What is the Difference Between Among and Amongst?

By Maeve Maddox - 1 minute read

background image 341

I first heard amongst used when I went to live in England. To my ear it sounds quaint and very “British.” I especially like it in the expression “to put the cat amongst the pigeons.”

If there ever was a difference between the two words, it is lost now.

According to the OED, amongst is

[l]ess usual in the primary local sense than among, and, when so used, generally implying dispersion, intermixture, or shifting position.

But as Fowler said many years ago,

Such a distinction may be accepted on authority, but can hardly be made convincing by quotations even on the liberal scale of the OED.

He goes on to speculate that the reason that one or the other form hasn’t fallen out of use may be owing to “the unconscious desire for euphony or ease,” and illustrates his opinion this way:

few perhaps would say amongst strangers with among to hand, amongst us is easier to say than among us.

For American speakers of English, the question is irrelevant. Americans say among.

I hope that British speakers will continue to use amongst whenever they feel like it.

Quotations with Among and Amongst

… the legal entities known as trusts and too little time on the kinds of conversations that will help ensure that trust among siblings is maintained when parents are no longer around to settle disputes.? … (www.nytimes.com)

… storefronts in downtown Robersonville in North Carolina, one of 26 states where deaths now outnumber births among white people. … (www.nytimes.com)

ETHICAL CONUNDRUMS: If all the world’s wealth were divided equally amongst its population, how much would everyone receive? (www.theguardian.com)

Video Recap

Want to improve your English in 5 minutes a day? Click here to subscribe and start receiving our writing tips and exercises via email every day.

Recommended Articles for You


119 Responses to “What is the Difference Between Among and Amongst?”

  • Thomas

    Funny you should post this now; only yesterday I looked up the difference between “while” and “whilst”. The difference is exactly the same: none, but British occasionally use “whilst” whilst Americans use “while” exclusively.

  • Maeve

    Thomas,
    I almost included whilst and while in this post, but thought I might use them in a separate post. You’ve saved me the effort.

    Thanks.

  • Jeremy Dalton

    As with most mainly British words, ‘amongst’ suits situations that require finesse.

  • azadeh

    hi what is the difference between climate and wheather

  • Simon Townley

    As a British journo and copywriter, I’d consider both ‘amongst’ and whilst’ to be archaic and now generally out of use. I’ve spent years editing them out of articles and copy written by others.
    For my sins, I used to edit a business magazine written mainly by lawyers, and they loved using ‘amongst’ and ‘whilst’, mainly, I think, because they thought it made them sound more important. I think they make the writer sound a bit pompous and old fashioned now. I can understand that some may find them elegant or euphonic. I just find them a bit fuddy-duddy.

  • Dawn

    “I hope that British speakers will continue to use amongst whenever they feel like it.”
    Maeve, I adore this! Thank you!

    As an English translator working abroad, these kinds of American vs. British/Aussie/NZ English questions come up all the time. I hope you continue the series!

    First/firstly, different from/different to, while/whilst, commas before “and” in a series…

  • Limnerl

    I have trouble understanding why some people use the word “as” in sentences like this:

    I am going to call Margaret tomorrow, as I am too busy tonight.

    It is annoying.

  • Diddums

    Hmm – if someone edited out my ‘amongst’, I would edit it straight back in. The word is only dead when it’s out of use, and I’m still using it.

    I liked the article. :-).

  • Andy

    Amongst is archaic for among and has no use in current English writing. There is no bell or whistle that makes the former’s use any better than the latter’s.

  • Gary G

    …or any worse.

  • Mark Stewart

    I can’t comment on the use of these words in British English, since I don’t regularly communicate with others in that dialect.

    However, the use of “amongst” and “whilst” in American English is typical of a writer reaching for an appearance of sophistication by the use of pompous styling rather than effective or substantive content.

    Other idiotic words used to make stuff sound fancy include “methodology” and “functionality”, which serve only to add unnecessary syllables to the words “method” and “function”.

