Although closer to the Americas than to Great Britain, Bermuda retains a strong British flavour. In addition to traditions such as high tea, Americans may find that the English here is a tad different, both written and spoken. When Bermuda was founded, there was no set standard for written English. But the advent of published dictionaries in the 18th and early 19th centuries formalised the linguistic divergence that had emerged between the English spoken in Great Britain and its American counterpart. Today, British English follows Samuel Johnson’s dictionary (1755), while American English went the way of Noah Webster’s (1828). Most speakers recognise some differences in suffixes (harbour vs. harbor, centre vs. center, realise vs. realize), but there are countless others: -our vs. -or; -re vs. -er; -ce vs. -se; - ise vs. -ize; -yse vs. -yze; -ogue vs. -og. Some letters are doubled only in British (travelled vs. Traveled), and some final e’s are dropped (programme vs. program). Just to confuse things, there is a long list of miscellaneous spellings (cheque vs. check, or tyre vs. tire). Other differences include use of specific words (lift vs. elevator), some tenses (spelt vs. spelled) and dozens of other conventions. A few phrases have opposite meanings, like “to table”: In British, it means to bring up for consideration; in American, to end consideration. Also, dates are reversed: April Fools’ Day is written 01/04 in British, but 04/01 in American — so don’t be fooled. Bermudians have a British heritage, but most visitors are American, leading to a linguistic hodgepodge. While at times perplexing, in the end it is all English. As Playwright George Bernard Shaw once said, “England and America are two countries divided by a common language.”
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