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

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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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3answers
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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, ...
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3answers
599 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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5answers
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The Equivalent Term for Pharmacy in the UK

In the States, we use the term "pharmacy" or "drugstore," but what is the equivalent in the UK? I checked two sources, but came up with nothing.
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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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3answers
12k views

Is there any difference between “color” and “colour”?

What is the difference between color and colour?
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5answers
8k views

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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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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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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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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5answers
9k views

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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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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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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5answers
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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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4answers
956 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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5answers
7k views

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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6answers
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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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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
551 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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3answers
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Answering “Have you got” questions with “I do”

For the question "Have you got any ice cream?" which is correct: Yes I do Yes I have or inversely No I don't No I haven't got any
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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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3answers
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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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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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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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7answers
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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
703 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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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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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
819 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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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
994 views

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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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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8answers
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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 ...
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3answers
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What do Brits means when they say “perving around”?

A friend mentioned her British girlfriend talking about drinking and "perving around the pool." What are the possible meanings for this? I gather from my friend's story that this Brit wasn't a ...
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4answers
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“Stick it in the boot.” “Er, don't you mean the trunk?”

Does anyone know the etymological history or the reason behind the different names that British and American speakers use to refer to the automobile's largest storage receptacle, or more plainly, the ...
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4answers
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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
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What does “on a hiding to nothing” mean?

I watched a movie with English actors just the other day and came across this phrase in the dialogue. What does it mean, and who would typically use it? EDIT: What is the sense of the hide in ...
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8answers
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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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1answer
959 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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1answer
654 views

Is “defensible driving” defensible?

This stems from an answer on the Bicycles StackExchange site: http://bicycles.stackexchange.com/a/28633/1464 I think many people have heard of driving (or riding) "defensively." I understand this to ...
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825 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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3answers
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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
627 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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2answers
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Where does the word “sh**” 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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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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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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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 ...