Monthly Archives: March 2013

US and UK English–three main differences

US and UK

It’s true. Here is a table to better remember some of it:

British English American English česky
chips fries hranolky
crisps chips brambůrky, čipsy
football soccer fotbal
American football football americký fotbal

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Big Brother is watching you

I realize I still have trouble spelling  surveillance (dohled, sledování). So let’s take a closer look at that arey, maybe we’ll learn some English on the way. By the way, surveillance is a French word, but it is pronounced as if it was an English word – sɜːˈveɪləns.

Lets start with the core part: survey (průzkum): it means you collect data, usually by asking or observing. If you use a paper questionnaire (dotazník) or online form (formulář), or if you ask many people on the street, it can be called a poll (anketa). This, of course, is all voluntary (dobrovolné).

imageBut suppose they are observing someone without their permission and knowledge – they are being inconspicuous (nenápadný). They can use CCTV cameras (closed circuit television), you can use spy camera, night-vision goggles (brýle s nočním viděním) or a bug (štěnice). If they are listening to your phone calls, your phone was tapped or wiretapped (napíchnutý telefon).

What about the people who are doing the spying? They can be called a spy (plural: spies), narks (donašeč) or snitch (práskač). If the police is listening to them in an attempt to uncover a crime or gather evidence, you might say they are wearing a wire.

If the whole state is being monitored, we are talking about state-wide surveillance, often also called “Big Brother” (after the famous 1984 novel by George Orwell). Surveillance is often connected with censorship (cenzura) and limitation of the free speech (svoboda slova).

If you want some further reading about free speech, this excellent, insightful and well-written letter to John Stuart Mill is worth your time. Or just watch some spy movie 🙂

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How to read 12-hour time? An why do Americans call us “military”?

I just found that someone posted something at 12:01 AM and I had no idea whether that was one minute after midnight (00:01) or one minute after noon (12:01). So I looked it up.

12-hour clock is used in USA and UK alike. The AM stands for ante meridiem (before midday) and the PM stands for post meridiem. There is no zero hour in 12-hour clock.

  • 12:00 AM – midnight, the new day starts
  • 12:01 AM – one minute after midnight
  • 1:00 AM – one hour after midnight etc.
  • 11:59 AM – last minute before the noon
  • 12:00 PM – noon (12:00 in 24-hour cycle, too)
  • 1:00 PM – one hour after noon
  • 11:59 PM – one minute before midnight

In the Czech Republic, we usually use the 24-hour time notation, at least in writing. Of course, we say “we’ll meet at six” and we don’t mean at six in the morning. But we would never put it like that in an official document, 18:00 is the way to be unambiguous (jednoznačný).

It is funny that Americans call our time notation “the military time”, except the colon (dvojtečka) is omitted. You might remember it from Phoebe’s Wedding in Friends, where Monica is using military time to give the impression of fierce, precise organizer. In Czech notation, we usually say “twenty-three zero zero”, whereas military time reads: “twenty-three hundred”.

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