US English Is Only A DialectThe English language is from England, not the USA

I am writing this post in exasperation, and out of frustration, after receiving a number of messages, emails and social media comments from US grammar nazis in recent weeks, who through their ignorance, fail to comprehend that I write in British English.

US English is a dialect, and as such, has its own set of grammar, spelling and lexical forms, which differ from British English. However, these American grammar nazis seem to believe that US English is gospel.

Well, it ain’t! I use Oxford, and not Webster’s altered English.

American English, or United States (U.S.) English, is the set of dialects of the English language native to the United States.

US English is only used in America. The rest of the English speaking world use the English language based on British and Commonwealth standards, with a number of local variations and dialects, including Canadian, Indian, Australian, South African and New Zealand among many others.

I am sorry to be a pain in the arse (no, not ass) about this, but while it is possible for the entire English speaking world to understand that there are many forms of English, including US English, it is only US grammar Nazis who live in ignorance, believing that their US English is the one and only English on the planet.

Well, sorry guys. It ain’t. It’s just a dialect. However, I can read it, understand it, and accept that it is different. But I don’t impose my standards upon you, do I?

So while I use collective nouns in both plural and singular forms depending on the context, which is perfectly correct in British English, please don’t criticise me because your US English dialect has been dumbed down, and can only use the singular form. Not my fault.

When I use a double consonant in words such as travelling or focussed, please don’t tell me my spelling is incorrect. Only in US English does it become traveling and focused.

When it comes to vocabulary, I know what a cell is, but because I can use a mobile or a portable as well to talk about a phone, don’t tell my I am wrong. While it may only be a sidewalk in the US, it can be a pavement or a footpath in my lexis.

The point to be made very clear here is that while the rest of the world finds it very easy to understand the US English dialect, Americans have a big problem understanding, and it seems, accepting, real English, from England. This English is not a dialect; it is the English language from which US English derived.

So, to the boorish US grammar nazis I say, don’t shoot your mouth (off), when you have such a singular understanding of only one form of English. I accept your US English without question, but please do not impose it upon me.

If you do, I shall throw this at you!

Oxford English Dictionary

Yes, I’m quite pissed off. Or for those in the US, I’m pissed. But to me, this means that I am drunk. Perhaps I should be.

God save the Queen!

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11 thoughts on “US English Is Only A Dialect

  • 30/01/2016 at 5:24 am

    I love this because you’re right. I come from the City of Charleston. I’m told that the accent is similar to English as the colonists spoke it–that it is the British accent that changed.

    American English is thick with loan words from hundreds of cultures and eras. Accents vary so wildly that
    in the North the accent of some regions of the South is beyond comprehension…

    Language Nazi’s are a good thing because if you don’t know the rules you can’t break them effectively; and they teach rules..but I also think that enforcing a particular way of speaking English is another way to impose class restrictions.

  • 08/02/2016 at 6:29 pm

    As an American with more than a passing interest in the English language, I’d like to comment on your little screed.

    First, with respect to American “grammar nazis” who correct your spelling or word choice or conventions with respect to plurals, I can only offer my sympathies. Though I obviously don’t know, some may perhaps be less “grammar nazis” than “grammar bigots” who, though they’re aware of the differences between British English and American English, write to you only to assert the primacy of American preferences. (The American 19th-century lexicographer Noah Webster, who was responsible singlehandedly for imposing many spelling reforms on American English — you can blame him for our preference for spelling the word color without the letter u — was as interested in establishing a national identity for American English as he was in simplifying it.)

    On the other hand, your own bigotry is also beyond question. When you say “This English is not a dialect, it is the language” you express your own intolerance toward those whose English differs from yours. That most of the world’s English speakers *don’t* speak your British English — that however much Canadian or Indian or Australian English may be, as you claim, “based on British and Commonwealth standards” they’re nearly as different from your English as mine is from yours — I take as an article of faith. Indeed, once while visiting Foyle’s Bookstore in London many, many years ago I recall coming across an Australian-to-English dictionary. It was a lighthearted effort but illustrated quite nicely that the kind of differences you scorn in your post, such as the American preference for “sidewalk” over “pavement” (a perfectly good word in American English, by the way), exist in Commonwealth countries as well.

    Let me pause here to be a proofreading nazi and note a misspelling in your post, to wit: “… it is only US grammar nazis who live in ignorance, believing that their US English is the one an only English on the planet.” I believe you mean “the one *and* only English on the planet.” Unfortunately for you, the word “and” is spelled the same in British and American English.

