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

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The mysterious, unenunciated “w” in the “-wich” of English place names

Doing some reading lately, I've been pondering the strange pronunciations of English place names — namely, that of the 'w' in the "–wich" suffix, which, as I understand it, is not ...
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4answers
656 views

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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1answer
612 views

What is “double history”?

I'm a Yank watching the UK version of Being Human and the character mentions sitting next to his ex-girlfriend in "Double History" (season 2 episode 3 around timestamp 24:18). It's clearly a history ...
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3answers
667 views

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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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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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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3answers
462 views

Connotations of using “boy” by upper-class liberal Britons in beginning of 20th century

Could someone provide (ideally documented) evidence for the following details of the possible meanings/connotations of the word "boy" as used by a start-of-20th-century upper-class British person of ...
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3answers
53k 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 ...
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3answers
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Origin of “you lot” and other plural forms of “you”

I've often heard the phrase "you lot" in British programs on PBS, e.g. "Oi! You lot! Shift y'selves" or thereabouts, and have sometimes wondered about its origin and how it gained currency. It seems ...
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3answers
8k views

“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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1answer
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Is Australian English closer to US English or British English?

It would seem obvious to me that Australian English is closer to British English due to the historical events that led to English people living here. But it seems when differences occur that US ...
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2answers
242 views

Is “kip” Chinese in origin?

While looking up the history of kip for a previous question of mine, I realized that the information about its origins is rather scant. The noun and verb to kip in BrEng is often said when a person ...
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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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9answers
2k views

A word for old-fashioned, dirty bar/place (spit-and-sawdust)

Is there a (common) single word for an old-fashioned, non-modern, simple, dirty, untidy bar/place ? A noun would be preferable. Details: There is an informal British term: spit-and-sawdust ...
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5answers
2k views

'Little' and 'small' in British vs American English

Is the preference for 'little' over 'small' one of the things that differentiates British from American English? I find expressions like "I'm only little" or "She's only little" in British children ...
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7answers
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British pronunciation of “plait”

Having only seen this word in writing, I assumed it's pronounced "plate". howjsay (whose author is british) suggests the pronunciation that rhymes with "flat", but also offers the "plate" one. This ...
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8answers
2k views

Are there idioms specific to one English dialect?

Let's get into a little conversation about the differences between American English, British English and regional dialects. Some words are specific to certain dialects (lass is Scottish, the lads is ...
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3answers
631 views

“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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3answers
35k views

What does the phrase “half seven” mean?

I've heard the British term "half seven" (or "half nine," "half five", etc) used to tell time. I can't remember though if it means 6:30 or 7:30 (i.e. half an hour before seven, or half past seven)? ...
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2answers
720 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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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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4answers
2k views

Why is “bloody” considered obscene in the UK but not in the US?

Why is the word bloody considered obscene in the UK but not so in the US?
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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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7answers
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Confused by the British having “dinner” in the afternoon” and “tea” in the evening

I’m having problems with meal names in the UK. I’ve just learnt that dinner can refer to the afternoon meal, and that tea can refer to an early evening meal. Is this specific to a certain area in the ...
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“Season” vs. “series”

TV shows, other than ones that have new episodes year-round (e.g. news, soaps), typically group episodes in batches — most often per year, although not necessarily calendar years, and sometimes there ...
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4answers
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Is this correct grammar: “[…] cash can't be beat.”

I found the following phrase in a NYTimes article and I was pretty surprised that it wasn't corrected or edited out: "But when it comes to privacy and freedom, cash can't be beat.". I am under the ...
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The origin of the phrase “Now then!”

This pair of adverbs of opposed meaning, one indicating the present and the other the past, when conjoined is used to attract attention to what is going to be said or suggested next, in other words ...
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2answers
7k views

Why “ladybird”?

In case you don't know, in British English, the little red-with-black-spots insect is not called a "ladybug", as in North America, but a "ladybird". This seems rather a poor act of classification, ...
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6answers
471 views

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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2answers
2k views

Enquire and inquire

In British English I think these two words have different shades of meaning, but I couldn't articulate them. In American English I see inquire used where I would use "enquire". Are there shades of ...
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9answers
1k views

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
272 views

“Music with rocks in” - British English?

I've been reading a multitude of Terry Pratchet books lately, and been exposed to some British terminology that doesn't generally make it over to the states. The book Soul Music refers to rock music ...
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4answers
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Why does Britain use “Way Out” rather than “Exit”?

At public transport interchanges throughout the English-speaking world (and where there are English signs for the benefit of travellers in non-English-speaking countries), the exits are marked, ...
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4answers
622 views

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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3answers
486 views

Why are certain categories of words more likely to vary between British and American English?

There are certain groups of words that are much more likely to vary between British and American dialects of English. terms relating to cars, trains and roads (boot/trunk, bonnet/hood, ...
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2answers
446 views

avoid the slash?

Should the slash be avoided? For example every week/day in my head is translated to every week or day. I think I started using slashes because I saw them used in forums and in articles. Is using ...
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2answers
359 views

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
758 views

Where does the word “snogging” come from?

Where does the word snogging come from, in the sense of canoodling? I’m looking for it etymology, not for its connotation or phonoaesthetic properties, as the answer of the other question provides. ...
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2answers
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'Ours' meaning 'our home' - where is it used outside the UK, if anywhere?

In expressions like: Let's go back to ours and have some food. There's a party at ours on Friday. There's a bottle of brandy at yours, isn't there? 'ours' and 'yours' are synonyms for ...
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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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0answers
51 views

Eww! Has it crossed the pond yet?

I hear eww (sometimes spelt as ew) fairly regularly on American sitcoms, usually uttered by a scatterbrained beautiful blonde girl when she sees or hears something disgusting. I don't recall it ever ...
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4answers
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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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6answers
11k views

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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2answers
60k views

Why do British people pronounce “Ibiza” as “Ibitha”?

My brief overseas experience in Great Britain has taught me that British people tend to pronounce Ibiza as Ibitha. My questions are as follows: Why is this the case? How did this develop? What are ...
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7answers
659 views

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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4answers
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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 ...
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9answers
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What exactly does it mean to “mug somebody off” in British English?

I tried looking this up at the Urban Dictionary, but it gave only one net-upvoted definition, and that definition wasn't even clear. The background for my question is coming my watching from a movie ...
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4answers
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What does “cable” mean?

I came across the word "cable" very often in http://www.guardian.co.uk. Like: WikiLeaks cables: Drive to tackle Islamists made 'little progress' US embassy cables: How the Guardian protects sources ...
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5answers
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“If I knew you're coming I wouldn't have come”

Is the statement If I knew you're coming I wouldn't have come correct? Should we use If I had known you're coming, I wouldn't have come instead? Please consider American-British ...
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3answers
20k views

“Checked shirt” vs “check shirt”

My son is learning English as a foreign language and I notice a mixture of British and American words in his vocab lists. Is there such thing as a checked shirt, or should it be a check shirt?