Talk:British and American English/Archive 1

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March 2008-April 2008


Merriam-Webster's 11th says: houseplant n (1871): a plant grown or kept indoors.

"pot plant" is not listed

under potted adject., they list (2) "planted or grown in a pot"

they don't have "potted plant" as a noun listed separately BUT, if I check my big old 1935 M-W I think i will find it there. Will report....

Make of all that what you will.... Hayford Peirce 18:35, 19 March 2008 (CDT)

Update: the big old unabridged doesn't show "potted plant" as a separate entry. BUT, neither does it show "houseplant" at all! Neither as one word, nor two. Which doesn't surprise. I don't think I ever recall hearing it until I was a pretty full-grown adult and then I vaguely recall being surprised. What? A kind of a plant in a house, what does *that* mean? Today, however, it's ubiquitous.... Hayford Peirce 18:41, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
That is extremely confusing. But if it's ubiquitous, it's the correct from to go in under 'American' presumably.
Another thing: I was under the impression that Americans didn't also say 'autumn'. Would you say that 'fall' was more common? If so, it should, of course, precede. Ro Thorpe 18:48, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
I had this discussion with someone else a while ago. As far as I can tell, the two words are absolutely, 100% interchangeable. I didn't know until recently that the Brits didn't do the same thing. Hayford Peirce 19:23, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
Guess what, it woz me! Ro Thorpe 13:01, 20 March 2008 (CDT)


So if British pants are American underwear, British vests are presumably undervests? I forget what American vests are, waistcoats? And then what is American for underwear (= the whole caboodle)? Ro Thorpe 18:43, 19 March 2008 (CDT)

Vests in 'Merka are "vests", "undervests" or "waistcoast", pronounced "weskit" -- and occasionally written that way. If you're really snooty, you might say "undergarments" for the whole schmear. But "undergarments" generally refer to lady's stuff. "Underwear" is for men. When I was a kid, it really mean "underpants", because men wore "undershirts". But that started to change when Clark Gable bared his manly chest bereft of an undershirt. So today, "underwear" really means "jockeys" or "boxers". Hayford Peirce 19:02, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
Complicadissimo. I'll leave you to put 'vest' in if and as you wish. Ro Thorpe 19:09, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
No one really wears "vests" in the States except as one essential part of a "three-piece suit". I actually own *one*, which I put on sometimes for excruciatingly fancy (and cold) restos in Tucson and San Fran. and I want to impress a Kutie. Otherwise, only Wall St. lawyers and bankers wear them. Hayford Peirce 19:15, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
Underclothing: a lexicon, is perhaps what is required!? Ro Thorpe 19:21, 19 March 2008 (CDT) - or, more realistically, a sartorial footnote? Ro Thorpe 13:02, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

Eraser johnnies

'Rubber johnny' was the vulgar slang of my schooldays. Perhaps it'd be better as a footnote? Ro Thorpe 19:06, 19 March 2008 (CDT)

I'd remove the condom entry entirely. Hayford Peirce 19:08, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
Ah, the family friendly policy, true. But on the other hand, don't you want to protect all those innocent Brits who'll come to the US and be mercilessly bullied by their peers? :) Chris Day (talk) 19:09, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
Naw, not at all. Just because I don't see the distinction. Condom in England is a condom in the USA. Period. Hayford Peirce 19:10, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
Ah, I see what you're saying. I guess I was trying to clarify the confusion. No one in the UK would think you were talking about a condom if you said rubber. I'm not sure what people would think if eraser was used? Probably as in a blackboard eraser. I've been away too long to remember specifics. Chris Day (talk) 19:15, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
The problem is with erasers. Brits go to America & get laughed at/worse. Ro Thorpe 19:13, 19 March 2008 (CDT)


It was Chris who put in 'pavement'. I've never heard it in American. Ro Thorpe 18:55, 19 March 2008 (CDT)

"Pavement" is used frequently. I think it means the composition of roads in general. "Hayford hit Reaux upside the head with a 2 by 4 and the stunned Brit fell heavily to the pavement." Let's see what M-W the 11th says: 1.) a paved surface 2.)the artificially covered surface of a public thoroughfare 3.)chiefly Brit: sidewalk 4.) the material with which something is paved 5.) plus another long, obscure one.... Hayford Peirce 19:06, 19 March 2008 (CDT)

It was one that confused me when I first came to the states. I might have the exact American usage incorrect but it is definitely different to the UK. Chris Day (talk) 19:09, 19 March 2008 (CDT)

See the above -- it seems to cover a mulitude of things in the States. Hayford Peirce 19:11, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
A note on this as well? - Ro Thorpe 13:05, 20 March 2008 (CDT)


Okay, let's make this even *more* complicated. When I was a kid, and it was raining, and I was on my way to school, my mother would make sure that I was wearing my "rubbers". These were little black overcoats for my shoes, made, I suppose, of rubber. By the time I was 11, I was aware that "rubber" also meant something unspeakably vulgar. I don't think the word was actually *obscene*, but it was definitely so veddy vulgar that it would *never* be uttered in polite society. I have a feeling that the other use of the word vanished in the 1960s, both as their usage declined and the other meaning of the word became less vulgar. The way "screw" has evolved from roughly the same period. Hayford Peirce 19:21, 19 March 2008 (CDT)

Well, that's actually more clear. Ro Thorpe 19:24, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
I suppose today, if one were writing an article (or short story) about an old, set-in-his ways, eccentric gentleman, one might write: "Old Mr. Jones stepped into the vestibule, wrapped his pin-striped raincoat around his scrawny shoulders, laboriously pulled on his old-fashioned rubbers, opened his umbrella, and stepped out into the elements." Short of that, I doubt if you'll ever see the terminology. Hayford Peirce 19:29, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
I am informed that the overboot thingies are now called "galoshes". J. Noel Chiappa 22:02, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
Wrong, I fear. Rubbers were small thingees that just barely fit over the entire shoe and were semi-open topped. Think of them as being a rubberized slipper that you pulled over your shoe. Galoshes existed then and, I think, haven't changed. They are/were rubberized boots that fit over your shoes, yes, but ALSO about 8 inches or so up your leg. You could tuck the bottom of your trousers into them. And they had snap clasps on them to tighten them around your leg. Hayford Peirce 23:45, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
"Slicks", "Slickers". Ha. --Robert W King 12:29, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

More endings

I don't know how to do the phonetic stuff, or I'd have added this one myself; one that I'm always tripping over is 'or/our' endings - harbor, colour, yadda-yadda. And did you list 'ise'/'ize' (I forget which is which now). J. Noel Chiappa 21:33, 19 March 2008 (CDT)


In the UK a torch is equivalent to the US flashlight. If I remember correctly the US torch is also a torch in the UK. I suppose the difference between a flaming torch and a battery operated one is pretty obvious in context. But maybe not. Possibly hundreds of British kids burn their sheets at night while reading under the covers? Chris Day (talk) 22:06, 19 March 2008 (CDT)

In the US a torch is something set on fire. Or a propane/blowtorch. --Robert W King 10:31, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
Also, a "Cozy" is like a kettle cover (as in "tea cosy/cozy"(?)), whereas "Cozy" means warm, comfortable in the US.

Harry Potter

I know this book was Americanized for its audience here. Is that common in literature? Or was this a one off. Is that something of academic interest with respect to the body of the article. Chris Day (talk) 23:39, 19 March 2008 (CDT)

A good question. I read so little these days that I don't know. I *think* that some of the best-selling Brits of 40 years ago such as Len Deighton might have had *some* of their really Brit-type words americanized but not all -- some just slipped through. With modern bestsellers, I have no idea. With books that are less than bestsellers, I doubt if any publisher takes the expense to change anything. Hayford Peirce 23:49, 19 March 2008 (CDT)
My daughter reports that her English teacher used to give her a hard time about spelling "gray" as "grey"; she learned the latter spelling through reading Tolkien (and I know she was reading an Merkin edition). J. Noel Chiappa 00:11, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Right. I used to spell it "grey" in my novels until copyeditors and I squabbled over it and I finally had to admit that they were correct -- for an American publisher. So I finally learned to spell it "gray". It didn't help that I had a close friend named "Tom Grey".... ...said Hayford Peirce (talk) 00:29, 20 March 2008


I seem to recall that in the UK a "subway" is an underground passageway, or something? Is that correct? If so, what's the merkin name for those things? J. Noel Chiappa 00:51, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

Yes, a subway is one of those tunnels for pedestrians. As for the trains... the London one is called the Tube; sometimes we Brits say 'the underground'; sometimes 'the metro'... U.S. I have no idea. 02:24, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
US would be subway (NYC) or metro (SF, but really only the trams part, the trains are BART), not sure about other cities. Chris Day (talk) 02:28, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Right, there are local names for the systems (Boston calls it "the T"), but the generic US word is "subway". What I was after was the US term for the pedestrian tunnel - or is it just "pedestrian tunnel"? J. Noel Chiappa 10:30, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Noel is right: the generic USA word is "subway". Various cities have various words -- is it now "The T" in Bahston? It used to be "The MTA", as in the great song by the Kingston Trio. And pedestrian tunnels are, wait for it, "pedestrian tunnels". Hayford Peirce 11:39, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Yeah, they renamed it in about '70-'72 or so, don't know when exactly. J. Noel Chiappa 12:08, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Another childish illusion destroyed. Whadda dey sing now, "Get poor Charley off the TTT?" Hayford Peirce 12:15, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Nah, they use the old words. Besides, Scollay (sp?) Square isn't there anymore either! :-) J. Noel Chiappa 15:28, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

ketchup and theatre

One spelling variation that always gets me on this site when categorising is 'Theater' and 'Theatre'.

