Trips And JourneysAt one point last month, I tweeted:
watching music channel w/ subtitles. Makes me think I shd do a blog post on Estelle's 'American Boy'. Or is it just too embarrassingly late?I was encouraged to take on this project by an American boy (if he'll put up with me calling him 'boy') called NativeTexanZach, and promised him that I'd dedicate the resulting post to him. So, feeling a little guilty that I might be disappointing the youth of America, I went back to find out what it was that I'd promised to blog about -- and all I found was the unimpressive tweet that you see before you now. I found the lyrics of the song, and, you know, there's just not that much to it. I mean, there are Americanisms, but why did I think that the song cried out for its own blog post? Was it just the inversion of the usual American-women-think-English-men-are-sexy stereotype?
(Incidentally, if you are an American woman and take the advice of this eHow piece on 'How to date a British man', I hope that you will live up to another American stereotype and sue the site for its utter uselessness. They seem to have got their idea of British men entirely from Hugh Grant [AmE-preferred] movies/[BrE-preferred] films. "Expect to be called duckie"? Reader, I married him, and the only animal name I've been called is (BrE) miserable cow, which, I have been told, is used with affection.)
So, rather than taking you tediously line-by-line through the song, let's just home in on one word, found in the first line of the chorus: trip.
Take me on a trip, I'd like to go some day.
Take me to New York, I'd love to see LA.
I really want to come kick it with you.
You'll be my American Boy.I'm not saying that Estelle is saying anything that wouldn't be natural in either dialect--this is just a convenient way to pay my debt to NativeTexanZach while writing about something I've decided I want to write about. The difference for trip is that Americans use it more often than the British do, and more often than journey. BrE, on the other hand, uses journey as much as it uses trip. To illustrate, the British National Corpus has roughly equal numbers of trip and journey (4432 & 4620/100 million words), whereas the Corpus of Contemporary American English has two-and-a-half times as many trips as journeys (8063 & 3131/100mw).
I was drawn to writing about trip because my use of it was commented upon by an Englishperson who will remain anonymous only because I can't remember who he/she/it was. That person claimed that BrE retains the original sense of a trip being a particularly short journey. However, the BNC data doesn't immediately bear this out. Among the BrE examples are trips to the Arctic, the States and the moon (and many more like that).
The more I look at the data, the more it becomes evident that the difference isn't it trip, it's in journey. Here are some of the BrE journeys where I would say trip in my native AmE:
PAMELA makes another journey round the stage with her bundle. We arrived at the French Riviera town of Frejus after an overnight journey on the Motorail. All of which makes the Jorvik Viking Centre not just the journey of a lifetime, but the most exciting journey in a thousand years.There are also five BNC examples of break your journey, but none in the four-times-larger COCA:
Break your journey at Marton for a short walk to the site where Cook was born in 1728
In AmE one would make a stopover rather than break a journey.
My impression was that Americans are more comfortable than BrE speakers in using trip to refer to just the journey portion of the travels--for example in Have a good trip! The only problem with that impression is that, again, the corpus data don't support it. BNC has 20 cases of Have a [adjective] trip and only 15 of Have a [adjective] journey. But, once again, the data do support the difference being American non-use of journey. COCA has 96 cases of Have a [adjective] trip, but only 19 of Have a [adjective] journey. (COCA is four times the size of BNC, so the trip rates aren't very different from the dialect-comparison perspective.)
Of course, if I weren't a native English speaker, I wouldn't have needed to go through all this Googling and corpus-searching, since by this time my teacher would have given me a nice 'common mistakes in English' handout that tells me:
Journey (n) is used more in British English than American English. It means the 'piece' of travel between 2 or more points. The word journey is very rarely used as a verb.
ESL teachers: 1