Two further notes on England

November 19, 2012 • 3:43 am

URGENT UPDATE: I think people are reading this site, for between posting this piece this morning and coming back from lunch, Amazon has nearly sold out of my favorite jam: only 13 jars of Tiptree Little Scarlet Conserve are left. Buy yours now! It may, like Twinkies, become extinct!


In my life I’ve spent many months in the UK, including various places in England and five months in Scotland. I love the place, and the people are wonderful.

There are also many glories, highest among which is a British pub that has real ale.  There is nothing in the U.S. that is like a historic old local that has real cask ales served at the proper temperature (a temperature always mischaracterized by Americans as “warm”).  In fact, Oxonians will recognize the great pub where I had lunch yesterday: The Turf Tavern in Oxford.  I had a fine pint and a wonderful fish and chips with mushy peas (a vegetable dish, by the way, that many abhor, but I love). But I have two further observations about England since I’m travelling and can’t do substantive posts:

1.  The Brits are overly punctilious about two things: tea and marmalade.  There is “tea time” and “coffee time,” the latter in the morning and the former at all other times, but rigorously between 3:30 and 4 p.m.  Even many Brits who like coffee won’t drink it after noon solely because it isn’t proper.

Here’s a story that demonstrates this peculiarity. I once was making cappuccinos with my office espresso machine in the late morning (this was in Chicago). To be nice, I made an extra one to give to my friend and chairman, the Brit Brian Charlesworth, a famous evolutionary geneticist.  I walked across the hall to proffer the steaming drink to Brian, whereupon he looked at his watch to see if it was the right time to drink coffee. Since it was after 10 a.m., he refused my offer.  This is what I call “overly scrupulous” (“neurotic” is a less proper term).

And there are all the lovely jams that the Brits make—some of the world’s best, which include gooseberry and raspberry preserves, and what I consider the world’s finest jam: Wilkin & Sons’ Tiptree Little Scarlet Strawberry Conserve. (If you ever see a jar, buy it instantly, though it’s pricey, but be sure it’s the “Little Scarlet” version, for Wikin & Sons make other strawberry jams. I’ve just found Little Scarlet on Amazon for $22.14 for 12 oz.) This was James Bond’s favorite jam, and it’s made from a variety of small, deeply flavored strawberry cultivated only by Wilkin & Sons. It is ethereal, far better than any strawberry jam—nay, any jam—I’ve ever had.

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Yet despite their multifarious array of jams, many Brits go for the same thing at breakfast: orange marmalade. Boring! It’s pure habit, nothing else.  It must be habit (or a perverse adherence to tradition), for there are so many other jams that are better.

2. The Brits say “different to” rather than “different from.”

An example:

“Little Scarlet is different to other strawberry preserves, even the other types made by Wilkin & Sons.”

“Different to” is just wrong; it sounds wrong and it is wrong.  I can live with “tyres” and “centre,” but not “different to.”

Oddly, every Brit I’ve tried to convince that this phrase is wrong has been baffled, and then disagreed!

But enough kvetching, for tonight I get to experience one of the glories of British academics: a formal dinner in college—in this case a formal dinner at New College, Oxford. This is something I always wanted to do and has been on my bucket list forever. Academics in gowns! Dinner in courses with good wine! High table! And port and dessert in a separate room!

265 thoughts on “Two further notes on England

    1. I love the way Americans say ‘erb, it sounds so bizarre. I assume they didn’t use herbs in cooking so they adopted the French pronunciation because they thought herbs were French or something. Herb has been an English word pronouncing the H for centuries.

      1. Actually what sounds bizarre is that the British pronounce a word borrowed from the French language as if it were somebody’s uncle by adding the pronunciation of the silent ‘h’. Same for the ‘t’ in filet (and for good measure I think an extra ‘l’ is added). This must have been based on a silly hostility toward the French at some point in British history, similar to the absurd Republicans who renamed French fries to be “freedom fries” in the Congressional cafeteria simply because the French had the good sense not to support George Bush II’s misadventure in Iraq. For some reason they forgot that it was the French who provided essential aid without which we may not have succeeded in the Revolutionary war against King George III and his Tory army. And for good measure the French gifted us with one of our most beloved and enduring national symbols, the statue of Lady Liberty who greets arrivals into New York harbor.

        I’m surprised you British haven’t, for the sake of consistancy and completeness, started to pronounce the silent ‘h’ in honour, hour, and heir.

        The Hour to Honor our Heirs draws nigh. That sentence, with ‘h’ pronounced, sounds like some kind of new styling technique at a salon or barber shop.


        1. Do you want to explain why Americans fail to pronounce the second syllable of coupé? I have a mental image of quite a lot of USAians keeping chickens in their car. Also Porsche? (Although some Brits are just as bad with this one).

          Not to mention the fact that it was a couple of years after hearing about them that I first realised that Noderdaim and Notre Dame were actually the same University.

          1. Lots of Americans pronounce the ‘e’ in Porsche. But those not in the know perhaps pronounce it by analogy to “force”.

            I didn’t know the prounounciation of “coupe” should have two syllables either, though I’ve studied French. Here one never sees the word written with the accent in the context of automobiles, and I’ve never considered the word’s origins. But I’m not much of a car fan. The short answer is, of course, ignorance. This page gives a hint that once Americans did pronounce this correctly and then slowly changed, possibly because of some pop songs.é

            It’s funny sometimes when you learn a word from reading but not speech, or vice versa, and you don’t have the prounounciation right. I recall in my youth that I knew the word “facetious” from speech before ever reading it, and it took me some time to work out that they were the same word. I used to pronounce the ‘t’ in my head when reading.

            Another horrible bastardization of French done by Americans is the term “chaise longue”, which generally comes out as “chase lounge” when spoken. Shudder. How do the British say it?

      2. I grew up in California in the 60s and saying “herb” with silent ‘h’ was simply normal, with no awareness that there was a connection to French or that the prounounciation could be considered pretentious. It’s simply the sound everyone made to name a certain class of botanic seasonings, as natural as saying hour or table. Everyone knew that Kentucky Fried Chicken (nobody said KFC then) had 11 herbs and spices in its secret formula. It would have been hard to avoid being exposed to this silent ‘h’ prounounciation.

        I remember the first time I was made aware of the issue with prounounciation was from hearing a television ad in the late 60s for an herbal shampoo. I wish this had been banished from my memory, but how persistently little insignificant bits of mental fluff cling to our brain cells! The ad featured a husband (whose name was Herb of course) and wife bickering about how to pronounce the word “herbal”. The wife kept insisting “It’s ‘erbal Herb”. Perhaps another American reading this will curse me for reviving this dormant memory of something pounded into their brain by the original “Mad Men” ages ago.

        So having been so thoroughly brainwashed at an early age I have to plead innocence for the life long habit of using silent ‘h’ in the word “herb”.

        Of course the first time I heard the British prounounciation of “herbs” the hilarious thought of a group of men named Herb came to mind, perhaps all with crew cuts, horn rimmed glasses, and pocket protectors in the classic mid to late 20th century stereotype of an engineer. I think the first Herb I ever met, the father of one of my elder brother’s friends, looked that way.

          1. “Than” is conjunction used in comparisons, but “different” does not introduce a comparison; it introduces a flat contrast, and it properly takes the preposition “from.” Exceptions, however, are tolerated, as usage expert Paul Brians suggests:

            >>> Americans say “Scuba-diving is different from snorkeling,” the British often say “different to” (though most UK style guides disapprove), and those who don’t know any better say “different than.” However, though conservatives object, you can usually get away with “different than” if a full clause follows: “Your pashmina shawl looks different than it used to since the cat slept on it.” <<<

            1. Hmm, I don’t see that as an exception, I see it as a different case.
              i.e. I’d say “scuba is different from snorkelling” but “your shawl looks different than it used to”. As per examples above. I’m not sure what the subtle distinction is in the cases, but it’s definitely there – I think because the first case compares two different things (scuba and snorkel), the second is a change in the same thing (shawl).

          2. Wrong. The word “than” is used after a comparative adjective or adverb, to introduce the second member of an unequal comparison. The word “different” does not denote un-equalness. “Different than” simply does not make sense. Plus it is godawfully ugly.

        1. FWIW, I have always seen the verb “to differ” followed by “from”, never “to” or “than”. Ergo, “different from”. I’m not saying the English language is always logical, but it is when it suits me.

          1. That’s my rule of thumb for remembering what’s correct: A differs from B => A is different from B.

            Fowler advocated “from”, iirc, so that’s the “correct” British English way!


