This tag is for questions related to mutually intelligible variations within a language.

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169
votes
8answers
8k views

What is the factual basis for “pirate speech”? (Did pirates really say things like “shiver me timbers”?)

The "pirate speech" we hear/see/read, for example, on the website Talk Like A Pirate Day consists of a rhotic dialect characterized by phrases like "shiver me timbers," "ooh arh me hearties," and so ...
56
votes
23answers
288k views

“Lunch” vs. “dinner” vs. “supper” — times and meanings?

I've seen cases where a noon-time meal is referred to as dinner, and the evening meal is called supper. There's also lunch around noon followed by dinner in the evening. Is there a particular ...
52
votes
15answers
2k views

Central Pennsylvanian English speakers: what are the limitations on the “needs washed” construction?

In the Central Pennsylvania dialect of English (and possibly elsewhere), the following construction is possible: This car needs washed. (=needs to be washed) The room needs cleaned. (=needs ...
41
votes
7answers
2k views

Which variant of English should I use when my target audience is the world?

I know that all variants of English (American English, British English, etc.) can be generally understood by everybody who knows any of the English variants. However, there are some regionalisms that ...
28
votes
7answers
39k views

Can 'revert' be used as a synonym of 'reply'?

I am a native speaker of American English, and I have only ever heard this usage of the word revert from one person. This person is not a native English speaker (he is from India), so he may just be ...
26
votes
7answers
3k views

How common is “thrice”?

Our proofreader, a native speaker of American English, just won't let me use this word. Every single time I try to sneak it onto one of our sites, she replaces it with three times. Now, I do realize ...
25
votes
4answers
3k views

“Bad with something” or “bad at something”?

In a question on Spanish.StackExchange, a question came up about expressing that you are bad at remembering or doing something. Is one "bad at something" or "bad with something" (nouns)? What about ...
25
votes
4answers
3k views

The times they are a-changin'

I have always been intrigued by the word usage in the title of this Bob Dylan song. Wikipedia mentions that the song was influenced by Irish and Scottish ballads: Dylan recalled writing the song ...
24
votes
5answers
20k views

Is “might could” a correct construct?

I have a friend from the southern U.S. who uses the phrase “might could” quite often. He’ll say, for example: I might could do that this weekend. When I first heard him say this, it made me do ...
21
votes
4answers
13k views

Where do accents and dialects come from?

Why do people in different areas speak differently? Where do accents come from, how do they change and/or survive over time and why do we have them? Reading recommendations on this topic would be ...
20
votes
9answers
85k views

Using “dear”, “darling”, or “honey” to address a friend

As far as I know dear, darling, and honey are commonly used between lovers, but I suppose there are more words like that. What else is commonly used? Which of these can be used to address a ...
19
votes
7answers
49k views

What does “thy” mean?

I read a sentence containing the word thy, but I cannot find the meaning of that word. Is it older English, or is it still used in contemporary English today?
19
votes
5answers
3k views

In what region is “thou”, etc. used in dialect?

My mother often uses words like "thou", "thy", and "thine" in everyday speech. A typical example is: "Thou art a jammy bugger!" She is from the north of England. I'm wondering whether this quirk ...
17
votes
1answer
17k views

Why is “ask” sometimes pronounced “aks”?

We've recently moved from New Zealand to New York City, and have noticed that many people (most of whom have good English) pronounce "ask" as "aks". For example: Could you please go aks her ...
16
votes
7answers
29k views

Why is a woman's purse called a “pocketbook”?

It's not a book, and it doesn't fit in anyone's pocket. Why does my brother-in-law insist on calling his wife's purse a pocketbook? I'm interested in the etymology, and in the chronological and ...
16
votes
4answers
6k views

Dialects where days of the week end with “dee”?

Someone recently posted a question about the pronunciation of Wednesday, which reminded me of a different question about pronouncing the days of the week I've had floating around in my head for a ...
16
votes
3answers
12k views

Saying “today morning” to mean “this morning”

As an American, I use the term this morning, but I’ve noticed some Asian Indian coworkers who always say today morning to mean what I mean by this morning. Is this an Indian English “dialectism”? Is ...
16
votes
5answers
22k views

Which is correct: “standing on line” or “standing in line”?

