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English and American English

Joe King
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Yesterday I watched the film "O Brother Where Art Thou" about some escaped convicts somewhere in (I think the south of) America. It was supposed to be a comedy, and may well have been, but I could hardly understand a word of it! It made me realise that while we (Brits and Americans) all speak the same language, communication can sometimes be very tricky. The accent in this case was almost impossible to understand for me (being English). I was wondering if the same applies the other way round... do Americans find some English accents hard to understand? I imagine some like scouser, geordie and welsh may be tricky.... The fact that England probably has more accents per square mile then any other English speaking country probably makes things more confusing (sometimes your accent can allow someone to tell which town you come from even if they are only 5 or 10 miles apart...).
The other amusing thing are the words which mean different things in America and England. I once started a thread on this on the water cooler (RIP) on java.sun.com, and it amazed me how many words mean different things. I cant remember most of them now, so maybe someone will be able to remind me of a few. The most amusing one for me is the fact that ass means a kind of donkey in English. When an American says "Iyama guna kickya ass" it seems to say to an Englishman "I'm going to kick your donkey". Whilst still being slightly insulting, it looses something in the translation! A friend of mine was also confused once when he went to America and someone said to him "There's a car coming, get off the pavement". This of course meant exactly the opposite to him then to the person who said it! That's before we get onto the whole trunk/boot thing.
Anyone else had any amusing communication differences happen to them?
[ December 02, 2003: Message edited by: Joe King ]
Paul Stevens
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Originally posted by Joe King:
When an American says "Iyama guna kickya ass". "There's a car coming, get off the pavement". [ December 02, 2003: Message edited by: Joe King ]

Not all Americans speak like the first one. That is a regional thing. The second one road would be used much more. So it would be "Get out of the road."
HS Thomas
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That's before we get onto the whole trunk/boot thing.

Long John Silver's Booty <-----> Trunk or Treasure chest ?
This is more of a cross over than a divergence.
Thomas Paul
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I found some parts of "Bend it Like Beckham" very difficult to understand. There were certain sections where because of the English accents I didn't understand a sentence or two.


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Ernest Friedman-Hill
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  34

Indeed, some English accents are very tough for an American to parse. Your ears tend to adapt fairly quickly, though. Often the first few minutes of a British-made movie are hard to follow, but then you get into the rhythym of the language. I remember "The Full Monty" being like that.


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Pradeep bhatt
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Brit accents are quite simple to follow. American accent not so easy.


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fred rosenberger
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  16

"Billy Elliot", "Full Monty" and "Brassed Off" are all English films i had a hard time understanding. Not the words, but the dialect.
of course, i sometimes have a hard time with a Brooklyn New York accent as well. I'm from St. Louis, but am occasionally told i have a slight Boston accent (never been there).
I don't think it's an American/England thing, just how different the dialect is from what you are familiar with.
The word that always makes me cringe when i hear English say it is "fag", which to them is a cigarette. In America, it's often a pejoritive term for a male homosexual, although i believe they come from a common derivation (Homosexuals used to be burned at the stake, so i've been told).
[ December 02, 2003: Message edited by: fred rosenberger ]

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Frank Silbermann
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My wife's maternal grandparents are from southern Wales, and I found their accent to be more like American English than her parents' London accents. (For example, the Welsh and the Irish seem to do a better job pronouncing R's after vowels than most people in Great Britain.)
My wife and I played for my parents a tape of "Only Fools and Horses" (the Batman and Robin episode) and my parents said it took them fifteen minutes before they could get used to the accents and understand what they were saying. I have no trouble understanding Wallace and Grommit episodes.
I lived in the deep south (northern Florida) for ten years before I could understand the negro dialects.
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by fred rosenberger:
The word that always makes me cringe when i hear English say it is "fag", which to them is a cigarette. In America, it's often a pejoritive term for a male homosexual, although i believe they come from a common derivation (Homosexuals used to be burned at the stake, so i've been told).
Actually not. The derivation of "fag" comes from a shortening of the word "faggot" which is first heard referring to homosexuals in 1914. The word "faggot" is a Middle English word meaning a bundle of sticks. Why it was used in relation to homosexuals is not known (but certainly homosexuals were not being burned at the stake in 1914). The first use of "fag" as referring to a homosexual was in 1928.
The derivation of "fag" meaning cigarette is better known. It was first used in England in 1888 and was a shortened form of "fag end". "Fag end" was first used in 1613 and comes from a Middle English word meaning "flap". It came to be used for the worn out end of something especially a piece of cloth or rope. One could see how a worn out end of rope could be used as short hand for cigarette.
There is one other use of the word "fag" worth mentioning. It means to work hard and was first used in 1772. It became a slang term widely used in British public schools where the older boys would make the younger boys fag for them. This apparently had nothing to do with any sexual pleasuring. Certainly the word "fag" did not acquire any sexual overtones until 1928.
Joe King
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I've also been told that "Do these pants make my fanny look big?" Is perfectly acceptable in America. You would get some interesting looks saying that in the UK.
Interesting about the fag thing - I had no idea it was not used for cigarette in America.....
As for not understanding "Billy Elliot", I imagine most of the UK couldn't either! The geordies have a very peculiar accent (very nice people though).
Ashok Mash
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
I found some parts of "Bend it Like Beckham" very difficult to understand.

