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

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12
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5answers
603 views

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 that ...
11
votes
2answers
2k views

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 ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

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 ...
10
votes
4answers
790 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 ...
10
votes
4answers
5k views

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 ...
10
votes
3answers
4k 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 'our/...
10
votes
7answers
34k 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 ...
9
votes
6answers
5k 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 ...
9
votes
4answers
4k 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 ...
9
votes
9answers
3k 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 ...
8
votes
3answers
139k views

How offensive is it to call someone a “slag” in British English? (NSFW)

One more colorful slang term I gleaned from the British movie I recently watched is slag. In the movie, it was used in curses like, "Fuck-ing dogs! Slags." "Right slag, that one." Now I know via ...
7
votes
4answers
3k views

What is the proper adjective for the UK?

I've heard Ukonian used, and I must say I rather like it, but I don't think it's a fully accepted word yet. British leaves out Northern Ireland.
7
votes
2answers
2k views

Wedding invitations in British English

I'm an American calligrapher living in France, designing a suite of wedding invitations for a Spanish bride living in London! Complicated enough? I can't really go to the bride with questions ...
7
votes
7answers
19k views

Does “pants” more commonly mean “trousers” or “underpants”?

In the UK, I've heard pants being used as slang for underpants (or was it in Bridget Jones' Diary?), whereas in India it almost exclusively means "trousers". Describing the meaning of "put your pants ...
6
votes
2answers
2k views

Brackets Vs Parenthesis

I came across this question on Meta Stackoverflow, where a discussion was going on in the comments about the terms brackets and parenthesis and the right usage of them. It seems there is a different ...
6
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2answers
2k views

Identifying accents of British actors

As an American, a large part of my impoverished experience of British accents comes from ancient BBC comedy imports on PBS. I'd very much like to identify the regional accents the following actors are ...
6
votes
2answers
266 views

What is the origin of using the word “our” preceding a first name when speaking directly to the person so named

In the BBC's Keeping Up Appearences, and Lark Rise to Candleford, "our Rose" and "our Laura" are used in both the third person and second person. The usage seems understandable as a third person ...
5
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2answers
1k views

What is the meaning, and origin, of the phrase “breaking windows with guineas”?

Regarding the phrase: Breaking windows with guineas What is its meaning, and origin? The 'guineas' part of it might mean more to the British audience on this site than the others.
5
votes
3answers
7k views

Second name or Surname in British English

I have recently been told by a Londoner that "second name" is the most common way of referring to one's surname. She explained that it arose from the fact that most people just use their first and ...
5
votes
2answers
1k views

What is the meaning, history, and current popularity of “of a Monday” (or Tuesday, or Wednesday, etc.)?

I was watching a 1934 Hollywood film today and one of the American characters used the phrase, Of a Tuesday. I don't think I'd ever heard an American use this in real life or in a film before then, ...
5
votes
6answers
4k views

Are these phrases too posh-sounding for conversational English?

I'm German, and I try to speak British English as best I can, it's the language I've learned at school, and I'm always trying to be consistent. However, much of my English vocabulary and phrasing I ...
5
votes
3answers
7k views

What is the origin of “have a gander”? (When meaning “look”.)

The phrase "have a gander" meaning "have a look" is common in the UK. (Also can be "have a goosey gander" or just "have a goosey".) What is the origin/meaning of this phrase? I always assumed that it ...
5
votes
5answers
1k views

Differences between dialects

I'm Italian and I'm trying to improve my English, but I have some difficulty speaking with and understanding people of different countries. For example when I study English in books it seems to be ...
5
votes
5answers
2k views

Accurate British English term for an oblong deck from shore out into a lake where you tie your rowing boat

This is a typical image of the structure in question: There are also some variations, shown in this Google image search. But I'm after the often not very wide, some 20-30 feet long wood ...
4
votes
2answers
2k views

Etymology of “nutmeg”?

What's the etymology of the British informal usage of the word "nutmeg" as a verb to mean "kicking a ball through a player's legs", usually used in football? It doesn't seem to bear any relation to ...
4
votes
3answers
2k views

Etymology and meaning of the word “snog”

Having looked to urban dictionary, witionary, online etymology, dictionary.com, Wikipedia and wordfreaks.tribe.net, I have found a wide variance in the etymology and definition of the word snog. I ...
4
votes
3answers
6k views

“Sport” vs “Sports” Origin

I was recently reading this article on the use of "math" vs. "maths" as a collective noun (Americans use the former, Brits the latter). However, the trend seen in "math/maths" is reversed in "sport/...
4
votes
2answers
591 views

What is the students' jargon or abbreviation for assignments made up of “only” data downloaded from the internet in English? (If it exists)

Japanese students call a report and essay made up by only putting data downloaded from the Internet e.g. passages from Wikipedia put together without including their own thoughts or creative ideas, a ...
4
votes
2answers
718 views

Is it true that Cockney English is disappearing? And being replaced with “Jafaican”?

