Questions tagged [north-american-english]

Questions about English used in the United States and Canada, but usually not Mexico.

Filter by
Sorted by
Tagged with
69 votes
7 answers
32k views

Which is the correct spelling: "grey" or "gray"?

What is the difference? Or is there any? Which would be more British English?
user avatar
  • 1,559
54 votes
3 answers
11k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 1,163
51 votes
3 answers
10k views

The "old switcheroo": Where did the "-eroo" suffix come from?

The -eroo suffix works as an intensifier of sorts, though it also seems to have other, less well-defined properties. The online OED has only this to say about it: -eroo, suffix   ...
user avatar
  • 147k
37 votes
6 answers
126k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 2,534
33 votes
7 answers
251k views

"Spelt" vs. "spelled"

In the following sentence, should I say spelled or spelt: You spelt/spelled "Pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" wrong.
user avatar
  • 1,502
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 "...
user avatar
  • 1,559
24 votes
9 answers
65k views

Meaning of "go figure" and its origin?

Sometimes, people use a colloquial phrase of "it figures" or "go figure", which is kind of an acknowledgement of the correctness of a fact, or something like that. It's also sometimes abbreviated even ...
user avatar
  • 861
21 votes
1 answer
4k views

The meaning of leaving someone back [ in American English ]

I just watched a great video (a kind of short documentary) about two educators who strive to afford better education for their students in a college in Red Hook (a neighborhood in Brooklyn). The video ...
user avatar
21 votes
4 answers
47k views

Why is "t" sometimes pronounced like "d" in American English?

Why, in American English, is the word Italy is pronounced /ˈɪdəli/ and not /ˈɪtəli/? What is the rule that is followed in the pronunciation of Italy to make the letter t pronounced like a d? Why is ...
user avatar
  • 58k
20 votes
9 answers
42k views

Could "them" mean "those"?

Background Nowadays, I see "them" used to mean "those" a lot. I don't know if it was as common in the past. For example, take "one of them people". On researching about ...
user avatar
  • 54.1k
19 votes
5 answers
148k views

What does 'ten of six' mean in regard to time?

I am referring of course to the expression describing time. Today a corporate trainer (From north Philadelphia) that is teaching a class at my company used it in the context that the current time was '...
user avatar
  • 367
19 votes
9 answers
102k views

Origin of "More X than you can shake a stick at"

What is the origin of the phrase "more X than you can shake a stick at"? Every website I've seen on this basically says the same thing (e.g., http://www.worldwidewords.org/qa/qa-sha2.htm): Recorded ...
user avatar
  • 2,251
18 votes
4 answers
31k views

Is it awkward to use the word "aubergine" instead of "eggplant"?

According to Google Ngrams eggplant is far more common (although in British English aubergine seems to have a small advantage over eggplant). So, not being a native speaker of English I wonder ...
user avatar
  • 848
18 votes
4 answers
41k views

What is the proper plural of the word "freshman"?

Would it be proper to say freshman students, freshmen, or freshmen students? Edit: It is worth noting that I have since learned it is more acceptable in educational circles to use the term "first-...
user avatar
18 votes
8 answers
57k views

When did the term "flip flop" displace the term "thong" in North America for a type of sandal?

To Australians like me "thong" means a kind of sandal such as recently repopularized by the Havaianas brand but we know it means a kind of G-string in other English-speaking parts of the world. To ...
user avatar
  • 7,427
16 votes
4 answers
7k views

In North America, is it normal to address children you don't know as "honey"?

From Now vaccinated, third grader who asked Joe Biden a question at town hall gets to visit the White House: Biden responded directly to Layla [who is 9 years old, as given in the article], ...
user avatar
  • 703
16 votes
6 answers
15k views

The use of "hey" in North America

Having had my formative years in New Zealand, I was born in South Africa. I vaguely recall when I was VERY young having someone tell me when I said "hey" that "hay is what horses eat". I got that ...
user avatar
  • 960
15 votes
10 answers
6k views

If I cannot win, then I will make it impossible for you to win

We have a joke about a foreigner that went to a wet market in zone 1 and saw a farmer selling live frogs in an open basket. As we all know, frogs jump. Actually, they jump about quite a bit when in a ...
user avatar
15 votes
2 answers
60k views

Why do North Americans pronounce "caramel" as "carmel"?