      1. Agreed again.

        Except “different to” is wrong. Just not as wrong as “different than.”

        And, for the record, here is one Brit who can’t stand English tea.

    1. If Heinlein disapproves, it must not be proper.

      “Scatological Panhedonism Multiple Solecisms. ‘Convinced to-‘ Like I say- ‘Different than-”

      Jubal Harshaw in The Number of the Beast…

    2. Fowler (ed. Gowers) says
      “That d. [viz. different] can only be followed by from and not by to is a SUPERSTITION. To is ‘found in writers of all ages’ (OED) and the principle on which it is rejected (You do not say differ to; therefore you cannot say d. to) involves a hasty and ill-defined generalization. Is it all derivatives, or derivative adjectives, or adjectives that were once participles, or actual participles, that must conform to the construction of their parent verbs? It is true of the last only; we cannot say differing to, but that leaves d. out in the cold. If it is all derivatives, why do we say according, agreeably, and pursuant, to instructions, when we have to say this accords with, or agrees with, or pursues, instructions? ….”

      etc. etc. but Jerry is the first person I have heard from for a long time who objected to “different to” faced with the remorseless onslaught – at least around here – of “different than” on both. Of that, Fowler/Gowers says:

      Else, other, and their compounds, are the only words outside true comparatives whose right to be followed by t. [viz. than] is unquestioned. The use of t., on the analogy of other t. after different, diverse, opposite, etc., is ‘now mostly avoided” (OED).”

      Alas, he spoke too soon. Note also his fastitious use of commas.

      (If the italicisation, and non-, of this is successful, congratulate me!)

  1. This Brit says “different from”! My mother-in-law is very particular about that particular matter.
    Also, in our physics department, there is no wrong time of day for coffee!
    But I agree about the marmalade, it is the spread of choice at breakfast time provided it comes from a jar & has orange peel in it, not the little plastic pots you get at B&B’s. Unless you’re my wife, in which case it’s Marmite all the way. Have you tried that while over here?

      1. Marmite is the chosen nectar of the gods, beware of thunderbolts for disparaging it.

        It goes well with marmalade as well.

  2. Speaking as a Jock, which is like a Brit, only further north….

    Coffee time is any time, day or night. For many years, I had my first of the day at 07:00 in the AM. I do drink tea, but I’d rather have a decent coffee if given the choice.

    Different to is correct. Remember, you are speaking English in its home country, not that made up stuff that you guys speak in the US of A. 😉

    If the Queen says so, it must be true: 🙂

    Enjoy the UK. And my wife agrees with your opinions on Timmy Taylor’s Landlord – it’s her favourite pint as well. Me? I never touch the stuff, beer I mean, it’s foul. (Like Coke actually!)


    1. PS. Orange Marmalade? Yuk! Raspberry Jam is best. And Golden Syrup. (Jock diet = 100% sugar!)

      Oh, and if you ever visit Yorkshire, where I’m currently resident, thay call Golden Syrup (yum!) Treacle. Go figure.

      Treacle, on the other hand, they call Black Treacle.

      1. Golden syrup is only palatable as the binding agent in a Golden Syrup and Demerara sugar sandwich. Black Treacle on the other hand, is only fit for porridge.
        ISTR that Pterry (Terry Pratchett) has persuaded (or been honoured with) the naming of a street in his home town as “Treacle Mine Road” ; which is either life imitating art, or just plain funny.

        1. Black Treacle is what I believe we Yanks call molasses. No idea what Golden Syrup may be. Do you have Maple Syrup in the UK?

          1. Golden Syrup is similar in colour and consistency to maple syrup, but made from cane sugar. Probably similar to treacle but thinner (lower viscosity) and lighter colour.

          2. (Infinitimprob too)
            IIRC, “golden syrup” is what comes out of (cane) sugar processing after the first batch of sugar crystals are skimmed off.
            The “golden syrup” is then re-heated and re-cooled to produce a second batch of sucrose crystals ; the remaining liquor is “molasses” (“black treacle”) ; some processes may do a third crystallisation, but I don’t know the name of the waste from that.
            (Regurgitated from memory ; E&OE.)

        2. Incorrect. Golden syrup is absolutely essential in a treacle sponge pudding even though it’s not actually treacle.

  3. I can live with “tyres” and “centre,” but not “different to.”

    Ooh, a declaration of war! 😉

    What is far worse is the American habit of putting the punctuation in the wrong place, namely inside the quotes as you’ve just done, whereas by any rules of logic it should be outside.

    It is just wrong! (Admittedly it doesn’t “sound” wrong, but it still is wrong.) Why oh why fellow speakers of the English language?

    1. As you might have noticed, I alternate between putting punctuation inside and outside quotes, just to satisfy both sides of the pond. I do favor punctuation OUTSIDE quotes if it wasn’t part of the quote originally.

      1. I was wondering what was correct about that recently and when I went looking for a guide it said that commas and full stops/periods should always go inside the quotation marks but question and exclamation marks should go outside unless they are part of the quote.

        1. That’s what I’d read too, though I can’t claim to adhere to it all the time.
          It’s still wrong, if you think from a programming / mathematical point of view and treat the quote marks as logical equivalents of a set of parentheses. Computer programmers and programming text books often make that error / apply that consistency ; I suspect it may spread.

    2. The punctuation placement is a matter of typography and visual white space.


      After he said, “one,” she said, “two.”
      After he said, “one”, she said, “two”.

      In both cases, there is too much white space between one of the punctuation marks and what’s being punctuated. A good-quality kerning algorithm will place the marks (very close to) in line vertically with each other, but typewriters can’t do that. And, as it turns out, the extra space tends to be more visually jarring on the lower half of the line, which is why exterior punctuation is preferred even if logically it might make more sense the other way ’round.

      Why is it more jarring? Without quotation marks, there is never any white space between the punctuation mark and the last glyph. There are, however, most commonly exactly such spaces between the last glyph and a quotation mark, as the quotation marks are placed well above the height of a lower-case letter. The only time you don’t have space with a quotation mark is when the last word ends in an ascending character that ascends on the right: d, f, l, and t. Not many words end in one of those four letters — and well-kerned text will have a bit of extra space between such a letter and a closing quote mark to compensate.



  4. Hunh? I’m a ‘Brit’, albeit living upside down (where we’re called ‘Poms’), but I’ve always said ‘different *from*’.

    But then I’m ex South Coast, maybe they speak a different dialect Up North, like beyond the Thames valley…

    1. No – “this is different than that” would be fine to me, but then I grew up in Norfolk, where we say ‘that’ a lot. Let’s face it, there is a place for grammar & that is when it is studied. The function of grammar is to be descriptive rather than proscriptive surely – for which see most of David Crystal’s work.

  5. You’re trying the wrong kind of marmalade! Don’t be put off by the kind of sugar-laden, overly-sickly slop that passes for much of the stuff on the shelves over here: look for a thick-cut marmalade made – most important bit – with Seville oranges, which are sharply tart and slightly bitter. These marmalades are thick to the point of solid, not especially sweet and have a sour sharpness to them – just what you need to wake up the chops first thing in the morning. They go by far the best on brown/wholemeal toast, incidentally, rather than white and with coffee rather than tea. Completely different to (yes, to) anything you’ll have tried before.

    Thank me later 🙂

    1. Sorry, mate, but I have had the real thing; in fact, I’ve helped a British woman make real orange marmalade from Seville oranges. It was terrific, but I couldn’t eat it every day for the rest of my life, and if I were to be offered orange marmalade next to Little Scarlet, there would be no question of what I’d put on my crumpet. (Crumpets, BTW, are another glory of British food: they are far better than the American version, perversely called “English muffins”.)

      1. Crumpets and English muffins aren’t the same. Crumpets are crumpets on both sides of the pond, while in the UK ‘English muffins’ are just called muffins. Not to be confused with the American version of muffins, which are a relatively recent incursion. I’m not a fan of marmalade and would definitely pick any jam over that.
        I hope you’ll be hitting the pubs in Edinburgh on Friday! There are some superb ones, and Scottish ales are marvellous! Looking forward to your talk 🙂

        1. This reminds me of a trip to Lourdes (France), along with a number of other school kids. One of them came into the bakery & asked for “a loaf of French bread”. The guy behind the counter responded “Here, we just call it bread”.

        2. “Crumpets are crumpets on both sides of the pond”.

          Well, no. Crumpets do not exist in North America. At least, I’ve yet to encounter one and I suspect that most Americans have no better idea of what they are than “something brits eat with tea”.

