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American vs. British Versions of Idioms

There are some idioms in English which differ slightly as between American and British versions. Thus, for instance, sweep under the carpet in British English comes out as sweep under the rug in American. Similarly, bat an eyelash in American English corresponds to bat an eyelid in British. Both versions, to be sure, can be heard in both varieties of English, but the preferential forms are as stated.

It is, of course, foolhardy to generalize on the basis of a mere two examples, but the trend is worth noting nonetheless. American English tends to use the paronomastically full-fledged [NOT “fully-fledged!”] version, which involves the repetition of vowels (both stressed and unstressed)––hence the rhyme of American under and rug or bat and eyelash, lacking in the British version.

Whatever the (cultural) cause, even these isolated examples make it irrefragably clear that paronomasia is patently not the exclusive purlieu of poets.

MICHAEL SHAPIRO

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