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Both the United States & England speak English; however, the two languages certainly do not sound the same. The English are much more formal and dignified. The American English language is much less formal, filled with slang, strange phrases, and solely American words.
The basic grammar and American English usage can be attributed to Noah Webster He was the one who developed American grammar. He created a linguistic identity based on spoken English. Webster created new grammatical rules, as he disregarded many old British English rules. He also published An American Dictionary of the English Language, using American spelling.
American English is difficult for foreigners who come to our country, mostly because of the phrases that we use. If someone is just learning the language, they take each word literally, and these phrases cannot be taken literally!
Here are some phrases that cause problems:
Burn the candle at both ends (Work too hard)
Bust a gut (work harder)
Get the lead out (Go fast)
Go jump in a lake (Get out of the way)
Go to pot (Become a failure)
Fast as greased lightning (really fast)
He's thin skinned (He gets his feelings hurt easily)
Hold your horses (Slow down)
I have butterflies in my stomach (My stomach feels queezy)
In the nick of time (just in time)
In the groove (Have a good, fun spirit)
It's a cliff hanger (It is filled with suspense)
Keep it under your hat (Keep it a secret)
Jump the gun (Start too soon)
Like a bull in a china shop (Clumsy)
More than 1 way to skin a cat (More than 1 way to do something)
No wonder people are puzzled by the American English language!
Updated May 14, 2005
Unlike many European countries, most Americans DO NOT live in their hometowns permanently.
Instead, Americans tend to leave home between the ages of 18 and 21. Some people more away when they attend college and never really return. Others find a job out of their hometown area, and they never move back. A great number of individuals marry someone outside the area; thus, they move away (All three of these happened to me.)
Our own daughter Jill left home to go to college; came back home for a few years; moved to Chicago to live in an apartment of her own; then this last summer she was married, and now lives with her husband Eric in their apartment.
Photo is our family: Allan and I walking Jill "down the aisle" at her wedding.
Extended families in the USA are rare. Most families are made up of two working parents or (because of divorce) a single-parent family..
Updated May 14, 2005
In the USA, both primary and secondary education is compulsory. The majority of students attend taxpayer-supported public schools, but parents have the right and the freedom to select a private school.
Children usually attend kindergarten at age five, go on to primary (1-4 grades), then middle school (5-6 grades), then junior high school (7-8 grades), and finally high school (9-12 grades). Most students graduate when they are 18 years old, but by law, a student may drop out at age 16.
Students attend school Monday through Friday from about 8:00am until afternoon (2:30 or 3:00pm).
Students are taught reading, writing, math, history, science as their core classes, and they usually attend Physical Education classes also. In High School, students are able to select what we call "electives" such as art, music, business, creative writing, cooking, sewing, auto mechanics, and many others.
Extra-curricular activities play an important (probably too important) role in a student's life. Sports, drama, journalism are three examples of extra curricular activities.
In America, about 35 per cent of high school students go on to higher education.
A sad fact in America is that teachers, although professionals, are seldom highly respected as they are in most other countries.. (I know, I taught high school for over thirty years!).
Updated Feb 19, 2005
Americans owe the small state of Virginia great recognition.
"Virginia is our history". Our American Revolution started & ended in Virginia. The Civil War fought some of its most bitter fights within her borders.
We must always remember that Virginia was the FIRST of the thirteen colonies, & this original colony was actually carved up into many states (Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, West Virginia, & Minnesota). For those of you who do not know, that is the reason Virginia is called "Mother of States".
Remarkably, 8 presidents were born in Virginia: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, & Woodrow Wilson. Eight is the most presidents born in any one state.
"Virginia is also government".
Most of our federal government workers live in Virginia. One of my favorite quotes comes from Nancy Astor in a speech she gave in England in 1919: "I am a Virginian, so naturally, I am a politician."
As an American, Virginia is a place to rediscover
our "roots". Actually, it was the birthplace of the United States because its lawmakers set up the 1st representative government.
Ironically, Virginia calls itself a commonwealth, rather than a state. A commonwealth is defined as "a body of people who agree to live under law & work for the common good of the governed." (Now that is worth remembering!)
Finally, some of our nation's most historic places reside in Virginia: Jamestown, where American history began; Yorktown, where colonial America came to an end; 400 Civil War battles took place here; Richmond, Virginia, served as the Confederate capital; Colonial Williamsburg, Mount Vernon, & Monticello = mirrors to our past; The Pentagon houses the huge Department of US Defence; & Arlington National Cemetery, veterans burial spot.
If you can only visit one state, make it Virginia.
Updated May 3, 2005
Americans are great inventors. Just think, without Thomas Edison, we would not have lightbulbs, the phonograph (basically, the record player), or a kinetoscope (movie projector). Edison also opened the first movie studio and movie theater!
Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone.
The ballpoint pen was invented by John H. Land.
The Apple II was the first personal computer.
Eli Otis invented the first passenger elevator.
Wilber and Orville Wright invented the first airplane.
The first traffic light for automobiles was invented here in the USA in 1914.
Many popular kitchen appliances came from the United States.
Josephine Cochrane is responsible for the dishwasher. Fred Waring invented the blender in the 1920s. The electric toaster and the microwave oven were both invented here.
Fun toys also originated in the USA such as the teddy bear (named after US president, Teddy Roosevelt in 1902).
Silly Putty, the Slinky, and the Frisbee were also thought up and produced in America.
American Indians gave us many of our popular foods such as popcorn and corn bread.
Would you believe, pumpkin pie also came from the Indians. Maple syrup that we use on pancakes is because the Indians taught the early settlers that maple trees had sweet say that could be made into rich syrup when boiled.
Dr. John Kellogg started the tradition of cold cereal with milk when he came up with corn flakes. Potato chips came about when a chef made his fried potatoes very thin, and customers loved them and so teh potato chip was born.