          1. Yes, this exactly.

            Sometimes when Mom makes sourdough (and she often makes sourdough), she’ll reserve a bit of the dough for Dad to cook the next morning on the griddle as English muffins. I suppose an Englishman might recognize them as close cousins to crumpets…but, never having seen naught but a picture of a crumpet, I honestly couldn’t tell you.

            What my parents make have a crunchy crust, a spongy, chewy center, and a characteristic tangy taste. We generally eat them with either just a bit of butter or butter plus jam or honey.


          2. Crumpets exist in North America, but they are rare. The important point is that crumpets are not a food with a different common name in North America. Unlike muffin, if you have a crumpet in NA (and I have) it will be called a crumpet, not some other transatlantic name.

            What I like about crumpets is the way the holes trap little pools of melted butter and honey.


            1. Just saw crumpets for sale at Trader Joe’s (chain store in Califas) in the bread section. On a shelf just above the one holding English muffins. (< yes, a "sentence fragment")

              In appearance they are different.

              Non-English muffins here in the USA look as one would expect if a "muffin pan" were used in their baking.

              With all the blasts entered above re English, one feels akin to crossing a minefield with every keystroke!

      2. Crumpets are only sometimes the same thing as English muffins. We usually think of crumpets as similar to pikelets: more or less savoury pancakes with bicarb. Way better than they sound.

      3. Actually, the English equivalent of your English muffins are…wait for it…muffins. Crumpets are a food in their own right, and, as you say, much nicer than muffins.

      4. There is a considerable difference between what you call ‘English muffins’ and crumpets. The former is breadlike and is made from sour dough. The latter is a little like a very fat pancake and is made from a thick batter.

            1. The British spelling that always gives me pause is “gaol”. When I’m reading the temptation to think ‘gale’ is overwhelming.

            2. Of course not. ‘tyre’ refers to a particular sort of product. ‘fire’ does not. I’m not saying that we should use a y to eliminate ambiguity, just that in one particular instance it does.

              Besides, I’m talking about my personal preference as a British person.

    1. Sorry, Norm, the pneumatic tyre was invented by RW Thomson, of Stonehaven (just south of Aberdeen), a fact celebrated each year with a classic car rally. We still get to spell it!

      When I see your sign-off, it reminds me that Cheers is currently being re-run on ITV4.



      1. According to it was John Dunlop, not James as I put, who invented and patented the pneumatic tyre.

        In 1887, John Dunlop developed the first practical pneumatic tire for his son’s tricycle, tested it, and patented it on December 7, 1888. Dunlop’s development of the pneumatic tire arrived at a crucial time in the development of road transportation. Commercial production began in late 1890 in Belfast, Ireland. Dunlop partnered with William Du Cros to form a company that would later become the Dunlop Rubber Company.


        Ps. Yup, it’s tyre! 😉

        1. I’ll see your ideafinder and raise you a wikipedia: Robert William Thomson

          Thomson was only 23 years old when he patented his pneumatic tyre. He was granted a patent in France in 1846 and in the US in 1847… For many years Thomson was frustrated by the lack of thin rubber, and he turned to the development of his solid rubber tyres. It was not until 43 years later that the pneumatic tyre returned, when it was developed as a bicycle tyre by John Boyd Dunlop. Dunlop was granted a patent in 1888, but two years later was officially informed that it was invalid as Thomson’s patent anticipated it.

          Wikipedia on J B Dunlop says much the same.

          The important thing is that, either way, it was a great Scottish invention!



          1. It must be in the blood (my distaff ancestors include many many Scots in the lineage). I have had thoughts of a “pneumatic sailing mast” which would be erected using air pressure, and would uncork and release the air if the ship were to capsize, pitch pole, or otherwise be subject to extreme force. Thus the mast could not be broken or torn from the vessel, and could be revived post-catastrophe.

  6. As an Australian, marmalade is an important part of my repertoire and I insist on the good stuff. My husband is an American who can’t abide it, so our Saturday morning breakfast has one of us with toast and marmalade, whilst the other has maple syrup with crepes. He also has a much sweeter tooth than I do.

    1. You’ve brought up another example of U.S./U.K. (and apparently Australian) grammar differences: Americans say “while”, not “whilst”.

        1. I don’t know where I got this, but I tend to use “whilst” at the beginning of a sentence, in the sense of “although”, and in the middle of a sentence denoting “at the same time”, I use “while”.

          For example: Whilst I believe this to be correct, I am willing to listen to other opinions while I am on line.

  7. Having read this website for a little while it is, somehow, slightly thrilling to think you’re ‘in the building’ so to speak. Would be interested to know how you think the country has changed over the years (good and bad), unless you’ve already covered this and I missed it.

    I’m in Leeds by the way Jerry. And I’m in such a bad mood I can’t think of a single good reason you should even glance at it on your way to Scotland.

  8. Even many Brits who like coffee won’t drink it after noon solely because it isn’t proper.

    Really? I have never come across this in 40 years of being British. I’ve come across something similar in Italy and Spain: I’ve been told that cappuccino is something you have for breakfast and only tourists drink it later in the day. But I’ve never come across any such thing in Britain.

    Yet despite this, many Brits go for the same thing at breakfast: orange marmalade. Boring! It’s pure habit, nothing else.

    I find this surprising too, with one caveat. I suspect quite a lot of Brits have marmalade at breakfast when they stay in hotels, but probably don’t at their ordinary breakfast table. The same is true of the English Breakfast. It’s not all that common for people to routinely eat an English Breakfast, but in a hotel that offers a good one, it is somehow almost essential! It reminds me of the fact that I almost never see anyone drinking tomato juice except on planes, where people seem to chug it like we’re running out of tomatoes.

    I might be entirely wrong and the whole country is guzzling marmalade by the jar, but I have my doubts. I don’t see much marmalade in supermarkets, for example, but lots of jam. But I think this should probably count as proof:

    Different to” is just wrong

    I’ve never been able to get very excited about this. They both sound OK to me. But there’s another point about British attitudes to American English that’s worth mentioning. We tend to priggishly dismiss ‘American’ spellings and phrases as somehow less correct than the British English variant. However, there are lots of examples of the American version being the one originally used in Britain and the British variant being the more modern version. Not that any of this matters in the slightest, but it’s worth mentioning to people who smugly and unthinkingly decry American versions of spelling as automatically wrong or somehow worse.

    1. I have never come across this in 40 years of being British.

      You took the words right out of my mouth, except I’d have said “62 years of being British”.

    2. As a Scot (who’d have guessed), I agree entirely with your post, but I do prefer “different from” (see #2 above). And as for some American spellings being original, well, I’ve gotten used to that :-).

  9. Yes to the real ales. That’s one of the main treats in living in the UK.

    Strangely, many Brits drink lagers instead. I’ve never understood why. I try to get our local club to keep a few bottles of ale on hand for me, since everyone else is happy to drink lagers.

    I’m indifferent to the jams since I don’t like sweet stuff for breakfast.

    1. A lot of rubbish pubs do not know how to look after proper beer I reckon, whereas on tap lager is easy & usually foul.

      1. For some reason, Fosters lager (!) is a local favourite. IMO, the stuff is tasteless. There are good lagers in the world, but that is not one of them.

        1. Yeah, being a lager drinker from NZ (on the wrong side of the world), and being convinced that Fosters is a diabolically undrinkable antipodean product**, I was looking forward to my trip to UK where I was sure I’d be able to get some nice Continental lagers, being just next door so to speak. And what were all the pubs selling? Bloody Fosters!!

          (Before I start a trans-Tasman war I’d better say I like Aussies. Just not their lager).

          1. No offense taken from this Aussie. I don’t drink Fosters – it must be big on the export market – interesting.

  10. I would rather people did not use ‘Brit’ – it is as offensive as ‘Yank’! Well to me anyway. I agree about marmalade – nice to have sometimes, but I prefer hard white clover honey. Home made jams are always better, but I can never eat it before it goes off. Last year I found some greengages on a tree in a north Norfolk hedge & they made great jam. First time I had tried making it – having watch my mother when I was a child.

    1. That takes me back 30 years or so. I was lucky enough to have an orchard when I was a kid. This makes me sound very rich and fancy but it was a rented house in very, very poor condition… but with the compensation of an orchard, of all things. Anyway, we had damsons, greengages, plums of various sort, apples, pears… All of which made excellent jams and slightly less excellent wines.

      I actually saw and bought some greengages in – of all places – our local Morrisons supermarket recently. They were sweeter than I remembered.

      1. I saw greengages recently too – in one of the major supermarkets. I was trying to persuade the wife to indulge me, but we’d got the week’s fruit by then. Have to try them one time.

