I was watching an American TV programme or film recently, I can’t remember what exactly, when I noticed someone use the term thrift store. I’d of course heard it used many times in the past, but this time I began to wonder why this American term is so different from its British-English version, charity shop.
Store and shop I’ve already covered, but I find it very interesting that American English emphasises thrift, but but British English stresses the charity aspect.
Not to over simplify things (and I’ll state from the get go that I’m not indulging in generalisations about American people), but it does seem to neatly encapsulate some of the main differences between American culture, and its forebears in Europe.
British English emphasises that these shops are charity operations, to help those in need. But American English, in a country where capitalism and rugged individualism are inextricably woven into the national identity, emphasises the economic aspect (finding a bargain), and downplays the charity aspect (everyone can achieve the American Dream on their own).
And as much as I like knowing that buying secondhand books from a charity shop is indirectly helping people, I’ll also admit that I love getting a bargain (my favourite is still getting the full-colour edition of House of Leaves for either €2 or €3). Just as I’m sure most Americans shopping at thrift stores enjoying helping people as well as saving money.
Still, it’s interesting to think about how ideologies are transmitted through language and can still influence us, despite our individual beliefs.
You’ve probably noticed this phrase (and of course you hate to see it) online in the last year or so, particularly on Twitter. I’ve got no patricularly strong feelings about the expression itself, but it has made me think a lot about how language spreads, and how that’s changed recently. Continue reading
Recently I was talking to a student about the pronunciation of the word duty. And as is so often the case with English, it became one of those well-it-depends moments. Continue reading
When watching American TV and films, as a younger person, I’d consistently be amazed at how often characters would refer to a college class such as Biology 101 or History 101. Such lazy writing, I’d think. Why do they always say the classes are in Room 101? Why doesn’t even one writer decide to buck the trend and set their class in some other room? Even just Room 102! Continue reading
This word has been in the news a lot lately, specifically American news stories. It’s mainly only used in American English, and for that reason I’ve actually never heard it spoken aloud. Continue reading
This is another of those classic American/British English differences. Shop is British English, and store is American English. Pretty well known, and nothing too confusing. They both come from slightly different origins, but came fairly logically to mean the same thing. Continue reading
I can’t believe I never thought about this before, especially as I’ve already written about the origins of names of popular websites/social media. But I was mindlessly looking at my screen and saw YouTube written there.
This one’s not too hard to figure out if you’re of a certain vintage, or simply American. The You part, obviously is pretty straightforward: you can upload your videos to the website. But in what sense is it a tube? Continue reading