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

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

6
votes
2answers
17k views

“Can” vs. “could” in asking a question [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: When do I use “can” or “could”? I am a little bit confused about asking a question: Can you please tell me my next work? or Could you please tell me my next ...
6
votes
2answers
343 views

British English spelling: “gripped” or “gript”?

Hello what is the correct British English spelling of the word 'gripped' or 'gript'? According to Dictionary.com: gript verb 1. a past participle and simple past tense of grip. verb ...
6
votes
4answers
358 views

Is it acceptable to use a single hyphen as a dash (as the BBC does)?

Is it acceptable to use a single hyphen as a dash (as the BBC does)? Example from BBC News: Venezuela - a major oil producer - has been heavily affected by the fall in oil prices on ...
6
votes
2answers
6k views

Participle of “center/centre” in UK English — “centring”? Seriously? [closed]

As an American, I was never shocked to see the word "center" spelled as "centre." It didn't bother me at all. Honestly. But then I saw the participle of it spelled as "centring" as opposed to ...
6
votes
1answer
1k 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
votes
2answers
2k views

Dissecting an English sentence using a pattern

I am trying to make a script that can dissect an English sentence. The problem is, I have no idea how to dissect an English sentence when the words are not familiar. I know what the nouns, verbs, etc ...
6
votes
1answer
4k 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
votes
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
votes
1answer
691 views

What does “Rabbit” mean on 1st of June

My english teacher told me, that is common in England to say "Rabbits" on the 1st of june. What does it mean? where does this tradition come from? Does the people say it only on the 1st of June? ...
6
votes
3answers
8k 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
votes
5answers
16k views

Meanings of word “nick” in British English

Word nick seems to be used to describe many things. According to the dictionary, the main meanings are: a small notch, groove, chip, or the like, cut into or existing in something. a hollow place ...
6
votes
3answers
3k 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
votes
2answers
1k views

Was “tickle (someone's) fancy” originally a double entendre?

Recently, I asked users to provide modern-day equivalents of idioms and expressions that contained the words fancy and tickle. The question is titled Whatever tickles their fancy in the US? I was ...
6
votes
1answer
2k 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
votes
2answers
246 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
votes
1answer
274 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
votes
2answers
999 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
8answers
1k 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
votes
1answer
808 views

Origin of “good'o”

Where did the Autralian or British expression good'o come from? What is the 'o part related to?
6
votes
3answers
5k views

British English - “In two hours time”

From users of British English, I have noticed the pattern of adding time after a unit of time, as in: He has class in 30 minutes time. My initial impression as an American is that this is quite ...
5
votes
8answers
5k 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
votes
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
1k views

Accurate British English term for an oblong deck from shore out into a lake where you tie your rowing boat

This is a typical image of the structure in question: There are also some variations, shown in this Google image search. But I'm after the often not very wide, some 20-30 feet long wood ...
5
votes
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
1k 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.
5
votes
2answers
17k views

What would be the British Equivalent Words to “Freshmen” “Sophomore”

I know that to describe which year you're in, with American English, people usually use words like: Freshmen - 1st year college/university student Sophomore - 2nd year Junior - 3rd year Senior - ...
5
votes
6answers
34k 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
votes
7answers
5k 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
votes
5answers
273 views

“ain’t got the brains God gave a squirrel” - a (few) simpler alternative(s)

ain’t got the brains God gave a squirrel or ain’t got the sense God gave geese. I have taken a liking to this phrase, however, to my colleagues, most of who are from Latin America and SE-Asia, ...
5
votes
4answers
3k 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
3answers
469 views

Help me understand this article

I read this article about 5 times and looked up every word I don't understand and I still am completely clueless as to what exactly is the article talking about(the topic). It really irritates me and ...
5
votes
2answers
1k 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
votes
3answers
13k views

Does the interjection “steady on!” mean something to a Brit?

More from the BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' Bleak House. In this particular scene, one character, Sergeant George, is infuriated at another character, Mr. Smallwood, his petty landlord come to ...
5
votes
2answers
985 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
6answers
9k views

What does it mean to be “hard done by” - a phrase I heard from a Canadian friend

From the context of discussion, I took "hard done by" to mean "taken advantage unfair of" as in "He felt hard done by by former friends." I had never heard the phrase before and have not heard it ...
5
votes
2answers
356 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
votes
6answers
3k 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
votes
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
votes
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
votes
6answers
5k views

What connotation exactly does the word “noddy” have in British English?

I watched a BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens' The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby the other day, and came across a bit of dialogue I couldn't quite decipher: A character named Squeers: ...
5
votes
2answers
1k 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 ...
5
votes
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
1k 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
votes
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
votes
2answers
339 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
votes
2answers
1k 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
5answers
353 views

Is “crash into a bend” BrE and must there be a structure at the bend in order to use the phrase?

Includes 10 uses, showing it is far from a one-off phrase. Numbers 4 & 5 (bicycle) and 7, 8, 9, 10 ("everyday usage") are the uses I am most interested in. Question 1 If a vehicle ...
5
votes
1answer
688 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
votes
2answers
921 views

What Kind of Connotations are Associated with the word 'Bruv'?

I encountered the slang word 'bruv' for the first time not long ago while playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel. The word is used quite a lot by a genius scientist character named Gladstone Katoa, but ...
5
votes
2answers
9k 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 ...