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General Category => Words => Topic started by: Alan W on October 17, 2020, 03:06:10 PM

Title: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Alan W on October 17, 2020, 03:06:10 PM
I've occasionally mentioned in the forum items appearing in the Separated by a Common Language (https://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com/) blog. In this blog, linguist Lynne Murphy, who is American but lives in Britain, talks about differences between American and British English.

Recently the blog looked at lists of words found by recent research to be known by a lot more Americans than British people, and vice versa. More information about the research can be found in Lynne Murphy's two posts, American words (most) British folk don't know (https://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com/2020/09/american-words-british-folk-dont-know.html) and British words (most) Americans don't know (https://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com/2020/10/british-words-most-americans-dont-know.html).

What's interesting to me about these lists is whether each of the words is classed as common or rare in Chihuahua. And if any are common, should they be rare? Well, it seems most of the words known by a lot more Americans are classed as rare, but almost all the words known mainly by Britons are classed as common.

Here are the words more prevalent in America. (If you don't know what some of these words mean, look in Lynne Murphy's post (https://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com/2020/09/american-words-british-folk-dont-know.html).)

manicotti
ziti
tilapia
garbanzo
kabob
kwanza
crawdad
hibachi
sandlot
acetaminophen
tamale
kielbasa
conniption
chigger
tomatillo
provolone
albuterol
staph
goober
luau

Of these words, the Chihuahua list classes as common garbanzo, acetaminophen, tamale, kielbasa, provolone, staph and luau. All the rest are classed as rare, except for albuterol, which is not in our lexicon at all.

The only one of these words I can recall us discussing at any length is sandlot, which was changed from common to rare (https://theforum.lexigame.com/index.php?topic=2577.msg47185#msg47185) a few years ago, also discussed here (https://theforum.lexigame.com/index.php?topic=3166.msg51104#msg51104).

I'll do a separate post shortly about the words that are much more prevalent in Britain.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: pat on October 17, 2020, 07:25:18 PM
I have to say that if garbanzo, kielbasa, acetaminophen or provolone appeared in a puzzle they would definitely contribute towards my not getting a rosette! (I know acetaminophen has too many letters but who knows - one day there might be an 11-by-many puzzle  ;D)
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: blackrockrose on October 17, 2020, 07:29:19 PM
I'm an Aussie brought up and educated in the UK. I regret to say I only know what seven of those words mean - kabob, hibachi, sandlot, tamale, conniption, provolone and staph.

I've read a great many American novels, but not watched much American TV, with the exception of The West Wing and Mad Men. I have, of course, seen plenty of American movies. I expected my familiarity rate to be much higher. Now I feel somewhat illiterate.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: pat on October 17, 2020, 07:53:35 PM
I only know what seven of those words mean... now I feel somewhat illiterate.

I only know half a dozen or so of those words but that doesn't make me feel illiterate in the slightest!
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: mkenuk on October 17, 2020, 08:28:33 PM
I'm with you on this, Pat.
I don't think I knew any of these before I started playing Chi apart from chigger (a flea) and staph .
I knew kebab, of course but not this weird spelling of it.
I've since learned a couple of others: - (tamale and luau) which I have come across from time to time in films

By my reckoning, twelve of the twenty words relate to food, plus luau, at which I'm sure there's plenty of food.
I wonder if that's significant.

And I'm perplexed as to why the name for the Angolan currency (kwanza) would be common in the US?
I wouldn't have thought the two countries had much in common!

 
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Valerie on October 17, 2020, 09:04:28 PM
I'm an Aussie brought up and educated in the UK. I regret to say I only know what seven of those words mean - kabob, hibachi, sandlot, tamale, conniption, provolone and staph.

Ditto on all accounts, blackrockrose, including (save for a few interruptions) our brought-upness, education and only recognizing the same seven words.  The other words on that list are a complete mystery.  Will be interested to see the British list.

As an aside, I have just downloaded and started playing Scrabble against the computer, a game I have loved playing all my life.  Despite me winning so far, I'm certainly agog at some of the words played by the confounded machine.  I am sadly lacking in my vocabulary.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: mkenuk on October 17, 2020, 10:23:12 PM

Will be interested to see the British list.


It's not a secret. Click on the links that Alan provides in his message,
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Hobbit on October 18, 2020, 05:47:39 AM
Quote
As an aside, I have just downloaded and started playing Scrabble against the computer, a game I have loved playing all my life.  Despite me winning so far, I'm certainly agog at some of the words played by the confounded machine.  I am sadly lacking in my vocabulary.

Oh Val I'm with you.  I love Scrabble.  I've got an old Nintendo DS which I keep just for playing Scrabble & Countdown (not sure if you have an Aussie version of that - it's a TV programme with letters & numbers) & I also play Scrabble on my tablet.  I'm convinced it makes up half of the words it uses!!

