How The Brits are Cheated

Thursday, 17 December 2009

[Picture of ruler with inches and mm]BRITS are hard-done by when it comes to software. This is a constant annoyance to me because I use a lot of software all day long. The problem is down to the difference between the USA and the UK — the so-called American English and British English.Let me explain it like this: if I were French, I would receive a French language version of software — French Windows 7, French Acrobat Reader, and so on.  Same idea if I was living in Italy or Spain.

But because I live in the UK, I do not get a special British English version of the software, oh no — to save money Microsoft and the rest of them simply ship off the US American software to us — and we have to just deal with it.

[German print dialogue]All my default settings for printers and plotters are bizarre things in “inches” — sizes such as “Letter” or “Legal” keep annoying me; I have never used these sizes of paper in my entire life!

Rulers in my graphics packages, and even in Word — they default to inches and odd paper sizes too.

Addressbooks demand a “zip code”, which we use for postcodes.  Spell checks, and dictionaries default to US American settings all the time.

Myriad small things add up to a huge loss in competitiveness and productivity, as we have to click three times as much as a German to get the same result.  We have to scroll through weird paper sizes, we have to spend ages wondering why the printer has stopped as a result of a “letter” size paper request.

Dots per INCH, screen ratios that do not tie in with the A-series of paper sizes, even the underlying HTML coding is biased to American English — color instead of colour and so forth.

It is bad enough elsewhere — that we drive cars with engine capacities given in litres, petrol is sold by the litre, but we still use MPH and distances in miles. Or when we use a 35mm lens to produce photographs that are printed onto 8″ x 10″ paper through an A4 inkjet printer, after being viewed on a screen with ratio 4:3.

[Picture of poster for Color Purple]Hollywood movies get dubbed into French or get subtitled for foreign languages — but not for us here in the UK.  We just get the American-English original.

Same with novels; the original American-English novel is translated into Italian or whatever, but there is never a translation into British-English — we have to read about people weighing 200 pounds, and wonder if that is fat or thin, heavy or light.

Instead of selling shows to be made locally, we are stuck with the latest US slang and jive talk, the regional dialects, the references to things we do not understand. For example, if I see a British TV programme where the criminal drives away in a Bentley, then I know what a Bentley means and what it says about the criminal’s status — but if I watch an American show, I have no idea what a status car might be.  Things like that are lost on us Brits. References to shops and restaurant chains that we don’t have mean that we work and entertain ourselves in a strange netherworld where we have grown used to not “getting” things — where we accept that we have to make allowances, that we have to make the best of it.

Consequently, the British have been (and continue to be) cheated.  We ought to refuse American produce until it has been translated for us, we are only asking for the exact same treatment that the Germans and French get!

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2 Responses to “How The Brits are Cheated”

  1. Gman Says:

    Perhaps you Brits should come to realize how silly your version of the language is with its “full stop” instead of “period”, “leftenant” instead of “lootenant”, etc., etc., etc., and adopt the U.S. version as I, a Canadian have chosen to do. The language has evolved. Go with it. I will concede, however, that the U.S. needs to convert to the more sensible metric system.

    • Dave Says:

      (a) It’s not our version of the language; it’s our language. Yours in a version of ours, not the other way around;
      (b) Our language evolves all the time, and dictionaries struggle to keep up. However, this is about new words, and words entering and leaving popular usage, you seem to have mixed up evolution of language with spelling;
      (c) Your version of our language has not evolved from our language, you have been forced to spell words differently, you were all taught a devised system, so your version is a fabrication rather than a modernisation or evolution;
      (d) You state that the original language is “silly”, when it is in fact naturally evolved from adoption of foreign words from myriad languages. I would suggest that your version is as illogical, irrational, and imperfect as ours, just with different spelling.


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