Questions tagged [british-english]

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

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180 votes
3 answers
9k views

Where were "should", "shall", and "must" in the 18th Century?

According to the following Google Ngram, in the U.K. the modals should, shall, and must were virtually missing from English writing during the 18th Century (I've added will for a comparison modal ...
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92 votes
29 answers
25k views

Is there an American English equivalent of the British idiom "carrying coals to Newcastle"?

I'm an American living in the Netherlands who is learning Dutch. There's an idiom in Dutch that describes performing a needless/futile activity, "water naar de zee dragen," which literally translates ...
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80 votes
12 answers
184k views

"Synced" or "synched"

Which is correct: synced or synched? Is one of these American and the other British spelling or are they interchangeable? I have only ever seen sync used in the computing industry.
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79 votes
8 answers
119k views

Is there a reason the British omit the article when they "go to hospital"?

Why do British speakers omit the article in constructions like "go to hospital" or "go on holiday"? Pretty much all American speakers would rephrase those as "go to the hospital" and "go on a holiday",...
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74 votes
8 answers
20k views

How can I order eggs "over hard" in the UK?

I've recently made a couple of trips to the London area, and I've had a terrible time trying to convince the hotel breakfast cooks that I want my eggs fried "over hard", meaning that both the white ...
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  • 872
63 votes
7 answers
164k views

What is the difference between dialogue and dialog?

I am American, and I always thought the difference between dialogue and dialog was one of meaning, the way Merriam-Webster has them listed: 2 entries found: dialogue (noun) dialog box (noun) ...
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  • 2,160
57 votes
6 answers
291k views

"Oriented" vs. "orientated"

What are the origins of the word orientated? As far as I know, the correct spelling is oriented and orientated is not an alternative spelling but an error that is in common use. Is it for example ...
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57 votes
9 answers
18k views

Is "faff" well understood outside Britain?

Google says "faff" is just British English. Is it well understood in other English speaking regions? If not, is there an international alternative? faff BRITISH informal verb: faff; 3rd person ...
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  • 966
54 votes
3 answers
10k views

How did "biscuit" come to have a distinct meaning in North American English?

The Oxford Living Dictionary makes a clear distinction between the usage of biscuit in Britain and North America: British: A small baked unleavened cake, typically crisp, flat, and sweet. ‘a ...
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  • 1,163
52 votes
17 answers
10k views

Is "act like a mensch" too localized for ELU readers (U.S. and/or British English)?

This question was motivated by an interesting comment that was made at https://academia.stackexchange.com/posts/comments/123681?noredirect=1 Part of Answer: I don't think that particular research ...
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48 votes
10 answers
21k views

Should I say "ATM" or "cashpoint" in the UK?

ATM is an initialism of automated teller machine, coined sometime in the 1970s. I have always considered it an Americanism while its British equivalent has always been cashpoint, Oxford Living ...
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48 votes
6 answers
547k views

"Speak to" vs. "Speak with"

What are the differences between these two phrasal verbs and what are the best situations to use each?
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46 votes
10 answers
7k views

Around 1960 in Britain "Have you a camera?" or "Do you have a camera?"

Around 1960, when we began learning English in Japan, we were taught British English. To our great surprise, we were forced to change into American English in the next grade. Japanese English teachers ...
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  • 819
45 votes
7 answers
32k views

Are the endings "-zation" and "-sation" interchangeable?

What is with words that have forms that end both in -zation and -sation, such as localization and localisation? Many spell checkers recommend -zation.
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  • 595
44 votes
3 answers
4k views

What does "trodie" mean?

In "The Star Fraction" by Ken MacLeod, a Scottish science fiction author, a couple walks through a street and past a "trodie". The novel is set in Britain, so it may be a British expression. The ...
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44 votes
5 answers
187k views

What do Americans think of using 'cheers' to sign off an email?

I've suspected before that "Cheers" as an email sign-off is a bit of an English (or possibly Commonwealth) thing, but being English it's natural to me and I use it as the mood takes me to end an email....
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  • 845
43 votes
7 answers
3k 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 ...
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  • 2,714
43 votes
7 answers
52k views

Is "used in anger" a Britishism for something?