    For a professional field absolutely overflowing with pseudo-intellectual twits and unnecessarily complicated terminology, see Instructional Design.

  • Daniel Mikhailov

    Firstly, While v. Whilst. “While” is used for regular constructions of sentences, while, “whilst” for conditional sentence or that subjunctive, pluperfect junk. For example, using the movie Snatch as a good example, “[If] You stop me again whilst I’m walking, and I’ll cut your bleeping jacobs off.” (Bricktop)

    Amongst, I figure might have the same idea behind it, but it doesn’t seem to have as much conditionality as a word like Whilst.

    I actually like the explanation that it just sounds better “amongst us” “amongst celebrities”

  • Sue

    Andy, get your facts right before you spout off, love. “Among” and “while” are the archaic forms, the “st” having been added much later. As in the wonderful quote from Snatch (thanks Daniel), some of us Brits use them when speaking before a vowel sound to avoid a glottal stop.

    I’m finding the ranting a bit much; as Diddums pointed out, words only die when people stop using them. Reflect on the fact that 50% of the words we’re using here were stolen from other languages and the other 50% were invented by Shakespeare to plug the gaps…

  • English minor

    This is in regard to Sue’s reply to Andy about which is archaic “among” and “while” or the forms adding the “st.”

    This seems to bring up anoter topic for debate, the use of the word archaic. Most see it, in reference to language, as a word or form of the word that is antiquated or for purposes of speech, used very rarely. So actually in this sense, isn’t it quite possible that a word considered or refered to as “archaic” is, in fact, the form of the word that actually came later, but for some reason was never unable to unseat the former as most apporiate or most used?

    Yes, way too much time on my hands.

  • Dottie

    Is it ever okay to describe something as “very” wonderful? I have a friend who does it frequently; whether she’s talking about a wedding or a vacation or anything she considers “very” wonderful. Isn’t “wonderful” enough of a superlative?

  • Diana

    I’m an Australian I use amongst frequently. We would say there is a snail amongst the roses or there are snails among the roses – how hard is that? I remember being taught the different usage of while and whilst but it was more complicated and I’ve forgotton. I do know sometimes whilst SOUNDS correct. Why can’t Americans admit they have rewritten the English language Fall for Autumn color for colour. I couldn’t care less – just stop pretending you haven’t done it.
    Diana

  • Telanis

    Once again, you greatly over-exaggerate . . . lots of Americans say amongst, whilst, etc., including me.

  • JJ

    I am neither British nor a fuddy-duddy. Yet in some some instances, I prefer to use amongst and whilst. I am not being pretentious or pompous. It helps the flow of the sentence at times.

    I do agree with Diana, we americans have done a bit of shoddy work on the mother tongue. I would prefer autumn and colour along with all the other words us americans have hatcheted.

    Incidentally- I say Neither as NIEther not NEEther and Envelope as ONvelope not INvelope. My grandmother would have knocked us silly had we not had proper elocution.

  • Maeve

    Telanis,
    You WERE being amusing with the word “over-exaggerate” weren’t you?

    Diana and JJ,
    I’ve always felt that “colour” was more, well, colorful than plain “color.” From what I’ve read, the u-less spelling is creeping into use in the Old Country.

    I can’t agree with the assessment that “we Americans have done a bit of shoddy work on the mother tongue.” Some American spelling and usage has taken a different direction from that used in England, but the same is true of other English-speaking countries. Some American usage preserves earlier forms than what is current in England.

    What should exercise us more than regional differences like among and amongst, fall and autumn, is the egregious wrenching of grammatical forms so common in the speech of celebrities and bloggers on both sides of the pond.

    For example,

    “Me and my friends love the movies.”
    and
    “They sent the invitation to Harry and I.”

