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Questions tagged [british-english]

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

171
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3answers
7k 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 ...
83
votes
29answers
20k 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 ...
71
votes
8answers
16k 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 ...
69
votes
8answers
81k 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",...
57
votes
7answers
155k 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 (...
55
votes
9answers
12k 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 ...
52
votes
6answers
228k 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 ...
52
votes
12answers
117k 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.
52
votes
3answers
7k 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 ...
52
votes
6answers
44k views

Capitalisation of nouns in English in the 17th and 18th centuries

It seems to have been common practice in the 17th and 18th centuries in Britain to capitalise the first letters of nouns in English, e.g. At which Time he prov'd himself the Noah's Dove, that ...
47
votes
17answers
9k 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 ...
47
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10answers
16k 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 ...
44
votes
3answers
3k 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 ...
43
votes
2answers
26k 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 ...
42
votes
7answers
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 ...
40
votes
3answers
6k 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: ...
40
votes
14answers
40k 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 ...
40
votes
4answers
166k 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....
38
votes
8answers
24k 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 ...
37
votes
2answers
5k 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 ...
36
votes
6answers
395k views

“Speak to” vs. “Speak with”

What are the differences between these two phrasal verbs and what are the best situations to use each?
36
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7answers
36k 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 ...
35
votes
16answers
12k 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 ...
35
votes
5answers
46k 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 ...
35
votes
4answers
12k 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? ...
34
votes
4answers
8k 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 ...
33
votes
8answers
11k 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) ...
33
votes
12answers
16k 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 ...
33
votes
4answers
25k 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 ...
33
votes
1answer
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. ...
33
votes
3answers
148k 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 ...
33
votes
6answers
82k 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 ...
33
votes
4answers
11k 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 ...
32
votes
12answers
287k 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 ...
32
votes
8answers
88k 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 ...
32
votes
7answers
24k 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.
31
votes
9answers
181k 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 ...
31
votes
3answers
12k views

What is a “work wife”?

While watching the following video by Buzzfeed, entitled $1 Sushi Vs. $133 Sushi • Japan, one of the guests invited on the culinary road trip, a Japanese woman, used the expression “work wife”. ...
31
votes
4answers
7k 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 ...
31
votes
4answers
8k views

What are the nuances of the British expression “gone” used with time, as in “gone 8” or “gone midnight”?

An expression I have run across in British novels is "gone [hour]" like this: "It was gone midnight, and the house was quiet." The Midnight Witch by Paula Brackston "It's only just gone eight ...
31
votes
5answers
11k 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?
30
votes
8answers
9k views

Why do Americans add “The” in front of a team name, but the British do not?

I'm not certain that there is an answer to this one: Americans refer to our teams as The Example: The New York Yankees The British in my experience do not. Example: Manchester United I know ...
30
votes
5answers
66k 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?
30
votes
2answers
18k 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.
30
votes
7answers
7k views

How did “stuck-up” get to mean “snob”?

I was inclined to believe that the expression "stuck-up", meaning staying aloof from others because one thinks one is superior, had its origins with somebody's nose stuck (up) in the air and yet, ...
30
votes
3answers
141k 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 ...
30
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6answers
51k 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?
29
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7answers
10k views

How popular is the slang usage of “toss” in British English?

We've already chosen the domain name for a new info blog website called InfoToss. In US English, it doesn’t have any crazy slang meaning, and we didn’t think to check for other regional meanings ...
29
votes
4answers
37k 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 "...
28
votes
13answers
54k views

American vs. British English: meaning of “One hundred and fifty”

I've noticed that Americans do not say "and" when speaking numbers: for example, 150 would be pronounced "one hundred fifty". I and most other British-English speakers would pronounce it "one hundred ...