British English vs American EnglishWhen Samuel Johnson, published A Dictionary of the English Language in 1755, it was an enormous accomplishment for the essayist, poet and lexicographer who staunchly opposed what the Americans were doing to the West Germanic language. According to Johnson, the English spoken and written, in what was at the time Britain's largest and arguably most important colony, was impure and a practical enemy of British English (perhaps more appropriately coined English English).
In addition to sounding differently from their counterparts across the Atlantic, towards the later part of the 18th century Benjamin Franklin and later Noah Webster, led the charge to reform British spelling which they and their peers felt was archaic, cumbersome and largely ineffective. Although they were unsuccessful in making all the proposed changes, Webster's An American Dictionary of the English Language, published in 1828, did feature English with an American spelling (e.g. colour was listed as color, theatre as theater, dialogue as dialog)In many ways, Samuel Johnson had the authority on British spelling while Samuel Johnson had it on American spelling.
British English and American English doesn't merely differ in terms of spelling. When it comes to pronunciation, the distinctions are numerous. For instance, British English and American English stress different syllables in words such as vitamin, harassment and pedagogy (just to list a few). It's important to remember that there is no right or wrong, when it comes to these variations, it's just useful to be aware of them.
One the of major differences when it comes to British English and American English is with respect to meaning. For instance, in British English the word mate denotes friend, while in American English the word is used to signify a spouse or romantic partner. When the British use the word hooker, they're talking about a rugby player in the middle of the front row of the scrum who tries to hook the ball, whereas an American is referring to a prostitute. In North America, the word jock is either use to describe a person that's strictly interested in sports or the cup that male athletes, in some sports, wear to protect their genitals.
With regards to idiomatic expressions and slang, British English and American English differ greatly as well. For example, a British English speaker may regularly use the expression "taking the piss", which means to make fun of someone, while in American English it's not used at all and if its speakers heard it they may presume the expression has something to do with urine.
Great Britain had one of the largest empires in history. By 1922, it ruled over some 458 million people and controlled almost a quarter of the Earth's total land area. As a result, for centuries, British English was far more widespread than American English. However, following World Word II and the emergence of the united states
as a superpower, British English would soon have competition for "world dominance". The United States mass production and exportation of its popular culture, whether through films, music, lifestyle etc. has been a major game-changer.
While British English remains dominant in most of the UK's former colonies, American English is surging ahead in many Asian, Central and South American nations. If this trend continues, it's possible that American English may overtake British English as the world's most popular brand or style of English. However, with china's strong push to get its people to learn English it's also possible that a new kind of English may emerge, similar to the variations of English seen throughout Africa and India. Regardless of what the future holds, the one thing that is clear is that British English and American English will be around for a long while.