You should try Brad Pitt's paiki (donno how to spell it) accent in 'Snatch'. Its quite a good movie too. Rent it in DVD format, because you would need subtitles on to understand most of it.


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Al Newman
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do Americans find some English accents hard to understand? I imagine some like scouser, geordie and welsh may be tricky....

Oh yes. I find a geordie accent virtually impenetrable. There was a checker at my local Sainsbury's with a geordie accent for a while.. I t was quite comical. I'd have to ask 'What' 3-4 times for every sentence he uttered.
Fortunately I moved away or I'd still be at it....
Scouser (Liverpool) is easier for some reason. I'm not sure I've encountered Welsh. Scots can be pretty difficult depending how thick the accent is.


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Al Newman
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Until Austin Powers us Yanks were completely oblivious to the sexual connotations of a kind of carpeting and/or a WWII-era dance.
The classic joke is about an American bomber pilot who was made to change the name of his bomber, which he had named after his girlfriend (a notable dancer). The Brits found it extremely offensive. The poor lady was nicknamed "Shaggin' Sal", the shag being a dance in the US. Apparently in Brit english the word connotes a rather rough form of S&M....
Another classic joke (a cleaner one) is about the Texan who has a few pints and starts boasting about his state to the barkeep. "In Texas you can board a train and travel 3 days and still be in Texas!" Barkeep replies, "yes, we got those kind here too!"
HS Thomas
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:

There is one other use of the word "fag" worth mentioning. It means to work hard and was first used in 1772. It became a slang term widely used in British public schools where the older boys would make the younger boys fag for them. This apparently had nothing to do with any sexual pleasuring. Certainly the word "fag" did not acquire any sexual overtones until 1928.

These days that use might be called "bullying". The word Americans use is jackboot, I believe.
fred rosenberger
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  16

TP:
thanks for correcting me. i tried to research it a little before i posted, but to no avail. i try no to believe everything i hear anymore, but sometimes i still fall for them.
as to "jackboot" - never heard the term before in my life. not that i'm the standard by which all Americans should be judged.
HS Thomas
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Pity. It brought up a convincing image of the form Thomas Paul mentioned - fagging.. I got it from
The American Heritage´┐Ż Dictionary of the English Language
Mani Ram
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In India the floors in a building are counted as Ground Floor, First Floor, Second Floor and so on (that is the British way, I guess).
Here in US, when I asked the receptionist "where is the elevator? I want to go to the first floor", she blinked & replied "You are already in the first floor, why do you need an elevator!?"
Well, I was aware that people here use elevator instead of lift, but wasn't aware that the floors are counted as First Floor, Second Floor.....!


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Al Newman
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Originally posted by HS Thomas:

These days that use might be called "bullying". The word Americans use is jackboot, I believe.

