This tag is for questions related to English as spoken in Great Britain, and sometimes Ireland.

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13
votes
6answers
2k views

When and how did “momentarily” come to mean “in a moment”, rather than “for a moment”?

"Momentarily" used to mean "for a moment" only, and not "in a moment". Thus, newscasters could be divided into two clear groups: those who would say "we'll be back momentarily," and those who would ...
13
votes
1answer
2k views

“Defense” or “defence”

Is the only difference that in USA they write it with s and in UK they write it with c, or is there anything more?
11
votes
3answers
59k views

Date format in UK vs US

Why is the most common date format in the US like mm/dd/yyyy, whereas in Europe (including the UK) it's more common to have dd/mm/yyyy? Looking around, I found that the US form is actually the more ...
9
votes
3answers
8k views

“Practise” vs. “practice”

As an Australian, I like to follow British forms of words such as license/licence and practise/practice. I have no problem with licence the noun and license the verb, but I find it hard to keep ...
8
votes
5answers
18k views

What does the British idiom “taking the piss” mean?

I most recently heard this in the context of a business deal: Sorry gents, looks like we'll be taking the piss on that one. I understood that the business had suffered a financial loss, although ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Is the phrase “all to c**k” considered profane?

I occasionally use the colloquialism "all to cock" to mean "disastrously wrong". I've always thought it a benign phrase, but recently I've wondered whether the use of the word "cock" in this situation ...
5
votes
2answers
752 views

Pronunciation of GUI in British English

I've heard a lot of Americans pronounce abbreviations like GUI as goo-ey. Is this the same with British English, or is it more common to spell out the word, like gee-you-eye?
-1
votes
1answer
3k views

“Three-hundred forty-two” or “three-hundred and forty-two”? [closed]

So on this answer here: http://stackoverflow.com/questions/12699791/finding-the-word-version-of-a-number/12700097#comment17146082_12700097 We were having the argument whether it is “three hundred and ...
109
votes
3answers
4k views

Where were “should”, “shall”, and “must” in the 18th Century?

According to the following Google Ngram, in the U.K. the modals should, shall, and must were virtually missing from English writing during the 18th Century (I've added will for a comparison modal ...
32
votes
4answers
3k views

“Maths” for “Mathematics”; where does the S come from?

So in US English we shorten mathematics to math, and in the UK they say maths. Where does the 'S' come from in the UK version? For some reason I had it in my head that this was just because it's ...
8
votes
3answers
2k views

Why is American English so wedded to the subjunctive?

In the sentence 'She suggested that they go to the cinema' there is no way of telling from the sentence in isolation whether it means that the speaker gave advice on attending a moving picture show, ...
6
votes
5answers
13k views

“Last Name” and “surname”

Between last name and surname, which one is British and which one is American? If I talk with somebody from Great Britain, which one is preferable?
23
votes
7answers
2k views

Does “gay” still include the meaning “merry”?

Dictionary.com lists eight meanings of gay, with “merry, lively” as the first entry. Microsoft banned an Xbox user for listing Fort Gay (a real place) as his hometown: Xbox Live considered the ...
15
votes
4answers
13k views

Is “wot wot” or “what-what” an authentic British expression? If it's supposed to be mocking, what is it mocking?

Some background first: As I was reading some past answers on English L&U, I came across this old question, where the top accepted answer maintained there were distinct class differences in the use ...
10
votes
3answers
9k views

Is the proper spelling “judgment” or “judgement”?

