21 March 2009


In my second-year linguistics class at UBD today, I was talking about how English varies around the world. To illustrate the differences between UK and US English, I mentioned the car, where we have the following differences (amongst others):
  • windscreen (UK) / windshield (USA)
  • bonnet (UK) / hood (USA)
  • boot (UK) / trunk (USA)
My students pointed out that, in Brunei, the bonnet of a car is at the back, not the front (as in British English); and my colleagues confirmed this.

This surprised me, and it led me to wonder about three things:
  • Does the bonnet occur at the front of a car in any other varieties of English?
  • Where does this shift in meaning originate from?
  • How many other idiosyncratic word usages are there like this in Brunei English?