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Talk:British and American English/Archive 2

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I heard this pron on CNN, but I supect it isn't standard. Ro Thorpe 17:22, 4 May 2008 (CDT)

I've never heard anyone actually say it except when referring to a coin-coin-type canard, so I really don't know. By the way, are "canaille" and "canard" in the French list? Hayford Peirce 17:29, 4 May 2008 (CDT)

i thought of the former, + don't think it is. Ro Thorpe 17:45, 4 May 2008 (CDT) - but they are both.


should this - + perhaps similar - be on the list~ bre has the ó sound, ame apparently the or sound - Ro Thorpe 13:12, 25 May 2008 (CDT)


my dictionary says, is from a particular spring in Iceland. Ro Thorpe 17:20, 29 June 2008 (CDT)

Yeah, I think I knew that. What I meant was, do the Brits (or did they) call "water heaters" in general "geysers", either after the real thing in Iceland or after the name, say, of a particular British company that made them? Hayford Peirce 17:29, 29 June 2008 (CDT)

definitely i have heard that usage, which is where 'geezer' comes from, yes - don't recall if it was a cº name - Ro Thorpe 17:38, 29 June 2008 (CDT)


isn't general usage for 'caravan', is it? Ro Thorpe 14:48, 9 July 2008 (CDT)

It used to be when I was a kid. Now I think they're "mobile homes", plus some other terms that don't readily spring to mind.... Hayford Peirce 15:38, 9 July 2008 (CDT)

i asked coz i heard it u-no-where. is 'caravan' used in any sense in merkin? Ro Thorpe 18:38, 9 July 2008 (CDT)

just sliced off some finger & am back from the ER feelin' OK. am gonna go to bed with an extra-cold martini but it's hard to type. "caravan" is used *only* in the sense of "a caravan of old trucks snaked its way through the desert, following their intrepid leader Hayford Peirce 00:18, 10 July 2008 (CDT)"

ouch - hope it's on the mend now. thanks for confirming my suspicions - Ro Thorpe 10:36, 10 July 2008 (CDT)

feels fine this morning but am typing with 1 finger. "trailer" is still used, particularly in "she lives in a trailer park" or "trailer home park". Or "she is trailer park trash". poor girl.... Hayford Peirce 10:46, 10 July 2008 (CDT)

good; and yes, i've put it in, have heard all those uses - Ro Thorpe 10:53, 10 July 2008 (CDT)

redundant vs laid off

isn't "made redundant" used by brits to say, "GM laid off 6,000 workers today"? or some such. it;s never used in that way in 'merkin. Hayford Peirce 11:35, 10 July 2008 (CDT)

nice one, that's exactly right, and nearly always in the passive. Ro Thorpe 12:36, 10 July 2008 (CDT)
active: "bill smith wuz redundantized today"? hehe.... Hayford Peirce 13:05, 10 July 2008 (CDT)
sounds like 'disappeared'. i'll put it in. as i type, the bbc are talking, not for the 1st time, of 'emily brontay'...sigh... Ro Thorpe 13:21, 10 July 2008 (CDT)
oh, i say! Hayford Peirce 14:00, 10 July 2008 (CDT)


yes, i was surprized, as jane austen would put it, that checkers wasn't in - no doubt that inspired your 'naught' - and the spelling. the 'a' spelling is a near-obsolete synonym of 'nothing', as in 'stop at naught', the 'o' spelling is 0. 'zero' is used by brits too, but has serious sci connotations. i'm surprised at 'cipher' though, i thought that usage was obsolete, or referred only to the 0 character. must stop now before my arm falls off - Ro Thorpe 17:53, 19 July 2008 (CDT)

?should we have both:
  • naught
  • nought
Hayford Peirce 18:35, 19 July 2008 (CDT)

i'd go for 'nought' in the table and a footnote to cover BrE 'zero' - if it's more limited than AmE usage - ? - and 'naught', which ox. has as 'arch' but then goes on to quote 3 acceptable modern usages, 'bring to', 'come to' and 'set at' to add to mine above - Ro Thorpe 18:49, 19 July 2008 (CDT)

what's the brit fer tic-tac-toe? crosses and noughts? something like that.... Hayford Peirce 19:18, 19 July 2008 (CDT)

Coffin Ed Johnson and Gravedigger Jones

Chester Himes didn't call one his of tough Harlem cops Casket Ed Johnson -- although he could have, of course: it has a nice ring to it. But i would say that the two words are interchangeable for 'merkins. although the croque-morts (a great word!) want ppl to use the word "casket". don't brits use it at all? Hayford Peirce 13:45, 20 July 2008 (CDT)

i never used it, but the ox says a small jewel box, for example, can be called a casket. i'll see if i can reflect that in the list - Ro Thorpe 13:48, 20 July 2008 (CDT)
my own impression, and MW has just confirmed it, is that a "casket" is a "fancy coffin". in deadwood you're buried in a wooden coffin. if you're a gangster in chicago, you're buried in a $10,000 casket. when winnie was walked throught the streets, what wuz he in? a coffin? a casket? Hayford Peirce 15:48, 20 July 2008 (CDT)
you're referring to the 1965 funeral, but the same with any of 'em, eg the qm, i've never heard a brit use the word casket. so the latter is a fancy coffin in america, 'twould appear - Ro Thorpe 12:56, 21 July 2008 (CDT)
hmmm, i'll be darned! it must have been a word introduced by the croque-morts about the time, back in the 40s and 50s, when they evolved from "undertakers" to "funeral directors".... Hayford Peirce 13:32, 21 July 2008 (CDT)
that figures. by the way, should 'croque-mort', which i'd never heard before, be in the french list? Ro Thorpe 15:36, 21 July 2008 (CDT)
no, no, it's just french slang that i gleaned years ago from reading the wonderful Lucky Luke comic books. books that were actually comic! Hayford Peirce 16:06, 21 July 2008 (CDT)
so i see. wikipedia has a short article on him, shooting faster than his own shadow, but can cz do better? Ro Thorpe 17:39, 21 July 2008 (CDT)
that looks like a fairly thorough article to me. a cz article could be less impersonal and better organized but it ain't for me. if you scroll down to the bottom of the french article, you'll see a typical xroque-mort in the series, looking like a vulture and smiling happily at the prospect of a gunfight. the guys who did this series really were geniuses when at their best. they were funny both visually (extremely rare, almost unheard of, even) and in the plotting and dialogue. Hayford Peirce 18:59, 21 July 2008 (CDT)
yes, accompanied by a vulture, in fact - good stuff! Ro Thorpe 10:34, 22 July 2008 (CDT)


turned up again on the BBC, Congressman Ed Schuster I think it was. Canadian Lyse Doucet understood its metaphorical meaning... Ro Thorpe 15:41, 30 August 2008 (CDT)

We talked about it interminably a while back, now in the Archives at, but, I guess wore ourselves out so badly that we never actually put it in the list. Hayford Peirce 21:56, 26 October 2008 (UTC)

Ah, right, thanks for the reference - well, it's finally got its hyphen! Ro Thorpe 00:21, 27 October 2008 (UTC)

vaze as in haze

I dunno if I've ever heard that, but as feu mon epouse useta say, "Tous les gouts sont dans la nature...." Hayford Peirce 14:06, 22 September 2008 (CDT)

mw says it's most common in canada, certainly it's new to me too - Ro Thorpe 14:31, 22 September 2008 (CDT)

Fifth graders

Who are these people? Eight-year olds? Nine-year-olds? Ten-year-olds? This stuff needs a note, I think. Ro Thorpe 19:05, 5 October 2008 (CDT)

When I was at (British) school, the fifth form was 15-16 year olds. Given how Americans seem to inflate numbers (and everything else) I suppose their fifth form would be more like 12th? It would be useful to know what their Vice-Presidential candidate is wittering on about, though...Martin Baldwin-Edwards 20:44, 5 October 2008 (CDT)
How did *this* topic spring up?! Just FYI, I started 5th grade when I was 9 going on 10, but the more usual starting age would be 10. And even though 'Merkins *do* love to inflate numbers, if fifth form was 15-16 y/o's, that would probably be 11th grade for most kids that age. Most 'Merkins graduate from high school (12th grade) at 18, although 17 is possible, and 19 is not rare (particularly not among star football players). Hayford Peirce 21:02, 5 October 2008 (CDT)

Thanks, folks. See how you like my notes. Ro Thorpe 10:47, 6 October 2008 (CDT)

Eggcellent! Martin Baldwin-Edwards 10:53, 6 October 2008 (CDT)

Thanks, Martin. Governor Peirce? Ro Thorpe 10:55, 6 October 2008 (CDT)

Hmmm, I'd never thought of expressing it that way before, but the numbers seem to be right. Innaresting.... Hayford Peirce 11:09, 6 October 2008 (CDT)

