Wednesday, March 05, 2014
Welcome to guest-blogger Tim Gorichanaz, whose ScratchTap blog explores aspects of written language. Thanks, Tim, for sharing some reflections on the BrE/AmE aspect!
When we consider the graphemic—that is, visual—differences between BrE and AmE, we likely first think of the numerous spelling differences. Next, perhaps, the differences in punctuating quotations (single versus double [AmE] quotation marks / [BrE] inverted commas) may occur to us, and maybe we even notice that (which, in AmE, are considered abbreviations and are treated with a following period). It seems that all these differences are : In the United States Noah Webster shook up the world of spelling, and we have Henry Watson Fowler to thank for a more “logical” punctuation scheme in BrE.
Of course, such efforts account for a petty minority of the differences between BrE and AmE; this blog has chronicled countless differences that sprang up of their own accord, due only to the breadth of the Atlantic Ocean. Today I’d like to point out another one of these: the exclamation (AmE) point / (BrE) mark. We may be past the ca. 2007 , but even in 2012 they were evidently still sufficiently heavily (over)used to merit , and there’s no indication that Americans’ love for exclamations has at all receded.
Anecdotally speaking, exclamation points/marks seem to be much more eagerly employed in American than in Britain. More than one ESL student has told me that their BrE teachers had remarked that Americans use exclamations far more than Brits.
To test this a bit more rigorously, I compared customer reviews for the 2013 book The Orphan Master’s Son on and . In the first three pages of reviews, the Americans used 13 exclamation points, while the Brits used only 2 exclamation marks. A search on the likewise suggests a remarkable effect: A search for “!” in the AmE corpus reports a density of 0.050% in the year 2000, while the BrE corpus returns 0.040% (though we can note a general decline in both dialects since the 1800s).
Of course, this brief investigation doesn’t consider texts, emails and other types of written communication, so I’ll defer to you, readers: Who do you think uses more exclamations?
Somehow I managed to make it through this entire post without a single gratuitous exclamatory, but that’s about to change!