I always thought the proper spelling was  judgment, but I see  judgement all the time, even in articles, news, etc. Merriam-Webster lists  judgement as a variant spelling for judgment. But is the ...
5
votes
5answers
11k views

“Dear Professor” vs “Dear Mr”: differences between British and American usage

In British English, is it acceptable to address a professor as "Dear Professor X" when writing a formal or informal letter? Does it sound natural? Why I am asking this question: I was looking ...
5
votes
2answers
10k views

“Can” vs. “could” in asking a question [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When do I use “can” or “could”? I am a little bit confused about asking a question: Can you please tell me my next work? or Could you please tell me my next ...
4
votes
5answers
6k views

What is currently the most obscene word in British English? [closed]

In a recent question, I realized that while I know what's currently considered the most obscene word in American English ("cunt"), I am told that word is much more unexceptional and workaday in ...
19
votes
7answers
2k views

Does British English have a word for dry, starchy savoury snacks that are not fried slices of potato?

Everyone, the world over, enjoys savoury snacks, particularly dry, starchy ones. Far and away the most popular kind in the Anglosphere are the ones made from deep-fried (sometimes baked) thinly-sliced ...
10
votes
7answers
2k views

Using “them” instead of “those”

Background: Nowadays, I see this usage a lot. I don't know if it was this common in the past. For example: "one of them people" When I did a research about it, some people say it comes from a ...
7
votes
4answers
2k views

Different Meanings of 'Jumper' (Transatlantic embarassment)

I'm originally from Wales, now living in the USA, and as the cold weather is approaching I'm determined, this year, to start using the word sweater to describe the item of clothing I'm wearing, as ...
6
votes
1answer
1k views

“Autumn” vs. “fall” — geographical distribution of usage?

I know that generally autumn is the British term and fall is the American one, but what is the geographical distribution of the two terms outside these countries? I'm fairly sure that no British ...
6
votes
1answer
3k views

Why is The Mall (Westminster, London) pronounced like mawl?

Why is The Mall pronounced differently even though it shares the same spelling as mall (shopping)?
5
votes
3answers
5k views

“At the beginning of the century” or “in the beginning of the century”?

At the beginning of the century. In the beginning of the century. How to clearly distinguish when to use at, or in?
5
votes
2answers
734 views

When can “have” be used without “got”?

I read this article and now I'm confused when got can be omitted when using have. Could this be explained in plain English without technical terms? Is there a different usage in past tense?
4
votes
2answers
386 views

What is the origin of “oh noodles!”

Noodles are tasty. I like them, but why are they also used as an exclamation of dismay in the following? Oh Noodles!
4
votes
3answers
740 views

Spelling protocol (American/British/Canadian) for an International conference

If I'm a Canadian who'll be presenting in an international conference, should I use my country's spelling, which is the Canadian/British spelling like "grey" or the more used American spelling like ...
3
votes
5answers
2k views

UK emphasis on the second syllable vs US emphasis on the first

Why do some British speakers of English emphasize the second syllable of words such as con-TRO-versy. One British woman I knew (living in Oxford) did this to many words including (unbelievably) the ...
1
vote
3answers
19k views

What is the usual form of “Please do the needful”? [duplicate]

I was browsing the internet, and found that "Please do the needful" is not an appropriate sentence to use or write. According to this link, this sentence used to get used in South Asia. What would be ...
1
vote
5answers
2k views

Similar words that change from “-ter” to “tre”

I just found out that luster in British English was actually lustre. This was something that I did not know before. Are there any other words that behave like this? Why? (According to what?)
15
votes
3answers
770 views

Billion and other large numbers

Traditionally a billion in American English means 109 (1,000,000,000, a thousand million) while in British English it means 1012 (a million million) with milliard meaning 109. Is this still the case ...
7
votes
8answers
3k views

Why does “go spare” mean “get angry”?

I don't know whether the phrase "go spare" is used in the US, but it is very common in the UK. e.g. You're an hour late. Mum's going spare upstairs! I would like to know where the phrase comes ...
7
votes
2answers
6k views

“courgettes” vs. “zucchini” under a historical perspective

In this TimLymington's answer it is said: Interestingly, there is another vegetable with the same identity problem; what the British call courgettes and the Americans zucchini. What is the ...
6
votes
1answer
684 views

Why can a bird be pulled but never caught?