No, we use 'bullying' or bully also. 'Jackboot' is most commonly used in certain kinds of political commentary. Those comparing the current Republican Party leadership du jour with Adolf Hitler. Reference Noam Chomsky for an example. After many years of refinement this sort of thing has acquired a literary style all it's own.....
To give Noam his due, from where he stands much (most?) of the Democratic Party qualifies as nazi or facist in addition to all the Republicans.
[ December 03, 2003: Message edited by: Alfred Neumann ]
HS Thomas
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Thanks, Alfred.
I noticed another word in your previous post.
Barkeep (American) and Bartender (English).
Ashok , I think you meant "pikey". Sounds like fishy truly pathetic monocultural goings on that's incomprehensible to 99.9999999 % of the world.
No offence to the Irish
I haven't seen 'Snatch' but Tom Cruise spoke a convincing Irish accent in some film.
Lizette Donelly
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After arriving in the U.S. we went to buy a car. While finalizing and having to produce an I.D., I picked up my HANDBAG, looked inside and said: oh heavens, I forgot my PURSE at home. The salesman stared, then turned his head away, and then stared again at my bag, trying hard not to see it....The next day I found out purse = bag here!
Richard Hawkes
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Originally posted by fred rosenberger:
The word that always makes me cringe when i hear English say it is "fag", which to them is a cigarette. In America, it's often a pejoritive term for a male homosexual, although i believe they come from a common derivation.
"Excuse me, could I bum a fag?"
Richard Hawkes
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Originally posted by Joe King:
As for not understanding "Billy Elliot", I imagine most of the UK couldn't either!
Yeah, I had some trouble with "Billy Elliot"! No probs with "O Brother Where Art Thou"...
Damien Howard
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Barkeep (American) and Bartender (English).
Actually most parts of america I've been to say bartender.
I don't know of many places that say barkeep. I think it is just a southern cowboy region thing.
Never heard of this jackboot thing either.
Scottish accents are the worst. Can't understand a bloomin word from a Scot.
I think the reason why american english is so different than true english is because the fonuders of america were usually not well educated. While that is no longer the case of most, no make that some, americans, the divergence of the language is already in place.
Just my two cents, or is it pence?
R K Singh
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
I found some parts of "Bend it Like Beckham" very difficult to understand. There were certain sections where because of the English accents I didn't understand a sentence or two.

And I thought its me only


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HS Thomas
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Originally posted by Damien Howard:
Barkeep (American) and Bartender (English).
Actually most parts of america I've been to say bartender.

Barman would do everywhere, wouldn't it ?
Damien Howard
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Barman would do everywhere, wouldn't it ?
No, not really. New York City has a lot of female bartenders
I like them a lot better. They are usually more attractive than the male bartenders, and often wear low cut pants so you can see their colorful thongs.
Ahh, I miss New York.
Right now I'm in one of those tiny college towns where you get so bored you want to hang yourself. I think once you have lived in New York City nothing else will do in America. I have several friends who are miserable now that they have left NY. But I digress.
Point being, barman only workes if the bartender is male.
Joe King
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My father once had an American neighbour who found it hilarious that we called vacuuming hoovering. I suppose its just as odd as Americans seem to be when they say Xeroxing for photocopying.
What was quite amusing was when my father and the American neighbour went to the local pub, and the American asked to try an English beer. My father knowing that Americans don't have proper beer (us ale drinkers don't think of lager as being proper beer ) gave him the strongest heaviest beer the pub had, and told him it was an average one. A couple of hours later the poor guy was all over the place and swearing never to drink English beer again! Slightly digressing, but does anyone know the historical reason why in the UK and Ireland we tend to drink ale type beers more than lager type beers? It seems like most other countries seem to stick to lager.
HS Thomas
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Originally posted by Damien Howard:
Ahh, I miss New York.
Right now I'm in one of those tiny college towns where you get so bored you want to hang yourself. I think once you have lived in New York City nothing else will do in America. I have several friends who are miserable now that they have left NY. But I digress.

I have friends who opted out of city life for rural life, got so bored within a year and then got jobs back in London, hung around bars in London after work and then suffered the long commute home to irate wives.
Some are now tending classic English gardens after work or attending PTAs.
friends - mates usually reserved for Boy-Boy friendships
HS Thomas
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Originally posted by Joe King:
Slightly digressing, but does anyone know the historical reason why in the UK and Ireland we tend to drink ale type beers more than lager type beers? It seems like most other countries seem to stick to lager.