    Lastly, allow me to point out a grammatical solecism in the subtitle of your blog:

    The blogging alter ego of author, Derek Haines

    It has to do with that improper comma you’ve inserted, the one that demonstrates you don’t know the difference between a restrictive and nonrestrictive appositive. True, it may be that the rules I follow on appositives are American and that the English don’t subscribe to them. But I seriously doubt it. By all means consult your favorite UK-based grammar authority and see what it has to say on the matter.

    I’ll end by quoting the bigoted American author Mark Twain, who, commenting on the language shared by Britons and Americans, once wrote:

    There is no such thing as “the Queen’s English.” The property has gone into the hands of a joint stock company and we own the bulk of the shares!


    • 08/02/2016 at 9:36 pm

      Thank you for your thoughtful comments, Richard.

      Opening a debate such as this is akin to throwing hand grenades, I know. However, I believe it is important to make the point that there are many forms of English, and that criticising from the viewpoint of believing that one form is superior, or singular, is wrong.

      And, well, what about and? And my Oxford comma use? You lost me there.

      Look, I read quite happily in US English, with no complaint. Even if I wish the author had had a grasp of the Present and Past Perfect. But, I never make a point to openly criticise this, or worse, post a critical book review based on my grammar preference. It’s US English and I accept that.

      But you must understand how annoying it becomes when I receive online criticism for something as puerile as spelling travelling with two L’s, or using plural agreement with a collective noun.

      So, I can’t agree that is is bigoted to state that English is a language. It is. As I am Australian, I speak the Australian dialect, but have no necessity to force this on anyone else.

      Which comes back to my original point. I don’t like having US English imposed on me by US grammar nazis, or as you say, which is probably more correct, grammar bigots.

      • 09/02/2016 at 5:02 pm

        Derek —

        Thank you for your civil reply. (I wasn’t sure whether my comment would be accepted for posting, let alone given a civil answer. Thank you for both!)

        As a follower of Lynne Murphy’s blog Separated by a Common Language ( I’ve discovered over the last few years that the differences between American and British English are far more extensive — and intricate — than I ever would have guessed. Trivial example: the common American phrase “tea kettle” appears to be unknown in British English, where the proper term is simply “kettle”.

        As far as the puerile comments you receive from American grammar nazis, I can only assume you don’t bother responding to them — or if you do, you’ve worked up some boilerplate you send off whenever one of these grenades lands in your inbox. We both know that publishing is a dangerous trade in the Internet era, when far too many people are outrage specialists who are constantly on the prowl for excuses to vent their spleen. I would imagine it’s even riskier when you actually *sell* what you publish. Hell hath no fury like a customer scorned.

        About “And, well, what about and? And my Oxford comma use? You lost me there.”

        I’m afraid you’ve lost me, too. I didn’t even notice your Oxford comma use. I was pointing out that in your sentence …

        “… it is only US grammar nazis who live in ignorance, believing that their US English is the one an only English on the planet.”

        … you’ve left the letter “d” off the word “and” in the phrase “the one *and* only English”. Do you see what I’m talking about?

        Anyway, I can’t help thinking you’re hedging your bets when you say “So, I can’t agree that is is bigoted to state that English is a language.” Because that’s quite different from saying “This English is not a dialect, it is the language.” British English *is* a dialect, just as American English is. Just as Australian English is. Just as Indian English is. And on and on and on.

        Sure, it’s perfectly idiotic to have some insular American tell you that “travelling” is spelled with one “l” and not two. And just as idiotic to insist, by virtue of geography, that it should — it must — be spelled with two “l”s and not one.

        That your preferences are proper and my preferences deluded (or corrupted) is, at least, the message I take away from “The English language is from England, not the USA”.

        P.S. Much of what Britons think of as American English *is* from England. Trivial example: American “fall” versus British “autumn”. If you’ve got an OED on your shelf, look up “fall” and you’ll see what I mean. It’s as English as bangers and mash. American vocabulary is larded with British English words that over the last couple of centuries Britons have dropped as their version of the language (I won’t say dialect) changed.

        P.P.S. I take it you still haven’t consulted a UK grammar book on restrictive versus nonrestrictive appositives.

        • 09/02/2016 at 5:17 pm

          You’re right Richard. I never respond to silly remarks or complaints about my use of English. Well, apart from having a grumble on my blog!

          Although, getting book reviews that concentrate on the subject of grammar or spelling does peeve me.

          However, when I receive thoughtful comments, suggestions or opinions, I always respond. Debate is healthy, and I am always ready to learn.

          And yes, I did take a moment to look up appositives.

          So yes, I see what you mean. I must plead guilty to not taking as much care with my blogging as I would in my writing.

          Perhaps I have been too well beaten into always remembering, ‘let’s eat, grandpa’.

