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

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Is it appropriate to call a British person a “Brit”?

Specifically, is it appropriate for a non-British person to call a British person a "Brit"? Whenever I see it from an American source it always feels too familiar or too informal, or both. But I can't ...
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3answers
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What does the phrase “God and my twin vicars” mean?

As you all may have figured out, I have an affection for Britishisms and peculiar colloquiaisms of British speech. Recently, I came across an inscrutable one watching the hilarious FX show Archer, and ...
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7answers
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How do I spell the truncation 'Cas', as in 'Sports Casual/Sports Cas'?

How do I spell the truncation 'Cas', as in 'Sports Casual/Sports Cas'? It may be UK only, and may have been spawned by Alan Partridge. Cash/Cas are not right. *As in a slang term, "he was acting all ...
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6answers
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What do the British mean by “bolshie”?

In this week's edition of The Economist there is a review of Edith Pearlman's latest book of short stories. In it, the reviewer says the volume is characterised by prose that is bolshie yet ...
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3answers
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“Invite” vs. “invitation”

I hear a lot of people saying "Send me an invite". I always thought that it was an 'invitation'. Is "sending one an invite" accepted usage? Or is it incorrect? If I need to get my wedding invitation ...
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5answers
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Was the BrEng term “coloured” derogatory in the 1970s?

SAM Look... I owe it to myself to say this to you, okay? Leave Tony Crane. Just go far away from him. He's gonna ask you to marry him and he's gonna make you a business partner. EVE Is ...
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3answers
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What does the “right” in the “The Right Honourable” mean? Why is it there?

I don't think the right in the "The Right Honourable" means "correct", because I can't see how that makes sense in context. I considered right as a British slang intensifier that means "really", but ...
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3answers
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Why is “a couple of <things>” often shortened to “a couple <things>”?

I would write a couple of . I often read/hear a couple . I assumed this was an American English thing (I'm British), and just a convenient shortening of the phrase for speaking. It's easier to say a ...
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6answers
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Correct usage of “to coin a phrase”

I've always thought "to coin a phrase" means to invent a phrase or be the first person to use it. Today I came across this usage by a reporter for the Lancashire Telegraph The Burnley board are ...
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What is the etymology of “blackguard”? Does this British-sounding word have subtleties in its use?

The following is from My Fair Lady, where Eliza Doolittle's father, a man of working-class origins, is about to make his appearance. Prof. Higgins and Col. Pickering, our primary interlocutors in this ...
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5answers
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Can “already” be used after a simple past verb in American English?

A British colleague asked if these two sentences are grammatically acceptable in American English: They found already high recognition in Europe and we wish to carry that further. ...
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“Toward” or “towards” – what would a native speaker use?

In this question we learn that toward and towards are interchangeable, but that the former is somewhat more typical of U.S. English and the latter of British English, although there is some indication ...
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6answers
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Why is the English devil “old”?

Looking up the etymology of the Devil's nickname, Old Nick, I came across this article in OUPblog written by Anatoly Liberman For some reason, devils, at least in English, are often called old: ...
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8answers
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Identifying British accents

Are there rules of thumb for pinpointing British accents regionally? What other accents do Americans tend to mistake for British? Are there good online resources that can help with this? Audio ...
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5answers
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How did “ropey” come to mean “of poor quality”?

Rope is typically long, strong and fibrous. So how did us Brits come to use "ropey" to describe something of poor quality? British informal of poor quality:     a portrait ...
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1answer
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Why is “fulfil” spelt as “fulfill” in American English?

In this answer, simplification is stated as one reason for spelling variations in American English. But unlike in color and favorite, the number of letters to spell the word in fulfil increases in ...
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4answers
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“Haven't you?” or “don't you?”

What is the right question tag (in British English) when we use the verb have? I have interviewed a few native speakers and none of them could explain why sometimes they prefer "haven't/hasn't" and ...
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3answers
666 views

How did Persian words arrive in English?

Some Indian words which have entered modern English, such as 'bazaar' and 'cummerbund', are of Persian origin. So it seems they have completed a journey from Persia to Western India to present-day ...
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9answers
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American Equivalent of “Bog Standard”

I'm searching for an American English phrase that is the most readily equivalent to the British expression bog standard (which means, as I understand, plain, ordinary or unremarkable). I'm tempted to ...
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5answers
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Do Americans use the world 'turtle' as a generic word to mean 'tortoise'?

Obviously there are two different animals — a tortoise and a turtle. But I have been told by a colleague that in the US the word turtle is used to describe both. I find this odd as for example the ...
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5answers
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How to use “you know”

For a non-native speaker like me, I am always wondering how to use you know correctly, as in the following sentence: Alright, well, for example, like on Saturdays, y’know, what I liked to do ...
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Is a schwa ever stressed?

Is there a word in RP (Received Pronunciation) where the stressed vowel sound is a schwa?
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How should I pronounce “Worcestershire” as a rhotic English speaker?

I'm aware that the English county of Worcestershire is pronounced in Britain as ['wu:stəʃə], more or less. However, this is a non-rhotic pronunciation, and it feels very unnatural for me to use this ...
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8answers
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Does British English use the term “heel” for the end slice of bread?

I'm Irish, and hence speak Hiberno-English. Here is a photograph of some sliced bread: The topmost slice of this (that's crust on the end), is called "the heel". Is this meaning for "heel" ...
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3answers
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“Parametrise” or “parameterise” a curve?