On a different board, someone referred to a computer language that had achieved popularity beyond the academic world as "used in anger", the way a shot fired in combat instead of on the practice range ...
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43 votes
3 answers
199k views

"Invite" vs. "invitation"

I hear a lot of people saying "Send me an invite". I always thought that it was an 'invitation'. Is "sending one an invite" accepted usage? Or is it incorrect? If I need to get my wedding invitation ...
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  • 1,041
43 votes
1 answer
31k views

"Maths" for "Mathematics"; where does the S come from?

So in US English we shorten mathematics to math, and in the UK they say maths. Where does the 'S' come from in the UK version? For some reason I had it in my head that this was just because it's ...
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  • 1,225
41 votes
14 answers
53k views

Friendly way of saying "I love you"

In Spanish, Te amo (I love you) has more romantic feeling than saying Te quiero. The last one is used as a friendly way of saying I love you, but without romantic purposes. However, if translated to ...
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41 votes
2 answers
11k views

Why were slum kids called “urchins”?

To the eyes of Mr. Jeremiah Cruncher, sitting on his stool in Fleet Street with his grisly urchin beside him, a vast number and variety of objects in movement were every day presented. A Tale ...
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  • 85.6k
40 votes
2 answers
118k 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.
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  • 4,641
40 votes
8 answers
33k views

Why do Americans go 'downtown' whilst people in the UK go 'up town'?

People in London, who live in the suburbs, may tell you they work 'up town', meaning in the City or the West End. In other large cities in Britain, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds etc., I think people ...
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  • 63.7k
39 votes
3 answers
7k views

Why is "whomse" not a word?

I often hear people say something like For whose benefit is that? Should it not be For whomse benefit is that Who -> Whom Whose -> Whomse I know "whomse" is not a real word. My question is: ...
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39 votes
4 answers
14k views

How and when did American spelling supersede British spelling in the US?

Considering that Webster published his first dictionary in 1806, is there a recognised tipping point (year, decade, etc.) that marked the move from traditional British spelling to Webster's American? ...
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  • 30.5k
39 votes
8 answers
126k views

Reason for different pronunciations of "lieutenant"

While Americans (and possibly others) pronounce this as "loo-tenant", folks from the UK pronounce it as "lef-tenant". Why?
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38 votes
4 answers
13k views

Why are Leicester & co pronounced as they are?

What is the origin of the pronunciation of words like Leicester, Gloucester, Worcestershire? Presumably, the spelling predates the pronunciation but what is the history here? What language do the ...
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  • 20.7k
37 votes
4 answers
46k views

"Your fly is open" "You mean my flies?"

Apparently, when a gentleman has forgotten to zip his pants, in the US they remind him thusly Your fly is open Dictionary.com lists the noun fly meaning: 20. a strip of material sewn along one ...
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  • 85.6k
37 votes
6 answers
125k views

Is there a difference between “arse” and “ass”?

From a comment here, in frequent usage, arse and ass are often interchangeable when used to refer to buttocks or to a person of dubious charms. However, although “to arse about” has a vague connection ...
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  • 2,534
36 votes
12 answers
375k views

What is the difference between "English" and "British"?

As an American, I naively think of British and English as exact synonyms. I know I'm wrong, but I just don't know in what way. I am vaguely aware that people in the UK hold strong opinions about one ...
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  • 68.9k
36 votes
9 answers
207k views

"have" vs."have got" in American and British English

I have looked through several questions and answers on EL&U, and often there is an indication that American English prefers "have" while British English prefers "have got". In addition, there are ...
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36 votes
5 answers
29k views

"Parametrise" or "parameterise" a curve? [closed]

In British English, which one is correct? Does one parameterise a curve or parametrise it?
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35 votes
5 answers
68k views

When did "More tea vicar?" start to be used after farting? Where did it come from?