Also, recalling this from when I was a younger pup and learning British English via Australian schooling, but reading many American books--is there still an American slant for 'ketchup' being 'tomato sauce'?Louise Valmoria 12:54, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

"Tomato sauce" is never "ketchup" or "catsup" in the States. Tomato sauce is one of two things: a homemade sauce from simmered tomatoes, onions, etc., that may or may not be strained, and may or may not be served on pasta. I myself occasionally make a tomato sauce to serve on meatloaf. Or it is stuff sold in a can (of different sizes) that is more or less like the smooth version of my homemade one. I've looked it up at some sort of bureau of food standards: it's thinner than tomato puree, which, in turn, is thinner than tomato paste. My Bolognese sauce recipe actually calls for about half a can of the stuff, I believe, along with 3 big cans of diced tomatoes. Hayford Peirce 16:23, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
The er re switcheroo is a common one, meter vs metre and center vs centre. The use of an f rather than a ph i note from time to time, as in sulfer vz sulpher. Chris Day (talk) 13:06, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
The irony of misstaking "f" for "ph" (when talking about acids, sulphur in particular) should not be lost on you, Chris Template:Codewink --Robert W King 13:24, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
You mean there is no such think as an f scale? Chris Day (talk) 13:25, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
I'll add a section about -re/-er stuff. It's already in the table. J. Noel Chiappa 15:44, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
My non-posh London parents never said 'ketchup', always 'tomato sauce'. I'm going to start transferring my other stuff, including 'er'/'re' now. Ro Thorpe 13:13, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
I never heard or said ketchup in the UK. Chris Day (talk) 13:17, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
What's up with the ketchup/catsup spellling variation? Oh, I see this gives it in gory detail. J. Noel Chiappa 15:44, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

Table clash

I am going to have to remove the 'other spellings' table that someone else put in, because it keeps eating up the one I'm putting in above it. (Computers are from another planet, etc.) Ro Thorpe 13:34, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

This is a new subsection. I'm going to put the raw stuff in again: I don't think it needs a table, even though my original Word version continues the tabulation. Ro Thorpe 14:16, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

That was me that added the third table; the "different individual word spellings" didn't seem to properly belong in either existing table, so I added a new one. That's very odd that it "[ate] up the one ... above it". No idea how that could have happened. Anyway, where it is now looks fine. J. Noel Chiappa 15:35, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

Source of information

Who on earth claims that the British English word for an airport is anything other than airport? I have never seen or heard within the last 30 years the alternative words given here. If you go to any British airport (e.g. Heathrow) you will see that it is called Heathrow Airport.People will laugh at you if you use these words, although it is true that they were commonplace about 50 years ago.

Please note, that I looked only at the first word in the table! I have yet to read the others!!! Martin Baldwin-Edwards 21:26, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

I read, or used to read, lotsa Agatha Christie novels and such like. Those people were always getting into their "motors" to go over to the aerodrome.... Hayford Peirce 21:31, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

Hmm, well I wreaked havoc with the table:-) Martin Baldwin-Edwards 21:52, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

Umm, another one: what the %^& is a "tiffin"? I have never seen or heard this word! Martin Baldwin-Edwards 22:00, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Maybe it's veddy low-class Brit? My M-W#11 says "(1800) chiefly Brit: a light midday meal: LUNCHEON" -- the people in India who deliver lunches to office workers (lunches prepared by their old mamas etc.), aren't they called tiffin wallahs or something Colonel Blimpish like that? There was a long article about them a while ago somewhere, probably the NYT -- they're thriving, in spite of new fast food restos springing up.... Hayford Peirce 22:50, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
I think Hayford is trying for his toff badge. Normal people don't speak like Agatha Christie's characters! The Queen might though. :) By the way I think it was Cha-Wallahs. Cha happens to mean tea in chinese so I presume that word has chinese origins. Chris Day (talk) 22:55, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
A toff? Ta! I found a NYT article about tiffin wallahs but the date of the article is 10 years ago! Either the Times has messed up its dating system, my memory is worse than I thought, OR there was a more recent article somewhere else. In any case, here it is: Hayford Peirce 23:15, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Well I guess they were tiffin wallahs at lunch time and cha wallahs at tea time? Chris Day (talk) 23:20, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
When I was a child in Britain there was a chocolate bar called Tiffin; I later heard that it came from the British India word for afternoon snack, but I have not heard it used to mean lunch, so I'm inclined to remove it... Thanks for all the improvements & for not starting the pronunciation without me: I'll start on that soon. As for the accents they are there for foreign learners who need to 'see' the pronunciation on the correct spellings. They also serve to differentiate between text and example words, although the latter will ideally be bolded eventually. Ro Thorpe 14:55, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
Maybe it's only Box Wallahs (whatever they are) and Old Injuh Hands who ever used "tiffin" once they were back in Blighty. That seems not only possible but probable. In which case, you'd probably be correct to delete this item from the list. I do like the unlikely sound and sight of the word, however.... Hayford Peirce 19:50, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
Well, in that case I'll footnote it. Ro Thorpe 20:14, 21 March 2008 (CDT)

that feline animal that runs pretty fast (faster than the motorcar)

- The pronunciation different is so great that it's almost as if they were two different words. And then when they have to put it in the gair-idge.... Hayford Peirce 21:29, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

Are you talking about jaguar? Another is basil, the herb. Chris Day (talk) 21:31, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Yup. Do you mean that Basil Seal (Evelyn Waugh's fine creation) is Baaa-sil in England and Bay-zil in the USA? Another illusion shattered! Hayford Peirce 21:34, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
LOL, there is no way he was ever anything but Baaa-sil. Chris Day (talk) 21:41, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
My Oxfords only give the Fawlty pronunciation of Basil, while Merriam-Webster online gives both. Perhaps Baysil is a New England thing? Anyhow, both will have to go in, as I'm not arguing with old Noah. Ro Thorpe 20:25, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
Several more too, yogurt and vitamin spring to mind. And Americans just massacre Edinburgh. Chris Day (talk) 21:43, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
Did you mean Edinburger, Chris? At least the US pronunciation is logical [the poor things don't know about Gaelic roots and the English unstressed vowel syndrome], but how did the "a" of basil get to be so long? The original Greek has the same sort of "a" as English... Martin Baldwin-Edwards 21:56, 20 March 2008 (CDT)
I was thinking about Edin-borrow. But Edin-burger is there too. Chris Day (talk) 22:22, 20 March 2008 (CDT)

more food

Again, more differences observed from an Australian English speaker, so I am going to need some confirmation from any of you on either side of the pond on the following pairs: hire / rent, fairy floss / cotton candy, biscuit / cookie? Mainly originating from a discussion with an American pen pal (particularly the hire/rent distinction: I said I hired a video, she said they rent videos and hire hookers); the other two are slightly childish. Although fairy floss seems to catch a lot of my American e-pals by surprise. Louise Valmoria 00:00, 21 March 2008 (CDT)

Yes, you're correct on all of these items. Hayford Peirce 12:16, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
Cotton candy is the US name, not sure what they call it in the UK. You do occasionally hear biscuit in the US (dog biscuit, especially), but cookie is usually used for the human-consumable kind; biscuit used to be more common in the UK, not sure if it still is. J. Noel Chiappa 00:28, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
Even more food; don't forget candy. "Smarties" in the US are rolls of the compressed powdered confections that come in small translucent plastic wraps whereas in brit-land Smarties are in fact like big M&Ms. --Robert W King 10:35, 21 March 2008 (CDT)

OED and ise/ize

I'd never heard that story about the OED and the '-ize' endings (to reduce the number of 's' characters they had to stock). That sounds pretty wierd - I'd have thought they'd want to minimize the number of 'z's, because those are used so little. Got a ref on that, I'd love to find out more. J. Noel Chiappa 00:25, 21 March 2008 (CDT)

I discovered this about 13 years ago when I set up an international academic journal and needed to compromise on US/UK English. Unhappily, I don't recall the source of my information (maybe it was OED?) but the reference for what OUP English actually is [particularly with reference to -ize] is a book in my possession. This is The Oxford Dictionary for Writers and Editors, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981. I will see if I can locate a reference for what you ask, though. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 07:52, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
On second thoughts, given that I cannot find a reference and may have misremembered (perhaps it was Cambridge UP that shifted from Z to S usage, for typographical reasons), I have modified the statement until we find a reliable source. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 08:18, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
For those who are wondering what we're on about, see this edit. BTW, speaking of the OED, I assume you've read that wonderful book, I think it's called "The Professor and the Madman", about the creation of the OED? J. Noel Chiappa 10:29, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
It is indeed an excellent book. It has also been released as 'The Surgeon of Crowthorne: A Tale of Murder, Madness and the Love of Words', which is the edition that I have, but I think 'The Professor and the Madman' might be the American edition. Slightly ironic how it has different names in Britain and the US! Great book. Louise Valmoria 11:15, 21 March 2008 (CDT)


It seems like we could use the help of a linguist with this page. And why do the tables purporting to show differing orthographies have accent marks? If a martian were to come along, he might think that American and British English writers use these diacritical marks in their writing! We should reserve the diacritical marks and IPA for the section on Phonetics and Phonology. I also feel like much of this page could be moved to a subpage with dialectical variants, where the main page has a discussion of different factors in trans-continental English. Also, in re cha wallah and all of that, might we want to broaden this page to a discussion of the varieties of international English (and maybe get our Australian comrades involved), or do we want to keep this page restricted to British-American English?

As a minor point, though it seems like diaeresis should be written dieresis in America, I think that in general, the usage in America is to go with diaeresis. (I would have changed it, but I thought that maybe there is more to it) Thanks, Brian P. Long 11:03, 21 March 2008 (CDT)

Maybe we should change the page name to International English --Robert W King 11:05, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
At the risk of confusion with my own name, I think "martian" should be capitalized (Martian). Martin Baldwin-Edwards 12:53, 21 March 2008 (CDT)

Collective nouns

Quirk’s Comprehensive Grammar points out, in 5.108, on the subject of “Collective nouns”, that “the verb may be in the plural after a singular noun, though far less commonly in AmE than BrE.” The first example given is: “The committee has met and it has rejected the proposal” as opposed to “The committee have met and they have rejected the proposal.” 10:36 also covers this subject.Jeffrey Scott Bernstein 13:15, 21 March 2008 (CDT)

The most common example I can think of is that in England "The government are considering...." whereas in the States, "The government is considering...."Hayford Peirce 13:24, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
Yes, I've noticed that in sport(s - that's another) - very odd on CNN when a cricket team is referred to in the singular. For this and the following, perhaps we need a new section, called usage. Or they could be covered in a note at the end of the vocab section, perhaps. Ro Thorpe 12:45, 22 March 2008 (CDT)

Another difference

In England, Henry Higgins goes to University, then, after too much of Eliza, to hospital. In the States, Zoltan Kaparty goes to the university, then to the hospital. I dunno if there are others of that nature.... On the other hand, Zoltan, if he does not go to the university, goes to college. Go figger. Is definitely a puzzlement. Hayford Peirce 19:53, 21 March 2008 (CDT)

the way the page looks

Sorry to carp, but I think the two columns now look pinched and, oh, let's think of the precise word, awful! Why, with a great big wide page full of white space to use, do they have to be so narrow? At one point, several days ago, it's my impression that they were over against the left margin and definitely looked better. Do we need a tech guru to modify this? Hayford Peirce 20:16, 21 March 2008 (CDT)

I agree, they looked better at the beginning. (And yes, I do like to be pithy - shame about those ubiquitous Martians...) Ro Thorpe 20:37, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
That looks a lot better! Brevity may indeed be the soul of wit, but it ain't necessarily the soul of Plaisir aux yeux! Hayford Peirce 21:11, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
It was originally composed in the mid 90s on a small & ancient notepad, before being transferred on to a computer with a screen little more than half the size of the present one. It's a relic. But for Plaisir aux yeux and better communication I've just added 6 words to the already huge English spellings. Ro Thorpe 11:49, 22 March 2008 (CDT)

Pronunciation: one list or two?

