skip to content skip to search skip to navigation Listen Live skip to logon
Thursday 25th August 2016
Max 28°C | Min 19°C

Why do Americans have different pronounciation to Brits?


Why does British English and American English pronounce the letter A so differently? So for bath, Americans say bah-th and the English say bar-th.
Mark, Hammersmith


** Defintiive **
Name: Madeleine, Sheen
Qualification: You say potato…
Answer: I remember hearing that it began with the Hanoverian Kings – the Georges – who obviously spoke with a very German-sounding English. Previous to that, the whole country would have had the short ‘A’, which we associate with the north.  Out of courtesy to the King, the courtiers would start speaking like the King did, followed by the aristocracy, followed by the middle classes. So it filtered down. But the pilgrims left very early on, taking with them a lower-middle class person who took with them their accent.  One other thing that interested me is that Americans pronounce herbs as “erbs”. That’s either a Cockney thing, or a French influence.
(James O’Brien: That tallies with something I once heard that the reason we leave the bottom button of a waistcoat undone is because one of the Georges did that accidentally and we all started copying him.)

Name: Martin, London
Qualification: Studied history of English at university
Answer: Madeleine was nearly there. It was called “the great vowel shift”. It happened buring the 17th century and was specific to England is related to romance languages coming over here.  As that was when the pilgrims went over, the Americans have what is closer to a ‘real’ English accent – more historically accurate.

Do you agree? If you know the answer, write it in the box below.