When someone from Britain speaks, Americans hear a "British accent"...

Steve Holden steve at holdenweb.com
Fri Oct 7 10:01:21 CEST 2005

DaveM wrote:
> On Fri, 07 Oct 2005 00:33:43 -0000, Grant Edwards <grante at visi.com> wrote:
>>For example: In British English one uses a plural verb when the
>>subject consists of more than one person.  Sports teams,
>>government departments, states, corporations etc. are 
>>grammatically plural.  In American, the verb agrees with the
>>word that is the subject, not how many people are denoted by
>>that word.
>>In sports (thats "sport" for you Brits):
OK, so how do you account for the execresence "That will give you a 
savings of 20%", which usage is common in America?

There aren't any universal rules, except possibly "British people speak 
English while Americans don't". Nowadays relatively few people on either 
side of the Atlantic even know the difference between a collective noun 
and a plural, so there's little hope of them being able to correctly 
apply any rule there might be (and yes, I split that infinitive just to 
annoy any pedants who may be reading).
> Yes.
>>American: Minnesota is behind 7-0.  The Vikings are behind 7-0.
>> British: Minnesota are behind 7-0. The Vikings are behind 7-0.
> True.
>>In politics:
>> American: The war department has decided to cancel the program.
>>  British: The war department have decided to cancel the program.
> Not sure about this one. They may be used interchangeably as neither strikes
> me as sounding "odd".
Then again, there's room for infinite disagreement about these topics. I 
mentioned a while ago that I disliked the English on a bumper sticker I 
liked, which read

"Some village in Texas is missing their idiot".

Several people defended this, saying that a village could use the plural 
possessive "their". I personally found it odd (and essentially 
non-grammatical) not because either the singular or plural forms should 
be mandated but because this one manages to mix them up. So

"Some village in Texas are missing their idiot"

would be better (though it sounds like the kind of thing only the idiot 
alluded to would say), while my preferred choice would be

"Some village in Texas is missing its idiot".

Then again, what can you expect from a country whose leader pronounces 
"nuclear" as though it were spelled "nucular"? I suppose it's only a 
matter of time before they change the spelling just like they did with 

tongue-in-cheek-ly y'rs  - steve
Steve Holden       +44 150 684 7255  +1 800 494 3119
Holden Web LLC                     www.holdenweb.com
PyCon TX 2006                  www.python.org/pycon/

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