  • Stylas

    Firstly, I have to say Mark Stewart’s comments, not the words he’s criticised, are idiotic. Method and methodology as well as function and functionality have different meanings and are used in different contexts, the same as term and terminology, which he used in his post. English spoken in Britain is not a dialect, I wouldn’t even go as far as to say American English is a dialect!

    Secondly, I agree with Diddims and thank Diana for pointing out there is a subtle difference between among and amongst.

    Again, like Diana, I know when it sounds right but find it defficult to explain. I think it might relate to the physical situation of the object/ person in question.

    E.g. “Cuba is among one of the most wonderful countries I have ever visited.” Where the other countries referred to may be on the other side of the world. Compare that to – “He was in amongst hundreds of other similar people.” This implies that there was situated in a crowd of people.

    American posters, on this blog and others at dailywritingtips, are often very quick to condemn English words. Such words are often in common use this side of the Atlantic as well as in Australia and NZ. (JJ – I’m not referring to all Americans.) If adding additional letters to words is unnecessary, why do so many Americans insist on using ‘gotten’ instead of ‘got’!?!

  • koru

    Stylas –

    got – gotten… excellent point!

  • Sylvia

    > He was a bad writer, among other things
    > He was a bad writer amongst other things

    Somehow “among” needs the preceding comma, yet “amongst” can get by without it, especially when spoken.

    Stylas said: “I think it might relate to the physical situation of the object/ person in question.” I’d like to add that it may also have something to do with the similarity of the comparison group:

    > He was a king among men
    > He was a king amongst kings

    …Canadians can go either way 😉

  • Andy

    I’m an American who thinks the English language should have one unified spelling and it should be the British way. Words look more elegant in British English.

  • Sylvia

    Andy said:
    > Words look more elegant in British English.

    cf.:

    BE: colour, honour, neighbour, labour
    AE: color, honor, neighbor, labor
    BE & AE: contour, velour, paramour, troubadour, glamour

    BE: theatre, litre, lustre, mitre, spectre, centre, calibre, fibre
    AE: theater, liter, luster, miter, specter, center, caliber, fiber
    BE & AE: acre, lucre, massacre, mediocre

    BE: organise(ize), recognise(ize), realise(ize); ratio of ise:ize=3:2
    AE: organize, recognize, realize

    BE: analogue, catalogue, dialogue
    AE: analog(ue), catalog(ue), dialog(ue); -og endings growing

    Which ones do you pick? For example, I think the -ize endings fit better than the -ise ones, and most of the “re” endings are better off as “er”. But “our” is usually better than “or”. I used to hate “catalog” but now it seems a lot more acceptable.

    “Among” vs. “Amongst”? Hands down, “among” would be my pick although I use both of them.

  • 10thMan

    Let me just clear this up, once and for all.

    Technically, among and amongst are interchangeable; using one over because of correctness is ridiculous. However, the natural usage of these word– the way we would use them without thinking about it– is slightly different.

    When there are three or more of something being discussed, its easy. If you’re talking about the relations between the individual constituents of the group, use amongst (EX. Katie, Ashley, and Rachel must divide the work up amongst themselves.). If you are using it to mean within the group, use among (EX. Her arrival caused a stir among the people).

    Amongst is generally used in active, rather than passive sentences (in which you would use among.)

  • Wilson

    Among, amongst, the two words has no difference, any one that comes first, but i prefere to use “amongst” it sounds sweateable.