In British English, which one is correct? Does one parameterise a curve or parametrise it?
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Are Pounds Sterling referred to as squid (in addition to quid)

Commonly pounds are called quid, but I've come across references to pounds as squid Is that a typo or actually a common usage? Example from Football forums: It is believed they have ...
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4answers
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Very unusual meaning of “abortion”

The following use of the word "abortion" got my attention. It is from Graham Greene's The End of the Affair, published in 1951. Here is the context: "...Listen. I met a man on the Common today ...
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5answers
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What's the origin of the word “geezer”?

From Oxford Dictionaries: geezer noun 1. a man (British informal) he strikes me as a decent geezer 2. an old man (North American informal , derogatory) I think in British English ...
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Does “oath” have an implied religious connotation?

In Singapore you don't have to swear an oath in court if you are of certain religions. Instead you affirm that you're speaking the truth: Circumstances under which affirmation may be made 16.   ...
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4answers
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What is the origin of the British “guv”? Is it still used colloquially?

I.e. is there a known historical reason behind why the British began calling each other "governor" and "guv"? The various online dictionaries I've consulted say it is now a way to refer to those of ...
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2answers
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Where does the word “*ag” come from?

Once upon a time in America, particularly during the 1970s, if you asked an American whether they ‘fancied a shag’, they might well have thought of this: And therefore declined the offer for fear ...
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3answers
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How was “ben't” used, and when did it cease to be used?

In Jane Austen's The Watsons, the maid of the titular family utters the following sentence: "Please, ma'am, master wants to know why he ben't to have his dinner?" I have never encountered ben't ...
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2answers
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Meaning of “Caucasian”

When I search the definition of Caucasian in the NOAD, I find the following definition (it's the first of three definitions): (often offensive) of or relating to one of the traditional ...
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“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 ...
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2answers
884 views

When do you use middle and when center?

The other day I was talking to a friend about when to use "middle" or "center". I was using it in the context of top, middle, bottom, as a listing, and he suggested it should be top, center, bottom. ...
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2answers
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Are -er insults a British phenomenon?

In the UK there are a lot of insulting words which end in -er, like this: scrubber (slut), tosser (masturbator), chancer (untrustworthy person), poofter (homosexual), wanker (masturbator, generally ...
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4answers
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Do brides in church weddings go up the aisle toward the altar or down the aisle toward the altar?

Nigel Rees, The Cassell Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins (1987) has this entry regarding the question "WHY DO WE SAY ... BRIDES GO UP THE AISLE?" Sir Thomas Bazley fired off a letter to The ...
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2answers
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Where does the pejorative meaning of “shower” come from?

shower British informal a group of people perceived as incompetent or worthless I think this term is becoming obsolete. It's certainly not something I've heard in the street recently. The ...
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6answers
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What is the difference between “to oblige” and “to obligate”?

What's the difference between oblige and obligate? Speculating, is the latter an Americanism of the British former? Or is there any distinction about what/who has caused someone to be oblig(at)ed to ...
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Is there a different understanding of “rubber” in British and American English?

I was well aware of the different meanings of rubber, not least because there are the same definitions in my mother-tongue. However, while reading a text about differences between British and American ...
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4answers
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“I park my car in the yard”

What is the origin of the different pronunciation of words like park, yard, cartoon, margarine in American and British English? In other words, why doesn’t British English generally pronounce the r ...
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14answers
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What's the word for someone who always likes being different?

...particularly with respect to the use of technology, taste in music, movies etc. I have seen my share of people like this who like to go "alternative" just to set themselves apart and I would like ...
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2answers
871 views

Tomorrow will be Muggy, followed by Tuggy, Wuggy and Thuggy

I read an article, here is the original words: Lennon even created his own comic strip, which he called "The Daily Howl". This contained drawings, frequently of crippled people, and satirical ...
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7answers
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What is the meaning of the term “herbert” in British slang?

In the song Get Out of My House by The Business, the chorus is: Out, out get out of my house, you'd better take your sheepskin too no son of mine's going round as a hippie or a scruffy little ...
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6answers
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Is there an American English dialect that sounds as “distingushed” as British English?

Obviously there are a lot of subjective words in the question. There are dialects of British English that don't sound distinguished at all (Cockney). Also, what sounds distinguished is somewhat ...
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2answers
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Understand Rudyard Kipling's poem If

I came across Rudyard Kipling's poem If, quoted below: If you can keep your head when all about you Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, ...
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2answers
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Why Isn't Citizen 'Citisen' in British English?

In British English vocabulary, most words with 'z's are replaced with 's's. For example, capitalization to capitalisation. Industrialization to industrialisation. But for some words, like citizen, ...
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4answers
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Ambiguous connotation of “just” - How do natives interpret these?

First of all, these questions are a bit related but not what I'm actually asking about: Is “I just spent all my money” grammatically incorrect? “I just ate them” and “I've just eaten them” - What's ...
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7answers
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What do British and American post boxes say when they don't want any advertising?

Advertising leaflets shoved en masse into mail boxes are one of the banes of modern society. In Germany, putting a note saying "Bitte keine Werbung" ("No advertising please") on your box protects ...
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Footwear: Runners. Sneakers. Trainers

There's a type of shoe which I, being Irish, would call runners. They're comfortable for running or walking in. The British call them trainers, probably because they can be used for sports or ...