        1. Despite having been the youngest kid in our family and therefore sent shinning up greengage trees as a toddler to pick the fruit, I still love these older British fruits, especially the sour ones. Crabapples, quinces… We British – especially northerners – have traditionally made extraordinary things out of those fruits most people disregard.

          For example, quince jelly, especially with a splash of rhubarb jam, is brilliant with fatty things like duck and lean things like rabbit. Crabapple jelly is *amazing* with buttery things like croissants and even works fairly well with chocolate.

          1. I haven’t had crab apple jelly for absolute yonks – not since I left home for uni. The neighbours had a crab apple tree, and every year or so would borrow some of Mum’s preserving jars to “stock up”. Obviously we’d get stocked up in a “qunice pro quo” (sorry, couldn’t resist the temptation to make people wuince).
            Have to find some now.
            Ohhh, there’s an idea : I’ve recently taken to doing croissants for breakfast, and occasionally “pain au chocolate” using those pre-made dough mixes (because I’m lazy and I’ve proved to myself that I can “do bread” in general) ; so … pre-made croissant dough ; sprinkle with chocolate chips ; crab apple jelly (or similar) spoon in the middle ; roll up and bake. Worth a try!

    2. Dominic,

      speaking as a Jock aka Northern Brit, I don’t find it offensive in the slightest, nor do I find Yank offensive either. What offends you about them?

      Speaking as a bee keeper, are you aware that clover honey is neither white nor hard?

      What you have is an adulterated concotion that is probably something called “set” honey, where you take a ordinary honey and allow it to crystalise and then whip it up severly to get the white set texture. I find it very grainy I have to admit.

      Also, commercial (aka shop bought) honey is mostly a mix of various honeys from all over the place (unless the label says otherwise of course) and will have been pasteurised which makes it taste a lot different to “real” honey from the hive.

      If you ever get to a country show, or anything that has bee keepers at it, do try the honey there, it’s natural and un-fiddled-with. (And enjoy!)


      1. It doesn’t offend me to be called a Brit but, to me it’s just a geographical term. It’s not my nationality. I’m a Brit in the same way I’m a European, I live in Europe as well as Great Britain.

      2. I sit at your feet & injest your honied words oh bee keeper! I will watch out for that. As for ‘Brit’, you can call me anything you like as long as you don’t call me late for dinner.

    3. Sorry, I didn’t realize anyone considered it offensive, since it’s short for “Briton”. I never thought of “Yank” as offensive either, as it’s short for “Yankee”.

        1. Do people from south of the Mason-Dixon Line mind being called “yank(ee)s”? I imagine they might have taken great exception at one time!

      1. As I said, I don’t find it offensive, it’s just not a nationality. Describing something as Anglo when it’s the UK being referred to can be offensive because Anglo strictly speaking means English.

        I always thought Yank referred to supporters of the Union side during the civil war and wasn’t used to describe southerners.

        You learn so much on this here internet thingy!

      2. I am being prissy Jerry – really, call me what you like! I have some pet hates – in particular ‘kid’ for child. But I have to accept these things. Use Brit if you habitually do – it is an exonym rather than an endonym though.

        1. In a way I agree with you – it doesn’t actually offend me but I find it a bit grating. Being British, though, I’d obviously never mention it.

      3. I don’t find ‘Brit’ offensive as such, I’d never use it myself as it just isn’t an English term, don’t mind if Yanks .. err, Americans use it. But then what do I call myself? In NZ or Oz I can say ‘Pom’ but that would just puzzle people elsewhere. ‘English’ sounds a bit formal in this context. Words are so difficult aren’t they?

    4. I’ve never felt offended by Yank. There is an old war song “Over There” with the line “The Yanks are coming” and it’s not meant as an insult.

      In the US south Yank or Yankee used with some derision. We sti ll have some Civil War cultural divides after even 150 years. Northerners are proud to consider themselves Yankees, but southerners would never claim the title. Somebody from Alabama or Texas might be upset if you called them a Yank.

      Of course “Yank” does sound uncomfortably close to “jerk”, and when you start adding prepositions it gets even worse.

  11. ‘Different to’ is considered wrong, it’s just a very common mistake.

    I am quite sure that more British people eat strawberry jam than marmalade, although most people eat horrible, overly sugary jams rather than the example you’ve given, which I agree is delicious. Marmalade will only be more prevalent in certain social classes.

    1. For someone who was raised in East Africa, attended British boarding schools there, and where the English taught English English, it’s always been “different from”. Occasionally you’d hear “different to”. But I always considered it an idiosyncrasy and not the official form.

  12. I presume that Jerry has only encountered mass-market marmalades rather than some of the marmalades from the same producer as his favourite jam. Dark, bitter-orange marmalade is definitely not boring and like fine whiskies and real ales, is an acquired taste. If you want boring, then American breakfast jelly takes the prize.

    As for ‘different from’ and ‘different to’ then British style guides vary. Phythian’s A Concise Dictionary of Correct English (1985) prefers ‘from’ while Gowers’ The Complete Plain Words (1986) claims that ‘to’ has good justification but ‘from’ is becoming more common. The Guardian style guide also prefers ‘from’ (although concedes that ‘to’ is acceptable) but also makes the following distinction in meanings:

    She looked very different to those who came before (to the people who came before, she looked very different).
    She looked very different from those who came before (she did not look like the people who came before).

    The one thing that all agree is that it should never be ‘different than’.

  13. You are entirely correct, Little Scarlet is without doubt the finest Jam available, and I would urge anyone to try it. It is different from all other strawberry jams.

    I say that as a Brit by the way, I always say different from, having listened to my father railing against the ugly and incorrect ‘to’ version in the sixties.

    Perhaps this is yet another example of linguistic change actually happening in the UK first, i.e. not the Amercians ruining ‘our’ language after all, something that most Brits don’t realise.

  14. Ah the Turf Tavern! I lived next door at 2 Bath Place for a while as a posgrad student. My eldest son’s room was at the back of the cottage and over the narrow alleyway that separated the pub from the house. You could see his window from the pub’s “garden.” Sitting int he pub’s garden with a baby monitor, if he started crying, you could get back to his room as quickly as you could from the cottage’s own garden.

    The cellars of the cottage and the pub and the cottage had been connected at one time but the connection had been bricked up – yes, I did think about it!

    As for jam, I was brought up in Essex in jam country so my views woud be prejudiced.

    1. Hah! I read “..sitting in the garden with a baby monitor” and thought you were referring to a monitor lizard!

      My mother was always annoyed by the use of “kid(s)” rather than “child(ren)”.

      “A kid is a young goat!” she would say, as necessary.

  15. Isn’t it “different to” or “differs from”? As a South African I’d never say “different from.”

  16. As a non-coffee drinking non-marmalade eating Englishman:

    1) I don’t function correctly before my first cup of tea in the morning.

    2) My brother doesn’t drink tea after about 7pm, the strange man. Something to do with being able to sleep.

    3) Coffee is the work of the devil. Uncouth substance.

    4) My parents had marmalade on their toast daily. I never picked up that habit.

    5) Why do American’s cash checks? You “check” tyres, not write them. Cheques, dear people!


    1. 5) Why do American’s cash checks? You “check” tyres, not write them. Cheques, dear people!

      I’m charmed by this brilliantly anachronistic point on many levels. I tend to come down on the side of ‘cheque’ because of its obvious origin, but I sympathise with simplifying the spelling because cheques/checks have become a thing in their own right, regardless of the word’s origin.

      And then I remember that I for one haven’t written or banked a cheque in perhaps a decade. Do people still use them? So who cares?

      And then I remember how much I enjoy pedantry and argument about footling things.

      So yeah, Americans, it’s “cheques”. And don’t you forget it. Especially long after cheques themselves have been forgotten 🙂

      1. Many shops and retail outlets (petrol stations in particular) haven’t accepted cheques for 5 years now, and were reluctant to accept them for years before that. It’s been nearly 20 years since I had a bank account that had a cheque book associated with it.
        Which reminds me that I’ve got to get a postal order today!

    2. The Americans have overloaded the term “check” so that if you went to a restaurant in olden days, you might have paid the check with a check, which I think is confusing.

      Mind you, that is not as bad (in my mind) as the Italian version of “bill” which is close enough to a certain very Anglo-Saxon word that I get uneasy when I have to attract the waiter’s attention and say “Il conto per favore”.