At present, I have two pronunciation lists, one headed 'In individual cases, either a different part of the word is stressed' & the other 'Or a particular sound is different'. I'm thinking they should perhaps be combined because I often look in the wrong one. What do people think? Ro Thorpe 20:43, 21 March 2008 (CDT)

Sorry, I don't know enough about the subject to offer any opinion at all. Hayford Peirce 21:13, 21 March 2008 (CDT)
The first list begins with British addréss and American áddress, and the second, rather longer, with 'ámateur (eur as schwa: ámətə)' in the BrE column and 'or ámateûr (*ámatyure)' in the AmE column. Looking in the Learner's Dictionary, the alternative American pronunciation of 'amateur' is not given, which suggests it's not standard & the word should come out. Your verdict, se faz favor. Ro Thorpe 12:01, 22 March 2008 (CDT)
For what it's worth, without trying to reproduce the weird squiggles that dictionaries use, the M-W 11th (which you really should offer yourself as an Easter Sunday present from Amazon) says, more or less: 'a-ma-(,)ter, -,tur, -,tyur, -,chur, -chor.... That's right, I now recall hearing some ppl, I dunno who, Brits or 'Merkins, say, "Young Kenny is certainly a fine am-a-chure player." Hadn't thought of it for years. In fact in might be Kenny himself, whom I've heard interviewed a couple of times over the years: "Jyke Krymer certainly puts on a fine am-a-chor tour-na-ment."Hayford Peirce 12:26, 22 March 2008 (CDT)
Yes, I've heard all those prons, but only ever the one from Brits. So I'll just give the one variant, as they're all round about the same. And for now I'll keep the lists separate. Ro Thorpe 13:11, 22 March 2008 (CDT)

Exit vs. egsit and luxury vs. lugsury

Are these purely 'Merkin follies, or is there a Brit-'Merkin angle here? Hayford Peirce 12:28, 22 March 2008 (CDT)

The Learner's gives only the ks prons, & I think the gz ones are American alternatives, no? Ro Thorpe 13:16, 22 March 2008 (CDT)
I hear the gz ones more and more often, including national TV adverts. if I am so unfortunate as to pass through a room and momentarily overhear "The ultimate in lugg-zury driving!" I would say, in fact, that probably 50% of the great booboisie now uses that pron. for luxury and exit.... Sigh. Hayford Peirce 13:26, 22 March 2008 (CDT)
I shall spare your feelings & desist. Someone will probably put them in around 2015, say. Ro Thorpe 14:38, 22 March 2008 (CDT)

Endless task?

Is this an endless task? A couple of days ago, just as an exercise for the student, I pulled down my M-W 11th Edition, which is now up to 1622 pages, which is pretty hefty for what started out as a somewhat smaller "Collegiate" dictionary many years ago. Ever since I owned my first one, probably the 5th or 6th edition, back around 1956, there's always been a separate section called "Foreign Words & Phrases", in this edition from pages 1460 through 1466, in two columns. There's no explanation for them except a brief mention on page 6a of the Preface, which says "These are Foreign Words and Phrases that occur frequently in English texts but have not become part of the English vocabulary." In the regular text, on page 1105 there's "savoir faire" but not "savoir vivre". And "savoir vivre" isn't in the other section either. However, on page 1460, in the first column, starting about 3/4 of the way down the page, we find the following, mixed in with mostly Latin words or phrases:

  • a bientot
  • a bon chat, bon rat -- new to me
  • a bouche ouverte
  • a bras ouverts
  • a compte
  • a coup sur
  • acte gratuit
  • a droite
  • a gauche
  • a grands frais
  • a huis clos
  • aide-toi, le ciel t'aidera
  • aine
  • ainee
  • a l'abandon
  • a la belle etoile
  • a la bonne heure
  • a la francaise
  • a l'americaine
  • a l'anglaise
  • a la page
  • a la russe
  • a l'improviste

Frankly, I don't have the strength of character to look at the rest of the listing.... (I had this all typed up two days ago and was just about ready to push the Save button when my @#$%^&* ISP went down for the *second* time in 2 days. The first time a truck pulling a backhoe on a flatbed in a construction zone snagged an overhead fiber optic cable -- it was down for 12 hours and blanked out a major portion of the city. The second time, in the same @#$%^&* construction zone, some subhuman cretins poured hot asphalt onto an *underground* fiber optic cable -- this time service was only down for *three* hours and only affected *40,000* people. And, of course, in both cases, it also knocked out all telephone communication to the ISP.... Grrrrrrrrrrrrr! This time I've taken the precaution of typing all this up (and saving it) in WordPad first, hehe....) Hayford Peirce 13:58, 22 March 2008 (CDT)

No, I shan't be putting any of those in the French list. It's a sort of supplement for the hyperpretentious. As for your telephonic problems, when I first came to Portugal in the 80s, power cuts were still a common phenomenon. Plus numerous dead cats and dogs on the (er...) pavement/roads as a result of post-revolutionary driving habits. Ro Thorpe 14:42, 22 March 2008 (CDT)

Other pronunciations

These should be immediately clear to Anglophones. Please let me know where explaining is needed, or insert a clarification yourself. Ro Thorpe 19:01, 22 March 2008 (CDT)

Mass-ige parlors

So Brits go to mass-ige parlors not ma-sahze parlors? No wonder I could never find one in London when I asked the friendly (and gunless) Bobbies to give me directions to the nearest at hand.... Hayford Peirce 19:16, 22 March 2008 (CDT)

The 'tony' school I don't understand, and I can't find the word in the WP article. - No, not massij, mássàge, just a different stress, on the first. Useful! But I can understand how the bobbies would have been fooled: and it may have been a bit of an alien concept in '68 London... Ro Thorpe 19:32, 22 March 2008 (CDT) - Though perhaps London really was 'swinging' by then?
London was certainly swinging by then. And my Tahitian wife woulda been swingin' at my head if I'd been heading for mass-idge parlors or however we pronounce them, hehe.... "tony" was way down towards the end of the WP article. Hayford Peirce 21:05, 22 March 2008 (CDT)
St Bernard's School, founded in 1904 by Francis...can't find 'tony' either visually or with the find mechanism - the school has a British tone... - is it that? Mássage, not massidge: garridge though was quite common, and much disapproved of.
Any idea how I can prove that 'tele' is a Greek word, not just a root? I remember it from O Level, and it's there in my Oxford, the one that said curaçao was French, but still... Ro Thorpe 11:13, 23 March 2008 (CDT)


Could someone (Chris?) equalise the columns in 'other pronunciations', please? Ro Thorpe 19:42, 22 March 2008 (CDT)

Thanks, Chris. Ro Thorpe 10:49, 23 March 2008 (CDT)


Ah, good, you've made a note of St Bernard's. By the way, Hayford, I've made a 'usage' section for your 'to (the) university', etc. stuff... Ro Thorpe 19:48, 22 March 2008 (CDT) Done. Ro Thorpe 14:10, 23 March 2008 (CDT)

The d that isn't a d

John, do you have an IPA symbol for this? Ro Thorpe 12:08, 23 March 2008 (CDT)

Yeah, it's [ɾ] - strictly speaking a 'tap' but it's usually called a 'flap', therefore 'American English flapping'. (I find that amusing, for some reason). I didn't put it in to avoid complicating things. But we should rework that section a bit to include /d/ (which gets flapped too) and point out that it depends on stress. e.g. AmE will flap in 'ladder' and 'latter' (making those the same for many speakers) but not 'particular'. The second vowel must lack stress. John Stephenson 22:53, 23 March 2008 (CDT)

what's gnu with gnats

We got gnats in the States too -- they are not mosquitos, but thingees that are much smaller. Are *real* mosquitos sometimes (but rarely) called gnats in Britain? If so, this should be clarified.... Hayford Peirce 20:43, 23 March 2008 (CDT)

Well, I also wondered about this. When I lived in the UK, I was fairly sure that gnats were not mosquitoes, and living in southern Europe for the last 11 years has taught me that mosquitoes are much bigger and nastier! Martin Baldwin-Edwards 20:56, 23 March 2008 (CDT)
All I can say is that there has been a steady decline in British use of the word gnat in my lifetime. Perhaps mosquitoes were once erroneously called gnats. As a child my parents talked of my 'gnat-bites'. Ro Thorpe 12:12, 25 March 2008 (CDT)
This seems pretty vague for an actual listing of this word -- unless there's some sort of source or documentation for this usage, I would suggest deleting it. I know that in Tahiti, for instance, there are evil little creatures called "no-no"s that are just about freakin' *invisible* and that yet can give you *terrible* bites. I don't know what the French word for gnat is, but it would certainly apply here. And they do have *regular* mosquitos in Tahiti, and they're called "moustiques", bien sur, so the locals aren't confounding the two. Without knowing more about it, I would suggest that the British scene was/is probably the same.... Hayford Peirce 12:21, 25 March 2008 (CDT)
I hadn't realised they were still on the list: yes, I'll remove. Well, my dictionary gives moustique for both gnat and mosquito. A multilingual biologist may come along and sort all this out, but until then... Ro Thorpe 13:47, 25 March 2008 (CDT)
For me gnats were always the small flies also known as midgies. I don't recall using gnat for mosquito. but maybe i have become Americanised as britannica says that gnat is synonymous with mosquito in the UK. Chris Day 14:04, 25 March 2008 (CDT)
That's what I have thought throughout my life, synonymous (and not midges), but clearly it is more complicated than that. I haven't heard 'gnat' on the British media (BBC, Sky, Guardian etc.) for years, so I doubt we need it here. Ro Thorpe 14:40, 25 March 2008 (CDT)

editing problemt

I tried editing to change estate agent/realtor to the correct form with estate agent as British English. It went badly wrong, I cannot understand why, so I have reverted to the version before the insertion of realtor. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 18:07, 25 March 2008 (CDT)

Sorry I put those 2 the wrong way round: very careless of me. Do you see why your correction didn't work? - Ro Thorpe 19:16, 25 March 2008 (CDT)


Ro just asked me to weigh in. It's gonna take a while! Just at first reading, I find the tables wonderful but the narrative a bit skimpy. I'm also a bit confused by the use of accent marks and I wonder, as someone did above, if non-native writers will start adding accents into their English writing based on these. Would it be possible to use virgules, stress marks and dictionary symbols?

I'd also like to add a bit about words which seem to be exactly the same in both varieties and when used in context would seem to be perfectly comprehensible to English speakers everywhere, but which in fact mean entirely different things. Slang can be quite different, and there are some grammatical differences; the only one I see mentioned is singular vs collective under "usage".

So I'll start adding and ask you all to edit as you see fit. Sorry about the apple cart.

Aleta Curry 21:34, 25 March 2008 (CDT)

Something else. This isn't quite correctabout American English: " that whén and whístle are pronounced *hwén and *hwíssle." Some Americans pronounce them like this, not all. I don't even think the majority.
Also, re the American pronunciation of "Amen". It goes two ways: A-men rhymes with may men as in "Amen to that, brother!" or in the Great Amen (fivefold). If the Great Amen is threefold, it's Ah rhymes with Bah!, also in closing a prayer it's Ah-men.
Aleta Curry 23:27, 25 March 2008 (CDT)

More considerations

Jotting them down here so I don't forget: I had these in a table in my word processor but not working here, hope you can understand easily:

Okay, I can't add these to the table, but

  • Bill (tabulation) check ( 'Merkins use bill and check interchangeably -- no difference that I can discern.) -Englishmen don't ask for the check in a restaurant-
  • Note (money) bill ( 'Merkins also use the work "banknote", although not as frequently.) - Oh, now really--who says in common parlance "five dollar banknote"--only Australians, not Americans.
'Merkin newspapers will write, "Aleta and Ro were stopped at the border with a suitcase stuffed with banknotes."
  • Courgette zucchini
  • Rapini Broccoli rabe
  • Aubergine Eggplant
  • Spring onion scallion (or green onion, which is about interchangeable)
  • sweets, Lollies candy
  • Rocket (salad green) arugula
  • endive frissé
  • Belgian endive Endive, Belgian endive, French endive
  • Pot plant Potted plant (or, as we have discussed, mostly "houseplant", or was it "house plant"?)
  • 2 by 4 (construction) vs. 4 by 2 (I don't remember which is which) (2 by 4s are definitely 'Merkin, cause I've been buying them by the dozen recently. They are, incidentally, 1-3/4 by 3-1/2. A hundred years ago (I once owned a 1908 San Francisco house that I extensively reworked,) a 2x4 was really 2x4....)
I think it depends on whether you get your lumber rough-cut, or run through a planer. A rough-cut 2x4 really is 2"x4". Those 1-3/4"x3-1/2" things (actually, I think it might be x3-3/4" - I'd have to check)have been planed smooth, i.e. lost some size/material from the original rough-cut 2"x4". And anything claiming to be 1" thick is actually 3/4" (again, in the pre-planed version). (And there's some special woodworker jargon I can't recall for things like 4"x4"'s.) J. Noel Chiappa 00:56, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
Noel is, of course, absolutely correct about this. EXCEPT -- where the devil are you going to buy rough-cut 2x4s? Maybe at the mill in a town in Oregon. Everything that is sold for standard commercial use, whether by builders or homeowners, is *always* the planed 2x4, which, I have just measured again in my downstairs carport that is currently serving as my milling room, is 1-3/4 (exactly) by 3-1/2 (exactly). In the last two months of rebuilding my office, I have bought about 35 2x4x10s and three 2x4x8s at probably the three biggest outlets for building supplies in the United States, Home Depot, Lowe's, and, to a lesser degree, Ace Hardware. All of them sell 2x4s to these specs. I have wandered up and down their lumber departments and I have *never* seen a 2x4 that was actually 2x4. Ditto in San Francisco, where there are actually some specialty lumberyards -- everything I ever saw there was the standard planed cut. And, of course, as Noel says, any 1" piece of wood is always 3/4". When this ubiquitous shaving off of the actual size began, however, I don't know. As I said earlier, I did find some actual 2x4s in the construction of my 1908 S.F. house.... Hayford Peirce 11:44, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
  • Wellies (wellingtons) High boots (maybe "hip boots" or "waders"? or are those just for fisherman and Wellingtons are long leather boots?" (Good for S&M dominatrices)) Well, I wouldn't know, Mr Smarty Pants!!!

more spelling stuff

do we need to section out:

  • Spelled the same, pronounced differently: can’t, secretary, broccoli
  • Pronounced the same, spelled differently: gaol/jail, kerb/curb

more pronunciation stuff

Americans don't enunciate their final 'T' (i.e. don't bring their teeth together): content, can't, don't, want

grammar and usage

  • that vs. which used somewhat differently. Hayford will particularly love that. (Brits use them interchangeably, even such masters of prose as Evelyn Waugh. But there *is* a rule about this, whether or not it's observed. But even Fowler, back in the 30s, recognized the difference.)
  • English "I will try and..." American, this is a grammatical error, infinitive is used "try to..."
  • our present table is not quite correct in that Americans do go to university (attend). To go to the university is literally to go there. (Nope, you're wrong there. American's *never* "go to university" -- whether they are attending it or merely driving to the campus, they "go to the university". Trust me on this -- I live near the U. of Arizona campus and I'm pretty much in touch with a gazillion U-people over the years, both written and spoken.)
Okay, okay, not explaining myself well here. Americans go to the specific university, yes. Americans go to the University of Arizona, true 'nuff. They walk to the university, sure. But, "did you go to university?" "Yes, I went to Harvard."
She only has a high school education, she never went to university. I've never in my long-legged life heard anyone say, "she only has a high school education, she never went to the university."
Concur. My oldest is about to set off 'for college', not 'for the college'. And the term 'college' is used a lot more than 'university', even when the institution in question grants advanced degrees. One goes 'to college' to get a Bachelor's, even when the 'college' in question is the University of Foo. J. Noel Chiappa 00:48, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
You've got it slightly wrong, Aleta. No one ever says, "Did you go to the university or did you go to university?" unless they meant a *specific* university such as the one next door. They say, and I would put my arm in the fire over this, "Did you go to college?" Until recently, ie, 30 or 40 years ago, there weren't that many people getting advanced degrees. They went to college and got a BA. Even if the big state schools were called the University of Arizona, etc. people referred to them in general terms as "college." People in Tucson might say, "I'm going to the U.," but they meant the U. of A. (And by that I mean, they say, literally, "I am going to the You,", NOT U. in *my* abbreviation for University -- *they* are abbreviating it.) Or they would say, "I'm going to State," which meant they were going to Arizona State University in Tempe, up the road a piece. I have *never* in my life, not once, heard anyone say, "Are you going to university?" A 'Merkin would think you were seriously crazy if you said that. For many years the real difference between a "college" and a "university" was that a university could give an advanced degree and a "college" could not. In recent years this has become seriously blurred, and also a gazillion people now get advanced degrees, hence more people are talking about going to *specific* universities but they *still* don't "go to university", only in England. Or, for all I know, in Canada.... Hayford Peirce 10:41, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
If you look at the very brief article about Harvard University, you will see that the undergraduate part of Harvard, the romanticized area around Harvard Square and the Charles Rivers, along with its Yard, is Harvard College. It has 4 or 5 thousand students and hands out BAs and BSs. Along with various other schools, such as the Law School and Business School, which are all graduate schools except, I suppose, the Divinity School, it comprises Harvard University.
Yes, well, I agree with all that. My point was that what is written in the article now doesn't make any of that clear. (and Harvard Divinity School *does* give post-graduate degrees) Aleta Curry 19:00, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
  • ground floor, first floor, lobby ( the same as in French: ground floor is "rez de chaussee" or whatever, and "premiere etage" is "second floor" in 'Merkin.)

Seem the same, used in the same manner/context, would appear to be completely understandable, mean something entirely different:

  • to Table (a motion): To discuss it, bring it up To defer it
  • Pissed: Drunk angry
  • College (education): Private high school, lycée, also part of a university that cannot itself grant a degree, Balliol College - American: Tertiary institution only granting an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, sometimes used of a private high school as well
Are there grammar schools in the US? (as in the private school type, normally high school level) Louise Valmoria 11:59, 26 March 2008 (CDT) <-- went to an 'independent' school, whatever that means
When I was a kid everyone went to "grammar school", which commonly was first grade through sixth. Junior High was seventh and eighth. High School began at ninth. Today Junior Highs are Middle Schools and may comprise a few extra grades. I *think* some people still refer to the beginning grades as "grammar school" but I wouldn't swear to it; geezers like me still do, but for the young ones...? All these schools, incidentally, were *public* schools, ie, those run by the towns, villages, cities, not at all private schools as the term is meant in the States. If you went to a private school of *any* kind, I'm pretty sure it was *never* called "grammar school", as that would be far too plebian to bear....Hayford Peirce 12:07, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
  • Entrée (dining): Commonwealth uses the French understanding; the first course of a meal

American: Used for the main course of a meal.

Doesn’t exist with the same meaning in the other variant:

  • Hacked off: Commonwealth: angry - American - Used literally only, something was cut off
I think I've heard it used in the 'pissed off' sense on occasion. But it is definitely not common, or anything close to it. J. Noel Chiappa 00:48, 26 March 2008 (CDT)


I don't want to whine about this, but don't the Brits have some weird way of spelling the straightforward word "whining", as in, "The three bears were whining about their missing porridge"?

