There's an old saying that America and Britain are two countries divided by the same language. American English is different from British English, but why? The reason is partly cultural and partly historical. When British settlers arrived in America, they brought the language of Elizabethan England with them. Words such as 'fall' for 'autumn', 'trash' for 'rubbish' and a slew of other American words are old English words that the British no longer use. Over time, the language of the settlers evolved as they interacted with the native Indians and others who lived in America. Foreign words such as 'barbecue' (native Indian), 'ranch' (Spanish), 'chowder' (French), 'okay' (African), 'cookie' (Dutch), and many more were added to the language that we now know as American English. With so many cultural influences on the language, it's amazing that the British can still understand American English. However, there are still enough differences to create confusion over something as simple as ordering tea. In America if you order tea, you'll get ice tea unless you request hot tea. Some words used in both American and British English have different meanings. For example, in the US 'pants' are trousers, not underpants, people walk on the 'sidewalk', not the pavement, and they eat 'potato chips' not crisps. Americans say things differently, too. The so-called American 'twang' refers to standard pronunciation in the US - the way most, but not all, Americans pronounce their words. Americans tend to slide over the letter t or pronounce it as d, so mountain sounds like 'moun'in', and daughter is pronounced 'dawder'. But most Americans do pronounce the letter r, unlike the English who say 'cah' for car. This particular difference was influenced by Noah Webster, who wrote An American Dictionary of the English Language (1828). Webster was determined to standardise American English and to differentiate it from British English. In doing so, he recommended careful enunciation of every letter and syllable, and encouraged Americans to say car. Webster also simplified American spelling by dropping certain letters. He changed words ending in -our and those with a double l, so 'colour' became 'color' and 'travelling' became 'traveling'. Webster's dictionary kept words ending in -er and -ize, which come from Latin and were once used in Britain. Meanwhile back in Britain -re and -ise endings (which were influenced by French spelling) were adopted. That's why Americans write 'standardize', not 'standardise', and 'theater' instead of 'theatre'. A few British publishers and many British scholars continue to use -ize endings. So are Britain and America really two countries divided by the same language? It depends on who you ask. People on both sides of the Atlantic still make jokes about differences in vocabulary, spelling and pronunciation. But things are changing. Fifty years ago, few people in Britain said 'hi' and most Americans didn't know that a 'lorry' was a truck. Thanks to increased travel, the internet and the media, people in Britain and America are more accepting of the differences in English around the world. How much do you know about English-speaking countries other than America? Are you aware that Canadian English, Australian English and the English spoken in New Zealand and South Africa are not the same as American English? Find out about the differences and then see how much your friends know.