"Caramel", which (clearly) has an "a" in the middle, has only this spelling world wide. But in my experience, North Americans (Canadians too) don't pronounce the middle "a&...
user avatar
  • 1,506
15 votes
5 answers
2k views

Do native speakers of major English varieties actually say "a software" or "softwares"?

So I've looked up the word "software" around, and I've learned that -ware words are uncountable, and there's even a claim at the Wiktionary entry for this word that "a software" or "softwares" are a ...
user avatar
  • 4,835
15 votes
2 answers
2k 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 ...
user avatar
  • 69.1k
14 votes
7 answers
8k views

What is a small tent kind of shop on the side of the road called?

What is a small tent kind of shop on the side of the road called? It can sell stuff like newspapers, snacks, coffee, and other small things. The only two things that come to mind are "a hot dog stand"...
user avatar
  • 604
14 votes
2 answers
126k views

“Make sure to” vs. “Be sure to”: Is the first one correct?

These two versions below are used interchangeably where I live now in the United States: Make sure to do something. Be sure to do something. But I always have found the first version clumsy. It ...
user avatar
14 votes
3 answers
82k views

What does “rising senior” mean and what countries use it?

I know it is something to do with universities, but as I have never come across the term before today (and have lived in England all my life including going to an English university), I am assuming it ...
user avatar
  • 740
14 votes
2 answers
86k views

"travelling" vs. "traveling" [closed]

Is the correct spelling travelling or traveling? I’ve seen both in common usage, but I can't find an authoritative source that says one way or another. Is this a difference between British spelling ...
user avatar
13 votes
8 answers
6k views

'Cheddar goes "good" with burgers?' Can "go" be seen as a verb of the senses?

I know that the adverb modifies a verb except for in some limited cases such as verbs of the senses or copula. "It tastes good.", not "It tastes well." "It looks good.", ...
user avatar
13 votes
5 answers
31k views

What is the origin of the phrase "bush league"?

I know it's baseball terminology, but I've never heard anyone explain why a feeder or low-level league is associated with shrubs. Is there some relation in the phrase to "farm system"?
user avatar
13 votes
3 answers
102k views

Origin and variants of phrase: "let's blow this popsicle stand"

I'd like to know the origin and precursor or derivative variants of the phrase "let's blow this popsicle stand". Reliable, conclusive, source-supported, authoritative and consistent information about ...
user avatar
  • 32k
12 votes
6 answers
12k views

Is the term "village" used in North America?

The post Difference between "town", "city" and "metropolis"? describes the usage of terms describing various sizes of cities. In the US, I have never encountered any ...
user avatar
  • 1,917
11 votes
9 answers
35k views

Why is it called an “Indian file”?

I recently came across a US phrase, Indian file. This is utterly unheard of in the UK, and probably outside North America; at least I’ve certainly never heard of it. The phrase would be expressed in ...
user avatar
  • 12.4k
11 votes
1 answer
8k views

"Gun an engine" vs. "Rev an engine"

The driver of the van brakes sharply at every red light or junction and guns the engine when we move off. I begin to sweat—travelling sideways isn't helping. Apple Tree Yard "To gun the engine" is ...
user avatar
  • 86.1k
11 votes
3 answers
3k views

The meaning and usage of ‘stiffs’ in “Of Mice and Men”

I would really appreciate it if someone could confirm whether I have interpreted correctly the meaning of “stiffs” in the following excerpt “I had enough,” he said angrily. “You ain't wanted here. We ...
user avatar
  • 86.1k
11 votes
1 answer
504 views

From the Spanish "xaquima" to the AmE "hackamore"

A hackamore: is a type of animal headgear which does not have a bit. Instead, it has a special type of noseband that works on pressure points on the face, nose, and chin. It is most commonly ...
user avatar
10 votes
4 answers
30k views

Which is more affirmative: "I think" or "I guess"?

In South Asia, we tend to use "I think" when we are almost sure about something; or sometimes use it ironically like in example "I think you should have done this yesterday". "I guess", on the other ...
user avatar
10 votes
4 answers
10k views

Divergence in meaning of "just about" between UK and North American English

Does anyone know anything about how the meaning of "just about" came to have opposite meanings in the UK and North America. For example, in the UK, The team just about won. means that the team won, ...
user avatar
10 votes
2 answers
27k views

Dropping L in compound adjectives. Is it "skillful" or "skilful"?

