I have read that saying British English is too specific, and that I should say English English.
Is that true?
When I say British English, what do people think I am referring to?
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There is no standard term to describe the English spoken throughout the United Kingdom, because the English spoken in Northern Ireland is so different from the English spoken in Great Britain that it is usually included with Irish English (or Hiberno-English). The term British English is generally used to refer to the English spoken in Great Britain, including Scotland, England, and Wales. Welsh English and Scottish English are the terms for the specific dialects spoken in those countries, and the term English English is used sometimes to describe the English specifically spoken in England. Often British English is used to refer to English English in contrast to Scottish, Welsh or other varieties of English.
I think most English speakers would understand the term "British English" and know that you don't mean the dialect spoken primarily in America. No English speaker would use "English English" to denote that dialect.
I have read that saying British English is too specific,
British English is less specific than English-English (I've never come across this before). Even inside England there are regional dialects, so where would you stop?
As an Englishman I think it should be just 'English'.
"British English" is only too specific if you're trying to speak of "English as spoken by everyone except Americans and Canadians." I might call that "Commonwealth English" but I'm not sure. I think that "English English" is the term that's too specific, since it leaves out the Scots and the Welsh.
British English is perfectly fine and is mainly used to mean "not American English". It is only used when you actually need to differentiate between the two.
I have read that saying British English is too specific, and that I should say English English. Is that true?
Hum, well, what do you mean by "British English" here? The question is a bit too vague to really answer.
The traditional term for the form of English pronunciation used in the south-east of England and the middle or upper classes was "received pronunciation". In the recent editions of the Cambridge pronunciation dictionary (was originally Daniel Jones's dictionary) this is now called BBC English.
What do people understand when I refer to British English?
I would guess that you were talking about spelling differences.
I would take 'British English' to refer to the varieties of English spoken in Great Britain, i.e., English, Welsh, and Scottish English, primarily. (I'm not clear on edge cases like the Isle of Man and Isle of Wight).
More loosely, it would also cover the English of Northern Ireland.
British English is misleading as a term. It gives the impression that there is somehow, just one form of English that is spoken exactly the same, all over the UK. It's really more of a collective term for the different forms of the language, within the UK. Covering what is literally English (the language used in England) and the other, non-English British forms.
Methinks English would be appropriate to refer to British English while other variants would be qualified with the corresponding type, like American English and so on.
I would call the English spoken in Great Britain just "British". I would similarly call the English spoken in America just "American". Linguistically, there are precedents for this: The Spanish spoken in Mexico is just called "Mexican" now, and so on (outside of academic contexts, etc.). So, as "Mexican" is understood to be short for "Mexican Spanish", so "British" is understood to be short for "British English", and "American" is short for "American English". Yes? And lest someone complain about the differences among speakers of British - think about the poor Americans! There, even when speakers from different parts of the country can understand each other, they're often offended or disgusted by what they hear! So, all Americans speak American (-English), but you wouldn't think so if you could hear some of those curious accents, twangs, and drawls!