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

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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
23k 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 ...
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5answers
24k 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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746 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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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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2answers
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“In practise” or “In practice”

British English makes the distinction between 'practise' (verb) and 'practice' (noun). Based on this, I would judge the following sentence as incorrect: In practise, computers often crash. ...
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3answers
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“Kebabs, fruit machines, and brasses” — what do these slang words mean?

More from the British movie The Football Factory. In the following dialogue, the main character, a Cockney English speaker played by actor Danny Dyer, waxes philosophical about why he enjoys being a ...
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2answers
246 views

What does the enterprise to “feed the duck on Epsom Downs” mean?

There is the following sentence in the ending part of Jeffery Archer’s “The Forth Estate,” which I waded to after months. In the showdown of the media owner Dick Armstrong and Sir Paul Maitland, ...
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2answers
5k views

Is “Should be *ing” a valid English phrasing?

I'm Portuguese and my girlfriend German. Because she is a Germanic-language native-speaker, she is constantly correcting my English. Though, often it is annoying that she corrects me in grammar ...
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2answers
177 views

How did the practice of identifying an object after using a pronoun evolve?

While watching Barclay's Premier League matches on the Fox Soccer Channel, the announcers often identify an object by name immediately after using a pronoun. For example, in a match occuring right ...
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3answers
110k 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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3answers
5k 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 ...
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Is it correct to use “got” when expressing the simple past tense in British English?

I'm an American and my daughter is learning British English in school, so when I help her with her homework, I have to know the British rules. She writes: I have got a horse poster. I ...
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4answers
1k views

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
10k 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 ...
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3answers
257 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 ...
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French Letters and condoms

Repartee (inexact quote) from a TV show: Person A: Now, we're going to be getting some letters from French people. Person B: It could be worse. You might be getting French letters. (laughter) ...
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10answers
779 views

Alternative to “a bunch”?

About two years ago I watched some old Monty Python interviews. In one of them, Graham Chapman, a Brit, makes fun of Terry Gilliam (the only American) for his lack of vocabulary. He specifically cited ...
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Meaning of “handbags” in the context of a fight

Apparently a tussle between two English footballers was described by an official spokesperson as 'I was there. There was no punches thrown. There was a lot of noise. Samir was talking in French, ...
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4answers
2k 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.
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4answers
193 views

“Tourists” for visiting sports team

In news about English and "Commonwealth" team sports (e.g., rugby, cricket), I occasionally hear the visiting team being referred to as "tourists" (e.g., "the tourists won the match ..."). This usage ...
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2answers
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Why do American and British English use different quotation marks?

American English uses double-quotes, while British English uses single-quotes: "This is a quote." 'This is a quote.' Why do we use different quotation marks? When did this difference ...
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2answers
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Different Meanings of 'Jumper' (Transatlantic embarassment)

I'm originally from Wales, now living in the USA, and as the cold weather is approaching I'm determined, this year, to start using the word sweater to describe the item of clothing I'm wearing, as ...
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1answer
207 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 ...
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185 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 ...
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Origin of “old bag”?

What is the origin of the term old bag as a derogatory term for an older lady? In the UK it is exclusively used to describe females. There appears to be nothing intrinsically feminine about bags. ...
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1answer
9k 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 ...
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1answer
292 views

Is “Jack of Christ” a common Britishism for Jesus Christ?

In his poem “If I Were Tickled By the Rub of Love”, Dylan Thomas refers to “Jack of Christ”: And what’s the rub? Death’s feather on the nerve? Your mouth, my love, the thistle in the kiss? My ...
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2answers
459 views

Can your use of Latin-derived words indicate your social class?

It is certainly true that educational level and social position usually walk together in most societies. Not considering that, however, and based only on how often one uses Graeco-Latin versus ...
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6answers
4k 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 ...
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2answers
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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 ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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Is suffixing a personal name with “-azza”/“-azzer” a standard Cockney nicknaming rule?

In two British films I recently recalled, I noticed a trend in nicknaming that I'd like confirmation of, by someone familiar with spoken Cockney English. In the first one, Lock, Stock, and Two ...
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Usage of “and” and comma when writing numbers UK style

I am trying to understand the rules for writing numbers in words under the UK rules (with "and"). I understand how to write small numbers (up to a few thousands), but I am not sure when to use "and" ...
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What is the meaning and etymology of the adjective “jammy”, of Yorkshire English?

What is the etymology of the adjective jammy? As in, Thou art a jammy bugger! I confess I've never seen the word before. When I looked it up, I found confusing etymologies: one source says it ...
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“shyer” or “shier”

My Longman dictionary states that the comparative of 'shy' is 'shyer'. However, at least two online dictionaries also give the form 'shier' as being acceptable: The Free Dictionary and ...
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1answer
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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 ...
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Meaning and origin of British/Australian slang word 'tut'

About twenty years ago I overheard a girl from the north of England laughingly advise a friend to get ready for a night out by telling her to 'slap some tut on your face'. She clearly meant 'put on ...
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“courgettes” vs. “zucchini” under a historical perspective

In this TimLymington's answer it is said: Interestingly, there is another vegetable with the same identity problem; what the British call courgettes and the Americans zucchini. What is the ...
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7answers
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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 ...
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9answers
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What could be the equivalent term in British or Australian English to the American English word “hillbilly”?

In Wikipedia, “hillbilly” is defined as: … a term referring to certain people who dwell in rural, mountainous areas of the United States, primarily Appalachia but also the Ozarks. Owing to its ...
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4answers
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“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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4answers
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Pronunciation of 'cos' (as in the mathematical term)

What is the correct pronunciation for the mathematical abbreviation 'cos' when it is not pronounced in its complete form 'cosine'? I pronounce it as 'k-aw-ss', but a couple of Canadian friends I have ...
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8answers
3k views

What is the closest alternative to “rubbish” in American English?

What is the replacement for "rubbish" in American English? I would think "crappy" but it seems a bit stronger than needed.
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794 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: ...
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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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5answers
390 views

Does quoting in British or American English depend on the quoted or the audience?

If you are quoting/documenting the conversation between two people — one is British and one American — do you use a consistent approach directed towards your intended audience or switch to ...
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3answers
968 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 ...
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2answers
484 views

Odd British pluperfect subjunctive construction?

I read this sentence in the Guardian today, and I couldn't figure out if it was an error or a regionalism. (I did, however, figure out that I don't know my grammar too well!) [the mid-18th ...
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13k views

“Dear Professor” vs “Dear Mr”: differences between British and American usage

In British English, is it acceptable to address a professor as "Dear Professor X" when writing a formal or informal letter? Does it sound natural? Why I am asking this question: I was looking ...