In the UK there is a popular idiomatic saying: To pull a bird. "Bird" is a well known Brit expression for a young woman. In the USA, I think "chick" is more popular. The above expression means ...
6
votes
3answers
6k views

Usage of “and” and comma when writing numbers UK style

I am trying to understand the rules for writing numbers in words under the UK rules (with "and"). I understand how to write small numbers (up to a few thousands), but I am not sure when to use "and" ...
6
votes
1answer
214 views

“Dawkins'” or “Dawkins's” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When did it become correct to add an 's' to a singular possessive already ending in 's'? I learned from school to use Dawkins', for example That is ...
5
votes
3answers
1k views

Etymology and meaning of the word “snog”

Having looked to urban dictionary, witionary, online etymology, dictionary.com, Wikipedia and wordfreaks.tribe.net, I have found a wide variance in the etymology and definition of the word snog. I ...
5
votes
6answers
2k views

“tag question” vs. “question tag”

I've just read this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_question So regarding this passage: The term "question tag" is generally preferred by British grammarians, while their American ...
4
votes
4answers
951 views

“Equal” versus “Equals” [duplicate]

I've seen variants of this question, but nothing explicitly like the one below: Three feet equals/equal a yard. Which is correct? Is there a definitive explanation? Please indicate BrE vs AmE ...
4
votes
3answers
4k views

Difference between “take a taxi” and “get a taxi”

Which of the following is correct? If both are correct, do they have different meanings or usage? Take a taxi/bus/train OR Get a taxi/bus/train
4
votes
1answer
423 views

Is it acceptable to omit “I” when it's the subject? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Is it acceptable to begin a declarative sentence with “Am”? Is it correct English to omit I from the beginning of a sentence when it's clearly implied? For example... ...
3
votes
1answer
150 views

Use of “ahoy” before “hello”

The word hello seems to have become popular with the coming of the telephone. Did our ancestors greet each other with ahoy before that?
2
votes
2answers
172 views

Does the English language have an official Academy?

For some languages, there are academies that decide topics such as grammar and spelling of things, for example, for the Spanish language, there are 22 academies in 22 different countries, all making ...
2
votes
5answers
2k views

“Available jobs to/for them”

First of all, English is not my first language. I have a question, maybe a basic one, about this phrase: The situation highlights the mismatch between some areas of training and available jobs ...
30
votes
6answers
63k views

What is the difference between dialogue and dialog?

I am American, and I always thought the difference between dialogue and dialog was one of meaning, the way Merriam-Webster has them listed: 2 entries found: dialogue (noun) dialog box ...
29
votes
8answers
5k views

Why do Americans add “The” in front of a team name, but the British do not?

I'm not certain that there is an answer to this one: Americans refer to our teams as The Example: The New York Yankees The British in my experience do not. Example: Manchester United I ...
15
votes
4answers
2k views

How do you proceed from pronouncing “t” in the regular way to t-glottalization, as found in various English accents?

It's just strange to me because "t" is pronounced with the front teeth, while the glottalized "t" is produced with the back of the throat; that seems like quite a noticeable journey that couldn't have ...
12
votes
4answers
33k views

“flat” vs. “apartment”

Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, 8th edition Flat: noun. [ countable ] ( BrE ) a set of rooms for living in, including a kitchen, usually on one floor of a building. Apartment: noun. ( ...
11
votes
3answers
17k views

What's the difference between 'subway', 'metro' and 'tube'?

When I watched the "American Album" program, Susan and Henry talked about New York, and she used the word 'subway'. When I listened to BBC's '6 minutes English', I heard 'tube' used in the ...
19
votes
9answers
2k views

How can I translate the words for the two types of bathrooms found in Russia into English?

I work in real estate, and sometimes I have to translate respective inscriptions from my native Russian into English. I get stuck in some cases where not only linguistic, but cultural differences have ...