Saturday, September 17, 2011

both the two of us

Jeremy H wrote me the following:
I have noticed two usages which, in England, seem familiar only to journalists. One was in a headline in the Mail today: "This port ain't big enough for the both of us". I have never heard "the both" uttered in BrE. The other is "You and me both".
Starting with the both: I think of the AmE expression as 'this town ain't big enough for the two of us', and indeed two outnumbers both by about 17:4 in the context [adjective] enough for the ___ of [pronoun] in the Corpus of Contemporary AmE (COCA) (and there's exactly one of these things in British National Corpus [BNC], and it has two too).

The this town... line is usually associated with western films (a variation on it was said by a character named Duke in Bandits of the Badlands (1945)). But there are earlier occurrences (the oldest ones with two), and the earliest one I've found is in Anthony Trollope's The Vicar of Bullhampton (1870)--not a western, unless you count Wiltshire as 'the West' (and apparently some people do consider it to be part of the West Country).  There, the eponymous character says: "Heytesbury isn't big enough for the two of us".  There's also a 1903 "Ostrokov is not big enough to hold the two of us, and that consequently, while I am vicar here, you shall never be rabbi." in the American magazine The Living Age (though the quoted text clearly not set in America, and I don't know who the author is).  So, today's stereotype-busting lesson: it's men of the cloth who deserve the reputation for saying such things, not cowboys or sheriffs.

Comparing just the both of [pronoun] (the both of us, the both of you, the both of them, plus some alternative forms of those pronouns) in the BNC and COCA is kind of interesting. That is, it had better be interesting because I just spent too much of my Friday night looking at it.  (In parentheses are the hits when the is excluded. They're less reliable, since they include contexts with possessive pronouns.)

Instances of the both of [pronoun] and (both of [pronoun]) per 10 million words
dialectspokenwritten
AmE (COCA)  10.8 (97)   5.6 (141)
BrE (BNC)   12  (21)   1.1(123)

Since the both of occurs more in speech than in writing, it looks as though it's considered to be somewhat informal in both dialects, but more so in BrE.  In BrE spoken, the the version is 57% of the total both of [pronoun] hits, versus AmE's 11%.  The other way to use both with a pronoun would be [pronoun] both.  There, we find 311 per 10m in BNC and 296 per 10m in COCA. This looks pretty similar.  (I did find some strange codings in COCA--though not enough to make the figures very different. But since when is coffee a personal pronoun?)

Meanwhile, the two of [pronoun] is about twice as frequent in COCA than in the BNC. I haven't done further analysis of this because I can't seem to weed out the possessive pronouns (none occurred in the both data), but I can look more specifically at particular instantiations of this construction: the two of us and the two of you, and compare it to the equivalent [pronoun] two constructions. (Though, it must be said, this method can't sort out things like I want to give you two puppies. But we'll just have to assume that this kind of "noise" is constant across the dialects. It might not be.)

Instances per 10 million words
dialectthe two
 of us
     we two +
       us two

   the two
    of you  

  you two
AmE (COCA)
     34 

           8.9         37.3         81.6
BrE (BNC)     15.1           10.8         12.6    61.8


That COCA has 20% spoken data and BNC only 10% may go some way toward(s) explaining the differences, since you might need to specify the number of referents of a pronoun more often in a speech context. But I don't think that's the whole story--after all, the numbers have the two of you occurring about three times more often in AmE and just under half of the AmE instances are spoken.   So, the two of [pronoun], like the both of [pronoun], seems more common in AmE than BrE, and BrE doesn't seem to be making up for it by using many more [pronoun] two or [pronoun] both.  So, do Americans just specify numbers of pronoun referents more often than BrE speakers/writers do? Or have I left out another means of sticking a number "on" a pronoun? Probably we need a much more thorough analysis with more comparable corpora (the BNC is 20 years old) before we can tell.

Moving on to Jeremy's second item, [pronoun] and [pronoun] both is much more common in AmE (40 per million words) than BrE (0.26 pmw)--although AmE didn't invent it. The OED says:
Both may follow, instead of preceding (as in A. 1), the two words or phrases connected by and; now only in the case of two ns. (two pronouns, or n. and pronoun) subjects of the same plural verb, but formerly (and still dialectally) in all other cases. In this use both may often be replaced by too or also.
They include the example:
1561    T. Hoby tr. B. Castiglione Courtyer (1577) P vij,   It shalbe good for him and me both.
I wrote this whole entry before remembering to look at John Algeo's British or American English? I approached it with contradictory wishes: (1) If he discusses all this, I'll have wasted hours of my Friday night. I hope he hasn't discussed it. (2) My corpus evidence is pretty shaky. I hope he discusses it.  I got wish (1). Algeo does mention, however, that AmE prefers both of these [plural noun] whereas BrE prefers both those [plural noun]Oddly, though, this preference does not extend to both (of) those, where both varieties prefer the of version.

And before I go: 
Today (wait! it's not today anymore! help!) was my third Twitterversary. If you're not on Twitter, you probably have a rich and interesting life. But you're not on Twitter.  And oh how much I've gained from Twitter!  Forget LinkedIn--this is the way to network. While I have to be very careful about not following too many accounts or trying to read everything that's posted (I could easily make it my full-time job), I learn so so much through it every day. I was interviewed for a film about Twitter this week, and I kept coming back to a similar theme: Twitter helps me appreciate how complex the world is--from the macro level of international affairs to the micro level of people's daily triumphs and struggles. So, hurray for Twitter! And hurray for my followers there, who enrich my understanding of national varieties of English every day. If you'd like to meet me there, you can find me here.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

shoes

So, shoes. Hard to believe I've not blogged about them already!  First slide, please:



[from UK shoe retailer Office] This, in BrE is a court shoeIn AmE it would be a pump.  (Or call them high heels wherever you are.)  Next slide, please!


