Tuesday, April 22, 2003

British English

Patrick Crozier has been comparing various expressions from British English with equivalent expressions from American English, in order to figure out which form of the language is better. Might I suggest he compare the British expression "bank holiday" with the American expression "public holiday". The Americans clearly win this one. A public holiday is a day in which the public is on holiday. In Britain a "bank holiday" is exactly the same thing. Everyone gets a holiday - not just bankers.

In Australia we follow the American usage of "public holiday". When my sister visited me in England a few years ago, she was quite confused by the "bank holiday" usage. There was one of these a couple of days after she arrived. When I mentioned that it was a public holiday and most things would be closed, she said that from what she had heard it was only a "bank holiday" so she expected most things to be open. You see, in Australia we do actually use the expression "bank holiday". A bank holiday is a day on which the banks are on holiday, but on everyone else has to go to work. You may think that actually having such things is a little silly, but I submit that there is a certain logic to the description.

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