  • John M

    I agree with the posters that state that the differences between BE and AE is highly exaggerated. The worst offenders seem to be the ones with their own agenda. To say that Americans “simplified” the spelling is a a gross exaggeration. Most, if not all American spelling conventions existed on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean during Noah Webster’s time. At the time the British simply have a better affinity for all things French which is today reflected in the spelling of many words. (big deal)
    The same thing goes for words such as “autumn” and “fall”. Americans did not invent the word “fall” (which is a much older word in the language than the Latin based “autumn) For whatever reason Americans simply have more of an affinity for saying “fall” but there is nothing at all unusual about saying “autumn” in the US.
    Brits might be annoyed by what they consider to be “silly” Americanisms, yet Americans are often equally annoyed by equally silly “Briticism” Take for example ” the words “nappy” “dummy” and “full stop”. To an American these and many similar words sound like childish neologisms for “diaper” “pacifier” and “period”., We also think it’s silly that the British laugh at the word “pants” as it is a cognate in many other languages such as French, Spanish and Italian. And by the way, Americans also DO periodically use the word “trousers”. (I know my grandparents did)
    The point I am trying to make is that it’s true the the differences between AE and BE are often highly exaggerated and nowhere nearly as significant as many many native and non-native speakers make them out to be.

  • Deborah Kean

    I still use amongst and whilst, and just got asked by my Italian student of English, why and what’s the difference? So I hit goofle and found this. It may be “fuddy-duddy” but it’s habit to me, I do it and have never thought about it before!
    I find my ESOL students are often very confused by the differences between AE and BE. Such differences are considerable, and in New Zealand where I live, students find plenty of scope for confusion. New Zealand thanks to Hollywood, and Microsoft spell checkers, is changing from NZE to AmE! No wonder the students sometimes don’t know what’s right!
    In one building the “lift” will direct them to the “foyer” and in another the “elevator” directs them to the “lobby”

  • Milt

    Hrmm … I posted this in another thread, but the debate here seems pretty lively. Honestly, I don’t know about the references to dialect, but for me (an American) I don’t feel distinctions between British English and American English are helpful in this discussion. Without further ado …

    = = = =

    I agree that a preference in style is a root cause of the change from “amongst” to “among”. However, I feel there is more to the story! For what it’s worth, there is a certain something lost in the translation, though I’m not sure it isn’t pedantry. I like these examples (used by Lloyd in the other thread):

    1. Let’s discuss the issue amongst departments.

    To my mind, this means an issue will be discussed with a bunch of departments, and the use of the term “amongst” here is clearer than would be the use of “among”.

    2. Let’s discuss the issue among departments.

    This could mean either the same thing as in the first example, or it *might* mean you want to talk about something which transpired *between* departments.

    This is a subtle distinction, though perhaps no more than a peculiarity. Still, to me there is definitely a difference! For terms like “while”, “has”, and “are”, the usages “-t” or “-st” are certainly for emphasis, or color. In the case of “among” or “amongst”, however, I still see meaning!

    = = = =

    I’ve read a few other posters that gave analogous examples in this thread. I hope this is helpful … I don’t see any need for a flame war, or pedantry, here! 🙂

  • frank

    There isn’t much real difference, as someone suggested “amongst us” is easier to say than “among us” – plus it is clear that the former is two separate words, there is potential for the latter to sound like one word IE “amongus” which some might misinterpret as a slang term for something big (cf “humongous”). Another example of this would be “or some…”. When written differences are largely non-existent but when spoken confusion might arise.

  • Deborah Kean

    Having read some of the postings above (which I hadn’t before) I have to add that I also would edit ‘amongst’ back in, if it was edited out. The same with ‘whilst’.
    IMO, British English isn’t the ‘dialect’, it’s the original, the real and genuine English. American English is the dialect, as is the fast-disappearing New Zealand English – being rapidly destroyed by American English – to an Americanism, “thanks a bunch, Hollywood!” (The low intellect and lack of education of many, if not most, New Zealanders is a factor as well.)

  • Marcus

    Isn’t the topic of conversation about when to use it? It is already stated that the OED says “…when so used, generally implying dispersion, intermixture, or shifting position.” So there IS a difference. Amongst is used to imply dispersion. “He was placed among the group.” No dispersion. “He was chosen as winner amongst his peers.” Implying Dispersion..

  • Sam

    Amongst those who appreciate “st”: isn’t it lovely to have a pair of words to chose from and not worry about which is correct in a particular situation?

