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English language again

I just read Diana Wynne Jones's The Ogre Downstairs for the first time, and learned a bit of English English in the process.

Person A steps on Person B's foot rather hard. Person B forgives Person A, but adds...

(if American) "You owe me for that."
(if British) "I owe you for that."

The economy of retribution is entirely reversed over here.

Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
mithent
Sep. 25th, 2006 11:07 pm (UTC)
Interesting :) I do enjoy reading about linguistic differences.
makyo
Sep. 25th, 2006 11:39 pm (UTC)
I think the difference is in terms of what is owed. In the American version, the stepper owes the stepped-upon some form of apology, remuneration or favour, while in the British verson, the stepped-upon owes the stepper some sort of retribution. At least, that's how I've always understood it.
owlfish
Sep. 26th, 2006 08:04 am (UTC)
No, that's not how the American English version works in my understanding. It's a promise of retribution on the part of Person B. Apologies galore can occur at the point the thing happens - but whatever happened is an opening for Person B to respond in kind at a later point.
owlfish
Sep. 26th, 2006 08:05 am (UTC)
Although a favor could take the place of that, or other form of remuneration. An apology won't cut it though.
gillo
Sep. 26th, 2006 12:34 am (UTC)
"I owe you" means that vengeance is promised, while "You owe me" means that restitution is required. We're clearly more vindictive than you people....
sollersuk
Sep. 26th, 2006 05:42 am (UTC)
Little hint: don't call it "British". That is the language that was spoken in this country before the Romans got here and later developed into Welsh. The word is "English".
owlfish
Sep. 26th, 2006 08:01 am (UTC)
Then I'll have to call it "British English" or perhaps, more usefully, "English English". The other peoples of the world who speak variants of English will be too confused if I just call it English.

I'm happy to be consistent and call American "American English".
a_d_medievalist
Sep. 26th, 2006 01:39 pm (UTC)
That explains so much ...
rhube
Sep. 26th, 2006 04:48 pm (UTC)
I think both are used here.
owlfish
Sep. 26th, 2006 04:53 pm (UTC)
Is one more common than the other?
noncalorsedumor
Sep. 27th, 2006 03:13 am (UTC)
I'd noticed that too (Ruth Rendell, get out of my head!). I'm so thorougly Americanized that the British version sounds insurmountably odd.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )