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60

The British National Corpus has 5445 cites for grey and 1092 cites for gray. The Corpus of Historical American English, on the other hand, paints the following picture: (X axis: year, Y axis: incidences per million words.) After seeing these stats, it should come as no surprise that Wiktionary marks grey as British, Canadian, and gray as US.


47

I grew up in England for chunks of my childhood and early adulthood and am still around people who originated from the UK, so I still encounter both spellings all the time. The easiest way to remember it is that the 'a' in gray stands for 'America' and the 'e' in grey 'England'.


38

When the English settlers landed in the New World, they didn't have a word for maize. Maize is a New World crop which was unknown in Europe. The word "maize" was originally Spanish, and comes from the word "mahiz" in the Arawak language of Haiti, and in the early 1600s it was not yet a common word in England. The settlers called it "Indian corn", which soon ...


36

Aubergine is the British word (originally, I think, from French, but there's no percentage in guessing exactly how), and many British cooks literally would not know what eggplant is. In North America, as others have said, it's the other way about. Interestingly, there is another vegetable with the same identity problem; what the British call courgettes and ...


29

Rather than getting confused, let me post an answer: In both British and American English, the word "ass" is used for "donkey". For "buttocks", British English uses "arse", while American English uses "ass". In British English, the two words are not interchangeable. "Arse" means only "buttocks", while "ass" means only "donkey". In American English, there ...


25

I have found out Google made a N-gram in its labs, it is really useful for such questions. The gap between the two spellings was important during WWII, then was really narrow, and finally it has been widening since the 1980s. American English: British English: English (cumulative):


19

Pretty much the only time I remember hearing "Hay is for horses" intended as an actual admonition, as opposed to a lighthearted and humorous response, was in elementary school. I think our teachers used the phrase to remind us that "Hey, Mrs. Johnson" was an inapproriately informal way to get a teacher's attention – that we should try something like, "Excuse ...


16

In American English, using "of" when telling the time denotes the number minutes before the upcoming hour. Thus, "ten of six" would mean 5:50 p.m. As another example, "quarter of three" would be 2:45 p.m. In the British, "to" is used instead of "of". Thus, 5:50 p.m. would be "ten to six" and 2:45 p.m. would be "quarter to three". Americans also use "to" ...


15

The pronunciation of "Afrikaans" differs from "Africans" in two ways. 1) Accent is on the last syllable. 2) The last syllable rhymes with "swans".


15

As others have said, "ten of six", though not used in many English speaking areas, would be understood as 5:50. Nowhere in the English-speaking world, as far as I know, would it be understood as 5:10. I can imagine that Russian speakers, for example, might hear it that way, as it might be taken as a translation of the Russian "десять шестого" (/d'es'at' ...


14

In the succinctly named textbook: English Grammar in Familiar lectures. Embracing a new Systematick Order of Parsing. A New System of Punctuation, Exercises in false Syntax, and A System of Philosophical Grammar. Designed for the use of Schools and Private Learners by Samuel Kirkham, dated 1834 we have this example of usage pertaining to Pennsylvania The ...


13

Presumably because this is the way the settlers thought American Indians walked on trails through the forest. They probably did; if you have narrow trails, this is the only comfortable way to walk them. By the way, in my experience, it's not "an Indian file"; unlike "single file", "Indian file" is not used as a noun. They walked Indian file. or ... ...


12

First two questions: The pronunciation of some American English consonants can be quite different from British English, in particular for R and T. A t in the middle of a word can be pronunced as a soft d in American English (think of bottle, cattle, etc.). See here, for example, for examples of this. Third question: Why it does happen for Italy and not for ...


11

From Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary: spell (FORM WORDS) /spel/ verb [I or T] spelled or UK AND AUSTRALIAN ENGLISH ALSO spelt, spelled or UK AND AUSTRALIAN ENGLISH ALSO spelt This means that you should say "spelled" in US English and you can use both "spelt" and "spelled" in UK/Australian English.


11

From an AmE speaker, 'hey' is perfectly fine in the US, people use it all the time. I remember hearing that more than once as a child, "Hay is for horses." in response to 'hey'. It sounds like it was supposed to stop you from using 'hey' but it never did. It comes across more as a (not particularly successful) attempt at a clever saying. It's not formal at ...


11

Consound it, concern it and consarn it are all minced oaths for confound it, which is itself a minced oath for damn it, in turn arguably a minced oath for God damn it.


10

Have a look at this highly relevant paper: Towards an automated classification of Englishes by Søren Wichmann and Matthias Urba from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (Leipzig) Have e.g. a look at the tree-like structure on page 4, Fig. 3.1. (unfortunately the referenced paper therein doesn't seem to be available publicly).


10

You're mixing up two different "Heys" (or the Canadian you greeted is). The reprimand "'ay is for 'orses" is/was supposed to teach you to say "Pardon?" instead of "Eh?" if you hadn't heard something, and wanted it to be repeated. The modern American "greeting" "Hey" is really just a variant of "Hi", "Hello", etc. Which is only vaguely related to the ...


10

Corn as a synonym for maize or any other grain depends on the region you look at. I once heard as explanation for this, that people tend to name the most common crop corn. So in regions with a dominant maize production corn refers to maize. In regions with a dominant grain production corn typically means grain. In my region, when people speak of corn, they ...


10

I grew up in New York (born in Nov 1968) and when I was a child they were called "thongs". In the very late 70s my family moved to Seattle and there they were also called "Thongs". I only became aware of the term "flip-flops" in the late 80s and found it humorous that a g-string would be called a "thong". (I can still recall my adolescent thoughts ...


8

It figures means it makes sense or it is expected. Go figure expresses amazement or disbelief. EDIT: figure in these senses would be similar to calculate or come to a sensible conclusion. So it figures would suggest that a situation is reasonably expected. And go figure would suggest (rhetorically) that the audience should seek to find sense in the ...


8

As reported on Wikipedia (Rhotic and non-rhotic accents), English had become non-rhotic by the end of the 18th century; John Walker used the spelling ar for the pronunciation of aunt in 1775, and reported caad as pronunciation of card in 1791. British colonization of the Americas began in 1607 in Virginia, even though there had been previous attempts in ...


8

I believe the negative response, "Hey(Hay) is for horses" is used to be a political ploy. I've seen it used to put down someone as if they were implying that its use is vulgar. A secondary put down might be "Hay? Are you calling me a horse, punk?" Its used as a way of confusing the person offering the greeting and making them pause awkwardly and question ...


8

I'm not sure North Americans, or anyone else, do think that. America is short for United States of America, just as Britain is, not entirely accurately, short for United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It will normally be obvious from the context whether the word refers to the sovereign state of the USA, or to the continent as a whole.


7

According to the Associated Press (AP) Styleguide, 'grey' is only used in the word 'greyhound' -- otherwise the appropriate use is always 'gray'. In America, anyway.


7

Not all Americans do, and not consistently. Flap-t (/d/ instead of /t/) often happens between vowel sounds or after a vowel and before a liquid. The t in "-teen" is always pronounced as t. As Henry mentions the reason is that flap rarely happens in stressed positions. As it doesn't happen in Italian. Here's good explanation of T pronounced D.


7

"More X than you can shake a stick at" means more than you can count. I don't know the origin but a as a wild speculation picture someone using a walking stick or cane to count something. If there's lots to count, the stick will be shaking a lot for each item. If there's too much, the shaking stick won't be able to keep up. The OED says it's a figurative ...


7

For precisely the same reason as UK speakers often drop an unstressed syllable in words like medicine and secretary, making those come out as though they were spelt “medcine” and “secretry” instead. It is because we sometimes reduce unstressed syllables not just to ambiguity, but to oblivion. Edit: Barrie notes in a comment that the OED allows for ...



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