Boys' Foreign-Language Clothing Glossary: English Language Variations

licking ice blocks
Figure 1.--The English language was one of England's gifts to America. America is an English-speaking country, but only a minority of Americans trace their ancestry to England. Most immigrants arrving in the United States were anxious to learn English and become Americans. Here we see immigrant children on a hot July day in 1912, probably in New York City, licking a block of ice. The children learned English very quickly. For the adults it was more of a challenge.

The history of the English language is a fascinating story and of considerable importance in modern history. One the most recent chapter in that story is the developmen of Internet English. Here we will persue the history of the English language. Most English-language terms are addressed on the main glossary page as this is an English language site. Here we will list differences we know of concerning different versions of English as they pertain to clothing. While most of the terms are understood in both countries some terms are more common in each country and some terms can be the cause of misunderstandings. Most English-language terms are addressed on the main English-language glossary page. Here we will just list the terms that have different meanings in America and England. In addition, many English people were enamored by the exotic sights, tastes, and smells of India, the jewl in the British crown.

The English Language

The history of the English language is a fascinating story in itself. The importance of Internet English as described below is only the latest chapter of the fascinating story of the English language. Relatively little of the language of the Celtic people entered into the English language. Latin preserved by the Church had an impsact. But English began with the Germanic language of the Anglo-Saxons. It was then enriched by the Danes/Vikings and Normans. It began to take its modern form at the time of Shakespeare who may have added about 6,000 words to the language. And with the rise of the United States, immigrants helped add many new words. All the different sources of English words have created a very difficult spelling. Americans developed a somewhat simplified spelling system. English is spoken by countries which once opposed the British. There were of course the other people of the British Isles, the Welsh, Scotts, and Irish. India after achieving its independence from Britain, turned to English as anational language that can be used by the different language groups making up the country. America not only fought Britain for its infependence, but fought England afain in the War of 1812 during the early 19th century. Language is not just a form of communication. The cultural importance of language is very important. Most Americans are not of English ancestry. Yet the Anglo-American relationship became the dominant political fact of the 20th century. It was no less a figure than Chancellor Otto von Bismarck who in the late 19th century remarked that one of the decisive facts of the 19th century was that America and Britain both spoke English. In the 20th century after the trials of World War II, Winston Churchill speaking of the relationship of the two great English-speaking countries, "Let us be sure that the supreme fact of the 20th century is that they tread the same path".

Internet English

The basis language of HBC is of course English as most HBC contributors are American, English, and Australians. HBC is aware that many readers have accessed HBC using English as a second language. There are of course differences between American and British English, although we cam usually figure out the differences. (I was once told my a Pakistani Brit-Rail employee that I spoke very poor English.) HBC's policy (although imperfectly implemented to date) is to seek internet English as a standard. Internet English is a form that all English speakers can understand, where ever they come from and whether they are native English speakers or speak language as a secondary language. Internet English also translates better on the various on-line translation services. HBC readers are encouraged to inform HBC is they encounter sentences that thery can not understand. We will then work on those pages and provide any foreign langauge explanations provided.

Anglo-American English

Here we will list differences we know of concerning different versions of English as they pertain to clothing. While most of the terms are understood in both countries some terms are more common in each country and some terms can be the cause of misunderstandings. While many of these terms are undestandable in both America and Britain, some have very different meanings and will not be correctly understood. The most obvious is "knickers", but there are many other words with either different meanings or are not commonly used in one country or the other. Most English-language terms are addressed on the main English-language glossary page. Here we will just list the terms that have different meanings in America and England or are not widely used in both countries.

Anglo-Indian English/The Raj

Many English people were enamored by the exotic sights, tastes, and smells of India, the jewl in the British crown. One of the activities they encountered in India was a huge garment/cloth industry. England at the time they seized control of India froim the French and Moguls was just beginning the industrail revolution. English mills were to drive the Indian garment./fabric infistries to bankruptsy, but still large numbers of Hindu terms assocated with clothing entered the English language through the British Raj. Some terns came from other colonies, but India was the primary source. Some but not all were eventually exported to Amnerican English as well.

British Terms

English readers not only have to navigate the terms arising in America and India, but there are many domestic variations. The United Kingdom not only included England (where the English language arose), but Wales, Scotland and for a time all of Ireland. At the time these countries were conquuered or brought into association with England, other languages were spoken there. In addition there are also substantial linquistic variations with England derived from the historical trends in the various regions of England--especially the Celtic areas in the west and the Dane Law regions in the east. We have begun to collect some of these terms. Here a British reader with Yorkshire and Scottish grandparents has helped us get started.

Capitalization

There is a spelling matter concerning clothing that we want to mention. English is very inconsistent and illogical about spellings and capitalization in general. And this includes clothing terms. You may use "oxford" or "Oxford" (for low-cut shoes) with a lower case or upper case letter, but Eton collars and Norfolk suits MUST always be capitalized. No real logic to it--just the way it's done. Custom dictates these little niceties, sometimes rather confusingly. This ewill be spelling conventions HBC will follow.







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Created: September 28, 2001
Last updated: 8:02 PM 4/9/2008