At the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair the cone for ice cream came about.
Most people think that Chili came from Mexico--not true. It comes from Texas.
You probably thought that Apple Pie came from America since we always say, "It's as American as apple pie"! No, apple pie came from Europe.
Updated Feb 20, 2005
"Here are mountain and ripsnorting river and ripsnorting people who came to conquer them both." poet Stephen Vincent Benet
The photo is from a West Virginia brochure
I admire the Appalachian culture and its people. The people are poor and proud, independent but hospitable. This struggle with poverty and isolation has caused some people to leave the state while others feel trapped. But most of the people have found contentment in its mountains
Often, member of the same family stay in one West Virginia town for generations.
The Augusta Heritage Center at Davis and Elkins College in Randolph County has kept the art and music produced by Appalachia's early settlers. Both country music and bluegrass have their origins in Appalachian culture.
Appalachian crafts and arts are most often made from natural resources such as glass, clay, and wood. And, most of the art work is made to be used such as quilts, clay pots, furniture, and jars.
The Augusta Heritage Center connects Appalachian craftspeople, musicians, dancers, artists, and craftspeople with people who are eager to carry on these wonderful traditions.
Students learn basket making, wood carving, quilting, glassblowing, and clogging. Music students study the fiddle or dulcimer.
If you want to make a West Virginian "bristle", just mention how some people characterize them as illiterate and unsophisticated. The detest that "hillbilly image" and are not afraid to voice that hate.
A West Virginia writer, Don West, says it best, "How many people know that one reason why West Virginia became a state was that the hillbillies rejected the idea of slavery?"
Thank goodness this Appalachian culture is being preserved.
Updated May 9, 2005
The United States uses the common system of measurement rather than the almost universal metric system.
Basic Units of Weight
Pound (16 ounces equal one pound)
Ton (2,000 pounds equal one ton)
Basic Measurements of Distances
foot (12 inches equal one foot)
yard (3 feet equal one yard)
mile (1,760 yards equal one mile)
(5280 feet equal one mile)
Basic Measurement in Liquids
Quart (2 pints equal one quart)
Gallon (4 quarts equal one gallon)
Tablespoon (2 teaspoons equal one tablespoon)
Cup (16 Tablespoons equal one Cup)
Pound (2 cups equal one pound)
Temperatures are indicated by Fahrenheit degrees rather than the Metric Celsius measurement.
I must say, the Metric Stystem of Measurements is much easier than our system.
The picture is of an American Ruler. It is 12 inches (1 foot) long.
Updated May 14, 2005
In the United States of America, we use both coin and paper money. Our Federal Government is the only one to produce our money.
100 cents make one dollar, the basic unit of American Currency.
One penny equals one cent.
One nickel equals 5 pennies.
One dime equals 10 pennies or 2 nickels.
One quarter equals 25 pennies or 2 dimes & 1 nickel.
One half Dollar equals 50 pennies or 2 quarters or 5 dimes or 10 nickels.
We have two different versions of a dollar coin:
a. Susan B. Anthony dollar.
b. American Indiana guide, Sacagawea dollar.
This dollar coin equals 100 pennies or 20 nickels or 10 dimes or 4 quarters or 2 half dollars.
1 Dollar Bill (George Washington)
2 Dollar Bill (Thomas Jefferson)
5 Dollar Bill (Abraham Lincoln)
10 Dollar Bill (Alexander Hamilton)
20 Dollar Bill (Andrew Jackson
50 Dollar Bill (Ulysses S. Grant)
100 Dollar Bill (Benjamin Franklin)
1000 Dollar Bill (I've never seen one!)
I hope that this has helped to understand the American Currency System. I remember, before the Euro, how difficult it was to determine currency systems between countries.
Updated May 15, 2005
Most small towns in America display much patriotic emotions and loyalty to the United States. Their citizens and local organizations display this patriotic spirit through "flag waving", "flag pins worn on clothing", "banners on cars and trucks". .
Many small towns across this country have newly erected War Memorials. An example of one such memorial is found in Gurnee, Illinois in front of the Fire Department.
It's really quite a lovely War Memorial that is made of white granite set on a dark granite base. The base has five brass emblems which represent The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and the National Guard.
Letters done in relief make an inscription that reads:
In Memory of the sons and daughters of Warren Township who gave their lives during military conflicts of the United States so that freedom might prevail"
The MIA (Missing in Action) Flag stands beside it; the American Flad stands behind it; the Illinois Flag stands on the other side of it.
This is only one of many memorials to honor our servicemen and servicewomen. It's an honor to live in small communities who still value old-time patriotic values.j
Updated Jun 10, 2005
Americans not only invented items and food, they also created new sports.
James Naismith, an American gym teacher, invented basketball when he wanted a new game for his bored students. Thus, he put up fruit baskets on the balcony of the gym so that students could try to toss the ball into the baskets to collect points. He later refined the game to have a basketball net rather than fruit baskets. Thank goodness!
Abner Doubleday is credited with inventing the modern game of baseball in 1839. The USA formed the first baseball leagues in the early 1900s. Today, baseball is called "America's Pastime"
American football evolved from soccer, but it was more like rugby. Today, when American's travel abroad, and they hear that a "football" game will be televised, they are visualizing American football, not soccer.
Vice versa, when foreign travelers come to America and hear about "football", they assume we mean soccer!
As a result of sports, a practical, safe shoe was needed. Thus, in America, the"sneaker" was invented. Today, we call them "gym shoes or "athletic shoes".
Also conceived in America was the ever practical zipper. Think how much time that saves.
Perhaps the most American of clothing, the "blue jeans", were first introduced by Levi Strauss...oh, my, what staying power the blue jean has!
Updated Feb 20, 2005
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