An iron defficiency ? :roll:
Angela Poynton
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I'm English and was raised in the North West in a town that sits between Liverpool and Manchester, despite these two citied being just 40 miles apart they have very distinct dialects.
My home town was once part of the county of Lancashire some years back it became an over-flow area for the ever expanding populations of Manchester and Liverpool. It's interesting to hear all of the local accents there now.
If you meet a 70 year old who's lived there all his life he'll have a thick Lancashire accent (like George Formby)
Younger people who live on the side of town closer to Manchester have a watered down Manchester accent, and same goes for the Liverpool side, the really interesting bit is in the centre there seems to be a growing number of people developing a hybrid of all three accents, Lancashire, Manchester and Scouse... it sounds AWFUL!!
My parents are Scousers and so I have a very mild scouse tinge to my accent. My parents were worried about the effect on my potential future having a Scouse accent could have (stereotypically associated with laziness and criminality and they thought it might affect future job prospects!) so encouraged me to speak "properly", so my accent is just wierd! People can never tell where I'm from.
I have problems listening to any strong accents. I thought I couldn't understand any Scottish accent until I went to Scotland this year and I found that in the cities, the accents are generally milder and quite easy to understand, apparently the same goes for Ireland.
I thought I hated the Manchester accent, but I've learned recently that the accent I was thinking of was what is known as a Manchester "scally" accent, my boyfriend was born and raised and still lives in Manchester and his accent while still being distictly Manchunian is not nearly as annoying.
I Love listening to some American accents, others really annoy me.
The very relaxed southern dialect I heard while in Florida was fabulous.
I hate that really nasal sound of the Brooklyn accent.
I had some collegues from Colorado who I could just listen to all day!
I don't know of any other country that has so many regional dialects withing such a small area though. Even in London, travel from Ealing to Walthamstow and you'll find a totally different way of speaking. No wonder people say English is the hardest language to learn.


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Steve Wink
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Back to what someone was saying about the Geordie accent, I remember being abroad and hearing two men speak, and it took me a few seconds to realise that they were speaking Norweigan ( or Swedish, or Danish ) rather than speaking English with a Geordie accent - the sounds were so similar. I don't know if its because over the last 1000 years that area (NE england) was extremely heavily settled by vikings, and then by Danes and other scandanavian peoples.
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Joe King:
Slightly digressing, but does anyone know the historical reason why in the UK and Ireland we tend to drink ale type beers more than lager type beers? It seems like most other countries seem to stick to lager.
Yes, lagers are certainly the most popular in the world. Most American beers are lagers because the American beer industry was created mostly by German immigrants in the middle of the 1800's.
What is the difference?
Lagers are bottom fermented beers, that is the yeast needs to work from the bottom and require a degree of coolness during fermentation. Bottom fermenting yeasts work best at temperatures in the low 40's (farenheit). LAgers were first developed in Germany and spread from there. Apparently the many cool caves allowed for bottom fermentation most of the year.
Ales, stouts, and porters are top fermented beers and work best at near room temperature (60-70 degrees farenheit). Most home brewers (such as myself) start with ales as they are relatively easy to brew. Just throw some barley malt, hops, water, and yeast in a sterile container, wait a week, bottle and wait another week or two, and then drink up. One of my favorite style of beers is India Pale Ale which is a highly hopped beer. The hops helped to preserve the beer for long sea voyages from England to India.
I should add that different types of yeast impart different flavors to beer. There is no single standard yeast type used in beer brewing. Some breweries guard their yeast as if it was a top secret weapon.
The only commercialy available beers that I know of that use wild yeast today are Lambic beers from Belgium.
So why does England have ales while Germany has lagers? It seems to be a combination of avilable yeast and available brewing temperatures.
Frank Silbermann
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Angela Poynton:
"My home town was once part of the county of Lancashire some years back it became an over-flow area for the ever expanding populations of Manchester and Liverpool. It's interesting to hear all of the local accents there now."

When I was growing up, the Liverpool accent was considered very prestigious -- probably because the only people from Liverpool we had ever heard of were the Beatles.

I Love listening to some American accents, others really annoy me.
The very relaxed southern dialect I heard while in Florida was fabulous.

Even though most of America's South was settled by the Welsh and the Scots-Irish, typical southern accents are actually more similar to the local negro dialects (which retain many African speech patterns). I've heard that this is because it was so common among the more prosperous families to hire black women as nannies.