Not as far as I can see - Ro Thorpe 14:30, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
Oh, okay, maybe "whineing" is used by *American* illiterates. There are 38,000 hits for it in Google. Google has almost a *million* hits, however, for "whinging" see here:
It seems to come from the verb "whing", which seems to me to have the same definition as "whine". Are they, then, two distinct words, or one and the same? Hayford Peirce 14:43, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
I got you. It's from the verb to whinge, a recent British coinage, from the 70s, perhaps, meaning to complain. Not in my 1974 or 76 Oxfords. Ro Thorpe 14:55, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
How is it pronounced? To rhyme with "hinge"? Geez, if you got "whine", why complicate things by adding a "g" to it and making a new word? True punks!Hayford Peirce 15:42, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
Rhymes with hinge is correct. Chris Day 15:45, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
You can whine only in a weak voice. You can whinge in any kind of voice! Ro Thorpe 17:41, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
Harry Potter's pettifogging family lived in Little Whinging, a joke completely lost on American readers. Aleta Curry 19:03, 26 March 2008 (CDT)

Brand name objects and verbs

Any thought of adding verbs such as hoover, i don't think it is used as in Britain? One can hoover the floors (coined from the brand name of the popular vacuum cleaner). One can also hoover a pint, as to down it in one. Not to mention that a vacuum cleaner is usually referred to as a hoover. Similarly cellotape is synonymous with sticky tape in Britain, whereas the US went with scotch tape. I expect there a number of other brand name differences between the countries. Chris Day 15:48, 26 March 2008 (CDT)

Indeed, yes, plus the verbs hoovering & vacuuming. Ro Thorpe 17:43, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
Fer many, many years many 'Merkins called refrigerators "Frigidaire"s or some such, whether they knew that was a brand or not. And in French, people still them them "frigidaires". Plus, we have Kleenex, Xerox machines, Polaroids, all trademarked words.... Hayford Peirce 18:32, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
Xerox and photocopy might be a distinction, I forget. Polaroid is used in the UK and I don't remember about kleenex. Chris Day 18:35, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
The Writer's Union magazine (US), I forget what it's called, runs adverts (or used to) from companies requesting that writers respect trademarks. I had a friend who used to correct people for saying Q-Tips (she worked for Johnson & Johnson). Vaseline, band-aid.... I wonder if these usages are changing in modern times, both with the rise of generic products and increased awareness of legal issues? Aleta Curry 19:09, 26 March 2008 (CDT)
Well, you could try googling... Ro Thorpe 19:15, 26 March 2008 (CDT)

Old girls

Another one: I don't think Americans ever use "old boy/girl" to refer to alumni? Aleta Curry 19:38, 26 March 2008 (CDT)

Male geezers, at least, always used to refer to Old Boys. Dunno about the girls, although I doubt it. Charles McCarry, for instance, a really establishment ex-CIA guy and marvelous spy novelist (better than John the Square) had a recent book called Old Boys, referring to a bunch of old CIA agents getting back together for a world-saving coup, and also obviously referring to the U. implication.... Hayford Peirce 23:03, 26 March 2008 (CDT)

More Brit vs. 'Merkin

How about chanteuse (however it's pronounced in Blighty) and the way I've heard it -- chan- (as in Charlie Chan) too-zee? Alternately, shan-too-zee. And masseuse vs. mah-soose-ee? Don't laff -- I've heard them! Hayford Peirce 15:18, 27 March 2008 (CDT)

Fine, though I haven't heard them; but I have heard both with -tooz. Ro Thorpe 15:46, 27 March 2008 (CDT)


I would say most Americans put a wallet in their back pocket (or front pocket in a city with crime / or those who are worried about their back / hips from sitting on a wallet). I don't know many people who use "pocket book." Anyone else? Tom Kelly 15:34, 27 March 2008 (CDT)

I've modified it to an alternative. I put it in because I heard an American say it on the BBC news & then immediately 'translate' it.
There are some good suggestions above which haven't been put in yet... Ro Thorpe 15:49, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
I remember more than 50 years ago when Pocket Books meant a brand of paperback books, about the first -- and something else, but I can't now remember exactly what. It *might* have had something to do with women's purses and holding change in something. One thing that it *definitely* doesn't mean, however, is wallet. Well, let's see what M-W llth says.
  • Pocketbook, (one word, although often two), a small book etc.; "a flat, typically leather folding case for money or personal papers that can be carried in a pocket or handbag; PURSE; HANDBAG; financial resource: INCOME; economic interests."
Yes, now it comes back to me: when I was about 11, I was in a Woolworths and asked someone where the Pocket Books were, meaning the small books; I was baffled when she directed me down to the ladies' purses department.... Hayford Peirce 16:02, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
I'm puzzled. For a moment I thought you might mean something different by 'wallet' [Hayford, but now I notice again Tom's usage], but the Learner's says: 'wallet: folding pocket-case, usu leather, for papers, banknotes, etc.' And there was the guy on the radio yesterday. So it seems to some Americans it [pocketbook - sorry if I confused you here] means a book, to others a purse, and to others, a wallet. (To Brits it means nothing at all.) Ro Thorpe 16:24, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
Now *I'm* puzzled by your comment. To me, and I think *most* Americans, "wallet" means a fold-over thingee, usually leather, in which money and credit cards are carried. "Wallet" does *not* mean book or purse. Evidently "pocketbook" or "pocket book" can mean purse or handbag or (registered trademark) a Pocket Book, a small paperback. Maybe *once* it meant "wallet" but I would bet a moderate sum that it does *not* mean that today. I can just visualize a grizzled State Trooper with a .45 on his hip stopping a speeder, then scowling through the window and saying, "Let me see your license, mister. Take it out of your pocket book and hand it to me." Like I can see myself flapping my arms and flying to Portugal....Hayford Peirce 17:28, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
So we agree about wallet, we have have the same definition of that. As for pocket( )book it's something some Americans use to mean something to do with money. To me, it just sounds like a translation of Livres de Poche - I wonder if they still sell those in France. I had Camus's La Peste in one of those. Ro Thorpe 19:06, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
Please see my interpolation above. I was talking about 'pocketbook', not 'wallet'. Ro Thorpe 19:10, 27 March 2008 (CDT)


Oh Reaux, that is palpably false! Where on earth did you come up with *that*?! Are you trying to say that Disney's 101 Dalmatians was spoken as "One Hundred One Dalmatians"? Down, doggy! Nope, absolutely not. I say "I have a hundred and seventy years to go before something or other happens." And "I have two hundred and twenty vestal virgins awaiting my ascent into Paradise." And the greatest 'Merkin speaker of them, the man who actually publically talked about "the great 'Merkin people", the never-to-be forgotten Lyndon Baines Johnson used to talk about "the great events of nineteen and five" and "when we passed the Civil Rights Bill of nineteen and sixty-five." Although his is almost certainly a regionalism or eccentricity.... Hayford Peirce 17:36, 27 March 2008 (CDT)

'Tis a recent trend, then. As heard on Anderson Cooper 360, presumably, as I don't watch or hear much else in American. No wonder you disapprove. Good point about the dalmatians, certainly. (Good word, dalmations it isn't, has my list got that??) Ro Thorpe 18:44, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
Well, I don't know who the devil Anderson Cooper is -- a Neanderthal with Fox News? Hayford Peirce 20:00, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
I watch him & his pals at 3am GMT on CNN. No Murdochian neanderthal he: the program (sic) keeps me up to date with all the latest election gaffes - Ro Thorpe 20:14, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
In the same section, I don't associate the verb "to reckon" with BrE at all. I always thought it was American until I heard Ozzies use it...The most usual expression would be, in BrE, "I suppose"... Martin Baldwin-Edwards 18:15, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
I myself always thought it was what Brits *thought* 'Merkins said, if that isn't too subtle a thought, hehe. It may well be that *19th-cent. 'Merkins said "I reckon," but, if so, they were cornpone types from the farm or the far west. Then, in early 20th-cent. Brit. books like the stuff by Lord Whatisname, Mr. Standfast and The Thirty-Nine Steps, oh, yes, Buchnan, there would be an American character named Amos Hayseed or Obadiah Whistleworth, and he would say "I reckon" until the cows came home. It used to make me grit my teeth when I read it. Remark, I *have* heard Americans say, "I reckon so," but not "I reckon". But even "I reckon so" really isn't very common, I would say.... Hayford Peirce 18:24, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
I recall a time when calculators had just become cheap throwaway items, and stores in the UK were selling "Ready Reckoners" for calculations of prices etc in shops (I suppose). Even then, I thought it an Americanism that we had had the misfortune to import! Martin Baldwin-Edwards 18:48, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
I know I shouldn't admit this but I do use the phrase "I reckon" without the "so" from time to time. I'm an Okie though, so you're going to have to give me a pass..--Todd Coles 19:19, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
Well, I've heard it many times, but probably more often from Americans, farm hands in the mooveez, that kind of thing, so it'd be reasonable to take it out. Just wanted to translate 'guess'. I think someone should start a stub on idiolect, I've been thinking of documenting my own on a supplementary user page... Ro Thorpe 18:58, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
Thanks, Todd. The USA is a Big Country... Ro Thorpe 19:24, 27 March 2008 (CDT)
I'm always happy to find American who live up to my stereotypes! Just joking, Todd: thanks for telling us. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 17:21, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
I was talkin with a Brit girl last night and she used "I reckon" at some point in the conversation. But she probably doesn't count as being a typical Brit -- she's a blonde Liverpudian who put her hair into dreadlocks and went off to play the sax for 10 years in a Ska group.... Hayford Peirce 15:23, 2 April 2008 (CDT)
So you'd consider this atypical for a Brit? The home of punk rock and MOD's among other things? Chris Day 19:20, 2 April 2008 (CDT)


Unless I am mistaken, the tables are exactly the sort of thing that Catalogs were made for... --Larry Sanger 18:56, 27 March 2008 (CDT)

So now I know...! Ro Thorpe 13:28, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

More on underwear

Here's one: tank top vs. singlet.

Although commonwealth speakers *are* starting to pick up "tank top", and "panties", (and I'm afraid we're all stuck with 'bra', more's the pity), I've never heard Americans refer to 'singlets'. Aleta Curry 05:49, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

Good call, I've not heard an American refer to 'singlets' either. More on this sleeveless shirts: A-shirts are known as 'muscle shirts' in the UK and 'vests' ... I think ... in the US (or that other term that I absolutely loathe, the 'wifebeater'. Louise Valmoria 06:31, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

Retirement plans

Hmm, it may be in the US that this is referred to as a pension plan as well, but a 401(k)'s British English equivalent would be an occupational pension scheme, I think. (I just explained 'superannuation' to some US friends, and I know that this Australian term is not used in the UK) Louise Valmoria 06:31, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

An occupational pension scheme is a very specific thing, meaning the pension arrangements made (usually) between you and your employer. Government policy around the late Thatcher period decided to reduce expenditure on state pensions, and push people into a third type of shceme known as private pensions. According to this idea, most people would get three pensions [all of themfar too small, of course] which would be the statutory state scheme, the occupational pension, and a private one. The only one really under your control would be the private plan, so "pension plan" would either refer to that or to the totality of all your pension arrangements. Martin Baldwin-Edwards 10:05, 28 March 2008 (CDT)


Ah, yes, that reminds me. Workers are fired or laid off in the States. In Brit talk I see, not necessarily *exactly* the equivalent, but "redundant", redundancy, superannuated, etc. And I *think* I've seen a Brit term for "fired" that strikes us 'Merkins as odd.... Hayford Peirce 09:22, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

The old-fashioned Brit term for firing someone (laden with hypocrisy) is "I had to let him go!". Maybe that is the odd term you refer to, Hayford?Martin Baldwin-Edwards 10:07, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
Are you thinking of "sacked", for fired? Another one that causes a lot of confusion in the US is jumper for sweater. Chris Day 10:26, 28 March 2008 (CDT)