I'm ashamed to admit that I only knew one or 2 words on the list :-[  I'm even more lacking in my vocabulary!
Pen
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Valerie on October 18, 2020, 06:08:24 AM
Thanks Mike, didn't think to do that!

Yes, Pen, we did have a programme called Letters and Numbers which was similar to your Countdown.  Unfortunately no longer although they are showing repeats.  We do have the 9 Out Of 10 Cats Countdown here which is very funny.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Jacki on October 18, 2020, 07:06:09 AM
Love Scrabble, loved the West Wing, love food so know a few of the food words. Linguists don't always get it right - I'd question those words being common in the US.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Tom44 on October 18, 2020, 01:48:27 PM
I (an American) knew all the words (except Angolan currency) - big surprise.  But Mkenuk asked about Kwanza, the Angolan currency.  I'm pretty sure very few Americans know what kwanza is, but a lot of us know kwanzaa.  That is an African-American cultural celebration Dec 26-Jan 1.  I have to ask Alan if he meant kwanza or kwanzaa for his common words list.  If you google kwanza, it looks up kwanzaa and you cannot even get it to kwanza unless you google kwanza currency.  Still, given the state of prejudice and bigotry we have, I wonder if kwanzaa is really a common word.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: blackrockrose on October 18, 2020, 04:05:02 PM
The list Mike reproduced from shows 'kwanza', but lower down (in the explanation of meanings) there are references to both 'kwanzaa' (the holiday) and 'kwanza' the currency, with the implication that Americans were recognising the former word.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Alan W on October 18, 2020, 04:21:10 PM
You're right, mkenuk, kabob is certainly a weird spelling. It's normally كَبَاب‎
 ;)

I wasn't suggesting that all of these words are common in the US - just that they're much better known in the US than in the UK. The scores given in Lynne Murphy's post show the words as being known by between 74% (albuterol) and 98% (kabob) of American respondents to the survey. But, from what I can see, there's no guarantee that survey participants were a representative sample of the population. The survey was on a website and open to anyone, but I gather it was mainly publicized in academic circles.

I would expect the words that are very well known in the US to be also fairly well known in the UK, even if not used there. E.g. dime.

The test that provided the data for this survey is still online. You can try it out yourself at http://vocabulary.ugent.be/ (http://vocabulary.ugent.be/)

It seems to me that provolone and staph are reasonably well known in Australia, but none of the others.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Alan W on October 18, 2020, 05:59:41 PM
These are the words known by many Britishers, but by few Americans:

tippex
biro
tombola
chipolata
dodgem
yob
gazump
abseil
naff
kerbside
plaice
judder
chiropody
korma
bolshy
quango
pelmet
brolly
chaffinch
escalope

The meanings of all these words are discussed in the blog post (https://separatedbyacommonlanguage.blogspot.com/2020/10/british-words-most-americans-dont-know.html) I got them from.

In the Chihuahua puzzle, all of these are currently classed as common words except tippex, biro, abseil, naff, plaice, korma, bolshy, pelmet and brolly. (And of course yob, which is too short for our list.) At least three of these were originally common, but were changed to rare after discussion: biro, plaice and abseil. Kerb has been discussed - inconclusively - but not kerbside.

Looking at a few of these words, I'm surprised to learn they're not well known in the US. If anything, I might have suspected that chipolata and gazump would be better known to Americans. It just goes to show that you can't always rely on casual impressions.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Valerie on October 18, 2020, 06:25:36 PM
As a Brit/Aussie, know them all.  Thanks Alan.  Very enlightening. 
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: mkenuk on October 18, 2020, 09:45:33 PM
You're right, mkenuk, kabob is certainly a weird spelling. It's normally كَبَاب‎
 ;)

Touche!
Although I spent a fair bit of my working-life in the Arabic-speaking world, I never got round to learning to read the script.
One thing I did learn is that vowels are not normally written (except in the Q'uran) so that differences in spelling can occur when words are transliterated into English. The country Oman and the Jordanian city Amman look identical in written Arabic  apparently.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: pat on October 18, 2020, 10:01:33 PM
It was interesting to see that chiropody isn't much known in the US. Presumably the same would apply to chiropodist (a practitioner of chiropody). What word do Americans have for the treatment of feet?
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: mkenuk on October 18, 2020, 10:09:21 PM
re kwanza / Kwanzaa

Both words are in the COD, the Angolan currency kwanza with a small 'k' at the beginning and a single 'a' at the end.
Kwanzaa, on the other hand, the African-American holiday is written with a capital 'K' and a double 'aa' at the end.

The word in the original 'Separated by a Common Language' article is most definitely Kwanzaa, written with a capital 'K' but that may just be because it's the first word in a sentence.

Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: mkenuk on October 18, 2020, 10:12:13 PM
It was interesting to see that chiropody isn't much known in the US. Presumably the same would apply to chiropodist (a practitioner of chiropody). What word do Americans have for the treatment of feet?

podiatry /podiatrist I believe.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: pat on October 18, 2020, 10:17:11 PM
Ah yes. It's also called that here, interchangeable with chiropody. In fact a quick check has just informed me that podiatry is actually a more modern name. It will always be chiropody to me though.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Hobbit on October 19, 2020, 05:17:16 AM
Quote
We do have the 9 Out Of 10 Cats Countdown here which is very funny.

I agree Val.  I love Jon Richardson so I enjoy it best when he & Sean Lock are team captains.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: anonsi on October 21, 2020, 06:12:04 AM
I easily knew all of the American list. Of the British list, I only knew 3, and that's only thanks to Chi.

Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: lilys field on October 21, 2020, 10:59:24 AM
Were I a more diligent type, I would cite many of the words found in forum banter that are unheard of in my New York vocabulary. I enjoyed appropriating one in a recent post. It’s easy to guess the meaning of knackered in context of two tuckered out pooches But I don’t recall ever hearing it spoken. So many other delightfully oddball (no offense) expressions and words have snagged my attention here.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: mkenuk on October 21, 2020, 07:51:16 PM
I think the word is from 'knacker', the slaughter-man who was responsible for disposing of large animals such as horses and cattle that were unfit for human consumption. The carcasses would be dismembered and turned into pet food or glue. Not a very nice profession, but, as they say, somebody had to do it. Orwell uses the word in 'Animal Farm', referring to the fate that awaits Boxer, the loyal, hard-working carthorse.

The secondary meaning of 'knackers' ('testicles') apparently may be from a dialect word meaning 'castanets'. 
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: jancsika on October 21, 2020, 10:30:58 PM
“but not watched much American TV”

or should that be “American telly”  ;)

Actually “telly” came up again in yesterday’s 7-by-many and although usually I try to get a “rosette” with no mistakes and no rare words (something I’ve only achieved once so far) I always make an exception for “telly”. It’s so deeply ingrained into British colloquial discourse that I feel it is my patriotic duty to enter it, even though I know it will be marked as “rare”!
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: lilys field on October 22, 2020, 03:59:37 AM
OMG, Mike that’s an impressive explication. My apologies to the universe for the glee I took in using the K word.  Not because of the testicle meaning....but Orwell‘s. —Paula
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Calilasseia on October 22, 2020, 05:49:04 AM
I'm surprised to see Tilapia being listed as more prevalent in the USA than the UK, but my 35+ years as a tropical fishkeeper has probably skewed my view on this. :)

Though I have to admit that my first introduction to these fishes came courtesy of an American fishkeeping book, spoken of in hushed tones among those in the know as "the venerable Innes book", after its author, William T. Innes. The book in question, Exotic Aquarium Fishes, was the first truly scientific treatise on tropical fishkeeping, dating back to 1931, and even though some of its contents are obsolete today, it's rightly recognised as setting a standard that subsequent authors struggled to match.

The entry therein on Tilapia mossambica is interesting to read in its own right.

However, the Genus Tilapia was used as a sort of taxonomic dumping ground for many years, and subsequent revision has moved many of its former members to their own Genera. Tilapia mossambica itself was moved to the Genus Sarotheordon as far back as the late 1970s, after the pioneering work on Cichlid phylogeny by the late Dr Humphrey Greenwood. It's now been moved to Oreochromis, along with several other commercially important food fishes that were formerly in Tilapia.

Many members of the "Tilapia assemblage" are too big to be practical aquarium fishes, except among specialist keepers prepared to build extra large tanks for them. However, some of them have beautiful markings - Oreochromis tanganicae is a beautiful shimmering turquoise with scarlet fin edges, though at 17 inches as a fully grown adult, it's a candidate for a specialist (and very large!) aquarium. Sadly, several of the species in the Genus Coptodon are critically endangered.

Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: birdy on November 04, 2020, 04:58:45 AM

I knew biro, yob, gazump (but only because my English friends were gazumped), abseil, naff (I knew this one before my English-friend-living-too-long-in-the-US did), kerbside, plaice, korma (but with a different spelling), bolshy, brolly, chaffinch (I am a birder!) - many of them thanks to my trash reading!
 
I could guess at judder and chiropody.

 
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Alan W on November 05, 2020, 03:39:25 PM
The lists presented in this topic reveal a number of words that probably should be reclassified from common to rare in our lexicon. I'll begin with the words that are better known in the US than Britain. As I said in my initial post:

Of these words, the Chihuahua list classes as common garbanzo, acetaminophen, tamale, kielbasa, provolone, staph and luau.