We have been taught at school that when a word ending in "LL" helps form a compound word, "LL" becomes "L" (e.g. skill -> skilful). I have also come across the usage of this adjective as skillful (...
user avatar
10 votes
1 answer
7k views

Where did we get "buster" as in "Look here, buster"?

Americans, at least, have for some time used buster in speech or dialogue as a generic form of address. It has a range of tonalities, from light to affectionate to grimly confrontational. Listen, ...
user avatar
  • 147k
9 votes
6 answers
11k views

Why is most North American speech rhotic?

Most North American speech is rhotic—why is that? Does it come from the early English settlers or perhaps from the Irish settlers?
user avatar
9 votes
2 answers
2k views

Can you hear the difference between 'Writer' and 'Rider'? Why?

Apologies in advance for the slightly blog-like nature of this question. The Background Some of the comments in relation to this question here: Unvoiced /dʒ/ and /ʒ/ in word final position ... ...
user avatar
9 votes
4 answers
45k views

Origin of the word “boner”

What is the origin of the word boner? Trying to find the roots for its prevalent usage, especially in North America. According to a dictionary it means an erect penis.
user avatar
9 votes
1 answer
2k views

Pronunciation Rule for "nt" in the Middle of Words

Is there a "rule" or pattern for the pronunciation of "nt" in the middle of words, followed by a vowel (or "er" sound)? Here's what I have so far: 1) "t" is often omitted in words like "wanted," "...
user avatar
  • 131
9 votes
3 answers
678 views

Are there any studies on changes in British English to become more like American English?

With the spread of American popular culture (movies, books, franchises, etc.) and technical jargon (manuals, Web syntaxes, default spell-check settings, etc.), I'm wondering if there have been any ...
user avatar
  • 1,210
8 votes
2 answers
2k views

"There is a woman with a snapper."

So far, I haven't found a clue to this use of the word "snapper" (1851) to describe an energetic, irrepressibly attractive woman at any of the 19th century slang websites so far. Here is part of the ...
user avatar
8 votes
4 answers
117k views

Why is mutton used for both sheep meat and goat meat?

The meat of an adult sheep is called mutton. The meat of an adult goat is called chevon or mutton. In the English-speaking islands of the Caribbean, and in some parts of Asia, particularly ...
user avatar
  • 54.1k
8 votes
3 answers
1k views

What is the earliest mention of an "American accent"?

Do we have any idea how quickly the American colonists (specifically those British colonists living in what would later become the United States, but I'd be curious about French and Spanish colonists ...
user avatar
  • 293
8 votes
2 answers
1k views

How did an egg and cheese dish come to be known as "Woodchuck(s)"?

Our family just finished our traditional post-Easter dinner of colorful Woodchucks, and once again I am wondering about the origin of this odd recipe name. Some searching on the internet has turned up ...
user avatar
  • 22.4k
8 votes
2 answers
663 views

"the 'first/last' of the [day/night/week, etc.]" for "the 'beginning/end' of the [day/night/week, etc.]

Where in the U.S. and Canada do they say, at the first/last of [the day/night/week, etc.] for at the beginning/end of [the day/night/week, etc.]? Luck had it that they only experienced a very minor ...
user avatar
  • 42.6k
8 votes
2 answers
3k views

When does realisation of velar nasal /ŋ/ as alveolar nasal [n] happen along with tensing of the preceding vowel (/ɪ/ to [i])?

I have observed some English speakers in North America who seem to produce this assimilation in words like running /ˈrʌnɪŋ/ (as [ˈrʌnin]) or winning /ˈwɪnɪŋ/ (as [ˈwɪnin]). I'm specifically interested ...
user avatar
7 votes
2 answers
743 views

What are the names of the two phonetic changes in this sentence?

I'm going to be teaching English to French high school students for another year in September, and they all have a hard time with my variety of English (they're used to hearing British English). ...
user avatar
7 votes
6 answers
3k views

What is a way to express 'a sudden need to urinate or defecate'?

If I have a sudden need to use the restroom, how should I express that? I know there is an expression in British English - be caught short. to suddenly and unexpectedly need to go to the toilet, ...
user avatar
  • 1,010

1
2 3 4 5