Department stores used to have snooty and well-dressed people who were the managers, or at least directors, of various areas of the stores. Today if something goes wrong, you probably just ask to see a supervisor. In the old days the "floorwalker" would appear. Don't the Brits have another term for this? (My wife used to watch a Brit. comedy show that was about a big Brit department store -- I think there were a couple of these creatures in that show.) Hayford Peirce 09:26, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

Must be "Are you being served". PBS love it for some reason, possibly because it is cheap. As far as the term I have no idea. The floor walker you are referring to was Captain Peacock, appropriately named togo with his character. the show was well known for its double entendres, such as Mrs Slocombe's pussy (cat) always being a topic of hilarity. Chris Day 10:48, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
Yes, that's the one. My French wife thought it was hilarious. I did, in passing, catch a couple of the double entendres and rolled my eyes.... Hayford Peirce 11:12, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
And the ghastly campy guy on it [who was gay in real life] set back gay rights by about 22.5 years :-( Martin Baldwin-Edwards 17:18, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

Major Major Major

Right, my main subject was definitely not maths. But I can't remember what my "minor" was, either.... Hayford Peirce 09:30, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

sortable table

I just made the first table sortable so we can more easily find the word of interest from both a British or American perspective. I had to change some of the entries so the first character is a letter. Please check to see it is OK now.Chris Day 10:49, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

Very nice. I've standardised it, I think. Ro Thorpe 11:21, 28 March 2008 (CDT)


Did you take 'plane' out deliberately, Chris? Maybe we don't need it - but in that case 'aeroport' should come out too. Ro Thorpe 12:07, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

I put it down to P. Alternatively take brackets from around the aero? Note i just made the table collapsed, how does that look? Another possible solution is to reduce the table to some classic examples and have the complete table as a catalog? Chris Day 12:10, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
Just seen this, no need to add to what I said below - Ro Thorpe 13:09, 28 March 2008 (CDT)


Just like I suggested in the commonly misspelled english words article, why don't we just move all these words to a subpage? --Robert W King 12:12, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

I think a migration might be a good idea, leaving a few examples in the text but having the comprehensive tables in either the addendum subpage or the catalog subpage. Chris Day 12:15, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
The addendum subpage seems like a worthy idea. Does anyone else have any input on this? --Robert W King 12:20, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
You mean something like having one or two examples per letter & then 'more...'? Whatever makes them easier to navigate is fine by me. Ro Thorpe 12:57, 28 March 2008 (CDT) - And I like the collapsable table, too. Ro Thorpe 12:58, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
That's what I was thinking. A comprehensive list, while important, does not help the readability of the article. Of course, the fun collapsable version would not be needed if the table were smaller. ;) Chris Day 13:01, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
Fine, set it up as best you think. Be easier for me to edit, too...? Ro Thorpe 13:04, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
I'd like to mention that if it's going to end up in the subpage, we should have a blurb in the article that says "See Addendum for a comprehensive table of British and American english terms". --Robert W King 13:06, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
Yes, of course I'll make sure the article makes that clear. Ro Thorpe 13:10, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
I copied the tables to the addendum page however I left the existing tables in case you want to shorten them or remove them or whatever you decide would be best. --Robert W King 13:29, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
No, I don't like this at all. Far from being an addendum, they are the very heart of the matter. One shouldn't have to go to the top of the page to get at them. However, if this is just about making navigation easier, why not just make all the tables collapsible? Ro Thorpe 13:47, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
That is the other option. As far as I am concerned the only thing to consider here is whether a well chosen partial list is better for the article than a comprehensive list. For me it was the first table particularly that was becoming unmanageable. I am enthusiastic to have comprehensive lists but wonder if that is too much for the article itself? Chris Day 13:52, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
Certainly I think we should have comprehensive lists, but collapsible would be just fine. Ro Thorpe 14:07, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
Consider what would be best for a printed version. That was my rationale for reducing the table. With the collapsable version you can either print it all or none. Another alternative is to have the succinct table with the last cell being a collapsable one to show the comprehensive list. Chris Day 14:14, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
I don't like the idea of a succinct table: it suggests a hierarchy. I would be in two minds as to what to leave out. And in a case like -or/-our, it needs to be specific. Best to make them all comprehensive & collapsible, I think. Ro Thorpe 14:28, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
I understand that some might be less useful when succinct, I do not think that is the case for the first table though. Chris Day 14:34, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
The one already collapsed? There is a kind of succinct table I favour, & that's one with the first 2 or 3 items. How about that, to give an idea what to expect? Ro Thorpe 14:42, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
OK, that's perfectly all right. Ro Thorpe 15:38, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
Maybe not. See this discussion. Chris Day 15:42, 28 March 2008 (CDT)


This is the Italian plural. Do Americans only have this form, or is there a singular zucchino? Ro Thorpe 13:17, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

Only zucchini that i have heard. Chris Day 13:18, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

A bit like 'have a Martini'. I've also heard 'a paparazzi'. Ro Thorpe 14:10, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

Ro, you should know that Americans form plurals only with "s". So, if they were to use singular-plural distinction it would not be zucchino-zucchini, but zucchini-zucchinis! Martin Baldwin-Edwards 14:12, 28 March 2008 (CDT)
You mean one day we're gonna hear 'paparazzis'?! Ro Thorpe 14:32, 28 March 2008 (CDT)

If they can pronounce laboratory like "lavatory", then anything is possible! Martin Baldwin-Edwards 17:23, 28 March 2008 (CDT)


Sorry, Chris, I don't like it, too many lines. It was fine before. You may want to have a look at the one at English irregular nouns, which is rather long. If it needs a short version, please let me know, & I'll have a shot at it. Ro Thorpe 12:26, 29 March 2008 (CDT)

slang or informal words

Did someone ever make a decision about what to do about this? I wuz just talking to a Brit lady and she said she felt definitely "shirty" about something or other. Shirty = "ill-tempered" or "annoyed" according to Google, about like "vexé" in French, I suppose. Does this go in here? Hayford Peirce 23:55, 30 March 2008 (CDT)

Yes, it's too informal for the table. I suggest putting it in underneath: 'In addition...' There will be similar examples. Or perhaps in the Usage section. Incidentally, a woman on a voice-over, possibly in Beijing, on Euronews TV last night, said, in a more-or-less British accent, 'a hundred thirty': maybe that's a non-native-speaker habit that's infiltrated CNN, where I again heard it the other day. Ro Thorpe 07:52, 31 March 2008 (CDT)

Richport Island

Is this one? I have heard Americans refer to this as 'Porto Rico', like in Portuguese, whereas I think Brits tend to pronounce it Spanish-style as it is spelt, Puerto Rico, Pwairto. Or maybe it is that Americans stress the U, Brits the E. Ro Thorpe 10:49, 1 April 2008 (CDT)

I've never heard a 'Merkin ever say anything except Porto, as in the stuff you drink. And even this may become Porta Rico.... Hayford Peirce 13:17, 1 April 2008 (CDT)

Lexical differences vs. vocabulary

I thought that this was just an experiment but now it appears to be permananent. Why have you divided this up this way and what does it mean? Who the hell knows what "lexical difference" means, anyhow? Why don't we just go back to a single list that is merciless and relentless in its length? Hayford Peirce 13:22, 1 April 2008 (CDT)

When I made the reduced table i just added that since it was the tables title, even in it full blown glory. But do we really want a comprehensiv list dominating this article? The reasoning was the point is made by a few examples. We could increase the number of permanent examples. But again, the whole list? Chris Day 13:31, 1 April 2008


  • I thought the whole point of the article was the list.
  • If you're gonna compress the list, then don't have two lists. Have a single, unified list, with a clear explanation to the ignorant viewer (such as me) that this is a complete list, but that it is compressed and that the reader needs to click somewhere to expand it. Hayford Peirce 14:09, 1 April 2008 (CDT)
Sounds like a good idea. I have no horse in this race so I could go either way. I can see the argument for having a full table, it may well be the only reason a reader comes to the page. The argument against is, I think this article is evolving into something more than just a list of examples. In such a case we don't want the other content lost in the noise. Chris Day 14:15, 1 April 2008 (CDT)
Originally, in the 3rd revision, I put outside & above: 'Lexical differences are:' so that it was obvious what it meant, followed by the complete table. Perhaps it would be better to compress the thing entirely, with a clear instruction where to click in order to see it. Ro Thorpe 14:36, 1 April 2008 (CDT)
  • I'm bothered more and more by this split system that has been set up -- seriously! I can't understand why you are maintaining it. It is confusing and illogical. You show 5 or 6 words at the top, then show them *again* in the comprehensive list. I ask: why, why, why are there *two* lists? Please -- I'm gonna BE BOLD and do it myself if you don't come up with some better plan. As I've said before: why not just ONE long, inclusive list, CLEARLY labeled -- what could be simpler? Hayford Peirce 11:29, 6 April 2008 (CDT)
    • I don't have a problem with you changing it back (I liked the one list, too), but Chris might - it was he who changed it, after consulting me - at least that's how I recall it. Ro Thorpe 11:45, 6 April 2008 (CDT)
No, above, he says he's fine with changing it. So I'll do it. Hayford Peirce 12:00, 6 April 2008 (CDT)
I'm fine with it. I was presenting you with options. Chris Day 12:07, 6 April 2008 (CDT)

Bangers & mash

This is not the British equivalent of 'sausages & mashed potatoes', it is London slang, cockney, & I speak as one born wivvin the saand of Bow Bells meself, myte - so it should be in the 'usage' section. As the Peters Sellers & Sophia Loren song goes, 'give us a bash at the bangers & mash that me muvver used to myke'. Saucisson it ain't. Ro Thorpe 10:27, 2 April 2008 (CDT)

I stand revealed as a silly twit, hehe. Actually, I did wonder about that, whether they were slang or not. I really didn't imagine the Duchess saying to the Queen Mother, "Pass the mash, dearie." But I did think of "twit" last night, and meant to query you on it.... Hayford Peirce 11:34, 2 April 2008 (CDT)

Actually, I think we're being nerdoid twerps including any of this coloquial stuff here. It's another article. But definitely not by me: too many dreary memories of answering the same old queries from students when I taught in London, he grouched. Monsieur Le Ayfeurd, peut-être...? Ro Thorpe 13:20, 2 April 2008 (CDT)

Not me, myte -- I got other fish to fry! Hayford Peirce 13:30, 2 April 2008 (CDT)


I'd put this in if I could remember the BrE for it. Subsidiary subject?? Ro Thorpe 13:26, 2 April 2008 (CDT)

Coins in the air

I have just come across, in quantum mechanics, 'flipping a coin'. I always say 'toss'. Is this one? Ro Thorpe 18:41, 5 April 2008 (CDT)

I would say, off the top of my head, that flipping is far more common chez les 'Merkins but that tossing is occasionally heard.... Hayford Peirce 19:28, 5 April 2008 (CDT)

OK, I'll put it in, & we'll see if there are any flipping British out there. Ro Thorpe 11:18, 6 April 2008 (CDT)

Perfect ass

Regrets, but we always say donkey, because we don't want to make arses of ourselves... Ro Thorpe 11:37, 6 April 2008 (CDT)

Ah. Tymes 'ave changed, I guess.... Hayford Peirce 11:56, 6 April 2008 (CDT)

Mad & crazy

Probably better in the usage, this, since both varieties have 'crazy' and 'angry'. Ro Thorpe 11:52, 6 April 2008 (CDT)

Yep, it's complicated. Hayford Peirce 11:57, 6 April 2008 (CDT)

oh, dear, you have sussed me out

Just got that from a Brit. lady. In the context, I would say she means, "Oh, dear, you have discovered (uncovered) (feretted out) my evil secret...."