I'm curious to hear from folks in the the Northeast United States (or anyone, really) an explanation of why "standing on line" seems preferable to "standing in line" in the US northeast. I imagine ...
16
votes
1answer
299 views

I was raised being called “sister” by my family. What's the background on this usage?

I was called "sister", as a replacement for my name. (Oddly, my brother was not called "brother.") I never questioned this growing up in the 50's in a rural area. It says much about the culture I grew ...
15
votes
2answers
45k views

“Successfull”/“successful” — is this a UK/US difference? [closed]

I would tend to write double-l, but Google gives me more single-l, so I'm guessing it's an Atlantic divide thing. And I guess all the other *full words.
15
votes
14answers
2k views

When is it appropriate to use the original pronunciation of a foreign word versus the English pronunciation?

When reading to an audience, or speaking in conversation, when is it appropriate to use the original pronunciation of a foreign word versus the English pronunciation (assuming you know the appropriate ...
15
votes
5answers
26k views

Differences between “sledge”, “sleigh” and “sled”

Is there a difference between a sledge, a sleigh and a sled? Dictionary definitions suggest they are synonymous, but it certainly sounds wrong to refer to Santa Claus on a sledge.
15
votes
5answers
19k views

Did regular Americans speak the way actors in the 30s and 1940s did?

I watch a lot of old movies, and I've noticed that American actors of the 1930s and 1940s often spoke in a quasi-generic-posh-British accent. Katherine Hepburn's accent would be the perfect example. ...
15
votes
3answers
2k views

Non-rhotic dialects and intrusive r

I am from New England (northeastern US) and it's my understanding that we have a non-rhotic dialect in this region, which is unusual compared to the rest of the US. It is common to drop the final r ...
15
votes
2answers
2k views

What's this tense called: “I been done ate”?

Growing up in a Black family in the US, I frequently heard people have conversations like this: Mom: Have you eaten yet? Kid: Yeah, Mom, I been done ate. Wife: Have you fixed the sink yet? ...
14
votes
5answers
2k views

The place where the railroad crosses the road

What do you call those places where a railroad crosses an automobile road?: Of course, I've heard what they are called in English, but I suspect that they are referred to differently depending on ...
14
votes
8answers
78k views

What's the difference between a jumper, a pullover, and a sweater?

Following on from a recent question, in Australia we have the word jumper for a knitted long-sleeved garment, typically woollen and long-sleeved. When cosuming foreign media I always assumed the ...
13
votes
5answers
2k views

“Bring” vs. “take” in American English

English (other than American English) has a clear differentiation between the two words. Both are about translocating something. In "bring" the something of somebody is moved to where the speaker is ...
13
votes
6answers
2k views

History and usage of “dooryard”

I have been interested in the expression "dooryard stop" recently. This is an expression that is used to describe a short visit in someone's dooryard (driveway) that often means not staying long ...
12
votes
11answers
3k views

“School Students” — what, like there's any other kind of student?

I think this might be a Pennsylvania thing: every so often, you'll see a van or small bus labeled, not "School Bus" or anything sane normal like that, but "School Students". Whenever I see a van ...
12
votes
5answers
3k views

In the context of cooking, what is the difference between “flipper” and “spatula”?

I'm genuinely confused about this because at first I thought a spatula was a cooking tool resembling a flat pallet attached at an angle to the handle that could be used for activities such as flipping ...
12
votes
6answers
9k views

“Close the light” — regionalism or mere oddity?

If I want the room in darkness, and wish to announce my intent, I would say I'm going to turn off the light. But occasionally here in America I hear people say I'm going to close the light. ...
12
votes
2answers
20k views

Can you grammatically end a sentence with “with”?

Do you want to come with? Can I come with? I seem to hear this construction more often in recent years, but it still grates on my ear. I know it's often said that one shouldn't end a ...
12
votes
4answers
824 views

When quoting speakers of another English dialect than your own, should you spell things their way?