      1. That reminds me of the time a German philosophy professor asked me why the English never pronounce “Kant” correctly.

  17. Okay, I’ll try “warm” ale next time I’m there, but I draw the line at warm lager.

    Yes, I love Scotland too, especially the SW (my favourite towns there are Castle Douglas and Gatehouse of Fleet) and Edinburgh. I’ve been up to Aviemore and the Whisky Trail, but find the far north a bit uninteresting as not that many trees seem to grow up there.

    For me any time is a good time for coffee but I really prefer tea. (My favourite brand is Dilmah.)

    You don’t like Marmite eh? Try Vegemite, just… wonderful. I also can’t stand marmalade.

    1. Lager is served cold because of a) the bubbles and b) mass-produced lagers are so disgusting you wouldn’t want to taste them any warmer. Ales are served merely cool (not warm) to bring out the flavours, which you can’t taste when they’re cold.

    2. but find the far north a bit uninteresting as not that many trees seem to grow up there.

      Get thee to Rhum, where the sheep and goats have been shot and the deer corralled into a corner of the island. The Caledonian forest is regenerating, slowly, and constitutes one of the longest running ecological experiments in the world, dating back IIRC to 1935(-odd).

      1. I have seen reference to the successful planting of Sequoia sempervirens in Scotland for the purpose of reforestation.

        Has anyone actually seen any California Redwoods growing in Scotland?

          1. Unless he’s moved, Richard Dawkins has a century-old California Redwood in his garden (mentioned in TGD).

        1. I’ve seen trees labelled as Wellingtonia in Scotland, but Wiki tells me that that may not necessarily make them Sequoiadendron Giganteum.

        2. A while ago (a couple of years) I was at the arboretum at Crathes Castle, and there were several Sequoia…. genera there, but I learned long ago to leave the specific stuff to Dad, who has been a “Valhalla” grade botanist for longer than I’ve been.
          When I was doing my geological mapping studies around Loch an Nid, I had to cycle in from Ullapool on a weekly basis with my food stocks. Along the roadside (near here, not that the change of film rolls helps) there is a stand that looks very sequoia-like. Oh, and there are sequoia (and Wollemi pine) at Poolewe gardens too (a fameous place for plant-y type people.

      1. Vegemite is far too grainy. Even Sainsbury’s (a UK supermarket chain for those outside the UK) yeast extract is better.

      2. The reason Australia punches far above its weight at the Olympics on a per capita basis is that we have Vegemite and you guys have Twinkies. Or used to.

  18. The word “to” indicates a contiguity.
    “She lives close to her work.”

    The word “from” indicates a distinction.
    “I was excluded from my university.”

    “Similar to”
    “Different from”

    Strange how words actually have meanings and need to be used correctly.

    1. Sure, but if you can exchange a phrase for another without loss of meaning, doesn’t that trump the internal meaning of the phrase?

      Isn’t difference in this sense a relation?

      1. Question is (for me at least), can you say “similar from”?

        Indeed you can’t. So the only reason that we can say “different to” without the same cringe-inducing feeling as “similar from” is because, due to the constant misuse of the phrase, it sounds almost acceptable.

        1. Can I say “similar from”? Hang on, just checking, (shouts “similar from” across the room), yep, I can.

  19. Jerry,

    Be wary of Brits putting on a bit of a show of superiority for their guests from the Colonies. Possibly stemming from deeply held resentment of the loss. May also be a throw back to the days of the Raj, where a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity, or foreigners, was the only way to maintain an air of control. [You’re still a ‘bloody foreigner’, even when we’re occupying your country.] You may find this air of superiority among the upper and aspiring classes. The jolly old working class types are more likely to go in for self-effacing humour.

    I bet Brian Charlesworth would have loved that coffee, but thought he needed to maintain an appearance.

    The bitter sweet marmalade is for the gentlemen, and the softly sweet strawberry or raspberry jam for the delicate ladies.

    Fowler’s Modern English Usage:

    “That different can only be followed by from and not by to is a superstition.”

    The Concise Oxford Dictionary:

    “… (from, to, than, all used by good writers past and present, than chiefly where a prep. is inconvenient)..”

    Collins Pocket Dictionary of English Usage:

    “… If we look back at the usage of past writers of British English who have established reputations, the constructions different from, different to and different than can all be found. Nowadays [1992], in British English, the choice has settled on the use of from as the most acceptable preposition…”

    Perhaps the predominance of the use of to among a certain class of Brits comes from the tendency to speak with gritted teeth and pursed lips that one aquires at certain public schools, where as young boys it was often necessary to speak with hot buttered crumpets clenched firmly if smartingly between one’s buttocks.

    1. I realise that what you are saying is tongue in cheek but I’m not sure I know any British person who REALLY “holds a deep resentment for the loss” of the ‘colonies’, unless it is a member of some tiny, hide bound, ignorant elite – members of which, I am glad to say, I have never met. I could also say that if you want to meet people in whom a blind nationalism, married with a strongly held view of the inferiority of other countries, then come and visit the USA. Not all Americans by a long shot, but plenty. Anyway – I’m glad there are still differences in spelling, language use and preferred breakfast condiments – we don’t all want to be the same. I’m off to have coffee and toast and marmite 🙂

    2. The English are Best By Flanders and Swann sums it up nicely. My favourite line towards the end, referring to foreigners, “It’s not that you’re wicked or naturally bad
      It’s knowing you’re foreign that makes you so mad.”

            1. To be honest, I was unaware of my “error” until you drew attention to it. Further Googling would seem to indicate that this is yet another UK/US split. “You pays (sic) your money…”

      1. I think the title is “A Song of Patriotic Prejudice” (checks sleeve notes). Yes ; “Another Hat”, track 13.
        “They argue with umpires;
        They cheer when they’ve won ;
        And they practice beforehand,
        Which ruins the fun!”

  20. Re: Coffee and tea: Pure nonsense. Jerry, you’ve just been unlucky. Most people I know drink tea when it suits them, and coffee when it suits them. I suppose the minute percentage of Brits who conform to the “lah-di-dah” image that most Americans appear to have of us might have such idiosyncrasies, but a statement such as “The Brits are overly punctilious about … tea” is a generalisation, and a long way from being scientific!

    Regarding Jam vs marmalade: I can’t speak for other Brits, but for me jam goes on bread; marmalade goes on toast. Toast is a breakfast item, sandwiches are not. To be sure, these are in general just conformances to tradition, but that’s hardly a purely British thing. Do you have pancakes with bacon and maple syrup for your evening meal? How about roast beef for breakfast? Some edibles just fit a certain time of day.

    And finally: “Different to” vs “different than” … who cares? We have a multitude of linguistic deltas – we put up with Yanks spelling “aluminium” one way and pronouncing it another (and yes, I’m aware of the etymology of the word); saying “I could care less,” which clearly makes no fucking sense at all; and so on. Different strokes, people!

  21. As a Brit living in USA, “different to” and “different from” is no big deal.
    One thing that drives me nuts is pronouncing “Tuesday” “Toosday”.

    1. Never mind that!

      But let’s not be pronouncing the “t” in “often”, shall we?

      ps. How’s “Toosday” supposed to be pronounced, then?

        1. From now on I’ll make sure to add an air of darkness and gloom to my prounounciation of Tuesday, which is today.

  22. Glad to see you’ve been to the Turf, which has always been one of my favourite pubs in Oxford.

    The one down side of it is that the ceiling at the end with the main entrance is *very* low and I *always* hit my head on it, even when I’ve walked in explicitly thinking “don’t hit your head on the ceiling”. I’m just under 6 foot, so that’s very low ceiling.

  23. I know I’m taking an off-hand (and possibly jocular) remark a bit seriously, but it gives me an opportunity to spout off on a pet subject.

    If (as Jerry seems to think) Brits generally say “different to”, then “different to” is right for British English. Language is just an established convention. And conventions in Britain are different from those in the US.

    That said, I’m a Brit and more inclined to say “different from”. But I feel comfortable with “different to” as well, which suggests to me that both are in common use among the speakers I pick up language from (mostly educated, middle class, southern).

    Although I say that language is just a convention, this is not just the same as saying that however the majority speak is “correct”. One can reasonably point to inconsistencies, such as where people fail to follow a more general grammatical rule. On the other hand, sometimes inconsistencies are sufficiently well-established to be considered a rule that overrides the more general rule. For example, “children” is inconsistent with the general rule for forming plurals, but we consider it quite correct. But there is no hard rule for deciding when a usage is sufficiently well-established to be considered a rule. (There are no absolute rules or meta-rules.) Talking of “rules”, though convenient, is liable to give us a false idea of how language works. Better to think of them as habitual patterns of usage.