I read a couple of comments to that effect on this Youtube video, which is basically a man ranting in Cockney from the movie Football Factory (2004). The comments bemoan American ignorance about the ...
4
votes
1answer
8k views

Where does the word “minge” come from?

The slang term minge in the sense of quim dates from the beginning of the 20th century. However, neither the OED nor Etymonline has any idea where it came from. Here are two of the OED’s citations: ...
4
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3answers
1k views

London dialect usage

I found the following sentence in this article and was trying to understand it. I could get the meaning from the context, but I cannot deconstruct the sentence at all. They introduced pugnacity, ...
4
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3answers
505 views

What were the British equivalents of Webster's dictionary and the Simplified Spelling Board that standardized spelling and usage?

I am familiar with questions about when to double 'l' and differences between British and American spellings. However, I stumbled across this image. As you can see, several words end in the double '...
3
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5answers
2k views

Use of ! to convey sarcasm vs. emphasis

One, two or even three exclamation marks are often added, especially in e-mail, to convey emphasis to phrases such as Thanks!, or No problem!. My problem is that in British English, you could also ...
3
votes
1answer
16k views

Battery is flat

I was born and raised in some anglophone Asian country where people use the word "flat" to describe a battery when no electrical current can be generated by it. Some would even use the word "flat" to ...
3
votes
1answer
1k views

Order of preposition in US and UK English

In Britain we'd say He had a black hat on. Speakers of American English are more likely to say* He had on a black hat. The latter just seems wrong to me. Is my intuition correct or are ...
3
votes
1answer
485 views

How does 'rude' mean 'hearty'?

ODO: rude {adjective} = 4. {attributive} {chiefly British} Vigorous or hearty OED: Etymology: < Anglo-Norman rud, Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French rude, Old French (Lyons, rare) ...
3
votes
1answer
861 views

“In the cards”, “on the cards” origin(s)

In another question in EL&U "Positives changes on the cards" — meaning? , it came up that at least one of us AmE speakers had always heard this idiom as "in the cards" and never as "on ...
3
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1answer
56 views

Origin of the phrase “go west” (to die)

I was curious, what is the origin of the phrase "to go west" or "to pass into the west" (as in the sense of to die)?
3
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1answer
2k views

“Definite ninety-nine” - UK English meaning

I've been browsing through older lyrics of Judas Priest songs, namely Rocka Rolla, which has the following lines in a verse: Barroom fighter Ten pint a nighter Definite ninety-nine ...
3
votes
1answer
209 views

If I go to a Language School, do I go to school?

My friend, aged 21, has just started taking classes at a language school, and will shortly be doing 4 hours each weekday there. It feels very odd to be saying "How's school going?" – we finished ...
2
votes
5answers
4k views

How do students respond to the “roll call” and how do you pronounce it?

I have two questions. In the UK, to do (or is it read?) a roll call is commonly referred to as "calling out the register". It's been so long since I was a child that I'm not absolutely sure how ...
2
votes
3answers
4k views

“Named for” vs. “named after”

As a Brit, I'm used to the phrase named after being used to say how something got its name. For example, in Wikipedia's List of eponymous roads in London, we read that Addison Road is named after the ...
2
votes
2answers
292 views

Is it safe to use the British standard for numbering in a novel with a worldwide audience? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Billion and other large numbers Where I am from (Barbados) I grew up knowing a Billion to = 1000 000 000 000, not 1000 000 000, and it was some years before I learned to ...
2
votes
2answers
3k views

Are commas considered superfluous in legal documents?

I'm in the process of purchasing a house and reading through the contract, I can't find a single instance of the comma. (As if legalese wasn't hard enough to read already!) This includes the ...
2
votes
2answers
147 views

Is the word “whilst” not used in U.S. English?

In my spare time I sometimes help out a good friend of mine. He is a professional translator, self-employed so he can pretty much pick his own assignments, which is a good position to be in, but I ...
2
votes
2answers
705 views

'to'-infinitive without the verb

I seem to recall reading somewhere that using a to-infinitive with the actual verb omitted (because it's clear from context) — as in He asked me to go, but I don't want to. (1) — is ...
2
votes
1answer
195 views

Is there an AmE/BrE difference whether “by date X” means by the beginning or ending of this date?

A job application in England wants applications to arrive by the 30th. I understand this to mean by the end of the 30th (in London time). The accepted answer to this question appears to indicate the ...
2
votes
2answers
589 views

Whatever tickles their fancy in the US?

The delightful-sounding tickle your fancy is, I think, one of those rare idioms where the word order can be reversed and its meaning changes; the request: fancy a tickle? said with a raised eyebrow ...
2
votes
1answer
495 views

How is the spelling of a hyphenated word read?

How is the spelling of a hyphenated word usually read out loud? For example, with "Anglo-Saxon", do we say: "It is spelt as A—N—G—L—O—dash—S—A—X&...
2
votes
1answer
8k views

Members’ Benefits vs Member’s Benefits [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Where should the apostrophe go in the word “beginners” in “beginners guide”? I’m currently developing a site which has a membership scheme which you ...