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

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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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3answers
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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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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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2answers
398 views

Is “kip” Chinese in origin?

While looking up the history of kip, 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 wishes to take a short sleep or a ...
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Why is the surname Gray more common than the surname Grey in the UK?

An EL&U question from 2010 asks Which is the correct spelling: "grey" or "gray"? The answers very sensibly point out the split between the UK and former British commonwealth ...
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630 views

Capital Letters from 1700 [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Capitalisation of nouns in English (historically) After reading a recipe from 1747, I noticed that all of the nouns are capitalized. Is that a normal thing for that era? ...
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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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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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'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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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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4answers
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50s synonym for “snogging”

What would the British term in 1954 have been for "snogging"? "Making out" is American. "All over each other" doesn't seem quite specific enough.
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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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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
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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
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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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3answers
354 views

How do I identify a British idiom from an American one?

I live outside the US and the UK. I just started reading a book titled "Speak English like an American". The book teaches numerous idioms but I don't know if these idioms are usable outside the the ...
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4answers
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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
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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
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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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3answers
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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
297 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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3answers
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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
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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
511 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
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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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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
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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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3answers
459 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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2answers
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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
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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
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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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'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
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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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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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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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“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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“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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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
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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
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“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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“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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What is the name of the phoneme produced in an upper-class Briton's pronunciation of the word “Duke”? What's different in the articulation?

When someone with a Received Pronunciation accent pronounces the word duke, as in The Duke of York, he doesn't pronounce it with a "hard" 'd', as one might pronounce the word duh, but a softer type ...
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5answers
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“Badly” versus “poorly”

I was saying to an American friend, "I pronounce still bad," which she said is a mistake, saying it should be poorly. Well, I get that part, but when I asked if I can say badly, she said I ...
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“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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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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1answer
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From Livorno to Leghorn and back again

Can anyone tell me why the Tuscan city of Livorno used to be called Leghorn in English? An increasing number of British writers, artists, philosophers, and travelers visited the area and ...
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1answer
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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. ...