write a poem, win a book!

A few days ago I was heard to tweet:
You can thus tell how sensible I find Oliver Kamm on the matter, since I seem to have accidentally bought two copies of his Accidence will happen: the non-pedantic guide to English. (No publishers' freebies here. Just a poorly organi{s/z}ed bookcase and an eagerness to support my local independent (BrE) bookshop/(AmE) bookstore.)

What's more fun than taking a spare book to the (BrE) charity shop? Having strangers attempt to amuse me in an effort to win a free book, that's what.

I've had a competition before where I asked for limericks on the subject of British/American linguistic differences. You can't beat a rhyme. But that was seven years ago, so I think I can dare to almost repeat myself.

For a chance to win a copy of the paperback edition of Kamm's book, please write a humorous poem on the topic of American/British differences/miscommunication.

Rules of the contest

  1. Entries may be submitted as comments on this blogpost. Poems received by other means will not be considered.
  2. Poems should be no longer than 15 lines. (To repeat what I constantly say to my students: that is a limit, not a goal. I'd rather read 5 good lines on their own than 12 lines with 5 good ones within.)
  3. Be funny, but don't be mean. 
  4. No plagiarism. 
  5. The differences don't have to be strictly linguistic, but considering who the judge is, you might be well advised to address communication in some way.
  6. Please sign your work (whatever handle you use on the internet is fine; I just want to avoid confusing seven Anonymouses). 
  7. Please don't give other personal details (address, etc.) with your poem in the comments, but do check the blog in mid-September to see who's won, as I'll have to have you (orig. AmE in this sense) contact me in order to arrange (for) delivery of the book.
  8. Deadline for submission: 12 September 2016.   
I'll start the judging on my way home from the Society for Editors and Proofreaders conference. If it's very hard to choose, I may pick a shortlist and ask readers to vote. In the meantime, readers are welcome to (politely) express preferences in the comments here.

If you already have a copy of the book, but are good at writing poems, do feel free to enter. It can be you who takes the book to the charity shop. :)


  1. A talented young chef called Jeannie,
    Just loves to cook fettuccine,
    But she often forgets
    To buy the courgettes,
    So she replaces them with some zucchini.

    (Mike Hatton)

    1. Re-reading these later, and want to give you a badge for this, Mike. *badge* :)

  2. Thanks for breaking the ice, Mike!

  3. Torch by Moira Dunphy

    When I was young I loved to dive
    Into the world of the Famous Five
    “Torch”, I’d whisper
    “Lift”, I’d repeat,
    Wanting bonnets to wear
    And crisps to eat.

    My heart would pound!
    They were far too brave!
    Were they crazy going into that gloomy cave?!

    And even though in the illustration
    A flashlight was used for illumination,
    In my mind I saw crackling flames that scorch
    Each time I read that lovely word “Torch”.

  4. I once knew a girl who said colour
    is not the same thing as color
    What a colourful girl in a colorful world
    I'm sure glad it's not spelled cull-her!

    -@TomorrowsPoetry(Elliot Goldman)

  5. There was steak-and-kidney pudding; there were crumpets served at tea,
    With scones and jam and clotted cream, a real feast for me.
    But tea came hot, and served with milk, and often very strong.
    And they’ve put corn on the pizza, and I think that that’s just wrong!

    We had biscuits, sausage gravy, and our steak was chicken-fried;
    And I even tried fried catfish, with a muffin on the side.
    But jelly with the salads? Cornbread sweeter than a cake?
    Tea served cold and with no milk in, there’s surely some mistake!

    We eat courgette or zucchini, and our corn is sweet or not,
    Our babies sleep in bassinets, or maybe in a cot.
    However we may differ, though, there’s one thing stays the same:
    Our love of words and languages – and what is in a name!

  6. Christopher Fairs30 August, 2016 23:30

    She fumbled inside her fanny pack:
    A bum bag, while looking for a snack.
    She offered me candy: quite a treat.
    I reciprocated with a sweet.
    'I’m Randy’, she said: voice, loud and slow.
    ‘George’, I replied: embarrassed, ‘Hello’.
    The cabin staff brought round a trolley:
    A cart, from which she chose a lolly,
    ‘Gimme a popsicle and a coke’
    The steward, an unassuming bloke,
    ‘Is it to drink now or take-away’?
    She stood there, bemused: what could I say?
    So, was she Randy? I’ll never know
    As she and her drink were both ‘to-go’.