Good. Just shows how widespread that usage seems to be in American English, whereas in Britain e.g. 'fifth formers' would rarely be used outside the school context; also such expressions are confined to secondary schools. Ro Thorpe 11:30, 6 October 2008 (CDT)

It's not just "widespread", it's both universal, and, I dare say, the official language, at least in all public schools. There are a few oddities from the old *old* days, like the school I went to, Phillips Exeter Academy, founded around 1780, in which the four classes (9th through 12th grades) are called, if I recall correctly, Lower Middle, Upper Middle, Junior, and Senior. Sort of like 'Merkin colleges or universities, where we have no numbers, but Freshman, Sophomore, Junior, and Senior years. Make of it all what you will.... Hayford Peirce 12:51, 6 October 2008 (CDT)
Or are you guys discussing this as a *metaphor*? Ie, "Sarah Palin last night revealed that she has the gravitas and knowledge of a fifth-grader"? Or some such. If so, then in 'Merka, that usage is absolutely universal, and everyone would instantly know what you meant. Hayford Peirce 14:21, 6 October 2008 (CDT)

Yes, that's what I meant by 'widespread' - its use where Brits would say '...of a ten-year-old'. And not just figuratively, but also as in 'the yard was full of xth-graders' - the American novels I have read with sentences like that in, thinking, well, must be about y years old from the context... Ro Thorpe 14:37, 6 October 2008 (CDT)

Gotcha. We are all, I would say, about on the 17th-grade level (first year post-grad studies in college) at the very least, hehe.... ~

"O Level Oscar"

I read a fine Brit thriller written about 1968 in which a relatively minor character, a thuggish or maybe just loutish London teenager, had a chapter about him entitled, more or less, "O-Level Oscar" or "O Level Henry". I got the drift of things, but it took me several years, I think, to get the exact reference. No Google in those days :( Hayford Peirce 15:18, 6 October 2008 (CDT)

Yes, and it's now GSCEs (at least, I think that's the latest version) which I don't understand at all... Ro Thorpe 09:34, 7 October 2008 (CDT)
Actually it's General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE). As far as I'm aware these are exams that everyone takes. They replaced a two tier system of the GCE (General Certificate of Education) O-level, aimed at the higher level students and the CSE that was aimed at the lower level. I'm not sure how it works in reality. Do they still have GCE A-levels (like AP courses in US?) and S-levels or are they under the GCSE umbrella too? Chris Day 09:52, 7 October 2008 (CDT)
Yes, they still have A Levels, although they are trying to destroy those too. I think some schools tend toward the international baccalaureat as an alternative, but maybe only the cosmopolitan ones...Martin Baldwin-Edwards 02:15, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

Ever so awful

It suddenly occured to me that I think the phrase "ever so" is far, far, far more Brit than 'Merkin. Correct me if I'm wrong, but where a Brit might say, "That film was ever so funny and the popcorn was ever so bad," a 'Merkin might well say, "That movie was awfully funny and the popcorn was awfully bad...." Hayford Peirce 17:27, 11 October 2008 (UTC)

you're quite right, but it's the sort of thing i associate with working-class females of my mother's generation - do young people use it now, i wonder? it may be enshrined in dickens etc... Ro Thorpe 23:54, 11 October 2008 (UTC)
You got me, myte. So it's working class rather than Bright Young Things? Hayford Peirce 00:00, 12 October 2008 (UTC)
i'm ever so unsure of this and would value a second opinion - Ro Thorpe 13:25, 12 October 2008 (UTC)
Well, I meself am awfully unsure about it -- where is Martin Baldwin-Edwards when we need him? Hayford Peirce 15:34, 12 October 2008 (UTC)
Ha! Well, I am unsure but am inclined to agree with Ro. I will try to check it out in London tomorrow, during my fleeting visit. Maybe I can use the expression in my lecture, and see how the audience responds! Martin Baldwin-Edwards 15:40, 12 October 2008 (UTC)
Give it a go, myte! as we Aussie sye. That would be ever so cheeky! Hayford Peirce 16:02, 12 October 2008 (UTC)

High there!

Correct me if I'm wrong, me mytes, but does the 'Merkin "Main Street", so beloved of birdbrained politicians, translate to "High Street", which was mentioned today in a NYT op-ed piece by a Brit? Hayford Peirce 02:03, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

Yes. Chris Day 02:20, 17 October 2008 (UTC)
Slight difference in usage, the high street, and also Bromley High Street (Kent) but not I think Bromley Main Street (Arizona?). Ro Thorpe 15:57, 17 October 2008 (UTC)
Yes, I wondered if "the" was always used with "high street". And no, I don't believe that other names are ever used with "Main Street," ie, there is no "Peirce Main Street" in downtown Tucson. So, given all this, what will you do about the High Street-Main Street entry I made? Edit, amend, footnote, delete...? Hayford Peirce 16:47, 17 October 2008 (UTC)
Indeed, I was thinking maybe a footnote. Ro Thorpe 17:39, 17 October 2008 (UTC)
Yup, a footnote would probably be the way to go. Hayford Peirce 17:43, 17 October 2008 (UTC)

"High!" again

I'm pretty sure that in the three fine spy novels that the Brit Desmond Skirrow wrote in the 1960s, every time an American character turned up, he would *always* say something like, "High, there!" Always spelled High. And Skirrow, who wrote copy for a big-time London advertising agency, obviously knew what he was doing here. A subtle put-down? Satire? Leg-pulling? Or what? Any other instances that you know of? Hayford Peirce 03:54, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

I have never seen someone use "high" before. Chris Day 04:05, 20 October 2008 (UTC)

Hockey Maugham, to rhyme with "Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son"

I knew a Tahitian guy, whose first language was French, and second language English, who was fascinated by S. Maugham and collected his works. I could *never* get him to believe that the name was not pronounced Mog-hum, hehe.... Hayford Peirce 21:12, 23 October 2008 (UTC)

Well, with spelling pronunciation going the way it's going, who's to say the next generation won't decide he was right? Ro Thorpe 21:22, 23 October 2008 (UTC)

further to "ever so questionable"

I guess we never did decide what to do about "ever so something or other"....

A headline in today's Arizona Daily Star 's sports section: "A Jolly Good Show by Saints, Chargers", anent a National Football League ('Merkin version) played yesterday before 85,000 Brits in London. I *know* that they're being tongue in cheek, and gently twitting our Limey friends, but *does* anyone in Blighty still use "Jolly good!"? And if so, should it go into our list?

In the 90s on BBC World Service radio, there was a pop record request show called A Jolly Good Show, super ironic. No, I don't think this is worth putting in, having a distinctly old fashioned air, ditto 'ever so'. At least not exactly here.

Furthermore, Judge, what about "further to"? As in a bar sign that I used to see in Tahiti 45 years ago, "Further to police regulations, blah blah." I gather that it is actually used in Brit-type talk or writing. I don't think that it is in 'Merkin, however. Wotcha! Hayford Peirce 16:59, 27 October 2008 (UTC)

Gee baby, well, I guess that's kinda legalese Brit style... Ro Thorpe 21:09, 27 October 2008 (UTC)

ticks and checks

Have become an obsessive over the last couple of weeks about -- on Tuesday night I can start my de-tox program -- and in one of the blogger's comments tonight he said that only Brits use the word "tick" for "boxes and ballots". True? Vrai? I think that I *might* have heard the expression in 'Merkin, but it sure ain't verra common.... Hayford Peirce 01:59, 3 November 2008 (UTC)

That's one I've long been sensitive to, but, it seems, not in front of the computer. I'll put it in.
Yes, 538 I looked at when you recommended it before, &, thankya myte, I'll go there again, as I am having another wineless night as a result of antibiotics for an accursed bladder infection.
Also, some chriffic Merkin writing on Bush in the Guardian today. Ro Thorpe 03:42, 3 November 2008 (UTC)
As one of the reigning writers from Minnesota, Garrison Keller, or some such, calls him always: "The Current Occupant". May he rot in the nether regions. Can't bear to read anything about him, or even to think about him. Fortunately he has lately vanished from all our screens and even our consciousness.... Hayford Peirce 04:04, 3 November 2008 (UTC)
Yes, 'tis a long time since I had to change channels to get away from him; this is still necessary alas quite often when there appears the late occupant of nº10; before him it was his mentor Thatcher, but we now have the occasional pleasure of seeing a somewhat post-conscious Maggon on our screens, & perhaps we'll live to see the other two in a similar state. Meanwhile Nulayba continues its attacks on hard-won British liberties, and it's quite normal for people to shout in public libraries.
Do you agree with my addition of 'swish' as in 'Nike'? Always a tick to me, as learner & teacher. Ro Thorpe 15:27, 3 November 2008 (UTC)
I guess so, but as far as I know that is the *only* place it occurs. Frankly I was baffled by your addition until I saw this discussion page. I think I would remove it on the grounds that it *only* occurs in these wretched advertisements. To me, this thing, as a noun, is a "checkmark", although MW-11 defines "checkmark" as being definition #10 of check. Hayford Peirce 15:48, 3 November 2008 (UTC)

speaking of one-off words

MW-11 does show "one-off", and doesn't call it a "Mostly Brit. usage", but I gotta say that I sure don't think of it as an Americanism. I could be wrong, I suppose.... Hayford Peirce 20:58, 3 November 2008 (UTC)

