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

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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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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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9answers
4k 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 ...
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5answers
8k 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
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
9k 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 ...
7
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3answers
6k 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 ...
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10answers
686 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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2answers
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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
178 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
3k views

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
7k 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 ...
7
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1answer
283 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 ...
7
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2answers
388 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
3k 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 ...
7
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1answer
93 views

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. ...
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1answer
1k 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 ...
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4answers
3k views

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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2answers
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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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8answers
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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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5answers
740 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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10answers
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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
356 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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2answers
444 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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5answers
12k 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
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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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3answers
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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 ...
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2answers
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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
837 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
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“Be mother” - Etymology and usage

I recently came across the idiom "Be mother" in a crossword. It is supposed to mean 'to pour tea'. I was surprised by the meaning, and want to ask if there is any etymology or history behind this ...
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4answers
10k views

Synonymity of “is that so” and “really”

Do these have the same meaning? Oh is that so? Oh really?
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3answers
216 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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1answer
3k 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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5answers
479 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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4answers
5k 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 ...
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2answers
3k 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, ...
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4answers
753 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 ...
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2answers
2k views

What is a person if they are described as a “wet hen”?

In Terry Pratchett's Discworld books (Witches Abroad in particular), the character Magrat Garlick is often called a "wet hen" by at least one of her witch colleagues. Web searches only yielded the ...
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1answer
399 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
5k 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) ...
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4answers
257 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
936 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 ...
6
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1answer
3k 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)?