I realize (or realise?) I may be splitting hairs here, but I find this question interesting, and I’ve never heard or seen it discussed before. I was about to post a quote from Rich Hickey outside my ...
12
votes
2answers
916 views

What are the 'distances' among the major English dialects?

Yes, I admit, as an AmE speaker, that all non-North American accents sound the same: BrE, Irish, Scottish, Australian and South African. Or rather, I can tell they are different if placed side by side ...
12
votes
2answers
968 views

Guidelines for the use of the slang term “cise”

I heard an unfamiliar regional slang word used thusly: I'm gonna go cise (rhymes with ice) me a sandwich and then I'll be back. When I questioned the user, the speaker insisted it has been ...
11
votes
6answers
816 views

“Football” and “Soccer”

I know that the game which is called "football" in Europe is called "soccer" in the U.S. But I wonder to what extent this differentiation is strict. What do people from England call their favorite ...
11
votes
5answers
9k views

How should I pronounce “Worcestershire” as a rhotic English speaker?

I'm aware that the English county of Worcestershire is pronounced in Britain as ['wu:stəʃə], more or less. However, this is a non-rhotic pronunciation, and it feels very unnatural for me to use this ...
11
votes
4answers
831 views

In what contexts is it important to maintain your accent or dialect?

I'm an American who lives in Germany and hear many kinds of English spoken by many nationalities. Just as "one can either write organization or organisation but the main point is to be consistent" I ...
11
votes
2answers
4k views

“That's okay” to mean “no” or “don't bother”?

Growing up, I became accustomed to using the phrase "that's okay" to mean "no" or "don't bother." For example: Waitress: Yous guys want any dessert?Patron [shaking head to mean no]: That's ...
10
votes
7answers
3k views

In what dialects does “often” rhyme with “soften”?

I believe in most English dialects soften is pronounced without a t sound. In some dialects, often is similar, but in others a t sound is quite evident in often. I'm interested not only in which ...
10
votes
6answers
3k views

Is there an American English dialect that sounds as “distingushed” as British English?

Obviously there are a lot of subjective words in the question. There are dialects of British English that don't sound distinguished at all (Cockney). Also, what sounds distinguished is somewhat ...
10
votes
4answers
9k views

Footwear: Runners. Sneakers. Trainers

There's a type of shoe which I, being Irish, would call runners. They're comfortable for running or walking in. The British call them trainers, probably because they can be used for sports or ...
10
votes
8answers
5k views

Using “them” instead of “those”

Background: Nowadays, I see this usage a lot. I don't know if it was this common in the past. For example: "one of them people" When I did a research about it, some people say it comes from a ...
10
votes
8answers
13k views

“Season” vs. “series”

TV shows, other than ones that have new episodes year-round (e.g. news, soaps), typically group episodes in batches — most often per year, although not necessarily calendar years, and sometimes there ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

Do people in Miami really talk like they do in the television series “Dexter”?

as I'm far from being good English speaker, I use to watch series to improve my skills. I'm fan of various genres, from Star Trek to How I Met Your Mother and I can say until now, I felt "aligned" ...
10
votes
3answers
499 views

What is the best term to categorize a lolcat image and text?

I've seen the captions described as a dialect, patois, "kitty pidgin" and language play which is well and good but doesn't get to the key visual aspect (silly/cute/adorable cats). Wikipedia offers ...
10
votes
4answers
3k views

to “sleep” vs to “go to sleep”

I'm from the northeast US. When describing the phenomenon of going to bed at night, or falling asleep, I always formulate the verb like that, as in "I went to bed at 10" or "I didn't fall asleep until ...
10
votes
2answers
10k views

Accents of characters in Downton Abbey

To continue the question started in identifying accents of British actors, there is one popular current cultural artifact with an excess of non-standard British accents, and that is The BBC series ...
10
votes
4answers
1k views

Pronouncing the “N” as separate syllable at the end of words like “known” and “pattern”

Over time, I have heard people pronounce the "n" on words like "known" (NO-en) and "pattern" (PAT-r-en), as though it were a separate syllable. The instances of my hearing such have been rare ones, ...