Surprised at that. My Oxfords don't label it, thesaurus doesn't have it - so what do you say, or is a phrase needed? Ro Thorpe 21:10, 3 November 2008 (UTC)
Strangely enough Bill Safire wrote an article about the damn thing only a couple of months ago -- I musta read it at the time but completely forgot about it. Here it is. I was doing a search in the NYT and *most* of their references were to something like "Two guys got off the airplane but only one off the boat." Constructions like that.... Anyway, thank you, Bill Safire. Hayford Peirce 21:44, 3 November 2008 (UTC)
Funny, for me it's always been around, & if asked I'd've hazarded that it was American. It does indeed mean unique (a word that all sensible persons know should not be qualified) but there is this usage difference: a unique example = a one-off example (adjective), but it's a one-off = it's unique (not a noun). Ro Thorpe 23:15, 3 November 2008 (UTC)
I'll be darned. I've certainly never used it myself, and I don't think I've *ever* heard anyone speak the word. I see now that Safire's piece was from June of 2007, and I doubt if I was even aware of the word until I read about it in his column. A strange gap in my knowledge, perhaps.... Hayford Peirce 00:45, 4 November 2008 (UTC)
Yes, every now & then I find I have had such a gap... Ro Thorpe 01:17, 4 November 2008 (UTC)

me shirt's too tight, myte

Isn't there a Brit word "shirty"? If so, do we want it here with its 'Merkin equivalent? Or is it too much slangy? And what did we decide to do with slang, anyhow? Just put in slang that has stood the test of time, or what? Hayford Peirce 21:34, 7 November 2008 (UTC)

I dunno. Certainly both my (80s) dictionaries have it, but it's not something I've heard for, er, ever so long. But then I'm not really in a position to judge. Probably better to ask one of the Brits who actually lives there. I'd be interested to hear your nominees for American equivalent, though: indeed, that highlights the main problem, indeed the whole point, of slang: nothing is official or intended to be permanent... Ro Thorpe 22:01, 7 November 2008 (UTC)
Well, just looked it up in MW and it says: adj (1846) chiefly Brit: ANGRY, IRRITATED.... That's a long time that it's been around. But, of course, I dunno if anyone ever uses it any more. I think I've still seen it in Brit. novels, but whether they're 1920s Agatha Christies or more recent ones I can't recall. I think I *have* seen it occasionally in 60s spy thrillers, etc., that sort of thing.... Hayford Peirce 05:00, 8 November 2008 (UTC)
I associate it with my parents & their ilk, but don't recall it in the sitcoms that BBC Prime was airing a year or two ago. Probably it is still around, but it's definitely slang, anyway. Ro Thorpe 05:22, 8 November 2008 (UTC)
Okie, so it's a no-go fer us August Lexicographers.... Hayford Peirce 15:57, 8 November 2008 (UTC)
Surely someone out there has a Slang article cooking? Ro Thorpe 17:59, 8 November 2008 (UTC)
Maybe my friend Dr. Partridge -- or anyone else with 2 or 3 centuries of spare time on his hands. That's a subject about as big as Knowledge, I would say.... Hayford Peirce 18:07, 8 November 2008 (UTC)


As a northerner, I object to the description of southern English as "standard" British. Peter Jackson 11:49, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

You can object all you like, that's what foreigners want to learn! Even if they go to Huddersfield School of English and arrive home with a Yorkshire accent...

I'll deal with your other points later on, when I'm in the mood. The û phoneme is a can of worms, & I wasn't so much recommending an American pronunciation as dodging the issue. But you might like to look at U, where I think I tried to address the [u] v. [ju] nuisance...

Thanks for your interest. Ro Thorpe 20:13, 18 November 2008 (UTC)

Whether that's what foreigners want to learn or not is irrelevant. See British English, which says all forms must be included. Isn't this a matter of neutrality?

On u, see Talk:English phonemes, where I've pointed out the utter mess there. Peter Jackson 11:50, 19 November 2008 (UTC)

For the time being I've taken you at your word & changed the lead accordingly. However, I think it wouldn't be too hard to cover things properly. The main local variations are in pronunciation, which might be summarized thus:

  1. in [list of words], southern English uses à, northern English & American (& the rest of the English-speaking world?) use á
  2. r in [certain positions, detailed] is pronounced in American & Scottish, but not in England
  3. wh is pronounced as hw in American & Scottish, but as w in England (& Australia)
  4. in certain words the pronunciation is yoo in Britain & parts of America but oo in other parts of America (?I think, but leave that to Americans)
  5. others I've forgotten?

Peter Jackson 11:12, 20 November 2008 (UTC)

Good start. Regarding 3), we should be clear that "wh" is [w] for the large majority of American speakers as well as basically all other non-Scotsmen. 4) is referred to as yod-dropping and is indeed well-entrenched in most American forms; it occurs regularly after alveolar and post-alveolar consonants. Another notable difference is that the short-o phoneme (as in "bother" or "hot") is merged with [a] (as in "father" or "car") in all American dialects other than Boston.—Nat Krause 23:30, 20 November 2008 (UTC)
A pronunciation dictionary I consulted said hw was usual in American. I'll go back & see which one it was. The o point was one I'd forgotten. It's mentioned in the other article. Peter Jackson 11:19, 21 November 2008 (UTC)
Oxford Dictionary of Pronunciation, 2001, just marks the h as optional in American, which doesn't get us any further.
Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary, 2006, page 558: "... ususally pronounced as /w/ in British English and /hw/ in US English. The realisation /hw/ also occur amongst some speakers of British English."
Longman Pronunciation Dictionary, 2000, page 835: "In RP and other accents of England, and in Australian English, it is usually w ... but in GenAm usually, and in Scottish and Irish English almost always, it is hw ... (In England and Australia ... hw tends to be considered 'better', and so is used by soem people in specially formal styles only.)"
page xiv: "... General American. This is what is spoken by the majority of Americans, namely those who do not have a noticeable eastern or southern accent."
Peter Jackson 11:47, 21 November 2008 (UTC)
Actually, I hadn't forgotten the o case. Rather, by the time I read your comment I'd forgotten the original purpose of the list: to cover those cases that aren't simply British vs American because some British agree with the American pronunciation or vice versa. So the o case doesn't belong in the list because it's uniformly different (I think). Contrariwise, the wh case probably doesn't either, for the opposite reason.
(y)oo is more complicated. The article U says oo is substandard, but I'm sure it must be much more common over there than here. Certainly it's part of our folklore that Americans go to buy a noo soot (though perversely they often seem to go to Hyoostn to do so). On the other hand, East Anglian dialect has pronunciations that sound very much like hooge &c. Peter Jackson 15:49, 21 November 2008 (UTC)
Merriam-Webster gives noo as standard (American), nyoo as chiefly British. Peter Jackson 10:58, 26 November 2008 (UTC)
Hillbilly and country singers useta sing about "My neeyoo love fer yee-oo in the foggy, foggy dee-yoo," but I don't know if they still dooo or not." The closest most 'Merkins can get to pronouncing the French "u" is to be a country singer, hehe.... Hayford Peirce 16:10, 26 November 2008 (UTC)
Peter, you're right, I seem to have misunderstood the purpose of the list. Regarding [ʍ] (or [hw]) ... I wonder if it would be possible for me to be awarded the status of editor for American phonology, on the grounds of being a native GA speaker. Cambridge English Pronouncing Dictionary and Longman are just plain wrong: [w] for "wh" is quite predominant in American English. Wikipedia cites a 2006 study to the effect that "there are regions of the U.S. (particularly in the Southeast) where speakers keeping the distinction are about as numerous as those having the merger, there are no regions where the preservation of the distinction is predominant ... Throughout the U.S. and Canada, about 83% of respondents in the survey had the merger completely, while about 17% preserved at least some trace of the distinction." Regarding [ju], I think that [nu sut] for "new suit" is pretty much mandatory in most forms of American English, although I don't entirely trust my ear in distinguishing [nju] from [nu]. [hudʒ] for "huge" is unheard of here, although, ironcally, some folks go the other way and have [judʒ].
Hayford, I've heard some younger Americans with a tendency to front [u] to [ʉ], so maybe if you wait long enough you will find they eventually have no trouble with the French "u".—Nat Krause 23:28, 27 November 2008 (UTC)
It's a toughie, no question about that. I think it took me years to get pretty close to it. I still remember the mangled efforts of a poor Texan kid in my first French class many years ago. Made me grit my teeth in anguish. He never did come close to getting it. The test for the younger kids will be when they go to France and actually try to talk.... Hayford Peirce 23:44, 27 November 2008 (UTC)