    Among those against the use: the efficiency gained in spoken and written word is well worth the loss of choice.

    ;->

  • Praetorian

    Andy on November 29, 2007 2:27 am ‘Amongst is archaic for among and has no use in current English writing. There is no bell or whistle that makes the former’s use any better than the latter’s.’

    There is a ‘ring of truth’ in what you state, but please consider this:
    It is most apparent that many think that English revolves ’round about their usage; however, as Diddums above points out that it is well in use therefore I must disagree in its archaical use. Nevertheless any narrow-minded bloke need not concern himself with the censoring of anothers’ usage if it is true that their country of origin uses not the spelling because they did not invent the British English rendering; then what is the big deal? Whence you come or whether you go you choose to savour the flow. I do hope this helps those who might find themselves in a slough. A joke from my youth: Be careful not to create others into your own image lest the world be as ugly…hahahahaha

  • Andee

    First let me say that I find it hilarious that this conversation has been going on for three years 🙂

    Next let me say, I don’t care which word is used, but the arguments for different distinctions are fascinating to me.

    The thing made me want to post is the AS/BE debate. Deborah said in September, “English isn’t the ‘dialect’, it’s the original, the real and genuine English. American English is the dialect…”

    I think both are dialects. Correction: All–BE, AE, AusE, NZE–are dialects. One is not better or worse, on a global scale (national pride notwithstanding of course) simply because one has existed longer than another.

    What Americans call a “ranch,” Australians call a “station.” What Americans call “gasoline,” Brits call “petrol.” The differences exist even within the countries. For instance…I live in the midwestern US, and when we have company we might “take them out to eat.” I have friends in the deep south, and when we visit them, they “carry us out to eat.”

    Personally, I love the differences. I love the way our language is able to stretch, grow, change, based on any influence, and even to absorb words from other languages and make them our own.

    The idea that any variation of our beautiful language is being eroded away by another is sad to me. But I think Deborah is a bit harsh in blaming Americans for the decline of NZ English. In Microsoft, one can add any word one likes to the spell check dictionary; it’s quite easy. And I hardly think Hollywood should be condemned for making movies that appeal to people all over the world. That seems like a good thing to me.

    Let me end with this: I’m so glad I found this site. I am in love with the English language–in all its variations. And, as you can tell, I often wax verbose about the most minute of topics. It seems I’ve found a niche where my neurosis is the norm. Yay!

  • Andee

    Is “eroded away” a redundant phrase?

    : )

  • Deborah Kean

    To Andee,
    Regarding Microsoft spell check – the default as installed in all the language schools and offices where I have worked for the past 5 years, is US English.
    The latest iteration of Word is even worse – it isn’t possible to change that default! (I have always tried to change it wherever I am, to NZ E).
    So, a curse on Microsoft, I use OpenOffice and it lets me do that, but every new document I have to ‘teach it’ to use – as I do, purely as my strike against American cultural hegemony, UK English.
    Pity I can’t do the same in the workplace! Can you imagine what a pain it is/would be, to write a document for a class (I am an ESOL teacher) and ‘teach’ the US dictionary all the correct spellings each time! I don’t have time, neither does anyone else). Kids here use American spelling because they don’t even know the difference! But when I am marking my students’ work, I mark Americanisms wrong – they come to NZ to learn English – they could go to Japan, Korea or the USA to learn American).
    Hollywood makes movies for money. I won’t watch American movies, and yes, I am serious about that. (Sadly it means I have not been to the cinema for around 2 years.)

  • Michael Corey

    I was raised in a middle-class Australian family saying ‘amongst’ and ‘whilst’, but, equally, some situations call for ‘among’ and ‘while’. We didn’t use the former words to sound pompous. We used them in different ways to make subtly different points. I wouldn’t write ‘all the whilst’, for instance, and ‘while’ gives a sense of referring to a longer period than ‘whilst’ when used at the start of the sentence.

