headshot of a man with short dark hair and a mustacheSairam Venugopalan, Qualcomm
February 1, 2023

The queen’s language, the imperial vernacular, the royal dialect,…we’ve seen different connotations of this elite or eerie communication channel or medium of instruction called English. With its far-flung diversification and subtleties, the roots of the British English tree have proliferated into variegated scripts. Conspicuous among the branches of that base tree is international or American English. While all lingos encounter this bizarreness as they have spinoffs, the perplexities are more profound with the English dialect because of the universal and percolated usage or adoption it has. This compendium attempts to muse on a few stark differences that we see with the generalized or global English codifications, offering nuggets for thought, evoking a chuckle, or arousing a revelation. With this subject under the scanner having unbounded lengths and depths, only the surface can be scratched in the excavation or expedition to conduct an anatomy and introspection of the English trove.

On to the first gem that we’ll pull out of the lingo minefield, let’s see what that is. Spellings, grammar, and enunciations are always at the core of lessons to be harnessed while learning a semantic. Edwardian and global English are no exceptions. With constructions that can leave us in a quandary, if one were groomed with the British form of this language during formative years, as the commonwealth nations are, acclimating to the delicate nuances and differences with the syllables and letters in word formations becomes even more demanding. The maxim of unlearn and learn is much is in need in such cases. Word wranglers and camouflaging characters abound. When we adopt English for an internal audience, we have to renounce the ‘u’ when we form ‘color’ (the words that end with ‘or’), replace the ‘s’ with ‘z’ when it comes to ‘analyze’ or ‘criticize’ (the words that end with ‘ze’), or truncate the added ‘l’ when we have words that otherwise require a double ‘l’ in ‘counseling’ or ‘canceling’. Only a few funny formations are illustrated here. Slick, trendy, and novelty appear to be evident with certain recipes that are used to form the American equivalents of their British word lineages.

Colloquialisms and slangs are the next coral that we’re dissecting in our exploration of this language reef. ‘The fag end of the day’ is often construed by American speakers to refer to the cigar that’s been smoked to reach its butt, while it is the idiomatic illustration of the culminating point of the day. A ‘doubt’ can evoke a trepidation for folklore that are endemic to the U.S. realm, and non-native speakers that are tutored in global English because doubts implicitly denote a mind-boggling and intricate problem to be clarified as opposed to a simple qualm or an easy question that can be answered in a breeze. “As per” in British parlance refers to compliance or accordance with an entity or a law, whereas it is merely succinctly sounded as “per” to imply ‘in conformance with’ or ‘based on’ when used by the international populace. “That’s okay” as an answer to an offer made can be deduced as a negative response, denoting how the respondent isn’t keen on the invitation handed and can manage on their own. “Do you want a ride?… That’s okay” as an ask-answer combo better contour this case. Quite drab and not striking examples as these might be, but they readily popped into my hollow head and were delineated for lack of more appealing ones.

Finally, let’s make a pit stop at the basin of unrestrained winding noun augmentations that are performed on the fly. Technological advances and scientific spheres are mostly the infiltrating agents and eager contributors to such notorious noun nests that are built. Several such fuzzy forms are sanitized and find their way into academic journals and bona fide publications. What are those nebulous nouns coming under nitwit? Enablement, componentization, searchability, and findability are invariably strewn around when we can form easily-palatable compound modifiers or untangled adjectives as necessary for such fuzzy elongations. With them having been legalized and so commonly used, I can hear the shriek of how those that are finding these words weird must have been too disjointed with the vogue and linguistics of today. Again, these now-ubiquitous usages were only to drive home the point of the torrential manner in which new words are added to the lexicon that they inflate eternally.

With a legion of linguistic checkers and spelling sleuths that are freely available in the online orbit, similar to how arithmetic calculators and formula feeders assist the math enthusiasts, the strangeness in spellings of global or American English is conquered without much ado. Writing exams and answering tests will pose a challenge, though, as one needs to commit to the rote of the intricacies of the different contours of the English spellings and syllables, to come out trumps with such evaluations. Similarly, the semantic assessment utilities that can be plugged into most every authoring application on computers and software systems rescue and offer cues to deal with the nitty-gritty and crossroads posed by idiomatic and grammar legislations of global English. Just as localization, even this corollary of global English from the primordial base language can be treated as a small form of translation. International English for ESL demography is a bit of a muffled mocktail or an attractive (all in a positive vein) mélange. Working out some of the answers and solutions for the hurdles that such English poses can be deemed as gratuitous sudoku or mystery crackers by ESL speakers.

With content writing and info-development work being now distributed across the world, with almost every pocket of the geography contributing to product literature and instructional design with total globalization of the workforce in witness, it goes without saying that most of the brigade of writers and technical publishers invariably are ESL populace. Esteemed English with its word formations and grammar constructions, without cumbersome efforts to approximate the intended meaning, cannot be so easily transposed into foreign languages. Or for that matter, even the delicate changes needed to make a verbiage comply with American or global English rules can be demanding at times. Weeding out the ambiguity in terminology and grammar, and being clear and easily intelligible in structure and wording becomes imperative. Therefore, clarity in writing for an international audience requires not only strict adherence to the rules of the English language but also places additional demands on the writer.