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

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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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8answers
2k 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.
6
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10answers
32k 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, ...
6
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5answers
310 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 ...
6
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3answers
895 views

Should pronunciation of the r in “heart” be the same as r in “rabbit”, in UK English?

My 5 yr old daughter was given a task by her teacher to "find as many things as she can that have the sound r" with examples of rabbit, barrow, and ruler (all r's were underlined in the 3 words). ...
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3answers
4k views

What does a “man of leisure” do exactly? What is the definition and the connotation?

I watched the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Little Dorrit some weeks ago, and have happily remembered a question I had forgotten from it just now. In this dialogue, Mr. Clennam, a dashing and ...
6
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2answers
2k views

Why English pronunciation differs so much from written language, compared to German?

Given that English is derived mostly from German, when Anglo-Saxons (German tribes) migrated to Britain, how do you explain that although German has a strict correspondence between written language ...
6
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2answers
682 views

Would the “Cavendish drawl” be considered a dialect?

I was reading the biography Georgiana, by Amanda Foreman, and came across a description of what she calls the Cavendish drawl, an accent of sorts that was spoken by the Cavendish family. One blog ...
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5answers
5k views

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
6k views

Synonymity of “is that so” and “really”

Do these have the same meaning? Oh is that so? Oh really?
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4answers
6k 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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1answer
1k views

Processor vs Processer

Is there any difference between "processor" and "processer"? Some spelling dictionaries only have the -or form, and some have both. Is it a US vs UK English thing? Or something else? More ...
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3answers
4k 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 ...
6
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5answers
403 views

Is to “tell off” a particularly British expression?

I'm translating a short story from Spanish into English. A small child says (literally): Why don’t we knock?” I asked. “They’re gonna tell us off.” (The Spanish is: Nos van a regañar.) I've ...
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3answers
3k 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: Sorry, I'm terrible about these ghost ...
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4answers
3k views

Using “to my mind”

English is not my native language. I am curious about the usage of "to my mind". Is it a British English phrase? Is it used in American English? Is it formal/informal? I've found an interesting ...
6
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2answers
2k views

Why is it “knife” in the idiom, “Before you can say knife” though there are many shorter words than knife?

I saw the phrase, ‘before you can say Dow-Jones Index’ in the following sentence of JefferyArcher’s novel, “Not a penny more, Not a penny less.” Scotland Yard’s Fraud Squad Detective Inspector, ...
6
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4answers
547 views

British slang for “being reassigned to the unsophisticated and remote regions or villages”

I am stumped in trying to remember the British expression used as a derogatory slant on being relegated, demoted, assigned to a lower position, reduced in rank, or (quite literally) being reassigned ...
6
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1answer
305 views

Why is “accidentally” pronounced “accident-ly” instead of “accident-tal-y”?

Why is accidentally pronounced accident-ly and not accident-tal-ly? Incidentally, some other adverbs have this same phenomenon, where some dictionaries show the second-to-last syllable as being ...
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3answers
3k views

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) ...
6
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4answers
229 views

Does the word “gentleman” retain the distinction “of leisurely lifestyle” anywhere in British English?

I've been watching a great deal many British period films lately, and having done so has made me grow acutely aware to the nuance of the word gentleman. Once upon a time, a gentleman wasn't just some ...
6
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1answer
563 views

Why can a bird be pulled but never caught?

In the UK there is a popular idiomatic saying: To pull a bird. "Bird" is a well known Brit expression for a young woman. In the USA, I think "chick" is more popular. The above expression means ...
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3answers
2k views

British upper-class pronunciation of words like “what” and “when”

More from the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House. I've noticed in these sort of movies, when some very upper-class speakers talk, like the lawyer in the series, Mr. Tulkinghorn, they have ...
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7answers
2k 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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1answer
5k 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
2k views

Why is The Mall (Westminster, London) pronounced like mawl?

Why is The Mall pronounced differently even though it shares the same spelling as mall (shopping)?
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2answers
1k views

Dropped g's in upper-class 1930s Britain

‘Now take huntin'…’ ‘Oh, bull-fightin' — that's quite a different kettle of fish.…’ Italics bred italics. Dropped g's fell as thick as confetti. (Jan Struther, Mrs Miniver, 1939; 4th chapter, ...
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3answers
1k views

Divergence in meaning of “just about” between UK and North American English

Does anyone know anything about how the meaning of "just about" came to have opposite meanings in the UK and North America. For example, in the UK, The team just about won. means that the team won, ...
6
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1answer
891 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 ...
6
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1answer
773 views

What is the origin of Bishy Barney Bee?

The attached picture is of a delightful little creature which throughout the UK is known as a Ladybird (not sure what you call them in America) EXCEPT in Norfolk, where it is known as a 'Bishy Barney ...
6
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2answers
173 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 ...
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1answer
206 views

“Dawkins'” or “Dawkins's” [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When did it become correct to add an 's' to a singular possessive already ending in 's'? I learned from school to use Dawkins', for example That is ...
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2answers
185 views

“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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2answers
2k views

“Lambast” or “lambaste”

I looked up both lambast and lambaste in several dictionaries, but came up with no conclusions about which one is AE and which BE (if this distinction can ever be made). Moreover, the different ...
6
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2answers
605 views

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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1answer
365 views

Origin of “good'o”

Where did the Autralian or British expression good'o come from? What is the 'o part related to?
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3answers
1k views

Use of American-Indian “How” in British English

These are excerpts from Le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: Jerry Westerby screwed up his face in perplexity. 'That's what the boy wanted to tell me, you see, George. That's what he was ...
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7answers
2k views

How to choose between British and American English for technical documents

I'm not a native English speaker. I'm Italian and I'm doing my thesis in the Netherlands. I have to write technical documents for non-native English speakers, so I didn't receive any advice for ...
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5answers
10k 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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3answers
1k views

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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5answers
980 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 ...
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4answers
621 views

What is the name of this structure at kids playground?

We can usually find this structure at kids playgrounds. I want to know what it's called. I've searched online but couldn't figure it out but fortunately found the image below.
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3answers
15k views

“Invite” vs. “invitation”

I hear a lot of people saying "Send me an invite". I always thought that it was an 'invitation'. Is "sending one an invite" accepted usage? Or is it incorrect? If I need to get my wedding invitation ...
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6answers
18k views

What is the origin of the saying, “faint heart never won fair lady”?

Having heard the phrase, "faint heart never won fair lady" for the third time in very short span, I'm determined to find out its origin. Unfortunately, when I Google, I'm getting a bunch of ...
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7answers
3k views

“Viewer discretion is advised”

This program contains material that may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised. Is that 100% correct English? This is the text shown before some TV programs. When I first ...
5
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2answers
613 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.
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9answers
2k 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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5answers
10k 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 ...
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3answers
14k views

In British English, should it be “licensee” or “licencee”?

We all know that "license" in American English is "licence" in British English. But what about the person to whom the licence is given? Various dictionaries show the 'c' version, e.g.: ...
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2answers
686 views

Pronunciation of GUI in British English

I've heard a lot of Americans pronounce abbreviations like GUI as goo-ey. Is this the same with British English, or is it more common to spell out the word, like gee-you-eye?