  • Peter G

    Language is a living entity, and whichever form of English we speak, it can be nothing but fascinating.

    The ‘or/our’ question is an easy one to understand. The British did not, and do not use the ‘our’ form because they wish to maintain an affinity with the French. In Britain, both forms were acceptable, and frequently used. Following the American War of Independence, the Americans, through Mr. Webster, adopted their spelling as a sort of national badge of identity. Subsequently, and in response, the British too made changes. The Americans and the British were simply poking out their tongues at each other.

    It is also true, that British English continued to evolve independently, and the Americans continue to use words in the way that the English once did. So it is we, from Britain who have made many of the changes. For example, the ‘H’ in ‘herb’ was always dropped in proper English, but in English speaking countries other than the U.S. it is now always, thankfully, aspirated. (Sorry, I have no linguistic prejudice, but ‘Erb’ just grinds).

    As far as many of the other words that have been written about are concerned, there is no snobbery involved, they simply form part of the language we have been brought up to use in our respective homelands/cities/towns/villages.

  • Garrison

    Let us not forget that we in the United States brought English with us when we were The British. Just because we are living in “The Colonies” and established our political independence, does not mean we are not speaking English. All those people in Australia started out speaking “British English” as well and you see how it has changed.

    In terms of numbers, “British English” is spoken only by a small minority of the people who speak English.

    British Population: 63,000,000

    U.S. Population: 305,000,000

    Australian Population: 23,000,000

    Non-British English speakers outnumber British English speakers 5 to 1.

    I completely understand the British desire to hold on to the English language and they should be proud that they were the source of what has become the world’s “Universal Language,” but the language has grown beyond Britain.

    Like it or not “American English” is what the rest of the world is learning as their second language. “American English” is spoken by air traffic controllers all over the world (even in Britain). That’s right, Russian, French, German, Swedish, Italian, Polish, and every other airline pilot and air traffic controller in the world converse in American English, right down to the use of “A-Okay” and “alright” and “how you doin’?” and every other imaginable Americanism that graces the airwaves. They even swear in American English.

    So, regardless of which form of English is “correct” or “better” the American form seems to be getting used a lot more than the British form. Sometimes to the detriment of the language, I’m afraid. But, it is what it is.

  • Michael

    Ah Garrison me old peach cobbler, for one whose grasp of history is normally so good, you make a couple of blues in an otherwise decent analysis:

    Neither British nor American Standard is inherently better, agreed, but for those of us outside of the United States, American English is non-standard and many (but by no means all) American spelling variants are simply incorrect, functionally speaking. I would be pulled up for writing ‘color’ or ‘center’ or ‘prolog’ in a paper. (Strangely, I would also be reprimanded if I wrote ‘organize’ or ‘connexion’ or ‘waggon’ – even though they are BrE, albeit less common.) In this sense, BrE, or more properly since I’m in Melbourne, Australian English is better and correct. Many non-Americans, myself included, are not suggesting AmE is inferior but just that it’s not ours. You keep it. You enjoy it.

    Indeed, it could be argued that the vast majority of English speakers in the world use neither AmE no BrE but a local variant of World English: Dunglish, Chinglish, Singlish, New Zealander English, Jamaican, Australian, Scots, South African, Indian, etc. The figures you cite are but a fraction of those who employ English as the lingua franca. Remember, a couple of hundred million Indians have made the language their own. Hundreds of millions of people outside of the USA are shaping and playing with the language in countless deligthful ways. But if you want to talk standards, then it’s Oxford spelling that is used by the United Nations and umpteen other international institutions.

    By the by, ‘alright’ seems to be more acceptable in standard BrE than in AmE. In Australia we would say ‘How are you going?’ not ‘How you doing?’. And yes ‘A-OK’ is one of those wonderful American natives that has pollinated many Englishes. All speakers of the language have Americans to thank for adding myriad words and parlances and idioms in the last century. But we should also thank Asians, Germans, Italians, French, Africans, Australians, Maori and many others.