I once read that a good method is to round your lips & try to say 'ee' - that gets pretty close to it - Ro Thorpe 00:01, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

Yup, I remember poor Mr. Neumeister (such a French name!) telling the poor yokel to do it that way (I think), to no avail. A long-suffering man, fer sure! Hayford Peirce 00:56, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
Nat's citation is another reminder to us all that "reliable" sources are often wrong, & we have to go to the most specialized & up-to-date sources we can find. This is where a system like ours can be very effective. Lots of people working together can find lots of sources.
The last pronunciation he mentions is quite common here. Peter Jackson 12:16, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

It's hard and it's hard, ain't it hard.... call someone a hardware dealer. I suppose that this does it exist, but the normal term in 'Merkin talk is "hardware store." Ie, "I'll be back in 15 minutes, I'm going to the hardware store to buy some nails." Hayford Peirce 01:30, 19 November 2008 (UTC)


Is 'cycle' the normal Am for 'circle'? Ro Thorpe 19:41, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

you mean as in "vicious cycle"? I've never hoid that -- must be a typo, or ignorance. or irony. or something. I can see why someone might have invented the phrase, feeling pleased with himself, but I'm sure that it isn't in common use. Hayford Peirce 20:21, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
Interesting - I think that was the 2nd time I've heard that - not sure if it wasn't a Brit the first. Ro Thorpe 21:37, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
"Well, let's look at the record," as the 1928 Demo. pres. candidate used to say (he lost v. badly to Hoover). A Google shows 1,930,000 for "vicious circle". And almost as many for "vicious cycle". BUT - there seem to be a software company, a band, a bicycle factory, a blog site, and other things named "vicious cycle." None of them appear to have the same meaning as "circle".... Hayford Peirce 21:46, 28 November 2008 (UTC)
So it's a case of life imitating commerce, & not for the first time. Ro Thorpe 22:17, 28 November 2008 (UTC)

two turns of the screw

How come you gettin' rid of the 'Merkin talk fer tournament and tourniquet, myte? Hayford Peirce 19:07, 1 December 2008 (UTC)

I just streamlined it - it's still there, but it was presented differently, don't know why - now, the Br is on the left, the Am on the right, like all the others. Ro Thorpe 19:36, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
Ah, okay. I see what you've done. I hadn't studied it carefully enough -- it looked to me as if a couple of items had just disappeared. Sorry! Hayford Peirce 20:16, 1 December 2008 (UTC)
No problem! Cheers - Ro Thorpe 20:46, 1 December 2008 (UTC)


I just looked at the website of Simpsons in the Strand for no particular reason and saw that on their menu have have a list of Starters, followed by a list of Mains. Us 'Merkins will sometimes use the word Starters on menus, but I've never seen the word Mains before. Main Courses, Entrees, or some such, yes, but not that solitary word by itself. I don't recall seeing it in London 40 years ago, but it could have been used I suppose. Progress has been made, however: I see that Simpsons now serves its Scotch salmon "starter" with capers and some other stuff. When I was there with my Tahitian wife we ordered the salmon and I asked for some capers. The waiter was baffled. Eventually he returned with an enormous dusty bottle and asked if that was what I meant. Everyone in the restaurant was staring at us, hehe.... A true boulevardier, I said, Yes, that's it precisely. And we spooned capers out of the bottle to go with our salmon....

By the way, I surprised to see that the online MW has pissoir, but it does.... Hayford Peirce 22:33, 10 December 2008 (UTC)

'Mains' I have heureusement never heard in that context. Beware, it might catch on, what with quantiteez, Mumbai and Thai-land on Sky Newspeak in rapid succession today.
That's good about 'capers' though, a word and food I first came across in Germany, I think.
Oxford has pissoir too, and nearby, piste and piolet - do we have those...? Ro Thorpe 10:10, 11 December 2008 (UTC)
We've got piste but not piolet. Hayford Peirce 16:33, 11 December 2008 (UTC)


Is it true that Americans use 'U.K.' & Brits (I certainly do) 'UK'? - & if so, can one extrapolate from this? Ro Thorpe 23:28, 11 December 2008 (UTC)

That Americans, with their greater land mass, accumulated wealth, and larger population, are more expansive in all ways. They can afford to be profligate with their periods.... Hayford Peirce 00:59, 12 December 2008 (UTC)
Truly a Land of Periods and Majuscules. Ro Thorpe 01:32, 12 December 2008 (UTC)
Except that so many 'Merkin wimmin are runnin' marathons that periods are in danger of disappearing entirely.... Hayford Peirce 02:14, 12 December 2008 (UTC)
Well, colon has been pre-empted from the grammarians. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:35, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Postvocalic r

This is the most noticeable difference in English dialects and I think current text oversimplifies, saying it's just "British" vs, "US" English. I'd say the full list of +r dialects is Scots & Irish English, plus Canada & most of the US, heavily influenced by Scots & Irish immigration. -r includes (most? all?) of England, plus Oz, NZ, South Africa. What about Southern US, the "Boston brahmin" accent, Wales, and Indian English? I'd say those are all -r, but I'm not completely certain on any of them.

Anyone know the history? Since the r's are in the spelling, I imagine they fell out of the pronunciation sometime after spelling was standardised, but before the big bursts of immigration to places like Oz that got -r dialects. Sandy Harris 04:32, 12 December 2008 (UTC)

Postvocalic r was disappearing in England long before the founding fathers made it to the New World (I think there may be one or two examples of r-less spellings in Chaucer, or at least texts from his day). I suspect that it may have been retained in the spelling to indicate the historic pronunciation and also to allow distinctions between so-called 'short' and 'long' vowels (e.g. cad and card). The reason r made it to America was that most of the early settlers were from the south-west of England, which retained r (and still does to this day). Later settlers came without r but their accents were overwhelmed by the well-established rhotic accent (except for a small group who, one story says, were blown off-course by a storm and ended up around what is now New York, I believe - which is why some north-eastern accents are non-rhotic). r may or may not have been reinforced in the US by later Irish/Scots etc. immigration, I'm not sure. Obviously, most settlers who headed to Australia much later carried with them the non-rhotic accent that by then had come to dominate England. Something like this could be added. John Stephenson 05:37, 12 December 2008 (UTC)

This is only humble BrE & AmE, and it says the pronunciation discussion is limited to the two standard varieties. But there is a Commonwealth English stub, and you've given us the basis for English postvocalic r (or whatever) right here. Ro Thorpe 13:40, 12 December 2008 (UTC)


I've always used (and seen) "demagogue," which is allegedly the British variant. Maybe it would be better to list both "demagogue" and "demagog" for the American variants. With just "demagog," students are apt to think, incorrectly, that that spelling is the common "correct" American spelling, which it ain't. --Larry Sanger 21:46, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

I've swapped it for 'synagog'. Hopefully... Ro Thorpe 22:03, 31 December 2008 (UTC) - Alas I should have looked in Merriam Webster: seems 'synagog' is merely an option also. Will alter... Ro Thorpe 22:08, 31 December 2008 (UTC)

You lot (or you guys) are doing a fab job on this....

...but there's still so much more.

Y'know what I'd like to see? A section on words and expressions where the user might think they understand exactly what is being said, but might be wrong due to misunderstanding the primary or first-to-pop-into-head use of the word in the other variant. That seems apparent enough when we talk about slang, but 'jumper', an article of clothing, describes two entirely different garments, a 'comforter', two different kinds of bedding. Same with the verb 'to table' (in the context of meetings). It's used exactly the same way and in the same context in both CE and AE, but usually means something quite different.

Also, is aluminum/aluminium correctly termed a spelling difference? Minor, I know, but it *is* pronounced differently.