Would't that be slang? Like snogging or skive? Chris Day 12:10, 6 April 2008 (CDT)
Yes, of course. I wuz just wonderin for my own edification. By the way, since you're here, could you please add the Wiki Sortable stuff back into the two columns correctly? I can't seem to manage it. Thanks!
Done, even before I saw your note here :) Your usage of sussed is correct although it can be used in a good sense as well as an evil one. Chris Day 12:24, 6 April 2008 (CDT)

You speak another tongue than mine,
Though both were English born.
I towards the night of time decline,
You mount into the morn.

Robert Louis Stevenson, from UnderwoodsGareth Leng 04:05, 7 April 2008 (CDT)

Gareth, Who was the "you" in the poem? Americans or English? Chris Day 13:18, 7 April 2008 (CDT)

The poem was addressed to Americans, RLS was a Scot who married an American and lived there awhileGareth Leng 13:51, 8 April 2008 (CDT)

Southern US English and 18th-century British English

I deleted this:

As an example, the conservatism of speakers in the American South has preserved many of the phonological features of 18th-century British English. This means that upper-class BrE speakers today (who are mistakenly perceived to be very culturally conservative) are actually more innovative, linguistically, than English speakers in today's American South.

I appreciate the point that is being made here, but I cannot support the argument that Southern U.S. speakers share a significant number of phonological features with speakers in Britain 250 years ago. The dialects diverged earlier than that (e.g. the UK vowel in 'hot' developed after the Mayflower left); and also each community produces its own innovations. There is a 'language myth' that some American communities preserve the language of Shakespeare, and I feel this section will encourage that view. Best leave it out, as cultural points are still made in that paragraph; another example could be substituted. John Stephenson 05:15, 7 April 2008 (CDT)

likely vs. probably

You're likely wrong about this one, myte. I myself would say that 'Merkins use "probably" *far* more often. In fact, to my ear, "likely" generally sounds like Brit-talk. Is this just your impression, or have you got some sources for this? Hayford Peirce 12:51, 7 April 2008 (CDT)

I suppose that must be CNN again, whence also '2 hundred 50' - purveyors of eccentric AmE? Ro Thorpe 16:34, 7 April 2008 (CDT)
I think you should rename this article "Brit, American, and CNN English".... Hayford Peirce 17:36, 7 April 2008 (CDT)
So you have been watching Woof & Co! There's also BBC English: many of the spelling pronunciations I mentioned in that article come from BBC World; by contrast, Sky News always sounds perfectly natural. Perhaps it's because the latter are not addressing a global audience, so are less tempted to selfconsciousness/pretentiousness...? Ro Thorpe 18:20, 7 April 2008 (CDT)

we use these words too

The following "British" words are also frequently used in the US: cinema, cock, crossroads, CV, film, foyer, holiday sweets and tap, with the same meanings indicated for the BE version. [Fine, please edit accordingly. Ro Thorpe 16:44, 7 April 2008 (CDT)] I am a little uncertain as to the BE meaning of grill. Is it really using the broiler element in the oven to cook from above, or an outdoor grill? David E. Volk 13:51, 7 April 2008 (CDT)

Using the broiler element in the oven, not an outdoor grill. Chris Day 13:56, 7 April 2008 (CDT)
I don't think that "cock" is ever used frequently in the USofA except:
  • Rudely, and extremely frequently, but not in the sense of "rooster"
  • Very, very rarely in either lit'ry, or ironic, or old-fashioned writing, when you will see "At cock's crow, the weary CitiZens stumbled out of bed and began writing their daily articles.... Hayford Peirce 17:39, 7 April 2008 (CDT)
Or in Bible readings, "This day before the cock crows three times...." but Hayford's right, not in general use in US or OZ because of the vulgarism.
Cinema, film only used in context in the US, by cinema/film buffs, to refer to the medium, or in school. Ordinary people in ordinary speech refer to the movies, or to...a 'show'.
Crossroads--metaphorical use only--"had come to a crossroad in his life". I've never heard an American say in ordinary speech, "I was standing at the crossroads yesterday, and this jerk driving a ....."
CV - this use is increasing. It used to *always* be resume in the US, but in academia it has been CV for a while.
Holiday--another creeping Britishism, on the grounds that it sounds classier. But in regular speech there has been a difference, in the US a holiday is literally one day off, your annual leave is vacation. There are some religious Americans who object to the use of the word 'holiday' for 'day off' on the grounds that 'holiday' should be reserved, literally, for Holy Days off. I don't know about religious Brits--I could ask, is there any such thing as a religious Brit these days?
So basically I'm saying that the creeping Bristishims are heard, usually in specific context by people trying to make a posh point, and are not in everyday usuage by the majority.
Aleta Curry 17:48, 8 April 2008 (CDT)

Corny maize

From the BBC (not CNN, honest, guv) "maize, or corn as it's called in the United States..." Izzat so? Ro Thorpe 13:44, 8 April 2008 (CDT)

yes, corn in the UK refers to all cereal crops. Corn in the US is Zea mays only. Chris Day 13:46, 8 April 2008 (CDT)
As Nellie Forbush sings the great revival of South Pacific, "I'm as corny as Kansas in August, I'm as normal as blueberry pie." And as Curly sings in the opening song of Oklahoma!, "The corn is as high as a elephant's eye...." If you talk to any 'Merkin about maize, he will think that you are talking about the baseball immortal Willie Mays.... Hayford Peirce 15:49, 8 April 2008 (CDT)
The BBC Light Programme in the austere fifties... It's in. Ro Thorpe 16:18, 8 April 2008 (CDT)

usage, yet again

  • facecloth - washcloth, washrag
  • to wash up - complicated usage. While everyone understands "to wash" in the same way, its usage differs. Brits says "to do the washing up", Americans say "to do the dishes". To wash oneself is to "have a wash" in BrE and to "wash up" in AmE. Americans say to wash up (oneself); Commonwealth to wash up (dishes). It is easily understood in context, but not necessarily out of it. So, if you're standing by a pile of dirty crockery at the kitchen sink and say, let's do the washing up, you will be understood. But if you say "I was so tired, I just wanted to wash up and go to bed", in the US you will be understood to say you wanted to wash your body and go to bed, in the Commonwealth that you wanted to wash the dishes and go to bed. Everyone I know still uses a teatowel or sometimes a dishtowel, while the Americans use a dishcloth or a dishtowel, but Ro has been in England more recently than I, so perhaps things have changed. Dishcloth could be something use to buff silver, in Commonwealth, as well.
Similarly, to wash dirty clothes: in America, to "do the laundry", in the Commonwealth to "do the washing". Cloths are hung out in both, but pegged in the Commonwealth (clothespegs) and pinned in the US (clothespins).
  • posh--"fancy", "high-class". Increasing use in the US but much more common in BrE.
In the Commonwealth, snobs are "toffee-nosed" and "talk with a plum in one's mouth" Americans are "brown-nosed". Both "put on airs", but Americans also "put on the dog". Brits get 'dressed up like the dinner of a dog'.
  • Americans readily understand the word "bitch" to mean female dog, but do not readily use it, because of the vulgarism. Commonwealth speakers used to talk about their "bitches" all the time, though this is changing and in Australia speakers follow the American habit of using "dog" for males and females, though fanciers separate the two. Commonwealth speakers use the sexist "cow" to refer to a woman they don't like, Americans toss "bitch" about, and "bitch" is also used in the Commonwealth but is considered stronger and more vulgar than "cow".
  • Australians call everybody "mate" and increasingly there is no particular class or social distinction (this is a marked change; a couple of years ago some gentleman objected to being called "mate" as he entered Parliament House, it started a brouhaha and as I recall, the majority sided with the doorman.) Americans tend to send "buddy" and to only use it among social equals. A lady of a certain age would be offended if called "buddy" by a stranger (and I can't imagine an American man calling a woman "buddy"), but middle class Australians do say "mate" regardless of gender. Americans say "guy" but also readily understand "fellow" Brits used to say "chap", and say "fellow" or (lower class) "bloke".

Aleta Curry 18:20, 8 April 2008 (CDT)

-ades and squashes

When I was a little girl, one of the big differences I noticed was that Americans didn't have squashes, I suppose because it was important to me.

Americans have lemonade and less frequently orangeade, we had squash. Do Brits still have squash?

Lemonade in the Commonwealth is the generic lemon-lime soda in the US (such as Sprite or 7-up).

soda is soft drink, (I know Americans use "soft drink" for non-alcoholic beverages, but they use "soda" for carbonated ones) or "fizzy drink" to Commonwealth kids. Except for seltzer, which is soda water. Though Americans also have soda water, don't know if it's the same thing? I think proper soda water literally has soda in it. Oh, what do I know, anyway?

Back to soda (pop). Australian lemon-lime isn't the same thing as 7-up, it's a cloudy soda and I forget what that's called stateside.

