If you’re moving to London from the US, you’ll readily learn that British English and American English are not one and the same. Sure, you’ll get along easier in the UK as an English language speaker, but as we’ve blogged before about differences in terms (see our “London Language Barriers” category for related posts), living in London will entail a language lesson.

It goes beyond just a matter of British versus American, however. French factors into the English language substantially, going back to when William the Conqueror came over from Normandy to rule this land. Sure, we use a lot of French words and phrases in the States like hors d’oeuvre, escargot, rendezvous, je ne sais quoi, etc., etc., but the British incorporate it even further than that. To give a few examples:

aubergine – eggplant
au fait – familiar, conversant
cafetière – French press
courgette – zucchini
compère – master of ceremony
pastille – lozenge
poussin – Cornish game hen (you’d think given the “Cornish,” they’d call it that in England, wouldn’t you??)
pomme frites
– French fries in their super slender, McDonald’s-like form; thicker fries are called “chips”
serviette
– table napkin
queue – line

Also deriving from the French language are British versus American spelling differences like the -re as opposed to -er of certain words. Eg.:

theatre – theater
centre – center
kilometre – kilometer
and so forth…

The ending of “programme” vs. “program” is another example of such spelling deviations.

And then there are matters of pronunciation. Just to name a couple examples:

Pantene – pronounced “pan-ten” versus “pan-teen”
premiere – pronounced “prem-yare” versus “prem-eer”

Which leaves me scratching my head on at least one word in particular:

fillet – filet

The British not only spell this word with an extra “L,” but they pronounce the “T.” So they say “fil-lett” whereas we Americans in this case adhere to the traditional French pronunciation of “fil-lay.”

I’m no expert in linguistics, so cannot speak to the rhyme or reason of how British or American English evolve (if you want to talk rhyme, though, check out Belinda’s post on Cockney English :)), only that it fascinates me how they do indeed, whether on their own or through the incorporation of other languages. It’s a little daily reminder, almost, of our small world and the aspects that connect rather than separate us, which in itself is a key mentality to maintain as an expat relocating to London.