  7. Christopher, I like that.

    I couldn't come up with something that qualifies as a poem, but I wrote some doggerel (I have a T-shirt that reads, "Bad poetry—Oh noetry"). Folks, this is a joke, so please don't post replies telling me that the UK doesn't have a president. I won't listen anyway. ;-)

    The English sound sophisticated
    Flattered when they're imitated
    So I call them bloody wankers fond of buggery
    Like us they have a government
    (except their queen and president)
    So Englishmen are honorary Yanks
    (signed) An American

    Our language is contaminated
    By those Yankee addle-pated
    Blighters who can't even brew a decent pot of tea
    They think they own their continent
    Their movies deserve banishment
    Allow their culture on our shores? No thanks!
    (signed) A loyal subject

  8. Lingua Franca

    Our cousins from over the pond,
    Linguistically sharing a bond,
    Help make our own lingo
    (Near as dammit, by Jingo!)
    Be common amongst tout le monde.

  9. In suspenders and pants and a vest,
    Looking nerdy - but smart - I impressed.
    In the States that was fine
    But a Brit friend of mine
    Thought me kinky and quite underdressed.

  10. Perplexed in London by a trail of "Thanks"
    My cultural signifiers fill in the blanks.

  11. It was a long trip from San Francisco when my friend said "Watch out for the trolley, man"
    I looked up to see the large bus when I stumbled into the carriage.
    He wiped his forehead in relief as he remarked "Least you didn't hit that lady's pram"

    Though the tiny tot was in tears now so I went pacify her and her Mommy.
    In my attempt to console the child I said "Please forgive my rudeness, please accept this binky."
    But I must have overstepped my bounds when she remarked back "Dummy."

    I must have made a fool of myself at the pub when they said I was pissed.
    Especially when I got off on the first floor of the hotel, I must have been remiss.
    Of course something was awry, I thought the sign said lift.

    I had a delightful time, though things were certainly strange.
    But it's been quite an experience with so much we've exchanged.
    If you vacation in the UK your life will certainly change.

  12. I like Mrs Redboots' contribution, but would award the prize to MJ Simpson (especially as I speak BrE and therefore got the image of the person wandering around in their underwear... I had to do a bit of a search of the archives to confirm my guess that the AmE "vest" is what I would call a waistcoat).

  13. Once said a Brit,
    'You silly old twit,
    You spelled 'humour' all wrong!'
    The Yank said, 'Who, me?
    But I spell in AmE.'
    And that's the end of this song.

  14. There once was a language called English,
    Its differences many found squeamish,
    The Americans changed it slightly,
    All the British blamed them (politely),
    And they never got along again.

    The stuck-up British were so confused,
    "Vocab! Accents? We're all quite bemused."
    Then, they learnt each other's dialect,
    And saw just how they would intersect,
    They finally turned all happy and zen.

    ~ Katya

  15. I too am a fan of MJ Simpson's entry.

  16. Bristols and Cobblers are rude,
    Raspberry and Hampton are crude.
    But they’re part of the slang which
    Enriches our language,
    And others are even more lewd.

  17. I am stunned into silence by M J Simpson's Limerick, and the disturbing image that it conjures up!
    Simon X is a worthy runner-up.
    Isn't it interesting that they are both a bit risqué?

  18. What happens when our languages collide?
    Well, one evening, I was wandering through Penn Station
    when some headphone-wearing, Starbucks-swilling lorry
    of a man rolled up and barged into my side.
    All brimming with Britannic indignation,
    I stared him in the eye and snarled, "I'm sorry"-
    but he chirruped, "That's OK",
    and went blithely on his way.

  19. I thought, "I'm ahead of the curve
    In learning to utter 'love', 'lurve'" --
    But on aiming the word
    At a fanciable bird
    I got slapped in the face and called "perv"

  20. While I really do not like to cadge,
    (And it's difficult here to imag-
    Ine that you'll go so far)
    But for je ne sais quoi,
    Lynne, can I please have a badge?

  21. Yay! (Now I know how Mcdonalds employees feel when they get a star).


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)