  • 15/02/2016 at 8:18 pm

    Derek –

    Couldn’t agree with you more. Coming from India, and knowing 4 Indian languages (being able to read and write in 3 of them), English is a 5th language for me. So do I have an accent? Absolutely. But the more important thing for me is to be able to communicate. Am I able to communicate with people all over the world? Yes. So to me, English is not merely a language. It is a communication tool. In fact, communication is more important to me than having the correct grammar.

    • 15/02/2016 at 8:25 pm

      Well said! English is indeed about communication, and not about nitpicking whose regional dialect is right or wrong.

  • 25/02/2016 at 11:35 am

    Greetings Derek. Having only just found your blog via the Smashwords blog I have been reading through your posts like a word hungry pit-bull. When I came across this post I immediately said ‘Boy, y’all not be alone,” (well, I didn’t say it like that, but it seemed apt.)

    There have been many who have shared you pummeling from ‘Grammar Nazis’ over the other side of the pond, but I think ‘Grammar Nazis’ aren’t the problem – at least not the educated ones who, by rights, should know the difference between dialects. Try ‘American Bubble’. It’s a large, transparent ball that covers an X number of square miles across the U.S.A. that makes some – not all – United Statesians completely unaware there IS another language out there, or that there is even LIFE out there.

    An extreme of example of this is someone I spoke too from Michigan who thought England was off the edge of Australia! (They were only a college professor.) What the problem is, and as you’ve said, the world can understand the U.S. but the U.S. can’t understand the world when it comes to English, is that ALL books written by British authors (not sure on Australian, New Zealand, etc.) are TRANSLATED for want of a better word. Shopping trolley becomes shopping CART; car park becomes PARKING LOT; estate Agent becomes REALTOR. All right (another one: alright in some corners), so it’s minor in some cases but huge in others. This ‘Translation’ is supposed to be for ease of understanding, but it forms a massive amount of ignorance towards English as a whole.

    They used to say American and Britain were separated by a common language. That ‘common language’ is no longer common and the division is getting people’s backs up on both side of the Atlantic.

    On another blog (Roz Morris, I think) someone suggested placing on the title page of our written works: “This work is written in (your country) English. Spelling and grammar reflect the country of origin”. While some may think an author placing that at the front of their novel may be a little up themselves, it would most certainly help to avoid any misunderstandings further down the line.

    BUT, could this also have an impact on sales? On reviews? If a reader won’t read anything but their own country’s authors you lose that sale. If a reader hates your particular country for no other reason it’s not THEIR country, the reviews may be biased. In other words it’s really a no win situation.

    I see some authors ‘selling out’ and writing in U.S. English because they think it’s the only way to gain sales. How that would work with a story about a Yorkshire Farmer entering the local Sheep Trials I dread to think. “By gum, y’all!” Problem with that is unless you know how the nuances in the language work you’ll fall flat on your face. I’ve seen many U.S. historical Fiction writers look like morons when they have English village peasants talking like they spent six years at Eaton (and vice-versa with a free Western I read by a British author who seemed to think the protagonist from CANADA should sound like a hilly billy from Deliverance.)

    Sorry for the long post.

    • 25/02/2016 at 2:12 pm

      Thank you for your thoughts, Alex. It is an annoying problem, but as you correctly point out, the problem exists mostly ‘within the bubble’, as you say.

      However, I have to admit to attempting to to write in US English for my current novel, which happens to be set in the US, so I thought it would be a logical to try. After 30k words, I gave up the idea in absolute frustration! Not because of the different vocabulary, which is quite easy, but because I just could not continue writing under the handicap of minimising my use of the perfect tenses. Having to use ‘went’ when I really wanted to use ‘has gone’, or ‘did you ever’ instead of ‘have you ever’, frustrated me so much, that I gave up on the idea and began a complete re-write in UK English.

      So, I guess the potential US sales for my new book will take a nose dive! lol

      And, no need to apologise for the length of your comment. It was extremely informative, and very welcome.

  • 24/05/2016 at 1:52 am


    I enjoyed your post and agree with you on the need for diversity in English. In my proofreading work I’ve only come across one book so far that needed “translation,” and that was because a bunch of Midwesterner characters shouldn’t sound like they are from Notting Hill. That said, the increased use of slang in fiction makes it harder for people to understand other Englishes. In a number of books I’ve come across idioms for which definitions were hard to find even via an internet search.

    • 24/05/2016 at 9:42 am

      As an Australian, Michael, I know about idioms and vocabulary that are next to impossible to translate. The Australian vernacular is very rich, but a lot of it has no easy ‘translation’ in other English forms. Take the verb ‘to root’ and its idiomatic uses in Oz English for example. Now there’s a challenge! lol


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