Monday, November 21, 2016

English and U.S. place-name confusion

click photo to enlarge
It was George Bernard Shaw who described England and the United States as "two countries divided by a common language." By that remark Shaw was highlighting the differences that have arisen between English as spoken by the two countries. And whilst there are nouns, verbs, adjectives etc that appear in one version of the language (sidewalk, thru, etc) and not in the other, or which mean different things in each country (trunk and boot), or which are spelt differently (curb and kerb) the fact is that overwhelmingly the vocabularies are the same: they have much, much more in common than that which is different.

The other day I was in Newark (full name Newark-on-Trent). And, in thinking about the truncated version of that town's name, I reflected that the use of the same placenames in the U.S. and England (or the wider U.K.) actually leads to more confusion than does the differences in vocabulary. To someone from the U.S. Newark is a place in New Jersey, just as Boston is a place in Massachusetts. However, to someone in the East Midlands of England those two towns are relatively near neighbours in Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire respectively. The duplications between the two countries are numerous - Birmingham, Woodstock, Durham, Cambridge, Oxford, Springfield, Marlborough etc. For a fuller list see this Wikipedia page. This mattered little before the rise of the internet, but today it leads to confusion and great care being needed when searching, because otherwise much time can be wasted.

Today's photograph shows Newark's "slighted" castle, the River Trent and the Trent Bridge, a structure of 1775, still the main crossing in the town, with cantilevered footways and railings added in 1848.

photograph and text © Tony Boughen

Photo Title: Castle and River, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire
Camera: Olympus E-M10
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 31mm (62mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f6.3
Shutter Speed: 1/1000 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.3 EV
Image Stabilisation: On