Thursday, August 09, 2012

Back yard or back garden?

click photo to enlarge
"England and America are two countries separated by a common  language".
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950), Irish playwright, critic and activist

The above quotation has been attributed, with subtle variations, to many people including Winston Churchill and Oscar Wilde. However, it seems more likely that Shaw originated it. The point of the quotation being, of course, that although English is spoken in the United States and the United Kingdom, there are slight variations in usage, spelling and pronunciation that render it subtly different and make it obvious from which side of the Atlantic the speaker (or writer) hails.

One such linguistic nonconformity is apparent in the words "back yard". In the UK it generally refers to the small area immediately behind an urban or suburban house, that is the property of that house, that is usually enclosed and which has a wholly or predominantly hard surface. In the United States the words are used to mean any open space behind a house that forms part of the house's property. The UK uses the words "back garden" to describe a mainly lawned or planted area behind the house. In the United States this distinction, as far as I know (please tell me if I'm wrong), is not observed: whether paved, gravelled, grassed or planted, or a combination of any or all of these, it remains the back yard. Does it matter? Not really, because in each country the meaning is understood. Such things merely serve as cultural signifiers and are a small and welcome difference in a world that is slowly gravitating towards uniformity.

Today's photograph shows a back yard in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. The narrow strip behind the blue painted terraced house may once have been a back garden with a path to the rear door. Today it is block-paved with raised beds made of brick, and so has become what I would call a back yard though some may insist it is still a back garden. Regardless of nomenclature the multi-coloured flowers against the painted walls looked bright and cheery in the morning sunshine and so I photographed them.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Camera: Canon
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 58mm
F No: f11
Shutter Speed: 1/250 sec
ISO: 100
Exposure Compensation:  -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On