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

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3answers
11k 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 ...
9
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3answers
652 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, railway/...
9
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4answers
545 views

“[a/the] equivalent of” vs. “[a/the] equivalent for” vs. “[a/the] equivalent to”

Which of the following constructs sound more idiomatic to you? Is there any British/American equivalent to the French phrase "broyer du noir"? Is there any British/American equivalent for the ...
9
votes
2answers
576 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 ...
9
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3answers
129 views

What is the etymology of the term “form factor”?

I'm a theoretical physicist, and am doing some work on quantities called form factors. To an expert, a form factor says something about scattering particles from fields. This probably originated from ...
9
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8answers
3k views

Why “horseback riding” and not simply “horse riding”?

As a German horse riding seems to be to the point. Why is it horseback riding in English? Isn't it obvious that you ride on the back of the horse? Is there a difference between British and American ...
9
votes
1answer
771 views

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 ...
9
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2answers
11k 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 ...
9
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3answers
512 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 ...
8
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5answers
3k views

What do you call a building, or rooms within it, where doctors see their patients?

My understanding is as follows. Is this universally agreed? The OED sense 2a of surgery explains its use to describe the room where a doctor sees his patients. The OED gives no indication that this ...
8
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3answers
574 views

What's the AmE and BrE for “tartaruga”

In Italian the the term "tartaruga" (turtle) is used also to refer to well defined abdominal muscles on the notion that they look like a turtle shell: Is there a slang/colloquial term or short ...
8
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5answers
4k 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 ...
8
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5answers
9k views

What is currently the most obscene word in British English? [closed]

In a recent question, I realized that while I know what's currently considered the most obscene word in American English ("cunt"), I am told that word is much more unexceptional and workaday in ...
8
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9answers
7k 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. ...
8
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5answers
7k views

Where did the word “quim” come from?

Both the OED and Etymonline offer no clue as to origin of the slang term quim, meaning minge. The OED’s earliest citations are from the 18th, which isn’t quite as old as Adam, but has certainly been ...
8
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6answers
62k 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?
8
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5answers
1k 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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5answers
1k views

How to express someone's height in metric

If someone is 169cm tall, what is the most common way of saying their height in metres and centimetres in American/Australian/British English? I'm not interested in converting metres (meters) and ...
8
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2answers
1k views

Is the expression “one's cup of tea” used in American English?

OK, the Free Dictionary defines this as one's cup of tea: Something that is in accord with one's liking or taste. For example, Quiz shows are just my cup of tea, or Baseball is not her cup of tea. ...
8
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9answers
47k 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 ...
8
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3answers
33k 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?
8
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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 ...
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4answers
5k 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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8answers
7k 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 ...
8
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3answers
13k 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
7k views

Do Americans say 'cheers' to mean 'thanks'?

I find myself these days saying 'cheers' all the time as a kind of mild form of 'thanks', and I heard it said a lot round here (Northamptonshire, England). It's not even a commoner thing, I'd say the ...
8
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3answers
527 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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5answers
14k views

“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 shouldn'...
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2answers
7k 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 ...
8
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4answers
294 views

We might have to do some “fiddling”

I like the word fiddle, and I quite like the musical instrument too. If you're fiddling with a device, it means you're trying to repair it. It might be tricky because of all the tiny bits and pieces ...
8
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3answers
443 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 ...
8
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1answer
14k views

“Exercise” but not “exercize”

Many words are spelled with -ise in British English and -ize in American English: realise/realize sanitise/sanitize scrutinise/scrutinize But exercise can only be spelled with -ise, never with -...
8
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1answer
458 views

Is the pronunciation of “oa” in “broad” unique?

The "oa" in the word "broad" is pronounced like the words "or" or "awe". In phonetic symbols that is ɔː . However in all other examples I can think of it is pronounced like the "oe" in "toe". Or in ...
8
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6answers
7k views

Why does “go spare” mean “get angry”?

I don't know whether the phrase "go spare" is used in the US, but it is very common in the UK. e.g. You're an hour late. Mum's going spare upstairs! I would like to know where the phrase comes ...
8
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2answers
258 views

Why “paediatrics” but “pedagogue” in British English?

There's an account of the British ae/oe and American "e" spellings (as in diarrh(o)ea, f(a)eces, and other fun words) on wikipedia. What I'm wondering is why, even in British English, pedagogue/...
8
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1answer
2k views

What's the difference between “Yours sincerely” and “Sincerely yours”?

I have read online that "Yours sincerely" is British English and "Sincerely yours" is American English. Is this true? Or is the difference in formality? I think the first one is more formal and the ...
8
votes
1answer
5k views

“Autumn” vs. “fall” — geographical distribution of usage?

I know that generally autumn is the British term and fall is the American one, but what is the geographical distribution of the two terms outside these countries? I'm fairly sure that no British ...
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2answers
2k 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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3answers
2k 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 ...
8
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1answer
9k views

Pronunciation of “scone”

The argument about the pronunciation of scone:- skoʊn, skɒn noun 1. a small, light, biscuitlike quick bread made of oatmeal, wheat flour, barley meal, or the like. reappeared in the pub ...
8
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5answers
770 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 ...
7
votes
10answers
988 views

word(s) to describe someone judge others by one tiny detail

I wonder if there is a word or a few words or phases that describe a person very often: judge a person based on one or two tiny details or critise harshly over small mistakes that one made (...
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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 ...
7
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4answers
5k views

“S'il vous plaît” = “If you please”?

In Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot detective stories, Poirot uses the phrase “if you please” a lot. Does this come from the French phrase “s’il vous plaît”?
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12answers
17k views

Words with different meanings in American and British English

This is similar to this question, but not quite the same. There are quite a few words which have totally different meanings in American and British English and which are likely to cause confusion ...
7
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5answers
36k views

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 ...
7
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5answers
887 views

How toffee-nosed is “toffee-nosed”?

Not being a speaker of British English, I was much amused on discovering the new adjective toffee-nosed. The American Heritage dictionary doesn't list it at all, but I found a definition in Collins: ...
7
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10answers
72k views

Is there a rule in British English about how to pronounce “either”?

There are two common pronunciations of "either": British /ˈaɪðər/ and American /ˈiːðər/. If Americans are more or less consistent in this regard, then the Brits seem to be freely using both. In fact, ...
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6answers
4k 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 ...
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3answers
4k views

How do “you” pronounce eczema?

/ˈɛɡzɪmə/, /ˈɛksɪmə/, /ˈɛksmə/ As I no longer live in the UK I don't usually hear how eczema is pronounced, so I've always pronounced it as ig-zee-muh but recently my English boyfriend told me that ...