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  • Differences had to abound between American and British English. But what should NOT happen is the slavish adoption of one by the other… I speak specifically of ‘half past the hour’ ‘quarter past the hour’ which, I learn is American. It tells you the time – if you can see a clock, or you have reason to believe it is 8 or 9 or 10 o’clock. It is totally useless to the aged who have impaired vision, or no clocks to tell time by. The standard British English is ‘quarter past four’, ‘half past four’ or ‘quarter to four’… Unfortunately, the American style has been adopted by that great former arbiter of good English, BBC World Service (the part that I get to hear). Not all ‘progress’ is good.