    But yes, American spelling, grammar and pronunciation is much more common in cyberspace and other media. Spare a thought, however, for my Dutch friends who worry not just about losing the odd u or whether r should come before e or what have you, but their entire language as it’s subsumed by English.

  • Deborah Kean

    @ Garrison who said “Like it or not “American English” is what the rest of the world is learning as their second language.”
    Not true. Here in New Zealand I am an ESOL teacher, and always make a point of teaching British English because my students request it!
    Vicky

  • Michael

    @Deborah: Well, I’m tickled pink to hear that people are requesting BrE. Though I am rather worried that exposure to Kiwi English will see them saying ‘kittle’ when they mean ‘kettle’ and ‘sucks’ when they mean the number after five. 🙂

    I am also a wee bit vexed to hear that your loyalty to Mother England forbids you from going to the theatre lest you’re exposed to American linguistic imperialism! (Said with more than a small measure of irony!) I mean, you eat ice cream, right? And surely you’ve used ‘bulldozer’ or ‘airport’ in a sentence? I mean, I agree that ‘aerodrome’ is a lovely word but it’s likely to get you funny looks from the cabbie.

    Oh, and a gentle reminder to alternate single and double quotation marks when quoting a quote. Thus: ‘Like it or not “American English” is what…’ or “Like it or not ‘American English’ is what…” (Since Garrison used doubles to begin with, his words would best be put in singles.)

    I’m in solidarity with you re the spellcheckers (an American word, no doubt), which I’m certain will bring about the fall of Western Civilization just as surely as when they allowed popstars’ names to be used in Scrabble. I use Pages ’09 which offers various English standards but not Oxford BrE – my preference – so ‘-ize’ triggers warning lights and I find myself using it in Canadian English mode. The MacBook comes with the American Oxford Dictionary and Thesaurus included, and I find them very useful, but nothing beats leafing through the pages of a solid ‘real time’ dictionary. If all else fails you can use it to prop open the door, as my 1944 edition of the Shorter OED does. (The 1989 edition is two volumes so you can prop open two doors!)

  • Deborah Kean

    Hi Michael,
    Don’t worry, my students won’t hear kittle or sucks from me! (I have a British accent inherited from the olds.)
    Also, I don’t like ice cream, it’s sad but true – occasionally I will eat gelato, but only because my Neapolitan friend in Wellington makes it for me! (To be polite, really). As for going to the cinema to watch films – I watch science fiction only, (fantasy at a pinch), because frankly, I find everything else boring – but that’s just my personal preference…
    Pop stars’ names are acceptable in Scrabble? Noooooooooooooooo! (I haven’t played for a while.)
    I have a plethora of dictionaries, including the Collins NZ dictionary, the first book I reviewed for a particular paper… How do you write a review of a dictionary? Very, very carefully..
    I take your point about the quotes, you are correct. I often mess that up, especially when my keyboard decides to randomly change its settings. (I am not a computer expert!)
    Deb

  • Vicky

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned that British English uses the t ending in many other examples as well as amongst and whilst-

    learnt(BrE)/learned(AE)
    spilt/spilled
    spelt/spelled
    Some such as built are the same across both.

    I’d never realised there was a difference – initially assuming it was just a dialect thing, but as it turns out, American English -ed what in the UK is -t.

  • Nicole

    Diana —

    Actually, England first used the word “fall” and then later changed to autumn. In America, both autumn and fall are acceptable. Fall, however, is more common. Some people also name their kids Autumn.

    You can use either “among” or “amongst” here. Today in class I actually wrote “amongst” (I was writing a letter to Queen Victoria for history class). It was acceptable and fine.