    I’d be interested to know what argument Jerry uses when he (optimistically!) tries to persuade people that “different to” is wrong. Presumably it’s not an appeal to “different from” being better established than “different to”. So I guess it’s some sort of appeal to consistency with wider usage. Perhaps Jerry has in mind that “different from” is more consistent with other uses of the words “from” and “to”. One might say that difference implies an apartness, which suggests expressions like “apart from” and “far from”. The greater the difference between two things, the further apart they are from each other (though that’s imposing a spatial metaphor on differences that usually have nothing to do with space). Perhaps there is a small degree of merit in such a point, but nothing like enough to justify a serious objection to a well-established convention. If we go down that road, where will we stop? Should we start saying “opposed from”?

    I’m probably just as inclined as other people to find some usages irritating, to strongly feel their wrongness. But when I stop and think carefully about my reasons for judging them wrong, I find things aren’t so simple.

    Incidentally, these sorts of considerations are relevant to semantics as well as syntax, and so they have significant implications for philosophy, which I see in large part as a matter of sorting out linguistic confusion. There’s more at stake than grammatical kvetching. 😉

    P.S. After writing this I noticed that Shazam (@25) makes a similar argument to the one I suggested for Jerry.

  24. So, there are differences in spellings, sayings, pronunciations, taste, etc. etc. etc. That’s good I reckon. If we were all the same, the whole world over, how boring would that be? Vive la difference (and bugger the spelling).

  25. I really see no logical reason to prefer different ‘to’ or ‘from’, other than, as with marmalade, habit. I always say “different from” because I was raised in the US. But I can’t see it as more logically meaningful than “different to”.

    By the way, I really hate it when people “speak to” a subject rather than “speak on” or “speak about” a subject. We speak to listeners about a subject.

    Speaking of oddities in linguistic comparatives, I encountered an example of how seemingly arbitrary the grammatical rules of comparison can be when learning some Mongolian. Mongolian has no articles or prepositions. Instead a system of nine case suffixes are added to nouns (distinguished by vowel harmony) to play the role of prepositions. Comparative adjectives are post-fix operators, coming after the two nouns being compared. It’s kind of mind blowing to speak that way.

    The ablative case ending ‘aas’, ‘ees’, ‘oos’, plus a few others, have the meaning ‘from’. So the bus coming from Ulaanbaatar would be the ‘Ulaanbaataraas bus’.

    So “I am taller than you” becomes like “from me you tall” or using the case suffix, “Me-ees you tall”. To state difference, “jam-ees marmalade different”.

    This ablative case conveys the sense of logical motion from the one item being compared to the other. In English either ‘from’ or ‘to’ describe such a motion, implying a separation between the nouns being compared. Thinking about it this way, using either ‘to’ or ‘from’ with different is as arbitrary as left vs right conventions for which side of the road to drive on. They are flip sides of a logical symmetry.

    1. Well actually Ulaanbaataraas can’t be an adjective as above. That should have been “bus Ulaanbaataraas coming” for “bus coming from Ulaanbaatar”.

    2. So do Americans “talk with” people or “talk to” people? I always think “talk to” is correct and “talk with” irritates me (same with “speak to” and “speak with”). But that may just be my idiosyncracy.

      Oh and another thing – signs that say “Look for bikes” to which my immediate response is “Why, have you lost one?” To me, ‘look for’ means the same as ‘search for’; what the signs should say is ‘watch for’ or ‘look out for’ bikes…

      1. For this US person, “talk to” generally implies a one way communication, or a conversation in the past, and “talk with” generally implies a dialogue. But often the two are interchangeable.

        1. That’s the sense I have too. You can give someone a stern talking to, but not a talking with. Talking with implies a group activity with talking and listening.

          In Mongolian there is a Comitative verb suffix that you can add to a verb to make the action into one done together with other people. The meaning of the verb changes though the same root is involved.

          In English the preposition “with” added to a verb serves this purpose. The preposition “to” with a verb adds the accusative or dative/locative sense.

          You can talk to somone or have a talk with someone. “With” adds the sense of sharing, togetherness, community.

          1. Yes I get that. Notwithstanding, I’ve always regarded ‘talk to’ as meaning a discussion (i.e. non-aggressive) – the ‘talk’ implying two-way communication. Maybe illogical, but it’s the usage I’m used to.

  26. Given that Jerry is in Oxford, why has Frank Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade been ignored? Agreed, most marmalde’s are pretty yucky concoctions of sugar that have been shown a picture of an orange, but any of the Frank Cooper’s marmalades are lovely! First made in Oxford, but now produced in Dundee, I believe, although still called ‘Oxford’ marmalade. They make a pretty good preserve, too.

    Also good on a well-toasted crumpet is ‘proper’ lemon curd. If it’s the same colour as a New York Taxi, avoid it, but good, pale yellow lemon curd is delicious.

    1. I’m fond of marmalade too. But it must be a good marmalade, unlike most I’ve tasted. In college I shared a house with an Englishman who made his own marmalade from scratch, and it was fantastic. He added some lemon peel as I recall. A good marmalade retains a lot of citric aroma and tartness, rather than just being crushed by sugary sweetness as most commercial marmalade is.

    2. Two thumbs up for good lemon curd, without all the thickening additives. It is wonderful, and virtually unobtainable (except as an import) in the U.S. But sorry, mate, I have had Cooper’s Oxford Marmalade. Like all decent orange marmalades, it’s good but nowhere near the class of a good lemon curd OR Little Scarlet conserve.

      1. Loving the adoption of ‘mate’, Jerry. You really get into the spirit of things on your visits abroad don’t you!

  27. “Little Scarlet is different to other strawberry preserves, even the other types made by Wilkin & Sons.”
    What the above should say is:
    “Little Scarlet is different (compared) to other strawberry preserves, even the other types made by Wilkin & Sons.”
    We simply find the shortened version easier to say but most people still have an understanding of the missing word ‘compared’ when they’re using ‘to’ instead of ‘from’. Clearly the sentence wouldn’t make sense if you interjected ‘compared’ prior to ‘from’.
    If you ever go to the various regions and come across our wide range of accents you’ll understand that many words/parts of words are omitted for brevity while still enabling the locals to understand what’s being said.
    For example in my native Yorkshire you might hear this;
    ‘Oh weshey? Oo weshey we?’
    Can you work it out? A slight clue are the question marks.

    1. Different (as distinguished) from…

      Still, that we use ‘to’ with ‘compared’ and ‘from’ with ‘distinguished’ are just arbitrary conventions and not logical necessities.

      Haven’t deciphered your dialect yet, but phonetically the first sentence resembles “who is she?”.

      1. “that we use ‘to’ with ‘compared’ and ‘from’ with ‘distinguished’ are just arbitrary conventions and not logical necessities”

        Exactly correct. Preposition use is (almost) entirely conventional.

      2. To me the interjection of ‘compare’ is a logical necessity because it tells the reader that you are comparing (through taste) and therefore making a value judgement. In other words, the idea that you are comparing which is the process by which you distinguish between types. If you don’t compare (in Jerry’s example) then you can’t factually and logically make the argument that he’s making.

        As for my own accent? Please keep guessing, but you’re on the right lines with. I’ll give you a clue; ‘oo’ is clearly ‘who’. 😉

          1. I’m being a bit naughty here because it’s a statement in response to, in this case an invisible question which could have been something like; “Karen was in my local pub last night”, to which the response might be; “Oh was she? Who was she with?
            So you were pretty close, well done.
            Clearly it’s Yorkshire but to narrow it down a bit more try this;
            “Nah den dee, wot dah doin den?”

            1. How about “Now then you, what are you doing then?”

              It sounds like “Now then thee, what thou doing then.”

              1. Spot on Jeff. Although to be pedantic ‘now’ is ‘nah’ and ‘thou’ is ‘thah’. We in Sheffield simply replace the ‘th’ with a ‘d’ and are ‘affectionately’ called ‘dee dahs’ by our fellow Yorkshire brethren. 🙂
                It’s a classic example of social evolution at work. Historically Sheffield had incredibly polluted air and so it is advantageous to not need to breathe so deeply and one way of doing that is to shorten words and to leave certain words out that become unnecessary amongst the locals at a time when people didn’t travel very far from home so only needed to be understood locally. In Yorkshire this is shown by the fact that we rarely use the word ‘the’. So instead of saying; “I’m going to the shops”, we would say; “I’m going to t’shops”. The ‘t’ at the beginning of ‘shops’ is virtually silent.
                here’s a little more info.

            2. An old friend of mine, born and raised in St. Albans (Snawlbans) and lived there 40 years before emigrating to the states, had some family ties to Dorset. He used to say something like “thou coosna hear as well as thou coost, cast?” as a representation of the Dorset dialect, which is supposed to mean “thou couldst not hear as well as thou couldst, canst thou not?”

