Why Did the American Comma Break up with the British Apostrophe?

Because it was too possessive

Fleetwood Mac didn’t spend £1,000,000 on cocaine to make Rumours just for you lot to refer to one of the best bands in the world with only a singular collective noun. Why restrict yourselves like that?


There is a huge difference in the use of everyday words of British English and American, Canadian and Australian English. For the purposes of the following discussion, I am going to stick to discussing the difference between British and American English. This is purely for continuity and simplicity. This is not some cheap trick to get more comedy value from one particular English speaking nation than another.

The main difference is that British English has kept the original spelling of words. Whilst American English spellings are based mostly on how the word sounds when it is spoken. This causes a lot of confusion for me. It increases my risk of spelling errors. Sometimes a whole story is urined.

This confusion is further exacerbated by our different cultural understanding of words. For example, I have a friend who lives off the west coast of America. He says he identifies as a large body of water. I just don’t get it when he constantly refers to himself as transatlantic.

This confusion can even lead to some taking offence. For example, let us explore the following joke:

A Welshman is walking down the road with a sheep under each arm. A local man spots him and asks ‘are you shearing?’ To which he says ‘no, I’m gonna sleep with both of them.’

Now imagine how offensive it is to be a sheep and hear that joke. This is not a world I want to live in.

And then there is this joke:

I once tried out REM desensitization therapy in an Indian restaurant called Delhi Entendres? That’s me in the corner, giving REM a damn good go.

In the above joke, I was going to mention my love of salty Indians. But I thought Na, it might be misinterpreted as unsavoury, even racist.

Of course, we have jokes that are just pointless, regardless of culture or language. You know, the kind of shit jokes that some people insist on telling. You protest. But they insist. Boy, do I hate nose jokes! Good thing this is snot one.

The following conversation is a veritable minefield:

Brit: ‘Are you randy?’ asked the man.

American: ‘Yes, I am,’ he replied.

American: ‘I really like your fanny pack. I like the way it matches your pants.’

Brit: ‘Thanks, I normally go commando.’

American: ‘That’s a nice big knob you have. Is it new?’

Brit: ‘Yes, I had it attached yesterday. Do you know where I can get any fags?’

American: ‘They have some at the bar. Would you like a beer?’

Brit: ‘Yes, please. Would you like a hand?’

American: ‘That’s okay, I will double fist it.’

I haven’t even discussed the differences in the use of the technicalities of the language. The discrepancies in the way we use auxiliary verbs; past tense verbs; tag questions and swear words. Maybe that’s a storey for another day. I could take this narrative to a whole new level.

I would like to say thank you to The Centre of Colloquial Knowledge for their input on the above.

Originally published in Medium publication ‘The Haven’ 10/10/19.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.