Yes, 'wash up' is one I should have remembered. I'll put it in Usage. Meanwhile, Aleta, you could be putting at least some of this immense knowledge into the stub I created for the very purpose: Commonwealth English. Oh, and last time I was in Britain, John Major was the Prime Minister. Ro Thorpe 18:50, 8 April 2008 (CDT)
Yes, squash is still big in the UK. Just look at all the barley water brand at Wimbledon. I've never seen it in the US, the closest is the Italian soda's you can buy in the coffee shops that are cordials. Would you class squashes are cordials? Chris Day 19:05, 8 April 2008 (CDT)
No, I wouldn't--squashes are definitely '-ades' in my mind. Trying to search memory banks (no wise cracks) for a brand name syrup cordial in the U.S.--if it even exists in the U.S.--can't think of a single one--it'll probably come to me at three tomorrow morning, as usual.
To me, the difference is that squashes and ades are squeezed with real juice and pulpy bits and the occasional seed in them. Well, proper ones are, at any rate; I know, I know, there are hundreds of artificial ones, too.
Oh, and sodapop--Americans from the East tend to abbreviated it 'soda'; Westerners abbreviated it 'pop', though I think Brooklynites used to talk about "sody-pop" in the old days. Oh, wait--that doesn't have anything to do with this article, does it? Never mind.
Aleta Curry 02:29, 9 April 2008 (CDT)

soda, soda pop and soft drink

For carbonated breverages, the phrases "pop" and "soda pop" are widely used in the American midwest. When I moved to North Carolina they thought I was crazy or someting, and they also don't use it in the Texas-Louisiana area. Soft drink is pretty much universal in the US. Oddly, many people just use the work "Coke" to mean any softdrink, not necessarily the brand name product. I can always identify a fellow Midwesterner when they ask for a "pop" :)

In Carolina "sweet tea" is ubiquitous. Imagine 5 something like 5 pounds of sugar in a quart of tea. It about kills you the first time you try it, then you get used to it. David E. Volk 11:40, 9 April 2008 (CDT)

wash up vs. wash

Sorry, Ro, you're wrong here -- us 'Merkins" *never* use "up" with wash. We wash the dishes, we wash the laundry, we wash our faces, we wash lotsa other things, but never with "up". Purely Brit.... (Well, I suppose that if you spilled an enormous amount of motor oil on my garage floor, I *might* say, "Don't worry, myte, I'll wash it up." But there would *always" be an object in between. Hayford Peirce 23:51, 8 April 2008 (CDT)

Did Nellie Forbush in South Pacific sing "I'm gonna wash up that man right out of my hair"? Don't think so.... Hayford Peirce 23:53, 8 April 2008 (CDT)
First and foremost, Hayford, Nellie washed that man right outta her hair, and don't you forget it!
I'm *only* talking about the colloquial "to wash up" and only restricted to a person's own body, i.e. washing up for dinner. The only thing I will concede, Hayford, is that this may be only regional or class usage (rural workers, for example) but it is *absolutely* used in the U.S. I ain't said nothing about washing up one's hair, in fact I tried to explain it thoroughly, please see above...somewhere....

I'll leave you two to sort this one out... Ro Thorpe 09:55, 9 April 2008 (CDT)

Some Americans do use the phrase, as in "Kids, it's time to wash up for dinner".

mate (myte) vs. pal (buddy)

Is mate ingrained enough in Brit talk of a certain stratum to be considered a legitimate word and not slang? If so, is there an exact 'Merkin equivalent? Pal or buddy are pretty near but possibly not quite there.... Hayford Peirce 10:46, 10 April 2008 (CDT)

'Mate' in Britain is, if I remember, often used sardonically, and in my experience is not so friendly. I'm too out of touch to know if there is a more modern equivalent of 'pal'/'buddy'. However, in Australia, where their cricketers talk of 'mateship' (have we got 'cameraderie' en français?) I'd reckon it's an exact match. Ro Thorpe 10:56, 10 April 2008 (CDT)
I'd agree with Ro on all counts here. Only nuance I'd add is that 'mate' is in more regular use than pal/buddy, which seemed to be falling out of favour with the young. Parenthetically, I did notice 'son' making a comeback among city youth in the US, with a meaning closer to 'buddy' than its usual use in all variants, which is sort of diminutive, if that's the right word. I need coffee. Aleta Curry 17:44, 10 April 2008 (CDT)

Thongs and fannies

Do I have to explain this?

Put it this way:

1. the idea of wearing a pair of g-strings on your feet wouldn't occur to most Australians.

2. not understanding which part of the anatomy the 'fanny' was could land you in a whole lot of hot water.

Aleta Curry 17:52, 10 April 2008 (CDT)

fill in, fill out

I think fill in is also used in the States, although probably not as much. Hayford Peirce 15:55, 12 April 2008 (CDT)

It was a Brit woman on the BBC saying 'fill out' that reminded me of it. I think there's some overlap in many of the more commonly used of these. It's like saying vive la différence to a difference that is disappearing, requiem for a difference, more like. Ro Thorpe 16:06, 12 April 2008 (CDT)

I really think that some of these that are pretty blurred ought to be disappeared, as we say in South America. And that we should confine ourselves to examples such as "boot" and "trunk", which are absolutely clear-cut. Hayford Peirce 18:07, 12 April 2008 (CDT)

OK, get pruning. If you feel, as with the last one, 'we Merkins also', then wield the disappearer. Ro Thorpe 18:23, 12 April 2008 (CDT)

to "do" or not to "do"

Brits say stuff like, "I may do." 'Merkins say, "I may." Is this worth citing?

  • Also, I see in Brit novels, "But nor did he kiss the girl on the first date." Occasionally you'll see this in 'Merkin, mebbe with a NYT columnist, but the standard usage is, "But neither did he kiss the girl on the first date." I remember how startled I was, around 1966, to see the great Brit thriller writer William Haggard using this construction. Hayford Peirce 23:10, 21 April 2008 (CDT)
Yes, nice ones for the usage section. Thanks for the good wishes: my shoulder is fine until I arrive at the computer & start clicking. I've been taking it easy as a result, mostly listening to the BBC & playing chess... Ro Thorpe 11:09, 22 April 2008 (CDT)

salt beef vs. corned beef

When I lived on Gloucester Terrace my jolly butcher would sell us something that, in his semi-inpenetrable accent, seemed to me to be either "solt beef" or "silver beef" -- in any case, it tasted delicious and was, to me, a 'Merkin, just like corned beef brisket. This is what that other place says about "salted meat" or some such:

'Salt beef' in the UK and Commonwealth as a cured and boiled foodstuff is sometimes known as 'Corned beef' elsewhere, though traditional salt beef is different in taste and preparation. The use of the term corned comes from the fact that the Middle English word corn could refer to grains of salt as well as cereal grains.

Do you agree? Ie, Brit-talk: "salt beef", LBJ talk: "corned beef"? I'm gonna do an article soon about Corned beef, with recipes.

But what about "bully beef"? Which I think may be the same as canned "corned beef" from N.Z. (awful)(45 years ago in Tahiti) or Australia (acceptable in a minor way as sold to American Samoa a few years ago).... Hayford Peirce 22:33, 24 April 2008 (CDT)

It might be regional, I have never heard of salt beef, only corned beef. Chris Day 23:06, 24 April 2008 (CDT)
I wuz in London in 1968 more or less between Paddington Station and Lancaster Gate. Maybe my butcher was regional.... Hayford Peirce 10:48, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
Chris speaks for me too; alas, I've never come across corned beef outside of England. Ro Thorpe 10:55, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
Well, 'Merkins eat it in *vast* quantities. All delis have it. Jewish delis specialize in it because of using brisket for it primarily. It's also (wrongly) associated with the Irish, when it should be *correctly* associated with American-Irish. It was once called "Irish turkey".... I'll write an article about it soon, along with photos of my home-made brining process.... Hayford Peirce 11:07, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
Yum yum. Ro Thorpe 11:16, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
Well, I just did a Google for "salt beef sandwich" and a lot of items popped up, including -- mebbe you guys aren't Jewish enough, hehe. (My butcher in London certainly sold me wonderful pork chops, so *he* wasn't Jewish, but he sure sold the "solt beef" also....) Anyway, this is enough evidence for me to stick the item into the article.... Hayford Peirce 14:01, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
Maybe this will convince you otherwise. Go to this Tesco price check page and type in "corned beef" and "salt beef". You get no hits for salt beef but many for corned beef. Tesco is comparable to Safeway or similar in the US. Chris Day 15:10, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
Is a puzzlement! Hayford Peirce 18:01, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
I'd never heard of it & it doesn't look much like corned beef, so clearly it is a Jewish speciality, which may merit an article but should certainly not be in here: plus the implication that Brits don't have corned beef is totally wrong, England being the only place I have seen it in my life in fact. Ro Thorpe 17:09, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
I didn't say Brits didn't have it -- I wuz just wondering if they called it "salt" rather than corned. Certainly my friendly 1968 butcher called it "salt", or rather, "solt". Anyway, as the Bard says, "A brined piece of beef by any other name tastes as sweet as something or other...." Hayford Peirce 18:01, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
But having corned beef only in the American column clearly implies that Brits call corned beef salt beef, which we don't, so it'll have to come out, I'm afraid, salt beef being (to judge from the pictures) similar, but not the same. Ro Thorpe 10:33, 26 April 2008 (CDT)

silencers and mufflers

I remember my gair-idge man in San Francisco years ago instructing me in the difference between an automobile muffler and an automobile silencer. Two entirely different things, although I couldn't now tell you what they are. However a Google search in Images will quickly tell you. So I think this item ought to be either removed or corrected or amended or silenced or muffled or *something*....

A muffler in Br is an exhaust pipe. Chris Day 14:32, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
The mind reels. Or at least mine does. I'll let you guys hash it out.... Hayford Peirce 14:57, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
And yes, corned beef hash does exist in blighty. Chris Day 15:19, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
Actually, I have no idea. I thought the muffler was the whole exhaust system but apparently it is only the silencer part. So silencer/muffler might be right? Chris Day 15:02, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
You got me. If you Google "automobile muffler" and "automobile silencer" you get different images. I imagine that "automobile exhaust system" might show other things entirely. What about WP? It probably can tell us.... Hayford Peirce 15:42, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
I just remembered that I have a neighbor who collects old cars and knows a ton about them -- I'll ask him.... Hayford Peirce 16:32, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
But does corned beef hash exist in GB? Or just roast beef hash? Or no hash at all? Hayford Peirce 15:42, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
Corned beef hash exists in GB. Chris Day 16:05, 25 April 2008 (CDT)

mince vs. hamburger and/or ground meat

Okie, since we don't seem to have reached a consensus on "salt beef", wotta 'bout "mince". We know that "mince pie" exists in both cultures. But is "mince" still used in general for ground beef or hamburger (ie, "Four hamburgers can be made from one pound of mince") or in more specific areas, or isn't it used any more? And if it *is* used, does it *always* mean ground beef, not lamb or pork? Or does it actually mean finely *chopped* meat rather than ground? (There are serious food snobs who will insist that certain things such as steak tartar must be made with chopped beef rather than ground....) Hayford Peirce 19:30, 25 April 2008 (CDT)

A quick Google suggests that,yes, "mince" is still used in the U.K. for ground beef. Usually ground beef, but I see a few instances of other meats as well as poultry such as ground turkey.-Derek Hodges 22:02, 25 April 2008 (CDT)
Okie, so if we put "mince" in the Brit column, what do we put in the 'Merkin one? "ground beef"? "ground meat"? something else? Hayford Peirce 22:47, 25 April 2008 (CDT)