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Learning English

The Oxford Style Manual (which C. gave me for my birthday!) has the best and most interesting translation list between American and UK English which I have yet encountered. From it, I've learned all sorts of things of which I'd had no idea. Here are some of the most unexpected.

  • Chicory and endive mean the exact opposite of each other in American and UK English. Chicory is endive, endive is chicory, but they are still different plants.

  • A mezzanine is not a floor up from the ground floor in a UK theater - it's underneath the stage.

  • In the UK, a trapezoid has no two sides parallel; in the US (of course!) it has one pair of parallel sides.

  • One I knew but hadn't consciously thought about before: a semi is a kind of house in the UK and a kind of truck in the US.


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 27th, 2007 01:59 am (UTC)
That sounds incredibly useful.
Jul. 27th, 2007 05:48 am (UTC)
A mezzanine in the UK is an intermediate floor between the ground floor and the first floor. I've never even heard my stage manager daughter use it in the other sense.

A trapezoid always has two sides parallel.

I don't know about the chicory/endive, and the semi is correct, but on the basis of trapezoid alone treat the book with caution.
Jul. 27th, 2007 07:05 am (UTC)
It's a trapezium which has exactly two sides parallel in UK English.

In the UK, the house is pronounced sem-ee, in the USA I believe that the truck is pronounced sem-eye?
Jul. 27th, 2007 08:18 am (UTC)
I'm afraid I can't answer your pronunciation question. You may be right, or there may be regional variants which means both are accepted versions of the truck. I find it easier to remember word differences than pronunciation ones. This is related to my sluggish to non-existant acquisition of new accents.
Jul. 27th, 2007 08:16 am (UTC)
My 1984 concise OED defines mezzanine thus: "low storey between two others (usu. between ground and first floors); (Theatr.) floor beneath stage" So even as of then the Style Manual would have been wrong to say the American definition does not apply to UK theaters. However, that still leaves open the question of whether or not mezzanine is also still used to describe the under-stage area in the modern UK theater, or if that meaning of it is now defunct.

According to the book, purpletigron, and that most noted of authorities, Wikipedia, a trapezium has the UK English meaning of the American trapezoid.
Jul. 27th, 2007 08:30 am (UTC)
Chicory/endive felt right to me when I read it. I know I've felt slightly disoriented before in the UK when ordering salads and not having their ingredients quite what I expected, and this would explain it. Further, a few blog posts from elsewhere on the confusion:

Jul. 27th, 2007 06:25 am (UTC)
My [abridged] oxford dictionary agrees on mezzanine, but not on trapezoid, which, it contends, in British usage means having no two parallel sides. Is the British trapezoid going the way of the British billion?
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )