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

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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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9answers
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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14answers
3k 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
11k views

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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4answers
3k 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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4answers
1k views

Why is stainless steel “stainless”?

Inox steel is stainless because it does not stain, but is stain the same thing as rust? I just want to understand since stain reminds me of clothing stains, for instance, and I am rather curious as to ...
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9answers
12k views

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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4answers
1k views

Usage of “fanny” as verb

I am not a native English speaker, hence please bear with me. I understand that fanny means mess around and waste time. Can someone suggest how I might make a sentence which uses fanny, as an ...
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4answers
2k views

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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6answers
4k views

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
11k 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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2answers
977 views

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
7k views

Should “each” be followed by a singular or plural possessive?

If a possessive noun, which is plural, is preceded by "each", then should it use the singular or plural possessive form? For example, which of the following is correct? spend time in each other's ...
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2answers
296 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
3k views

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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3answers
549 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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1answer
1k views

What would be the British English equivalent to “The Elements of Style”?

I've been referred to this book by a lot of people, but one of the basic "rules" that it mentions - making your language more "cut and dry", which seems to be more of a thing with American English, ...
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2answers
493 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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1answer
10k views

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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2answers
2k 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
2k views

Where is “Wednesday” pronounced “Wedinzday”?

I recently heard a BBC radio announcer pronounce "Wednesday" in a peculiar way. The 'd' wasn't dropped, resulting in something like "Wedinzday" (wɛdnzde). I've read some Scottish dialects use this ...
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2answers
2k views

'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
7k views

Sorted vs Sorted out

I'm an American and I refer to a situation which is settled as "sorted out." My English family would just say that it's "sorted". Which is the earlier expression? Did Americans add the preposition ...
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2answers
73k 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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5answers
24k 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 ...
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9answers
4k views

What is “plaice” in the US? Would love a good fish and chips

When we went to the market, at the fisherman's counter we asked for plaice with which we would make fish and chips. Now here in the States when we ask for plaice, they don't understand what we mean. ...
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6answers
30k views

'Expired' or 'Passed away'?

When someone dies, do we say they expired or passed away? Does the word expired give any more respect when used? Or less respect than passed away?
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7answers
823 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
2k views

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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9answers
30k views

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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5answers
4k views

“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
24k 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?
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5answers
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What's the equivalent phrase in the UK for “I plead the fifth”?

In the United States, a person under examination on the witness stand may "plead the fifth" to avoid self-incrimination. In other words, a person asserts his or her Fifth Amendment right. Citizens of ...
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4answers
3k views

Difference in [ə] pronunciation at the end of a word in British and American English

I grew up speaking American English (San Diego to be specific). When I hear someone who speaks British English say a word that ends in [ə], like banana, I hear a weak but distinct 'r' sound attached ...
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3answers
10k views

Recognizing a Welsh accent

For an American, I'm pretty good at UK dialects. I can immediately tell an Irish or Scottish accent from a typical (educated, Londoner) English accent. But I'm on shaky ground with Welsh accents, ...
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3answers
458 views

“Posting in all its branches” in the nineteenth century: travel, mail, other?

"Posting in all its branches" is a phrase I've seen a number of times in 19th century British sources. A google search (regular and books) gives context mostly in reference to traveling or ...
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9answers
4k views

“Skipping rope” vs. “jump rope”

Well it is summer time and I have to lose some weight so I have chosen the cardiovascular activity to do that jumping rope. While digging on some information I have asked myself a few questions: Why ...
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3answers
345 views

“A similar hat to Jane” vs “A hat similar to Jane’s”

Of late I have noticed British people using the following sort of construct: John and Jane make such a cute couple because John always wears a similar hat to Jane. To my ear, that is ...
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2answers
5k views

Why are you “reading” a particular subject at university?

I've always wondered why the verb "read" is used to basically mean "study" when describing somebody's university course. They might say: I'm reading History at university. And it might be said ...
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3answers
881 views

Whence does “sprog” come?

The British informal word for a child. I couldn't get any work done because the sprogs were running riot. ODO has the following: 1940s (originally services' slang): perhaps from obsolete ...
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2answers
426 views

Q: Why isn't he answering? A: 1) He must have already slept 2) … must have been sleeping?

I didn't reply to a ping in the chatroom. The English enthusiast suggested this about me at the time: He must have already slept. Hours (and dreams) later, I came back, I saw the above ...
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5answers
608 views

Why do we use a French term for a currency-exchange office?

In British English and across Europe, the term Bureau(x) de change is used to describe what US English speakers would call a Currency Exchange or Foreign Exchange (office). Why do we use a French ...
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3answers
449 views

Are there any studies on changes in British English to become more like American English?

With the spread of American popular culture (movies, books, franchises, etc.) and technical jargon (manuals, Web syntaxes, default spell-check settings, etc.), I'm wondering if there have been any ...
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5answers
2k views

Is “stationery” the name of the store that sells pens, pencils, paper, school things, etc.?

In Brazil we call this store by the generic name of papelaria, something like "paper store". What is the correct name for this? Is "Stationery" the name in any country that speaks English? I read ...
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5answers
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How serious an insult is “wanker” in British English? [NSFW]

In the spirit of this question, "How profane is it to call someone a 'slag' in British English", how insulting is "wanker" in British English on the spectrum of profanities and vulgarities? What's ...
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5answers
21k 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?
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5answers
702 views

Word for “invisible god-like voice”

I am Asian and in Asian mythology like epics like Mahabharatha, when some person is going to do something bad then a voice from nowhere comes from background, after a thunder or something, to stop him ...
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6answers
3k views

British English equivalent of American English Internship

I've been trying to think of a good British English term for a summer job, the equivalent of American English Internship. I'm sure that when I've worked with students my company had hired over the ...