I hate that really nasal sound of the Brooklyn accent.

Certain sections of New Orleans, Louisiana, have an accent very similar to the Brooklyn, New York accent. That may be because during the early 1800s there was a lot of trade between the two ports, and both were recipients of the same migrations from Ireland, Germany and Italy.
HS Thomas
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I quite liked a Tennessee accent that had travelled some 15 years.
Thomas Pau : So why does England have ales while Germany has lagers
This link suggests that the English like a cheap quick draught where as in Germany beer is treated like a religion and treated with the utmost respect and given the time to really appreciate it..
[ December 03, 2003: Message edited by: HS Thomas ]
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Originally posted by HS Thomas:
This link suggests that the English like a cheap quick draught where as in Germany beer is treated like a religion and treated with the utmost respect and given the time to really appreciate it..
Certainly there is some truth to that. The Germans have had strict beer regulations since the 1500's. Germans beers can contain only barley malt, water, yeast, and hops. American Budweiser, for example, violates the German regulations since it uses some rice malt.
Axel Janssen
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its simply better than the chemical stuff they sell elsewhere (tastes better, less headache next day).
Also there are lots of regional beers and small breweries with a very own working culture.
At the beginning of my students life I had a job in a small beer brewery. Beer was seen as a refreshing drink there, like Coca Cola elsewhere.
Kind of scary at first to see those fork lift piler drivers driving fast, steering wheel in left hand, beer bottle in right hand and it was 7.00 a.m.
At the end of working shift there were lots of wifes picking up their men, cause a lot of them had lost driving license.
Thomas Paul
mister krabs
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Originally posted by Axel Janssen:
Also there are lots of regional beers and small breweries with a very own working culture.
The US used to be the same way. Prohibition destroyed all the small breweries. Prior to Prohibition there were almost 2,000 breweries in the US. After Prohibition there were less than 200. The only ones left were those that could switch to manufacturing other things such as malted barley products. When prohibition ended it was the depression so it was impossible for small startup breweries to get going again. By the time they could, the American taste for beer had been thoroughly corrupted by the Budweisers and Millers of the world. In the late 70's, home brewing became legal (thank you Jimmy Carter) and there was a sudden spurt of small regional breweries developing in the 80's and 90's probably because Americans were starting to discover how good beer could taste when not manufactured by a huge conglomerate. Also, Americans were rediscovering the taste of ales (since they are so easy to make at home). For a brief period there was even a resurgence of brew pubs (where the beer was made and sold on the premises).
Steven Broadbent
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When I was working in Hamburg we tried several different brews a night, without getting a hangover. Assumed that was because of the German
Reinheitsgebot which means they can't put any of that chemical crap in that
most of the world does.


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Steve Wink
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Originally posted by Thomas Paul:
The US used to be the same way. Prohibition destroyed all the small breweries. Prior to Prohibition there were almost 2,000 breweries in the US. After Prohibition there were less than 200. The only ones left were those that could switch to manufacturing other things such as malted barley products. When prohibition ended it was the depression so it was impossible for small startup breweries to get going again. By the time they could, the American taste for beer had been thoroughly corrupted by the Budweisers and Millers of the world. In the late 70's, home brewing became legal (thank you Jimmy Carter) and there was a sudden spurt of small regional breweries developing in the 80's and 90's probably because Americans were starting to discover how good beer could taste when not manufactured by a huge conglomerate. Also, Americans were rediscovering the taste of ales (since they are so easy to make at home). For a brief period there was even a resurgence of brew pubs (where the beer was made and sold on the premises).

This summer I went around New England and was extremely pleasently surprised by all the different breweries and styles ( from IPAs to wheat beers to porters ) around. Drank quite a lot on that holiday...
Thomas Paul
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Originally posted by Steven Broadbent:
When I was working in Hamburg we tried several different brews a night, without getting a hangover. Assumed that was because of the German
Reinheitsgebot which means they can't put any of that chemical crap in that
most of the world does.

I don't know that anyone puts "chemical crap" in their beer. Budweiser contains only water, hops, barley malt and rice. The rice adds an interesting taste to beer making it a little lighter than pure barley malt beer. I find that homebrew never causes a hangover. I think this is because it contains a quantity of yeast.
 
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subject: English and American English