"That's Not English" by Erin Moore

Quite. Clever. Toilet.  When it comes to the British and Americans, we know that they are speaking the same language.  But when one looks closer, they will begin to realize that while the language sounds the same, it is actually very different.  Take for example, the three words I mentioned.  The meaning of the word is different depending which side of the ocean you are on and in some cases, that can get one into a whole lot of trouble.

In That’s Not English: Britishisms, Americanisms, and What Our English Says About Us, lifelong Anglophile Erin Moore uses her personal experience of moving from America to England to share just how different these two countries are.

When I first saw other bloggers reviewing and talking about this book, I knew that I had to pick it up.  The English language has always been a fascinating thing to me.  Us Canadians speak an English that is not quite British but definitely not American - nothing makes you feel like a foreigner when you ask for a “pop” in the US and they just stare at you.  I was raised in a home where English was a second language for my father and my mother’s British heritage had an influence on the way she spoke (listening to her ask for “chips” at McDonalds was hilarious as a kid.)  My husband grew up in a former British colony which means he speaks a more British English, so basically you can see why I’d be so fascinated with the linguistic differences when my whole life has been influenced by people who speak the language differently.

Moore takes readers on a journey through British and American cultures using certain words that either have different meanings or are not used in one country.  Again, for me it was fun to read and see which words I use from where.  I use the British versions of “quite,” “proper,” “bloody,” and “shall” while using the American versions of “middle class,” “toilet,” and “partner.”  Culturally, I’m more American when it comes to the “tip” and very, very British when it comes to “tea.”  And of course, as a Canadian, we all know how I feel about using the word “sorry” (probably the most used word in my vocabulary.)

But while I found fun in trying to figure out if my English is more British or American through this book, that was about all.  I was expecting this book to be funnier than it was.  I thought it was going to be more of a tongue in cheek observational book than it was, poking fun at both cultures.  While each word was given only a few pages, some didn’t need that much.  Some of the explanations felt a bit dry to me and some felt repetitive.  

I know that this will be an enjoyable book for many, Anglophiles especially.  You can definitely count me as one, my grandmother managed to instil in me a love for the homeland at a very early age.  I think this is just one of those books that I had expectations for that weren’t met and that meant I didn’t love it as much as I could have.  So that’s what you need to take away from this review - this book is meant to be more of serious study of the linguistic and cultural differences between the Brits and the Yanks than a humorous look at it.   


  1. Add to the mix Asian colonial English!

  2. Sounds like a good book, albeit one that might benefit from a wee dash of humour. Love a giggle along with analysis.

  3. I hadn't heard of this book, but it looks funny and interesting. Thanks for the recommendation!


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