Aleta Curry 01:58, 2 January 2009 (UTC)

A friend from Australia was quite surprised at what she was served when she ordered "chips and sauce" on her visit to the U.S. Raymond Arritt 01:30, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
Having lived here off and on for 67 years, I can't believe that there's a waiter anywhere in the United States who wouldn't have said, "What's that?" if someone ordered "chips and sauce". Although *conceivably* a Mexican restaurant would bring their standard corn chips and salsa. So what *did* she get? Hayford Peirce 01:48, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
Tortilla chips and salsa. She was expecting what we'd call french fries and ketchup. Raymond Arritt 03:06, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
She musta been in a Mexican joint. (I was in one for lunch today -- I don't like either the chips or the salsa, though....) Hayford Peirce 03:30, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
In English caff (if you're lucky enough to get someone polite/condescending): Plate o' chips, love? Sauces are on the table, dear. (Bottles of Heinz tomato ketchup & HP Sauce on each table, along with a sugar dispenser.) Ro Thorpe 16:34, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
In Australia during the 1970s, if you ordered "chips" you would have received two actors pretending to be motorcycle cops... Okay seriously, if you ordered "chips" you would be served what most Americans would call French fries (with the exception that the chips here would be usually plumper and less crispier). That all changed somewhat when McDonalds started opening franchises here, so its usage became muddied. I believe back in the 1970s most Americans (bar Mexicans) would refer to "potato chips" as something we would call "crisps". Have I confused everyone already? :) ...said Meg Ireland (talk)
Throughout history, ever since they were invented (supposedly by George Crum [he shoulda been a baker]), "crisps" have been known in 'Merkin culture and language as "potato chips." Period. That's all there is to it. It doesn't matter what decade it is or was. So it's not confusing at all. That said, there are now a gazillion *kinds* of "potato chips", such as kettle-cooked, light salt, buffalo-wings flavor, salt-and-pepper, Hawaiian style, you name it. But they are all crisps made from potatoes. There may be *other* things that resemble them, but they will be called, geez, I dunno, "turnip chips" or "plantain chips" or "sweet potato chips" or whatever it is they're made from.... Hayford Peirce 03:33, 23 May 2009 (UTC)

"And two hardboiled eggs!" HONK! "Make that three hardboiled eggs!"

According to Wikipedia at it's a Brit phrase. If you read the article, maybe it will give a clue as to what the 'Merkin phrase for it is. Off-hand, I can't think of it. I know that similar things exist at U.S. carnies, just they generally feature stuff like throwing baseballs in order to make people drop into a tank of water or something. I can't even think of the phrase for that, either.... Hayford Peirce 20:42, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Well, apparently Danny Kaye does it in a film, so sez WP. And is also says that 'cocoanuts' is an 'old spelling', so I checked in Merriam Webster and that gives only 'coconut', so alas... My Oxford gives both spellings for the tree, curiously. Ro Thorpe 21:02, 23 January 2009 (UTC) - And MW does not give a definition for 'cocoanut', instead saying it can be found at MW abridged - must be X-rated version... Ro Thorpe 21:13, 23 January 2009 (UTC)
I think this is a can of worms that we can safely ignore, which will save us time, energy, and grief. Hayford Peirce 22:11, 23 January 2009 (UTC)

Zero & nought

I'm puzzled by Caesar's edit & comment 'zero more common that nought in UK'. That certainly wasn't the case when I grew up there. Ro Thorpe 18:05, 19 May 2009 (UTC) - Anyway, I'll change them round, so the emphasis is on the contrast. Ro Thorpe 23:38, 21 May 2009 (UTC)

I saw his comment, but since I haven't been in England since '68 I simply don't know. And even then, I can't remember what people used to say (or write). I'm sure that people still say, "All for nought", even Merkins say that, without knowing, I would say, what Nought actually means. In your time, did telephone standardistes say, "The number you want is seven nought one six two nought nought?" And I've always thought of James Bond as being Oh Oh Seven, but I suppose he could have been Zero Zero Seven or even Nought Nought Seven, hehe.... Hayford Peirce 00:02, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

I was last there in '94 (seems like 3 or 4 years ago...) so ditto. I suppose that phrase could be spelt 'all for naught'? The British telephone word was & surely still is 'O': seven O one six two double O. (I don't think there's a standardised spelling.) Bond is Double-O-Seven, but it must have been the ska record you heard called Oh Oh Seven - I have a copy, natch, or rather my mother's bungalow has... Ro Thorpe 00:29, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

Yeah, you're right, it's probably "all for naught". I've never head a ska in my life, thank goodness, although I dated a ska sax player twice about a year ago. I think that back in the days when maybe I heard Merkins talk about 007 they said Double-Oh and Oh-Oh interchangeably, although I could be wrong.... Hayford Peirce 00:42, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

OK, yes, Oh-Oh too, not so common, but yes, come to think of it. I just vandalised a bit of your comment, forgot to hold down the key when pasting, but have done a repair job - plenty of experience at the other place! Ro Thorpe 00:54, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

That's fer sure! Hayford Peirce 01:10, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

Well, I don't claim to be an authority, but I hear zero more often than nought - I think nought is generally regarded as old fashioned.
I believe the spellings naught and nought are interchangeable, both having both meanings.
And yes, of course, there's oh - only used in speech, in a sequence of numbers - you wouldn't tend to use it on its own. Never used in writing.
I've never heard of cipher meaning zero. The Oxford American Dictionary says this meaning is dated...
Caesar Schinas 14:30, 22 May 2009 (UTC)

Perhaps we need to distinguish two meanings: the concept and the symbol. What we have now, I think, is the latter, as in: a quantity of zeroes or noughts (never, here, naughts) or ciphers (yes, 'ciphers' sounds dated to me) but not ohs, which are as you say, oral & only used in a sequence. I was thinking yesterday, perhaps we don't need this entry at all, as any American/British contrast is now vestigial. Ro Thorpe 16:42, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
Except for Drafts and Noughts or whatever weird Limey name youse guys uouse fer tic-tac-toe! Hayford Peirce 16:47, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
Ciphers and crucifixes, you mean? Ro Thorpe 16:49, 22 May 2009 (UTC)
This entry is confusing unless one reads this discussion. Perhaps some explanation could be added. I heard mathematicians say "a-nought" for a0 (and "a-zero", but never "a-cipher"). However, even dated differences should be included (with explanation) because one will find them in (old) books, and maybe even in old movies. Peter Schmitt 16:06, 10 December 2009 (UTC)

Some missing words

I just discovered this nice page -- very useful for a non-native speaker who has learned (probably: Oxford) English in school and is reading books from both sides of the Atlantic, and sees more pictures from Hollywood than of British origin. I miss some differences I know about: billion, rather, o.k./all right, and the entry about "bill" is not clear enough: Where does one ask for the bill and pays with a check, and where one asks for the check and pays with a bill? ;-)
One more question: Shouldn't "See also" be moved to "Related articles"?
Peter Schmitt 21:15, 3 June 2009 (UTC)

While waiting for Noble Rheaux to reply, let me say that in the States one can ask the waiter for either the bill or the check. Check is probably more common but bill is frequently used. Bill is probably used more often for things like auto repairs, etc., where check is *never* used. Hayford Peirce 22:06, 3 June 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for that explaination Hayford; I've always wondered about the exact usage of the US bill and check.
In the UK, it is the bill which says what you must pay. You ask the waiter for the bill. If you asked for the check he wouldn't have a clue what you were talking about. Then you might pay with a cheque (never check) or, more likely, with cash - notes, which I believe the Americans call bills. Or a credit card, but that's the same in American.
Caesar Schinas 22:21, 3 June 2009 (UTC)
the word "banknotes" is used sometimes in the States, but in fairly specialized senses, I think. "Notes", never. "Bills" always, in that "I paid the bill with a $20 bill." Or "I paid the check by check." The old system of checks and balances, I guess, hehe.... Hayford Peirce 22:55, 3 June 2009 (UTC)
Thanks for those, Peter, glad you like the page. I've made a couple of additions to vocab, hope bill & check are clear, if not we could add some footnotes. Check & cheque are in the spelling section already. Billion, well, the Murcans have won that one, as their system was always simpler, if less numerical, so trillion is now 1000,000,000,000 (four lots) in British too (right??). The old British word for 1000,000,000 was, I think, milliard, but that sounds like a ball game & was never in general use even in my youth. The other words are used on both sides of the Atlantic, more or less frequently, although 'alright' is considered by many to be incorrect. OK?/O.K.?/Okay? Ro Thorpe 23:34, 3 June 2009 (UTC)

Well, I like this page because I am interested in language in general, and from the "outside" it is often not easy (or impossible) to distinguish betwen individual usage and regional differences.
It is interesting (and maybe important) to know that "billion" now differs from (german) "Billion" in BE tpp. But I think that such historical changes should be included in some way as well. Is okay and alright also a historical difference? I thought that when I learnt English, "okay" was considered to be AE. And with regards to "rather": I read that referees should be careful because phrases like "he is rather good" are interpreted drastically different in BE and in AE.
Some more (potential) candidates for the list: first floor, you know / isn't it (?), the comma in "A,B(,) or C", quid / smackers / greenback, "white metal" for silver without British hallmark. And what about differences in hyphenation?
Peter Schmitt 08:49, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
I forgot: lift/elevator. And how about film/movie/picture and cinema/film theatre(-er) -- are there differences in usage? And I just remember disc/disk. Peter Schmitt 09:35, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

