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

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6
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1answer
989 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 ...
6
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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
votes
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)?
6
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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, ...
6
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3answers
2k 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
2k 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
votes
6answers
467 views

Why does “smashing” mean “very good”?

Smashing is a BrE slang which means "very good" or "impressive". Most folks might know this already, due to its use as a catch phrase by various BrE characters in media. However, from the usual ...
6
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3answers
2k views

Why does “going to kip” mean “going to sleep”?

"Night, folks; I'm off to kip." noun 1British a sleep or nap:       I might have a little kip [mass noun] :       he was trying ...
6
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1answer
1k 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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1answer
6k 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 ...
6
votes
2answers
210 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 ...
6
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1answer
228 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 ...
6
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6answers
14k views

What is the difference between “to oblige” and “to obligate”?

What's the difference between oblige and obligate? Speculating, is the latter an Americanism of the British former? Or is there any distinction about what/who has caused someone to be oblig(at)ed to ...
6
votes
1answer
127 views

How and when did “bash” and “do” come to mean party?

I am on my way to a faculty party at the university. The Head of Sciences is retiring and is throwing a huge bash, all his staff, selected external examiners like me and various scientists from ...
6
votes
3answers
4k 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 ...
6
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2answers
2k 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 ...
6
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3answers
7k views

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" ...
6
votes
1answer
519 views

Origin of “good'o”

Where did the Autralian or British expression good'o come from? What is the 'o part related to?
5
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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 ...
5
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8answers
3k 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 ...
5
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4answers
2k views

Is it pejorative to use “old girl” to refer to a woman?

Does it encompass any specific age group? (young, middle-aged, elderly, all of them) I heard it in an old film and read it once in sentences like: "Come on, old girl, cheer up." "Who is ...
5
votes
5answers
7k 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 ...
5
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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 ...
5
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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
4answers
822 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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6answers
25k 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 ...
5
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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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4answers
2k views

How do I explain “The man on the Clapham omnibus” to the man on the Clapham omnibus?

I have found that I had to explain what "the man on the Clapham omnibus" means to someone. I had taken it for granted that the phase was in standard usage, as my parents used it when I was a child. ...
5
votes
2answers
819 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
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2answers
834 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?
5
votes
2answers
258 views

What did “eating 'mad cow'” mean in the 1800's?

In the December 1885 Lippincott's Magazine article COOKHAM DEAN, about an artistic area 40 miles up the Thames from London, Margaret Bertha Wright (an American author) wrote: Probably nine-tenths ...
5
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6answers
2k views

“tag question” vs. “question tag”

I've just read this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tag_question So regarding this passage: The term "question tag" is generally preferred by British grammarians, while their American ...
5
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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
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1answer
1k views

Is it true that the English have many words for hill?

I've heard it said that Eskimos have many words for snow and that the English have many words for hill. If so what are they?
5
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3answers
1k 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 ...
5
votes
2answers
881 views

Unfamiliar use of “cricket”

I came across a use of the word cricket today that was new to me. It was in an article written by an American author about his recent trip to Egypt and about the role of the U.S. in the current ...
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11answers
1k views

What should I call the English spoken in UK?

I have read that saying British English is too specific, and that I should say English English. Is that true? When I say British English, what do people think I am referring to?
5
votes
2answers
717 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
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3answers
2k views

Is the phrase “all to c**k” considered profane?

I occasionally use the colloquialism "all to cock" to mean "disastrously wrong". I've always thought it a benign phrase, but recently I've wondered whether the use of the word "cock" in this situation ...
5
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2answers
327 views

How would a native British speaker say “Betteredge”?

I am reading Wilkie Collins' The Moonstone, and a prominent character in the story has the name of Betteredge. My question is (since I like to imagine the dialogue in a British-English book as if ...
5
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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 ...
5
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2answers
822 views

When can “have” be used without “got”?

I read this article and now I'm confused when got can be omitted when using have. Could this be explained in plain English without technical terms? Is there a different usage in past tense?
5
votes
1answer
637 views

How should I parse the name of the UK? [closed]

I've grown up in the UK and always considered that it is a United Kingdom of four countries: the three countries on the island of Great Britain and the country/province1 of Northern Ireland. ...
5
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1answer
8k views

Is “weightage” an English word?

Is weightage an English word? We use it a lot in India, but I couldn't find it in my Oxford Dictionary.
5
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2answers
4k views

Why are promiscuous women known as “slappers”?

Women who aren't interested in much more than sex are referred to as "slappers" in British English. British informal, derogatory a promiscuous or vulgar woman. Why is this? I can't find any ...
5
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2answers
1k views

Does modifying a collective noun with a number make the subject plural?

The word dozen is a collective noun, i.e., singular when we think of them as groups and plural when we think of the individuals acting within the whole. So we might say: Talking about eggs: "A ...
5
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3answers
848 views

Spelling protocol (American/British/Canadian) for an International conference

If I'm a Canadian who'll be presenting in an international conference, should I use my country's spelling, which is the Canadian/British spelling like "grey" or the more used American spelling like ...
5
votes
1answer
594 views

Why don't Americans refer to Indians (and others from the subcontinent) as Asians?

I know there is a related question here, but I am not seeing an answer to "Why is there a difference?" Merely that an explanation of what is used in each country. I am a speaker of American English, ...
5
votes
2answers
103 views

Balance paid prior to arrival to hotel

I am looking for adjective (if exists) for paying for hotel stay prior to arrival or if possible word that would describe paying upon checking-out ? If there is no such word, then is there any neat ...
5
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3answers
5k views

Do “You see me?” and “You get me?” mean “Do you understand what I mean?”

Sometimes after finish explaining something, people will say, "You see me?" or "You get me?" I wonder if they are equivalent to "Do you understand what I mean?"