              What is fascinating to me is the huge variations over relatively small distances in the UK. I don’t think we have as many dialects or accents in all of North America as are in the UK, and many regional differences are disappearing rapidly or have already disappeared in the last 60 years.

              Another interesting tidbit on transatlantic English is that somewhere I’ve read that some linguists have theorized that certain American vowel sounds have changed less than in the UK since Elizabethan times. Whether this is true is hard to say, but I think some clues come from Shakespearian rhymes.

              So for example when one commenter implied that English in the UK must be considered the correct standard when compared with usage in the greater dominion of the language, that may not be strictly true in all cases if viewed from an historical perspective.

              1. Yes, there are a lot of influences on the various English dialects throughout history. Even now you can hear a combination of Welsh and Irish in the Scouse (Liverpudlian) dialect and Scottish and Scandinavian in the Geordie (Newcastle) dialect.

                Here’s a video on the specifically Sheffield yorkshire accent with a lot of ‘deeing’ and ‘douing’ rather than ‘theeing’ and ‘thouing’.

                Whereas, just 15 miles up the road in Barnsley there is a more ’rounded’, ‘chewy’ Yorkshire dialect as shown in this classic clip from Kes.

    2. Clearly the sentence wouldn’t make sense if you interjected ‘compared’ prior to ‘from’.

      “Little Scarlet is different compared from other strawberry preserves..”

      It violates any convention I’m aware of, but how does it not make sense?

      1. Because they point to different metaphysical states.
        For example you could say that;
        “Little Scarlet is different from, when compared to, other strawberry preserves..”

        It tells you more about how you know they are different, by the statement that there has been a comparison made. Simply saying that “Little Scarlet is different from other strawberry preserves..” in no way gives you any idea as to how you’ve come to this conclusion. Have they or have they not been compared? So adding ‘compared’ between ‘different’ and ‘from’ tells you nothing extra and doesn’t make sense from the pov that it’s unnecessary because it doesn’t tell you what it’s been compared ‘to’.

        1. OK, so your reply is on a separate question. I failed to convey that my intent was to question whether there is a logical difficulty in replacing “compared to” with “compared from”.

          I say there isn’t (and you may already agree).

          As an illustration, say someone comes up to you on the street, and in a heavy Polish or Turkish accent asks, “Hello. Please, I go to airport. How different moneys is bus compared from taxi?”

          Even if it costs a few hundred milliseconds of mental work to translate from the unconventional to the conventional, fidelity is maintained.

          In regard to whether “is different from, when compared to” gives more information than “is different from”, I have to disagree. A comparison of some kind is fully implied by “different”.

  28. I suspect the love of marmalade derives from the days of sailing ships – eating marmalade reminded one of the Empire. You don’t get that with strawberry jam.

    I like the bitter Seville kind of marmalade, and Marmite / Bovril, but haven’t tried them together. Sounds good, tho.

    And re. etymology and gooseberrys, in Swdedish they’re called krusbär. Gooseberry has always sounded like phonetic transliteration of krusbär to me, but the OED seems to disagree without any firm basis.

    1. I’m not 100% convinved myself, yet, but I saw on a BBC documentary a wee while back, that marmalade is named because it was used to cure sea sickness – mar malade – apparently.


      1. Interesting, but seems your suspicion is well-founded. Wikipedia says this, with two citations:

        The name originates in Portuguese, where marmelada applies chiefly to quince jam (from “marmelo”, the Portuguese for quince).

        1. So, do we believe the BBC or Wikipedia? decisions, decisions!

          A Google search for “sea sickness marmalade” gives a number of hits for Mary Queen of Scots suffering sea sickness and being given Marmalade (made from quince) as a cure. Hmmm.

          I remain a little sceptical on the explanation.


          1. Ok, I said made FROM quince when I meant NOT MADE above, apologies.

            Here’s one explanation of the orange maramalade:

            The definition of marmalade has evolved over the centuries. Originally, it was a sweet spread made from the quince fruit. The term marmalade has conflicting origins. One account holds that marmalade was created by a doctor treating Mary, Queen of Scots, for seasickness by mixing crushed sugar with oranges. The story infers the term marmalade is a derivation of “Marie est malade,” a French phrase roughly meaning “Mary’s illness.”

            However, most historians scoff at this explanation and believe the term came from the Portuguese marmelo for quince, from which original marmelada was made. Marmalade first appears in English print in 1524. By the 18th century, the Seville orange (a bitter variety) had replaced the quince in marmalade popularity.



          2. I wonder if the sea sickness explanation isn’t an attempt from long ago to avoid giving credit to the Portuguese on account of their being a competing naval power?

          3. The sheer redundancy of explaining the ‘mar’ in marmalade as from both ‘Mary’ and mar or mare is a dead giveaway that the story is bogus. Worthy of the Old Testament, that is.

            Marmelo seems much more plausible.

      2. I wonder if the “sea sickness” being referred to in “mar malade” isn’t scurvy. Probably not too many sailors suffered from frequent or enduring motion sickness, commonly known as sea sickness.

  29. . The Brits say “different to” rather than “different from.”
    Better than “different than” which has become endemic in the USA – even being used by journalists and supposedly educated people.

  30. Wonderful post, sir! Yes, jams and pubs! And mushy peas — I love them too! Kind of like very thick, very tasty pea soup. Lovely.

    Don’t forget LEMON CURD! Food of the gods. I make my own at home.

    Prepositions are a fascinating and highly culturally-driven thing. I remember well spending several pleasant and fascinating hours discussing them with a German friend.

    Are we (Is the food): At the table?
    By the table?
    At the table?
    On the table?
    To the table?
    Near the table?
    With the table?
    Over the table?
    Next to the table?

    Sind wir (Ist dem Essen):
    An dem Tisch?
    Nach dem Tisch?
    Zu dem Tisch?
    Bei dem Tisch?
    Gegen den Tisch?
    Uber den Tisch?
    Mit dem Tisch?
    Um den Tisch?

    We both learned a lot.

    The correct usage is usually illogical/incorrect if translated literally.

  31. You should visit the Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem one day if you ever pass through Nottingham. England’s oldest pub (1189CE), it is carved into the rock that Nottingham castle stands on. I think you’d love it and they have proper ales, naturally.

    Re: ‘different from’ vs. ‘different to’, as a Brit this question has crossed my mind before but I am guilty of saying both, actually. Strange.

    1. I have been there; I insisted on it when I gave a talk at Nottingham. How could I not visit the UKs oldest pub. It was wonderful, and of course the ales were good, too (I wouldn’t have gone if they just had lager).

    2. I will have to take St Alban side for once and point out Ye Olde Fighting cocks in St Albans is the one which holds the official title of oldest pub.
      Shame its not the best beer in the town though.

  32. While JAC referred to the drinking of coffee and tea at different times of the day, there is (or was) an altogether different meaning to the word “tea”. Rather strange that not one of the Brits has picked this up.

    Even when I lived in London some 30 years ago, a great many people, mainly in the bottom half of the society, were still having “tea” during late afternoon or early evening when in fact they were having their evening meal.

    “Tea” used to be taken by the landed gentry and the upper classes quite late in the afternoon and consisted mainly of cakes and other sweet things being consumed with tea (the drink). I rather believe that it was almost like a late lunch – that is if you had a late breakfast because you did not have to get up at the break of day to go to work.

    The evening meal, usually called “dinner”, was taken at a very late hour – even as late as ten in the evening. But working people had to be in bed by then and in any case did not have the means for an expansive and expensive meal consisting of several courses. For quite often “Tea” consisted only of the drink with not much more than “jam and bread” as the song in Sound of Music says.

    Fish and chips with mushy peas was a very special treat – like eating out!

    Is this still how things go or are they different to/from the old days?


    1. A vestige of the more defined class system, specifically the world class.

      I have had fish, chips and mushy peas for ‘tea’ my entire life. And I still occasionally refer to evening meals as tea (at tea-time, usually after 5pm).

    2. Pretty much Pretoria.
      If you’re posh (wealthy upper or middle class) it’s (in chronological order)…..breakfast, brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, dinner and finally supper.
      If you’re poor or a working class commoner like me then it’s simply…..breakfast, dinner, tea, supper.

      1. Or in Australia, if you’re up late over a few brews the night before, it might be ‘bravo’ (breakfast in the arvo). Followed by a few more brews.