    Americans didn’t “change” English. The English changed English. After all, we’re all Brits whose pronunciation changed into a different dialect of English. All in all, it’s English nonetheless. English is English no matter what dialet. Whether it be Australian, American, Canadian, Scottish, etc.

    And don’t tell me Australians haven’t changed the king’s English any less than the Americans. Australian’s have countless slang terms, such as, “brekkie,” “barbie,” etc. I have been to Australia and have an Australian friend.

    We all speak English. Just different dialects.

  • Trevor Mcinsley

    I had no idea ‘amongst’ was not used in America, frankly it’s not an issue one way or another but I feel it does have a nicer ring to it than ‘among’ which sounds like it just stops abrup…

    Also ‘a mong’ could sound like a derogatory term in some accents… though to be honest that’s a longshot and something I have only just realised.

  • Eric

    I am an American writer and feel that the words “among” and “amongst” have subtly different meanings. While they are generally interchangeable, it simply isn’t true to call one obsolete or archaic and the other modern and correct.

    The example above, the phrases:

    “lets discuss this issue among partners”
    “lets discuss this issue amongst partners”

    Those two sentences, to my eye, have different meanings. The former is a discussion of an issue which is occurring between partners (an issue among partners). The latter is a discussion that parters are having together (discuss amongst partners).

    In common usage, I have seen “amongst” used to refer more immediately to “the space around something”, whereas, “among” is more referential to “the connections between things”, even if the meanings substantially overlap.

    I travel the US and Canada for work, so I don’t feel this is likely a regional issue, though I find that in more educated cities, the word “amongst” has been gaining prevalence versus the more Germanic sounding “among” in daily speech.

  • John Maffett

    Amongst is definitely still in use by Americans, and amongst those who use it regularly I find no indication that they are trying to be pompous, arrogant, or sophisticated. I’m sure Jerry Clower did not have that in mind when he said “Well just shoot up here amongst us ’cause one of us has gots to have some relief”.

  • Riles

    By the way Maddox, a great article, as evidenced by the debate that followed.

    Honestly the majority of American English developed when there was no “standard” English, there weren’t many rules when it came to grammar and there was no standard for spelling.

    If you look at the real text of the Declaration of Independence you’ll see many words spelled different ways but meaning the same thing, the same with any sort of English text (country of origin not a factor) written prior to the declaration.

    In American history we are taught that it wasn’t until Webster had written the first dictionary that a standard was even set.

    The latter bit, and more complex grammar and spelling rules came to prevent Southern Blacks the ability to vote (because they came up with a reading test that you had to pass in order to vote). Whether you’re English or you’re American or even from Zimbabwe. It’s a fact that American English holds all of America’s history and honestly, I wouldn’t change a thing.

    If I want to use a British spelling for something, I most certainly can. If I want to use an American spelling than I’ll do so.

    American English vs. British English really only matters to the respective countrymen. The rest of the world doesn’t care if things don’t match up! They’ll learn the version that they find is most useful for their purposes.

    Also, I’d say that they are both separate languages rather than dialects.

    Dialects are completely regional, have no standard spelling (like both American English and British English does) and over all is about how the speakers speak. It’s rather about pronunciation and slang. That’s what dialect is.

    If you don’t understand dialect consider picking up Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (for wonderful examples of respective Southern U.S. Dialects). If you want a more modern example pick up Bloody Jack by L.A. Meyer (which is a wonderful example of a Cockney Accent spelled phonetically). You only have to read one or two pages to get the point.

    It’s not proper in American English to spell Dialogue as “Dialog” that’s just someone’s spelling of it where it’s obvious that spelling isn’t their forte.

    I used learnt and learned both. Learned seems to me to be a fresher learning of something.. while learnt is something you might have learned as a child.

    Same with Spelt and spelled.

    That’s the thing about language, it’s not supposed to be rigid and stuffy. The beauty of language is that it’s speakers, and writer’s change the underlying structure every time that they write or speak it. It’s supposed to change with the times.

Leave a comment: