I grew up speaking British English. The words I learnt were occasionally marked off in papers, despite their being English words. Are words like betwixt, trebble, learnt acceptable in papers for English classes for professors in America, specifically Texas?

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    No. Say any of those words anywhere in the United States or its possessions, you will be set upon and beaten. The penalty for whilst is death. (I kid, but no, no-one will have a clue what you're saying.) Apr 12, 2011 at 16:53
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    While Americans rarely use these words themselves, they'll almost certainly understand what you mean if you use them.
    – Nicole
    Dec 17, 2014 at 17:03
  • Jack Sprat could eat no fat, his wife could eat no lean; and so betwixt them both they licked the platter clean. To anyone born in the US before about 1960 that is a very familiar nursery rhyme. And the idiom "betwixt and between" is still used in the US with reasonable frequency. Treble (one "b", in the sense of "triple") is also known and used in the US, at least by people of more than modest literacy. Learnt is known and understood but generally considered illiterate. (If a professor objects, tell them to check a dictionary.)
    – Hot Licks
    Jun 1, 2016 at 18:36
  • It might be because I grew up on British children's books, or because of my love for old things, but I'm an American with a strong preference for the "-t" ending on the past tense of verbs like "dream" and "learn". But that's very unusual here in the US. Jun 1, 2016 at 19:44
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    @HotLicks True, there's at least a few words where the "t" ending is still standard, even on this side of the pond. "Dealt" comes to mind, as in "play the hand you're dealt." Jun 2, 2016 at 3:17

6 Answers 6


"Betwixt" is archaic and highly marked for American English, but not technically wrong.

"Learnt" is non-standard, but intelligible and probably not a problem.

I've never heard or seen the word "trebble", and would mark it as an error in any piece of formal writing.

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    @EricR, aha! That word is normally spelled "treble", but most American English speakers would use "triple", and might not even recognize "treble". Aug 5, 2010 at 22:10
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    I've lived in the US all my life, and never heard of "trebble." I've rarely if ever heard of "treble" used in the non-musical sense.
    – Pops
    Aug 5, 2010 at 23:59
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    In the US, I've most frequently seen "treble" used in legal settings as in "treble damages," though I think I've seen "triple damages" more frequently (I know I looked up "treble" the first time I read the phrase "treble damages" to make sure it meant what I thought).
    – Isaac
    Aug 6, 2010 at 1:17
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    treble clef....
    – OneProton
    Aug 6, 2010 at 18:08
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    @Isaac: If you own a sound system, or just a set of speakers, or if you have ever run across an equalizer on your mobile phone, PC or TV set, look closer: if there's a control labeled "bass", chances are that there's also a control labeled "treble".
    – RegDwigнt
    Sep 21, 2010 at 14:34

"Treble" (in British English at least) can mean the same as "triple", as well as high in (musical) pitch, as in the opposite of "bass" (see also the Wiktionary entry).

"Learnt" (again, British English) is an alternative past form of "learned" (Wiktionary again).

"Betwixt" is a great word, but is somewhat archaic (Wiktionary, one more time). Despite that, either "twixt" or "betwixt" was used in the film Serenity.

  • Treble is also used in crochet to describe a triple crochet stitch.
    – Kit Z. Fox
    Jul 25, 2012 at 14:05
  • This doesn't answer the question. The OP is not in doubt as to the meaning of the words, but as to their currency in America. Jun 1, 2016 at 19:37

My $.02 USD:

Betwixt: not commonly used nationwide; I've heard it (and used it) in New England.

Trebble: We don't double up the b. It's spelled 'treble' and it is still in use.

In American English, we don't substitute the -ed ending on verbs with a t.

Learnt = learned Spelt = spelled

and so on.

Without wanting to speak ill of Texas... it's Texas. They have their own dialect of English down there.

As a bit of anecdotal evidence, my nickname is "Lin" (short for Linda). My Texas friends manage to take the letters Lin and somehow stretch two syllables out of them. "Le-in" it becomes. Why? I have NO idea.


Treble might be more acceptable if the US played darts more often. In BE, the 3x multiplier ring of a dart board is called the treble ring of which the highest scoring segment is the treble twenty. http://www.pdc.tv/staticFiles/b6/b3/0,,10180~177078,00.pdf

  • Only if we watched international darts competitions. We call that the "triple ring" – for evidence, I have the Wikipedia darts article, which uses both "triple" and "treble". Jun 1, 2016 at 22:02

I've never heard an American use betwixt, trebble (or aught, naught, or nought), or learnt, although:

"betwixt and between" as a figure of speech would be "acceptable".

"larnt" is an Appalachian dialect word that would cost you points in a school paper.

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    "naught" is frequently used in the U.S. in mathematical contexts in relation to subscripts: x-sub-0, x-sub-1, etc., are often read as "x-naught," "x-one," etc. This leads inevitably to jokes centering around y-sub-0/why-not.
    – Isaac
    Aug 12, 2010 at 5:45
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    @Isaac: In Britain we would normally spell the synonym for zero "nought" (leaving "naught" as an archaic / dialect word for "nothing"). And the "y-nought"/"y-not" joke wouldn't work, because we pronounce the vowels differently :)
    – psmears
    Feb 5, 2011 at 10:51
  • @psmears - How are the vowels different? I realise that Scottish pronunciation is a bit different, but I would have thought of them as identical.
    – neil
    Mar 12, 2011 at 0:20
  • @neil: OK, when I say "in Britain" that is of course shorthand for "in certain parts of the southern part of England", i.e. the accent/dialect that has for some reason come to be regarded as "standard British English" - no slur intended on friends north of the border or elsewhere! Anyway - this question has a nice discussion; in terms of nohat's answer there my not is "lot-cloth" and my nought is "thought-north-force". Since Scottish pronunciation is interesting you might want to add your list of merged lexical sets to nohat's answer! :)
    – psmears
    Mar 12, 2011 at 14:28
  • @psmears - indeed, the problem is I consider lot-cloth-thought-north to be one and force completely different. Although it is difficult to analyse what sounds you are making.
    – neil
    Mar 12, 2011 at 21:29

I'm American, and the only place I've ever seen treble used was on computer speakers and car stereos (as in bass and treble).

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