EnglishTitle: That’s Not English
Author: Erin Moore
Published: 2015 Pages: 240
Genre: Non-Fiction/Language/Sociology
Rating: Quite Fun

On Amazon | On Indiebound | On Goodreads

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.


27 Responses to “That’s Not English by Erin Moore”

  1. Tricia

    I’d love to read the book, I have many Australian friends and have realized that most of their usage and slang comes from the brits.

  2. I don’t promise to read it immediately, but that’s the kind of non-fiction I like too. So enter me. :)
    Also, email me what Dude means, cause I say it ALL THE TIME.

  3. Sounds like a really fun book! I was born and raised in India and learned “British English” and always find the differences fascinating since I now live in the US and speak “American English”. In Britain and India, they’d say lift instead of elevator, tap instead of faucet, biscuit instead of cookie, footpath instead of sidewalk. In a restaurant, you ask for a bill whereas in the US you ask for a check (and pay with bills!) :)

    I’d love to win a copy!
    onehotstove AT gmail DOT com

  4. I’ve had this on my wishlist for ages. When I studied in England for a few years, I was always making mistakes with certain words and phrases. I remember one time a classmate used the word zed and I had no clue what she was referring to – apparently that is how you say the letter Z in England. Instead of catching Zzzzzs, you are catching zeds. Anyhow, I’d love this book, so that I can finally learn about what is English and what isn’t. Plus, tidbits on the topic sound pretty good to me :)

  5. Maria @ A little adventure

    Oh this sounds like an interesting book. English is my second language; back home I was taught British English but I also picked up a lot of American English from films, tv shows, and music, so since moving to England it’s been a fascinating experience learning different meanings and pronunciations for many words, as well as countless idioms and expressions. I’d say that by now I’ve mostly adapted to British English although every once in a while I’ll say something that will take my English boyfriend by surprise.

  6. Oh I totally need to read this book! I grew up learning British English and now wrestle on a daily basis with American English. When I go back to India, I am wrestling with British English there. Often I have spellings from both languages in my emails/posts, and at this point, learned to not care about it at all.

    Would love to win a copy. Thanks for offering!
    ReadingOnARainyDay AT gmail DOT com

  7. Golly, I had a hard enough time moving to New England and getting laughed at for saying basement vs cellar, purse instead of pocketbook, sprinklers vs irrigation system, and howdy all the grief for saying ROOF incorrectly. And ‘Realtor’ – I would get bullied for that one. Which is another reason I love Jo on HGTV’s Fixer Upper (she says ‘real-a-ter’ like I used to do.)
    I want to win this, of course.

  8. Well, see, now I want to know if there is an equivalent for this but for Spanish…maybe Spain compared to all the countries Latin America? Then again, just comparing with a Venezuelan friend, our Spanish can be so different, and we are living “side by side”. And off course I would love to read this one too :)

    • You’re my winner winner chicken dinner Katherine! :) I’ll email you after the holiday (or before if I remember) for details.

  9. I just won this book from another blog and am soooo excited. My favorite thing in books like this are the extra “fun facts” you learn. The tidbits are the best.

  10. Sounds like a fun book. Being Canadian, I grew up with a lot of British-isms. Napkins were serviettes, bathrobes were dressing gowns, in the hospital was in hospital, washcloths were flannels, etc. Nothing to do with the language, but I still eat with my fork in my left hand and my knife in my right, scooping food onto the back of my knife. ;) I’ll have to peruse a copy at work this week!