  33. We use “different to” in Ireland as well (obviously)… “different from” sounds totally wrong to me.
    Wonder if the British might be correct on this one? It is their language after all 🙂

    I was once talking to a friend from Canada and I used the word “envisage” and he had no idea what i was saying. When our American friend turned up later we brought it up again and he was also confused asking me if i meant “envision”. I knew the word was another way of saying “envisage”, but I must say that I surprised that 2 college educated people had never heard the European word.

    Make sure you have your “cream Tea” with Devon clotted cream before you go – beautiful stuff.

      1. you certainly can not.
        No twee-er, there is none.
        I’m sure you have had a full English breakfast?
        We call it an Irish Breakfast here (it’s the same) and in Northern Ireland its an Ulster-Fry, which is slightly different.
        I HAVE to have one every Saturday or Sunday, not exactly health food – but so satisfying.

        Enjoy the rest of your trip

          1. i second that yum-yum … McCarthys of Kanturk may be king of the black pudding, but Rudds or Clonakilty pass muster too.
            I might not be able to wait until Saturday this week

  34. Oddly, we also use “tea” and “tea-time” to refer to eating our evening meal. We might say to you “I’ll nip home for my tea, and meet you down the pub at 8” and the “tea” referred to would be something like a full plate of ham, egg and chips. Also, my cat recognises “tea-time!” as the call for a bowl of meat at 6pm. This has its basis in what thyshuman says, I assume.

    Not sure if this is universal in Britain, but I’ve never had any confusion over this usage.

    1. “Down the pub …” One of my favorite expressions from the UK …

      The English pub is truly a wonder of the world. They beat all other watering holes around the world (IMO).

  35. Mushy peas: back when I was a grad student, a tech & good friend in another lab later went back home to Limeyland, where he became a mushy pea tester (or taster, I was never sure) at, IIRC, Beecham. He later transitioned back into more biomed things with them after the Smith-Kline merger.

    Anyway, mushy peas are apparently subject to quality control.

  36. I wonder if this post will set some sort of record for number of comments on a non-evolution and/or religion topic. My computer has been beeping all afternoon!

    1. Perhaps an indication of the number of followers this side of the pond. Or is it just that we all love a good argument about English usage?

  37. Regarding Jerry’s two original points, I would respectfully (ie please don’t ban me for dissing the author) suggest that he is making an error common to many of us: judging an entire nation on the basis of a small and possibly unrepresentative sample. My own experience leads me to disagree with both observations, but again, my sample may be biased.

    Latsot at #15 may well be right on the Great British Breakfast. I never have a cooked breakfast at home, and always have it in a hotel (and before anyone makes a remark about mean Scots, I have the cooked hotel breakfast even when it’s not included in the price).

    1. I agree with you Colin. Jerry made just the same error with the “all you care to eat” débâcle.

      The tea v. coffee issue seems very clichéd – but perhaps Jerry associates only with very conservative Brits. Few these days would by so punctilious.

      This Brit will drink coffee or tea at any time, morning, afternoon or evening, depending on my mood &c.

      As far as breakfast conserves are concerned, my preference is for Rose’s lime marmalade.

      But my preferences may be different from others’.


  38. I’ve never thought about it before but translating English/Spanish I always use “different from”. I’m not a linguist so I don’t know if all Spanish people do this but I don’t think “differente a or ditinto a” exists. At least, I’ve never heard it.

    I love Wilkin & Sons “Tawny” marmalade and their lime marmalade. Forget anything made here, it’s all far too sweet.

    Sadly, trips to the UK are becoming too expensive for me so British beer is going to be a distant memory to dream about. I can get draught Guinness and Murphy’s here but it’s not as good as in Ireland but still better than the cold fizz that most Spanish brewers produce.

  39. Living in Cambridge for several months, I grew to like the British shortening of mathematics as “maths” instead of “math”. Americans do refer to statistics as
    “stats”, so the ‘s’ at the end of math makes sense.

  40. Odd, being lectured on Proper English by a “zee”-transposing, u-dropping, “re”-reversing Webster-educated American 🙂

    Webster’s project of standardising spellings, making English more phonetic (bah! No fun in that!) and dropping single letters from words (was ink really that expensive? Is writing a single letter so time-consuming? Then why don’t Americans say “boot” instead of “trunk”, or “manual” instead of “stick shift”?) may have stemmed from an honest desire to enhance and simplify communication and education, but changing the spellings of countless common words created a different species of English where it simply wasn’t required (and ironically making communication more difficult and time-consuming by virtue of people having to ask where all those letters went, why that “re” is backwards and what the deuce a “z” is doing there) – not to mention robbing the language of the undeniable character provided by its numerous non-phonetic spellings (a colourful legacy provided by the European, Celtic and other languages whence it was derived).

    Nevertheless, given his ambition, one wonders why Mr Webster stopped where he did and didn’t reduce the language to pure phonetics in order to save even more precious ink and printing/typing/telegraph time: “Deer Mutha, I apologyz 4 not cawling u yestaday but mi tellafone iz not in werking order STOP ur luving sun Dug STOP.” Then again, given the way most people under 35 seem to communicate with written words these days, that may well have been Webster’s plan all along. Well played … well played indeed.

    But the real thorn in my side is this: if I’m using software made in the US (almost a tautology, I know) that doesn’t have a “British English” (definitely a tautology!) language pack and only has the default “US English”, it assumes I’m spelling everything incorrectly when I bloody well know I’m not! I won’t stand for it!

    [slight facetiousness disengaged]


    1. Actually the “z” spellings in words like “realize” are actually older ones that got taken to America. It is the British spellings that hve changed.

  41. Good call about the ales Coyne!! Far too many Americans I’ve met mischaracterise real ale as being “warm and flat and gross” and fail to even try and understand the huge range of flavours (yes, with a “u”) and the fact that they are different to (ha!!) lagers, so one shouldn’t expect them to be the same. So it’s always good to see them appreciated.

    Scanning the comments, I’d also agree with lemond curd – amazing, clotted cream is astonishingly good (I put on over a stone on holiday in Cornwall largely due to clotted cream), a full English breakfast (when done well) is unbeatable and obviously, OBVIOUSLY the Sunday roast is the king of meals.

    To you, America, I take my hat off to pulled pork, eggs Benedict (although it’s somewhat borrowed from the French), pumpkin pie, and (good) fried chicken.

    Americans, feel free to remind/enlighten me of anything I’ve forgotten/never had.

    1. I love roast potatoes. I used to live with an Englishman and he was fond of roasting a joint on Sundays with lots of vegetables and gravy, and sometimes Yorkshire pudding.

      But my favorite was the potatoes, peeled and roasted in the pan with the meat and basted with the drippings until fluffy in the center with a crisp golden brown crust on the outside. I’ve never seen them cooked that way elsewhere in the states, and I don’t know why because they are the best. Americans always seem to cook potatoes mashed, baked in the skin, or fried, but never oven roasted.

      1. As often as not when Dad roasts a chicken, he tosses some potatoes in the pan. (When not, the plan is for some other starch for the meal.) I agree: it’s a fantastic way to cook potatoes.

        For bonus points, don’t put butter or whatever on the potatoes, but rather the pan drippings.


      2. Incidentally, I’ve decided that for dinner tonight I’ll roast a chicken thigh in a skillet with a couple small potatoes and a bit of mirepoix. Thanks for the inspiration!


  42. Wow. Those are some pretty uptight British people you have met! I have no rules of etiquette regarding tea or coffee at all, except that I try not to drink coffee late at night because I like mine strong! I like them both, and I drink them whenever the fancy takes me.

  43. The UK seems to be fond of “taking decisions” as well, and the idea seems to be spreading in North America, which I blame on Tony Blair’s popularity with George Bush. Does nobody “make decisions” any more?

    1. Same here. Every decision is made, not taken. Orders are taken, the opposite of making decisions.

      The GOP has tried to convince us the nation is divided between takers and makers, but this description does not jibe with my experience. I think we’re mostly makers, not takers.

  44. I must say I agree with mandrellian #50 … in that the spelling in British English gives you link to the history, development and roots of the language ( borrowed words, spellings … etc ).

    However some of the pronunciations of ( particularly) place names can be baffling …

    For instance “Magdalen College” – pronounced “Maudlin”

    This funny video came to my mind when thinking of this …

  45. No mention of curries yet. You can’t leave Blighty without eating a curry! They are probably the best you can get outside India. Although, some of them are pure British inventions. There is probably no such thing as an authentic curry, even in India. I doubt whether they are eating today what they ate say 500 years ago. There’s always change and innovation. As long as it tastes good and is made from good quality ingredients that’s all that matters.

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