I'm interested in what you are saying about billion - so far as I am aware, it now as the same meaning the world over - namely, the product of a thousand and a million; 109 or 1,000,000,000. I know it used, some time ago, to mean 1012 in some countries including the UK, but this is now called a trillion. Is there anywhere where a billion is still 1012?
OK - were you referring to the word in general, or to the spelling okay rather than ok? I don't think either is considered to be American; both are commonly used in English.
Rather - we use it rather a lot in the UK, but I don't think it's used much in America or, for that matter, Australia or New Zealand. I don't know about Canada. I wasn't aware of any possible misinterpretations - what else can it mean?
What are the issues with you know and isn't it?
Greenback is another American word for paper money, isn't it - but can it be any note, or is it just one dollar notes or something? I can't remember whether all dollar notes are green or not. Quid - is it ever used outside the UK? Never heard smackers before. Nor have I heard of that usage of white metal.
Lift is used exclusively in English, but everyone would understand if you said elevator to them.
Picture is very archaic, at least in English. You would watch a film or a video at home (possibly regardless of whether it was on a film or a DVD). In the cinema you would watch a movie or film, never video, whilst on the web it would always be a video. In the theatre you would watch a play, not a film/movie/picture...
Disc/disk varies greatly within both English and American - Generally, the English is disk and the American is disc, but according to the Oxford American Dictionary on my computer, specific usages are the same in both. Computer-related usages are almost always disk - floppy disk, disk drive, etc, - with the exception of compact disc. The we have things like disc brakes, which apparently always use the US spelling.
The Oxford comma is controversial in English - some people such as myself almost always use it, whilst others steadfastly refuse to (sometimes resulting in rather ambiguous lists). Is it used in American?
Hyphenation, again, varies greatly in English according to personal style. I think it's used less, in general, in American.
Caesar Schinas 09:56, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
At the moment, I don't have time to discuss all points. Maybe it is also better to wait for more comments (if any). However, in German there is still "Milliarde" and "Billion" (and "Billiarde", etc.), unless someone carelessly translates an English text. Concerning disc/disk: My Collins English Dictionary (of 1979) says: disk, variant spelling of disc, mainly US. And an elder friend from England who is very careful and British with his language calls "elevator" an American word. Finally, aren't there different rules how to hyphenate words in BE and AE? For instance, TeX has separate patterns for BE ("ukhyphen"). Peter Schmitt 10:23, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
Also, donut (American) and doughnut (British). Meg Ireland 10:37, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
I don't quite understand about million - what do these German words mean? Google tells me that milliarde means billion - so what does billion mean in German? And billiarde apparently means quadrillion, which we don't tend to use in the UK.
Disk - interesting; the exact reverse of what my Oxford American Dictionary seems to be saying. Hmm...
Certainly, elevator is American and not English. As I said, nobody would ever use it in English. But we would understand it.
I don't know what "rules" there are about hyphens, but in the UK they vary greatly according to personal style. My mother, for example, hyphenates all sorts of words which I would never dream of putting a hyphen in. I think the Americans hardly use the hyphen. I recall a quote from Eats, shoots and leaves - where an American author apparently wrote that "the hyphen is the most un-American thing ever". Note the hyphen in un-American...
Caesar Schinas 10:54, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
First, to answer the question: Billion = 10^12, Trillion = 10^18, Quadrillion = 10^24, (and so on), while Milliarde = 10^9, Billiarde = 10^15, Trilliarde = 10^21, etc.
Second, are we talking about the same meaning of hyphenation? I meant hyphenation as it occurs at the end of line, not whether or not to write e-mail or email.
Third, concerning rather: I recall that it was pointed that sentences like "The candidate is rather good" are interpreted as a positive evaluation in one case (it was BE, I think), while it is considered to have a negative connotation in the other case.
And concerning elevators: I do not doubt that "elevator" is understood in Britain (and "lift" in US), but the page is also about differences in usage.
Peter Schmitt 13:26, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
So in German you still use the definition of billion which we used to use in the UK. Interesting.
No, I wasn't talking about using hyphens to split words at the end of lines. I don't know of any differences in that usage between English and American, but that doesn't mean there aren't any...
Rather - yes, in English that would certainly be positive. I wasn't aware that it would be negative in American - how odd!
Elevator - yes, I was just remarking on the fact because a lot of Americanisms are hardly understood, or not understood at all, in the UK, whilst we would have no hesitation about elevator.
Caesar Schinas 17:12, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

(unindent) Donut is simply a stoopid Americanism that merchants invented to make the word "doughnut" shorter for their neon signs and painted signs. Like "nite" for "night". Or to stand out. Whatever the case, it is informal, and incorrect. It is NOT an Americanism that is used in place of the fastidious British doughnut as "elevator" is used in place of "lift". Speaking of which, did Rheaux take care of ground floor, first floor, rez de chaussee and all of that business earlier on? Hayford Peirce 17:27, 4 June 2009 (UTC)

No, I haven't done those. Ground floor is unAmerican, right? Donut, etc., I have now put in English spellings, with dire warnings. 'Rather' is a complex word, 'rather good' means 'agreeably better than expected', for example, but I don't think any of that's a US/UK thing. Quid is certainly British, but then so is the concept (although I believe 'pennies' are informally cents, including the ones 'from heaven'). The comma before 'and' is another individual thing (I vote against). Ro Thorpe 20:07, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
Merkins say, "I got in on the ground floor," to mean that they invested in, or got into, something at its very inception. In other words, a generally favorable thing. Aside from that they *very* seldom use it except, I suppose, to say, "the baker's shop is on the ground floor of the building." But they would generally say "the first floor." A Merkin's "second floor" is everyone else's "first floor." That completely baffled me as a student studying French, but I finally got the concept after a couple of years....
As for commas, we discussed this elsewhere once. The comma before "and" is called "the Oxford comma," "the Harvard comma," or "the serial comma." I myself would cut off my left hand before *not* using it. Some style manuals recommend it, others don't. As long as I don't see an article here in CZ marked BE and not using it, I will continue to insert it, ie, in all AE articles. It's probably a little more frequently used in Merkin than Brit-write. Although even here it is on the wan, I think. I believe the NYT *used* to use it, now they don't. Grrrrrrrrrr, I'll cancel my subscription! Hayford Peirce 20:38, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
Both candidates for the usage section, then... Ro Thorpe 20:57, 4 June 2009 (UTC)
Interesting; I didn't think the Oxford comma was used in American. I'm glad to hear it is. I feel the same as Hayford about it. I'd never heard it called the Harvard comma, though!
If you're going to insert it in en-US articles you should do so in en-GB too; it is just a matter of style here too. CZ should probably decide on one style and stick to it.
First floor - does anyone other than the Americans use it the American way? Frankly, the American way does make more sense from many points of view...
Rather - but Perter said that in the US it would be negative rather than positive, implying that Ro's example would mean disagreeably worse than expected to an American - Hayford or another American, is this so?
Caesar Schinas 07:29, 5 June 2009 (UTC)
Just Googled: 322,000 for Oxford comma, 2,400 for Harvard comma, 47,700 for serial comma. So Oxford it is. I've never heard anyone actually use these terms in speech -- I had to look them all up a year ago when this same discussion came up. I think that if you *said* "serial comma," an educated person would probably figure out what you meant. If you said the other two, he'd just scratch his head.
"Rather". A head-scratcher. A lot of it depends on tone and inflection, I think. If you say, "That was a rather good hamburger," I don't *think* that's quite as positive as simply saying, "That was a good hamburger." But if you say, "Oh, that hamburger was really rather good!", that's pretty positive. I don't think it's actually used all that much, however. Hayford Peirce 16:13, 5 June 2009 (UTC)
Since there is some discussion about it -- I expected that native speakers would have no problem to decide upon it -- I want to explain in more detail why I brought it up: I read (or heard?) about advise for referees that they should be careful with the word "rather" when they are writing some report because what they write is likely to interpreted other (opposite meaning) than intended on the other side of the Atlantic. (If I could remember the source I would be happy to cite it.) Peter Schmitt 16:45, 5 June 2009 (UTC)
It could very well be, I just don't know. I'd be happy to see some concrete examples, however. One word that *does* have opposite meanings, however, is the verb "table". In England, if you say, "The committee tabled the motion," it means that they put it on the table in order to discuss it. In the States, if you say exactly the same thing, it means that they TOOK IT OFF THE TABLE, so that it could NOT be discussed! Or is it the other way around? Very, very strange, in any case! Hayford Peirce 17:10, 5 June 2009 (UTC)

Two questions about usage

It is slightly off topic, but I have two questions concerning the usage of common mathematical terms. They can be found in Talk:Platonic solid and Talk:Greatest common divisor#highest common factor?. I ask them here, too, because they might go unnoticed. Peter Schmitt 23:52, 26 June 2009 (UTC)

