Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Origin of American Spellings

I've always wondered what caused the divergence of American and British spellings. It turns out the origin wasn't simply the passage of time or an oceanic separation. An article by BBC's Anglophenia blog explains that the standardization of language and spelling (on both sides of the Atlantic) didn't occur until the 1800s. Noah Webster wrote several books establishing new rules for American spelling and grammar,  in order to "wrest control of the language from the British ruling classes." In an attempt to spell words more like how they're pronounced, defence became defense; theatre became theater. He dropped "u" from several words "to differentiate...from the ones that end in -our and sound like -ower," such as hour. For example, honour became honor.

These changes aside, American spelling is still difficult and confusing. The English language itself is full of idiosyncrasies, contradictions, and quirks. At least now I can helpfully inform people at dinner parties how colour became color. I'm sure they'll be fascinated.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Three Ways Living in England Has Changed Me

1. I bring an umbrella with me everywhere. Even if there is no rain in the forecast (0% chance of precipitation is more of a wish than a prediction), even if there are no clouds in the sky. Stealth rain attacks are common. A single, dark raincloud will appear out of nowhere, usually while you're out walking the dog. It will track you down, unleash a deluge directly on top of your head, then continue on its way. I'm serious. Bring an umbrella.

2. I simply ask "Alright?" instead of greeting people with "Hi, how are you?" It's the most common way for Brits to greet each other, even though it sounds like you're asking for permission for some unspecified thing. People then respond with the same question. "Alright?" No one ever divulges whether or not they are, in fact, alright.

3. I can enjoy a room-temperature, flat beer. It all comes down to the difference between ales and lagers. Most American beer (bottled or on tap) are lagers, best served cold and with lots of carbonation. Typical British ales are meant to be consumed at close to room temperature and have very little carbonation. At first, I found ales almost undrinkable, but I've since grown to appreciate their more complex and interesting flavors.

(Image source)

Monday, October 29, 2012


Getting a dog was the first order of business when we moved into our new, bigger place (besides unpacking, of course). It was something we'd talked about before we even started living together. Once we got settled in Portsmouth, Chris had almost all of August off--the perfect time to help the dog get settled.

We decided to go adopt from a shelter and give a less fortunate dog a home. That's not to say I didn't love the family dog from my childhood, a retired miniature show poodle with a storied pedigree. She was wonderful. But for us, adopting a rescue dog just seemed like the right thing to do. Before we started the process, we scoped out several shelters to get an idea of what it would be like. I found it an overwhelming, emotional experience, one that only hardened my resolve to adopt a dog. I wanted to take them all home with me. So many dogs (and cats!) in rows and rows of cages. No matter the circumstances of their arrival at the shelter, their confusion, sadness, and frustration were palpable. Some dogs barked, lunged, and snapped at the gates to their cages, which put all the others on edge. I have nothing but praise for the people who run these shelters--they must see heartbreaking things, and they do so much good. It's not an ideal situation, but at least these animals have shelter, food, and medical care.

One dog caught our attention immediately--she was quieter than the others, lying on some blankets, only barking when we approached her cage. She was scruffy and black and looked like she needed a bath. Her information page stated only that she was a terrier crossbreed, approximately two years old, and that she'd been found as a stray wandering a nearby town. The temporary name they'd given her was based on her appearance--Scruff.

We took her for a walk to see how we'd get along. She was eager to sniff at trees and bushes, but also willing to be petted and fussed over. She was curious but calm. And so cute! We agreed that she was the dog for us.

The rest is history. We renamed her Ruby, brought her home and gave her a bath. At first she was a little confused with her new surroundings. Her first few days she was very quiet and didn't want to play with any of the toys we'd gotten her. She even hid under our bed the first night (only to hop into bed with us in the middle of the night, giving us quite a scare). She now seems to have come out of her shell and is happy, energetic, and loves cuddling on the couch and sprinting around the garden. We have a lot of training to do, but I think we're off to a good start, and it will be a fun adventure.

Such a tough life!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Winston and Rufus

This picture popped up on LIFE's Tumblr blog and made me smile--the Brits do love their dogs, and the famous statesman was no exception. I saw the Churchill Exhibition at Blenheim Palace earlier this year but don't recall seeing anything about this adorable creature, Rufus!

Winston Churchill and his dog, Rufus, at Chartwell in 1950.

Source: Life Magazine

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Fall Forward

It's been a while since I posted. Hard to believe it's the end of September already!

So what's been going on?

We said goodbye to our first home together:
Goodbye, Clover Cottage!

We moved to Portsmouth, where we can see the sea from our windows:
The view from the top of Portsdown Hill
and we welcomed a new member of the family:
Look at that little face!
Her name is Ruby. She loves long walks, belly rubs, and stalking our neighbors' chickens.

It's been a busy few months--lots of visiting friends and family, hours of Olympic footage to watch, and getting settled in our new house and neighborhood. Looking forward to a quieter fall (or as the Brit keeps correcting, "autumn").

More to come!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Christmas in July

This article, describing a tourism official's anger at weather forecasters, made me laugh. He believes they are "obsessed" and emphasize the periods of bad weather, making their forecasts inaccurate, misleading, and damaging to tourism.

I could see his point, except that the forecasters don't have anything to exaggerate--it's indisputably been a cold, wet, miserable summer. It's the middle of July and I'm still wearing sweaters and long pants. At this point it's almost hard to sympathize with people in the States with their drought and heatwaves, because I've forgotten what it's like to sweat from the heat. As in, to perspire because of the outside temperature. I used to wear shorts and t-shirts--I used to expose my knees and elbows! I used to get summer freckles and have a perma-flip-flop tan! Those were the days....