“We really have everything in common with America nowadays except, of course, language.” — Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost.
I’m not sure whether to sympathize or empathize with Oscar Wilde. Or maybe it should be sympathise or empathise. His clever phrase has been widely attributed to George Bernard Shaw, who already boasted plenty of bon mots of his own. Since none of my witty remarks have been attributed to anyone else, I suppose I can only sympathize, not actually having been in his sizable shoes. (Or is it sisable?)
I can empathize with writers who spend time searching for the right word only to have it dismissed or misunderstood by those with less sensitivity for language. My translation clients sometimes ask me to produce a translation in UK English, and when I explain that I’m a US linguist, the client says “Just use UK spellcheck.” My text is then passed on to an editor who changes “while” to “whilst,” “vacation” to “holiday” and “retired people” to “pensioners.”
Regional language differences in the U.S. can be just as significant. Just try getting a fizzy drink on a cross-country drive; it’s “pop” in Colorado where I was raised, “soda” in Washington DC, “tonic” in Massachusetts, and “soda pop” or “co-cola” in Virginia and the deeper south. Keep driving south from Arizona, and if you need a straw, you can get a “popote” in Mexico, a “pajita” in El Salvador or a “pitillo” in South America.
What are soft drinks called where you live?