A candidate

A remark of an American speaker suggests "cookie" vs. "biscuit" as a candidate for inclusion. Peter Schmitt 23:04, 14 July 2009 (UTC)

A shocking omission. Possibly we discussed it & couldn't agree on something...? Anyway, I'll put it in... Ro Thorpe 23:29, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
Yeah, I'm *sure* that we hashed that one over at some point a long time ago.... Hayford Peirce 23:56, 14 July 2009 (UTC)
Do British browsers accept biscuits? Howard C. Berkowitz 00:14, 15 July 2009 (UTC)

the barmaid in the honky-tonk downstairs

there's a superb old George Jones song from about 45 years ago called The Honky Tonk Downstairs at but it's probably one of those words that has disappeared from the 'Merkin language, at least in Beverly Hills and other PC spots. Whether people still use it in East Texas buckets o'blood, I dunno.... Hayford Peirce 05:55, 15 July 2009 (UTC)

There are proudly self-identified honkytonks in otherwise metrosexual Dallas. Maybe they were in a suburb. Howard C. Berkowitz 21:41, 19 July 2009 (UTC)

Cooks and cookery

I have a very nice book of recipes and pretty photos that someone gave me about 20 years ago called "The Harrod's Cookery Book." Is Harrods being affected, old-fashioned, or pretentious, or do my British cousins actually call "cookbooks" (one word) "cookery books" (two words)? Hayford Peirce 21:39, 19 July 2009 (UTC)

Gor blimey, them 'Arrods. Ro Thorpe 22:15, 19 July 2009 (UTC)
This remark could point out another entry (porridge). Peter Schmitt 13:18, 27 August 2009 (UTC)


From Hayford's corrections I see that the usage of quotes is different in BE and AE (something I was not yet aware of). This should be included here.
A question on quite another topic: Where is the meaning of the accents (which denote pronunciation) explained? I know the IPA characters, but not this notation.
Peter Schmitt 23:19, 28 September 2009 (UTC)

The accents are referenced at the beginning of the Suffixes section, where they first appear. English spellings has a table, which could be copied here.
Hayford I think regards single inverted commas as especially British, but I was brought up in England with both double and single, although in primary school it was always double. Later I read that it's a matter for publishers. A similar case is -ise, more common in BrE, and -ize, ditto AmE -but again, not, it seems, exclusively. Ro Thorpe 23:58, 28 September 2009 (UTC)
99% of all Brit novels that I own (and I used to have a ton of them), always used single quotes. What the practise (note, hehe) is today, I dunno. I do know this for an absolute fact: in the States, single quotes are never used in that way. Hayford Peirce 00:10, 29 September 2009 (UTC)
I overlooked the link to spellings or, rather, did not notice its significance (a clear hint that it leads to the explanation of the notation would be helpful). Concerning quotes: You native speakers (Hayford and you?) will have to sort out whether this should be mentioned (and how). I would think it should because it is considered a difference by some.
Another topic: Ro, you are obviously monitoring this. So I suppose you overlooked my pointer/question left just above this section. Peter Schmitt 00:17, 29 September 2009 (UTC)
An edit conflict, but never mind...I put in a bit in italics at the top. Will that do? By all means put in something about the quotes. As for porridge, what had you in mind? I'm not one for breakfast myself... Ro Thorpe 01:31, 29 September 2009 (UTC)


Does the British use of "Europe" for the continent merit an entry?

A delayed answer :-( With the link to breakfast I wanted to point to:
"Porridge is known in North America as oatmeal. To a Briton, eating oatmeal would mean eating the uncooked raw ingredient."

Peter Schmitt 00:04, 8 October 2009 (UTC)

lemme (caution) remind you about remand

I think that only my good friends the Brits use "remand" to mean "we'll send you back to jail (gaol) for 15 days while the tweedy inspector continues his inquiries." It is NOT, I gather, the same as "to sentence," ie, "I sentence you to three years in gaol." I don't *believe* that 'Merkins use "remand" this way; a judge here would say, "I'm returning you to jail for 15 days while we wait for the municipal torturer to show up to work." Hayford Peirce 03:36, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

Quite so. So do Americans use 'remand' at all? When I was a kid, people were always being 'remanded in custardy', which sounded very messy. Ro Thorpe 15:29, 6 November 2009 (UTC)
Have any of you people ever tried looking up merkin in a good dictionary? Peter Jackson 16:03, 6 November 2009 (UTC)
Quite so, my dear chap, I too grew up thinking that "remanded-in-custody" was one word, hehe. As to "merkin", A.) That's how Lyndon B. Johnson used to address "My fellow 'Merkins"; and B.) That's the name of the Peter Sellars presidential character in "Dr. Strangelove", Merkin Muffley. Look up Muffley -- it means the same as Merkin. I think that the manufacturers of them have gone the way of the buggy-whip manufacturers, however.... Hayford Peirce 16:59, 6 November 2009 (UTC)
Where does Muffley mean the same as Merkin? Ro Thorpe 00:06, 7 November 2009 (UTC)
I wuz wrong -- that was something that I read *years* ago, and I never bothered to check it. Just did, with the complete OED -- says "muffley" is an old variant of "muffler": no sexual connotations over 500 years for "muffler". I guess that because "muff", at least in Merkin English, can mean a lady's pubic hair, whoever wrote the script for "Dr. Strangelove" (Terry Southern?) conflated the two. And a Website I just checked said that the "Muffley" in this case suggested that President Peter Sellars was a "pussy".... Hayford Peirce 03:41, 7 November 2009 (UTC)
Are you thinking of Mrs Slocombe's cat? Howard C. Berkowitz 04:12, 7 November 2009 (UTC)
For the non-native speakers reading this discussion:
merkin/'mə:rkɪn/ noun an artificial covering of hair for the pubic area.
muffley/ no entry
muff/noun/ 2 vulgar slang a woman's genitals
Source: Oxford New Dictionary of English (1998). --Paul Wormer 09:49, 7 November 2009 (UTC)

To return to the original topic, you can be remanded on bail instead of in custody. Peter Jackson 11:45, 13 November 2009 (UTC)


My Collins dictionary claims: trapezoid (a bone in the wrist) = U.S. trapezium. Peter Schmitt 20:50, 19 November 2009 (UTC)

Oxford: trapezium, gb, 4 sides, 2 parallel, us = trapezoid. trapezoid, gb, 4 sides, 0 parallel, us = trapezium. then look in wikipedia, bones, eureka...and get REALLY confused... Ro Thorpe 21:52, 19 November 2009 (UTC)
I was careless and only read "trapezoid U.S. trapezium". A more careful look showed that there are two different bones but - what is really weird - that the geometrical meaning is said to be exchanged in BE and AE.
[Collins 1979]
trapezium 1. Chiefly Brit. quadrilateral having to parallel sides of unequal length
             Usual U.S. name: trapezoid
          2. Now chiefly U.S. a quadrilateral having neither pair of two sides parallel
          3. a small bone of the wrist near the base of the thumb
trapezoid 1. a quadrilateral having neither pair of two sides parallel
          2. the usual U.S. name for trapezium
          3. a small bone of the wrist near the base of the index finger
My older English-German, German-English dictionary is rather imprecise:
[Cassels 12th edition 1968, printed 1976]
Trapez     trapezoid, trapezium (math)
Trapezoid  quadrilateral (geom)
trapezium  Trapez
trapezoid  Trapezoid
By the way, what is more common -- quadrilateral or quadrangle?
Peter Schmitt 11:42, 20 November 2009 (UTC)
The normal mathematical usage is quadrilateral, unless you want to stress that you're looking at things from the point of view of angles rather than sides. A quadrangle usually means a courtyard. Peter Jackson 14:31, 20 November 2009 (UTC)

Request for translation

What's American for 'Act of Parliament'? Congressional Act? Sounds too sexy. Ro Thorpe 01:11, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

Act of Congress, as far as I know. Just did a Bing on "by act of congress" and got 54,400,000 hits, hehe, so I assume that that's the actual case.... Hayford Peirce 01:50, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

Gee, thanks, Officer Peirce. I thought of it as soon as I'd typed those tildoes... Ro Thorpe 01:56, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

Formally, once the Congress passes it, it is a Public Law, numbered for the particular session that passes it. For retrieval purposes, it then becomes a section of United States Code. There are other terms for things that have only passed the Senate or the House; I won't get into specialized things such as Continuing Resolutions. Howard C. Berkowitz 23:21, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

font vs. fount

My Collins says: font (mainly US), other word for fount. Can you confirm this? Peter Schmitt 15:58, 10 December 2009 (UTC)


I recently discovered that the US use completely different names for their notes. Here is a wiki table that outlines the whole set of differences. Chris Day 17:55, 9 February 2010 (UTC)