In England when someone farts they might say "More tea vicar?" When did this start, and how did it come about? It feels unusual enough to have a definite creation - some comedian perhaps? Web ...
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  • 1,880
35 votes
5 answers
18k views

Why is "math" always pluralized in British English but singular in American English?

In the United Kingdom, I would study maths; but in the United States, I would study math. What gives?
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34 votes
8 answers
12k views

When talking to American clients, should I say "smoothie" or "milkshake"?

We have a client visit planned to our service center (in India) and I am in-charge of Food and Beverages for our client's entire itinerary. I am writing to my client's Travel coordinator(an American) ...
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  • 13.3k
34 votes
16 answers
14k views

Words with opposite meanings in different regions

I can't recall it, but there is a word in American English which now means the opposite of itself in British English. What words are there that have opposite (not just different) meanings in different ...
34 votes
3 answers
11k views

Meaning of "He's got more bottle than a milkman"

I was watching a game of snooker the other day and heard one of the commentators say "This player has got more bottle than a milkman" after a particularly good shot. What does this mean and how could ...
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  • 460
34 votes
8 answers
104k views

"Toilet", "lavatory" or "loo" for polite society

My friend is trying so hard to fit into polite society, and is raising her child to say loo rather than toilet. I know it should be lavatory (and I would not say lav) but we are in the 21st century ...
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  • 341
34 votes
12 answers
20k views

Is there a difference between "cheers" and "thanks" in colloquial British English?

In colloquial British English today you hear "Cheers" (to mean "thank you") more often than "Thanks." Is the choice of one or the other determined by regional, class, or education differences, or is ...
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  • 3,120
34 votes
3 answers
20k views

When do you use “learnt” and when “learned”?

Is learnt UK English and learned US? Is it that simple? I’m used to using learnt, but my US spellchecker says it is wrong.
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33 votes
5 answers
91k views

"right" vs "correct"

Except when we use right to denote direction, what is the difference between these two terms? Also, which one is the preferred construction between these two Am I right? or Am I correct?
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  • 2,551
32 votes
2 answers
5k views

Is "ageing" the only exception?

have, having love, loving make, making take, taking give, giving hate, hating strive, striving Etc. When a verb in its lemmatic form ends with "-e" then its present participle omits that letter. ...
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32 votes
6 answers
10k views

Sleepy tired vs physically tired

I'm trying to figure out if there is a better way to distinguish between being sleepy-tired, and being physically tired. Scenario A: You didn't get much sleep last night. It's only 10am so you've not ...
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  • 1,783
32 votes
9 answers
51k views

Is it proper to omit periods after honorifics (Mr, Mrs, Dr)?

I've been reading the Economist lately and they apparently don't punctuate honorifics like "Mr.", "Mrs.", e.g. The popular rejection of Mr Mubarak offers the Middle East’s best chance for reform in ...
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  • 1,224
32 votes
4 answers
11k views

Origin of "queer as a clockwork orange"

While reading a recent Ken Follet novel, I came across the following, spoken in a gay bar set in early sixties London: "I am queer as a clockwork orange, a three-pound note, a purple unicorn, or a ...
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32 votes
4 answers
241k views

Date format in UK vs US

Why is the most common date format in the US like mm/dd/yyyy, whereas in Europe (including the UK) it's more common to have dd/mm/yyyy? Looking around, I found that the US form is actually the more ...
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  • 471
31 votes
4 answers
52k views

Why does "corn" mean "maize" in American English?

I keep hearing "corn" as a synonym of "maize". This is widely popularized worldwide by popcorn. However, this is American English! In British English, "corn" can mean any type of "grain", especially "...
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  • 1,559
31 votes
7 answers
43k views

Why did "sceptical" become "skeptical" in the US?

Compare the following two Google Ngram Viewer charts for sceptical vs. skeptical in American English and British English: British English American English My interpretation of these charts is that: ...
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  • 21.3k
31 votes
3 answers
165k views

The British pronunciation of the word "schedule"

Is pronouncing the word "schedule" as "shed-ule" only an upper class thing in the UK? Which pronunciation, "sked-ule" "or "shed-ule" is more faithful to the original etymology of the word, i.e. which ...
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