Samizdata posts a fine though by no means complete list of Brit and Americanisms, and the Britishisms are nearly always shorter. Which reminds me* of a poem by Chesterton on the subject:

A Ballad of Abbreviations

The American’s a hustler, for he says so,
  And surely the American must know.
He will prove to you with figures why it pays so,
  Beginning with his boyhood long ago.
When the slow-maturing anecdote is ripest,
  He’ll dictate it like a Board of Trade Report,
And because he has no time to call a typist,
  He calls her a Stenographer for short.

He is never known to loiter or malinger,
  He rushes, for he knows he has ‘a date’;
He is always on the spot and full of ginger,
  Which is why he is invariably late.
When he guesses that it’s getting even later,
  His vocabulary’s vehement and swift,
And he yells for what he calls the Elevator,
  A slang abbreviation for a lift.

Then nothing can be nattier or nicer
  For those who like a light and rapid style,
Than to trifle with the work of Mr. Dreiser
  As it comes along in waggons by the mile.
He had taught us what a swift selective art meant
  By description of his dinners and all that,
And his dwelling, which he says is an Apartment,
  Because he cannot stop to say a flat.

We may whisper of his wild precipitation,
  That its speed is rather longer than a span,
But there really is a definite occasion
  When he does not use the longest word he can.
When he substitutes, I freely make admission,
  One shorter and much easier to spell;
If you ask him what he thinks of Prohibition,
  He may tell you quite succinctly it is Hell.

*Because I was a prissy little pedantic English major who got picked on in high school. Deservedly.

Aaron Haspel | Posted November 2, 2002 @ 2:50 PM | General

2 Responses to “Poetry Corner”

  1. 1 1. Michelle Yang

    *sigh* Why don’t they teach poems like this one in high school? *goes back to dull Lycidas*


  2. 2 2. Aaron Haspel

    You can at least speculate on what the "two-handed engine" could be.


Add a Comment

Basic HTML acceptable. Two-link limit per comment.