[also from Office] In AmE this is a flat, more specifically a ballet flat.  In BrE this is a pump. More specifically, a ballet pump.  Very confusing. (And don't forget that ballet is pronounced differently in AmE & BrE.) What BrE & AmE pumps have in common is that they are low-cut--baring the top of the foot--but I think that the AmE definition is now so closely associated with heels that you can probably find AmE 'pumps' that aren't low-cut. (In fact, you can.)  Next slide, please!

[Office] This is a trainer in BrE. (Yes, people who train people are also called trainers in BrE.) In AmE, it's a bit more complicated:

This map from Bert Vaux's Dialect Survey shows the distribution of words for that kind of shoe in the continental US. Red = sneakers, light blue = tennis shoes, green = gym shoes. (Click on the link for the other colo(u)rs.)

These terms for the red shoe above can also be applied to this one:
[From the UK site for the US brand Keds] But in BrE, they can also be called plimsolls, (which Marc L wrote to ask about recently--thanks).

Next slide, please!


These kinds of things can be called flip-flops in BrE or AmE (sidenote: in South Africa, they're slip-slops). But in AmE (and AusE too, I believe), they can also be called thongs. I suspect that that term is being used a lot less these days because usage has mostly shifted to this.


I've had some correspondence with Erin McKean about whether the meaning of kitten heel differs in BrE and AmE. There are definitely two meanings out there, but dictionaries tend not to be very specific about kitten heels, so the AmE definitions are about the same as the BrE ones. Looking at on-line retailers, I have found both senses in both countries. The sense I use (and which I think Erin's agreeing with me about--so definitely an AmE sense) refers to this kind of thing [from Mandarina shoes]:


The heel is very short, very slim and is inset from the end of the shoe. It might also flare out a bit at the bottom.  But one also finds any stiletto with a moderate heel label(l)ed kitten heel in some places, like this one, which comes from (UK retailer) L.K. Bennett's 'History of the Kitten Heel':

I couldn't call this a kitten heel. To me, it's a not-ridiculously-high pump/court shoe with a stiletto heel.  But when I try to research these things on the internet, the clever-clever shoemakers won't let me compare their UK and US sites, forcing me back into the UK ones, so some avenues of research are not available.  I share Erin's feeling that the first sense is AmE and the second one BrE, but I've not been able to ascertain whether it's not so much a difference as a change-in-progress.  Feel free to let us know which sense is more natural in your dialect (please don't forget to tell us what your dialect is!).
 

If you'd like to enjoy some transatlantic shoe shopping, remember, that the sizes are different. Wikipedia has comparison charts and explains what the sizes are based on.

The last shoe-related thing relates to an email from Peregrine in 2008 (*blush*), who wrote:
I was reading (as I do from time to time) an English-Japanese/Japanese-English dictionary yesterday. 
What came up was the Japanese for shoe and variants of it.  What it said was, essentially
Variant a = AmE low shoe, BrE shoe
Variant b = AmE shoe, BrE boot
Variant c = AmE boot, BrE high boot
For reference this was the Sanseido Gem 4th edition.  I can't find a date but it's definitely post-War, I would guess from the '50s. 

[P.S. but see his addition to the comments section to see how I've misinterpreted his note] Low shoe is not something I'd ever heard of, but I did find it in reference to a Rockport shoe on amazon.co.uk. Checking on Rockport's site, though, they didn't use the term. It'd be easy to dismiss the Japanese dictionary as finding differences that native speakers wouldn't, but there is the question of whether boot or shoe really mean the same thing in AmE/BrE even if they refer to the same ranges of things in the two dialects.  This relates to a point that I made months ago on a post about 'prototypical soup', which I quote here so that I can go to bed sooner:
As far as I know, not much work has been done on regional variation in prototypes. The only example I can think of is a small study by Willett Kempton (reported in John Taylor's Linguistic Categorization) on Texan versus British concepts of BOOT, showing that even though both groups considered the same range of things to be boots, there was variation in their ideas of what constituted a central member of the BOOT category, with the Texan prototype extending further above the ankle than the British one.

And undoubtedly I've forgotten or missed some footwear differences. But that's what the comments section is for!

Late addition--thanks Anonymous in the comments! Just a few days ago, this was my Twitter Difference of the Day, but I somehow forgot to mention BrE football boots. In AmE these are cleats or soccer shoes. Perhaps this is what the distinction in the Japanese dictionary was about. In BrE, my Converse Chuck Taylors are referred to as basketball boots, where I would call them (AmE) high-tops.

Another P.S. (13 Sept 11): I forgot mary janes!  This was originally a trademarked term in AmE for  a brand of girls' shoe, which came in patent leather and had a strap like this:

According to the OED, this is still a proprietary term in BrE--so it often has lower-case initials in AmE but should have upper-case (and be more restricted in application) in BrE. I've had to explain the term to BrE speakers a couple of times, making me think it's more common in AmE.  These days, of course, it's used for any shoe with that kind of low-cut front and a strap across--even if it involves a heel, an asymmetrical or double strap, velcro. Mary janes (I kind of want to hyphenate that--some people make it one word) are very, very Lynneguist.

A couple of notes before I go:
  1. I had a great time discussing how English and American folk "do" politeness at The Catalyst Club this week. Great audience, great night out!
  2. I am about to begin The University Term from Hell. The (orig. AmE) upside is that I don't have to teach in the spring. The (orig. AmE) downside is that it's unlikely that I'll get much blogging in. But I will try!