I feel confident in saying all these should be made rare on the grounds of being little known in Britain and other places outside America. I thought provolone and staph are better known in Australia than the other words, and that's borne out by the News on the Web corpus which shows each of these as more frequently used in Australia than in Britain, but not as frequently as in the US. I'm changing all these words to rare.

I think, logically, I should also make paracetamol rare: this is the word used instead of acetaminophen outside North America. (Of course neither of these words is anywhere near as well-known as proprietary names such as Panadol, Tylenol, etc.)

I'll consider the words that are not well known to Americans on a later occasion.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: birdy on November 07, 2020, 04:27:17 AM
I'm surprised to see Tilapia being listed as more prevalent in the USA than the UK, but my 35+ years as a tropical fishkeeper has probably skewed my view on this. :)

I think Tilapia is common in the US because the farm-raised version is seen both on many restaurant menus and in our supermarkets.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Alan W on November 29, 2020, 03:24:39 PM
To conclude this exercise, I'm making the following words rare - words that are much better known to Brits than Americans:

tombola
chipolata
dodgem
gazump
gazumped
gazumping
kerbside
judder
juddered
juddering
chiropody
chiropodist
quango
chaffinch
chaffinches
escalope

Some of these words are fairly well known in Australia. Here is a link to the Matchbox Band performing Chiropodist Shop (Shoe, Shoe) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBZbLJexvdo).
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: mkenuk on November 29, 2020, 05:41:21 PM
Are chaffinches really not known 'on the other side of the pond'?

What say you, Pat?
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: pat on November 29, 2020, 07:32:49 PM
I don't think I'm the right person to ask that question of, Mike. The chaffinch doesn't occur in the Americas but I don't know if people would have heard of it or not. I suspect some might not if they have no interest in birds.

Maybe its categorization should be the same as chickadee's, a bird common in the US but unknown over here.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: mkenuk on November 29, 2020, 10:43:32 PM

Maybe its categorization should be the same as chickadee's, a bird common in the US but unknown over here.

Or the Bluebird. not known in UK yet expected soon to be flying 'over the White Cliffs of Dover'

Anyway, for all those who don't know the chaffinch, here he is. Even Linda will have to say how pretty he is?

 
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Linda on November 29, 2020, 11:12:09 PM
I've seen worse, Mike!  >:D  At least it's not mahoosive like the heron I often see on my way to work; I give that a very wide berth which fortunately isn't difficult as it is usually perched on a large stone in the river and I'm crossing over the bridge but I keep my eye on it just in case it decides to fly in my direction!!
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Hobbit on November 30, 2020, 02:15:09 AM
Herons are a nuisance Linda aside from giving you the heebie-jeebies!  If people don't cover their fish ponds then they soon find themselves fishless :(  My neighbour lost all his goldfish even with a net over his pond!
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Scouser1952 on November 30, 2020, 05:21:28 AM
There are a number of herons that live on the riverside which we can see from the apartment window. They are a joy to watch throughout the year. Amazing hunters & wonderful to watch in flight.

Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Hobbit on November 30, 2020, 06:08:29 AM
We have red kites which have migrated to us from south Bucks.  They are also amazing to watch.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Valerie on November 30, 2020, 12:02:50 PM
A very pretty bird Mike.  Ah yes, Pen, fish ponds and birds!  In Australia, the kookaburras will dive-bomb people's ponds and eat all the fish (understandable really seeing as they're members of the kingfisher family) .  Our other horrors are the sulphur-crested cockatoos who, apart from being horribly noisy, will completely destroy any timber construction you have around your house.  The introduced species (like the Asian myna, sparrows and even blackbirds) are considered pests downunder.  We live on eight acres adjacent the Blue Mountains National Park just outside Sydney and have identified over 80 different (native) species on our little patch alone.  And I love them all.  If you ever come to Australia, Linda, I suggest you stay well clear of our place!  And bring a hazmat suit!
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Hobbit on November 30, 2020, 11:53:07 PM
Sounds amazing Val - you're very lucky.  If I came to stay I would have to bring some binoculars & enjoy some twitching!  We only get blackbirds, sparrows, pigeons, magpies, crows & the occasional blue tit actually in our garden.  We used to get a thrush now & then but I can't remember when I last saw one.  One of my near neighbours chopped down a large very bushy tree a year or 2 back & I wonder if that made a difference.
Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: les303 on December 01, 2020, 09:54:28 AM
It has been many years since i have seen an Ibis scavenging through the bins at our local shops. Apparently their urban population has decreased dramatically & nobody can explain why.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4dYWhkSbTU



Title: Re: Prevalence of words in US and UK
Post by: Tom44 on December 01, 2020, 01:23:20 PM
As an American I know the word chaffinch, but I have never seen one.  Very pretty.