How strange that the American ones actually make a lot more sense than the incomprehensible British ones. I wonder if the Brit ones weren't put there by a typical WP vandal? Hayford Peirce 18:11, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
So you have never heard of a crotchets, minims and quavers? Chris Day 18:14, 9 February 2010 (UTC)
My apologies Ro, I just discovered there is a section on Musical notes. I only looked through the table. Chris Day 18:23, 9 February 2010 (UTC)


The idea that one way round is exclusively British and the other is exclusively American is recent and untrue (or am I wrong?), although there are some powerful people who, it seems, would like us to believe in the distinction. Ro Thorpe 22:31, 2 March 2010 (UTC)

DD/MM/YYYY system is used in Australia and New Zealand, so it's not just the British that use it. Meg Ireland 22:34, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
Dunno, Ro. I always thought it was more a matter of Style Manuals than of strictly national standards. Although I'm sure that our pal Napoleon the Disentimed ( probably imposed a standard system across Europe when he wasn't busy breaking eggs to make omelets or inventing the indoor flush toilet and Champagne.... Hayford Peirce 22:59, 2 March 2010 (UTC)
I think some British newspapers write mdy. Peter Jackson 17:42, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

Disc and disk

Should these be included? My assumption as a BrEng speaker was that 'disk' is for magnetic storage media and 'disc' is for everything else, including optical media. I get the impression that 'disk' is more widespread in American English, though. By the way, we now have an article called Digital versatile disk. John Stephenson 04:00, 4 March 2010 (UTC)

Yes, 'disk' always felt American to me, but apparently it is more complicated than that. Wiktionary has an interesting entry. Ro Thorpe 20:00, 4 March 2010 (UTC)
I think "compact disc" must be a registered trade mark. Have a look at the logo on the casing of one. Peter Jackson 17:41, 19 August 2010 (UTC)

Skive and slack off

Like this better; I don't think there's a term "skive" in American English, but it's there in skive. It's also a verb I think, skivving. Cool word. Also I didn't check if it's there, but "pissed" in Australian English I think means drunk, while "pissed" in American English means angry like pissed off. Also I didn't check but the word "buggered" -- I think I heard Hugh Grant saying this in a movie, but I don't know what it meant.--Thomas Wright Sulcer 01:19, 6 April 2010 (UTC)

Literally it means 'sodomised' but it's used like this: 'buggered if I know', meaning 'I haven't a clue', or 'well, I'll be buggered', meaning, 'I'm very surprised'. Both that & 'pissed' are slang, of course, and I think it was agreed to leave slang out of this section. However, elsewhere... Ro Thorpe 18:16, 6 April 2010 (UTC)
Just FYI, all these are Commonwealth English in general, Tom, not just Australian, but as Ro says, all are slang. Aleta Curry 22:46, 15 June 2010 (UTC)

Bringing up children, as opposed to food

Americans both raise and bring up children. (Bringing up Baby, Buddy, Buster, etc.) Probably the edge goes to 'raise' in speech, though this may be regional. I changed. Aleta Curry 22:46, 15 June 2010 (UTC)


(BE) ... and crawfish (AE)? --Peter Schmitt 16:27, 19 July 2010 (UTC)

Or crawdad (Louisiana English). Howard C. Berkowitz 16:28, 19 July 2010 (UTC)
Total confusion about crayfish and crawfish, Peter, they're basically interchangeable, at least in the States. In Loo-zee-anna, where they come from, they're 99% crawfish, with some crawdads thrown in, along with some "mud bugs".... Hayford Peirce 16:44, 19 July 2010 (UTC)

Grain-ularity of spelt??

Is spelt wheat spelt as such in Britain, or do you bake with spelled? Howard C. Berkowitz

No worries mate

I heard this phrase in New Zealand a lot; is it big in Britain too? It means (I think) don't worry about it, no big woof, etc.--Thomas Wright Sulcer 23:32, 10 September 2010 (UTC)

No, it's not common here. Yet. It's standard Australian. Peter Jackson 10:34, 25 September 2010 (UTC)
Other kiwi speak. "Flat white" = type of coffee. "motorway" = US "highway" or "thruway" or "tollroad" or "interstate". When roads are icy, they're called (in NZ) "frosty". "Bars" (US) are called "pubs". Lawyers are called barristers or solicitors. I believe the traffic circles (US) are called roundabouts. --Thomas Wright Sulcer 18:51, 25 September 2010 (UTC)
Roundabouts, barristers, solicitors (and lawyers), pubs, motorway are all standard British. Frosty, too, though usually figurative, a frosty reception. Ro Thorpe 19:41, 25 September 2010 (UTC)
Roundabouts are called traffic circles too. Both words could be used to describe the same thing. We have parkways, freeways and highways. Mary Ash 02:37, 26 September 2010 (UTC)
We also have driveways. One parks in a driveway and drives in a parkway. In New England, one also has rotaries, which have slightly different rules then traffic circles; my terror at roundabouts was such that I really can't say if a rotary and roundabout are close, just with different directions of rotation. Howard C. Berkowitz 04:01, 26 September 2010 (UTC)
Buildings should really be called builts. I'm emailing Webster about this.--Thomas Wright Sulcer 15:45, 26 September 2010 (UTC)
Here, "highway" seems to be mainly a legal or formal term for all public roads, however minor ("the Queen's highway"). Peter Jackson 10:10, 2 October 2010 (UTC)

(Unindent) Great old Brit song sung by Joan Baez (and then many others):

Well I'm a rake and ramblin' boy.
There's many a city I did enjoy,
And now I've married me a pretty little wife
and I love her dearer than I love my life.
Oh, she was pretty, both neat and gay
caused me to rob the broad highway
Oh, yes, I robbed it, I do declare.
And I got myself ten thousand there.
Hayford Peirce 16:50, 2 October 2010 (UTC)


Removed from punctuation section:

American English: The tip material in modern fountain pens is still conventionally called "iridium," although there is seldom any iridium in it.

British English: The tip material in modern fountain pens is still conventionally called "iridium", although there is seldom any iridium in it.

Both British and American: "Today: iridium," the teacher announced.

Peter Jackson 10:18, 26 April 2011 (UTC)

Yes, the pen sentence is too long and so the point is obscured---though it is visible. Needs shortening, and the difference highlighting in bold. Ro Thorpe 15:44, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
Done. Ro Thorpe 16:08, 26 April 2011 (UTC)


Nope, Curriculum Vitae in AE is Curriculum Vitae. People who have resumes in the U.S. generally don't have CVs and those of us who have CVs also have resumes. On the other hand, is this table suggesting that what we call a CV in the U.S. the British call a resume? I can't imagine a plumber going around peddling his CV looking for work; but then again, I'd expect a British plumber to be a lot more educated than a U.S. plumber, so maybe he would have a CV. Russell D. Jones 16:47, 26 April 2011 (UTC)

I *think* that CV (or its longer term) is only used in the States in the realms of Academe.... Hayford Peirce 16:56, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
My point exactly, which means that CV doesn't translate as resume. Unless, I'm to understand the British academics have "resumes." Russell D. Jones 17:17, 26 April 2011 (UTC)
I've put in a footnote, which I hope covers it. Ro Thorpe 00:20, 27 April 2011 (UTC)

what about leaped and leapt

Sometims I use one in my fiction writing, sometimes the other, depending one which one sounds best to me at the time. A copyeditor on my first novel wanted to changed a leapt to leaped because I had used leaped earlier, but I refused to let her do so. Is there a creeped to go with crept? Is leapt more Brit than 'Merkin? I would say so offhand, but really dunno.... Hayford Peirce 17:33, 25 May 2011 (UTC)

There are a number of verbs like this (spell, learn, though not creep, indeed). The regular form is more common in American, but as you can see at English irregular verbs I was relucant to be more specific. I might rewrite a little there. I've always used the irregular forms, and have only recently become aware how often the regular ones are used (as e.g. in Wikipedia). Ro Thorpe 20:26, 25 May 2011 (UTC)
My humble vote is for leapt as in crept. I also like burgled as in burglarizing but that's not used much any more. Sorry for butting in :-) but I couldn't resist. Mary Ash 20:40, 25 May 2011 (UTC)
It's always burgled in British. Burglarized is American. Peter Jackson 09:35, 26 May 2011 (UTC)

Two missing entries

What about "special(i)ty"? And "judg(e)ment"? --Peter Schmitt 21:23, 25 May 2011 (UTC)

There was a long discussion somewhere else, I forget where, quite recently about "judgement" vs. "judgment". It's complex. As far as "speciality" is concerned, I must confess that I've never seen it that way outside of, say, la spécialité de la maison, which, of course, is not quite the same thing. Hayford Peirce 22:02, 25 May 2011 (UTC)
From English spellings: júdgment (AmE and BrE, preferred in legal contexts in British) = júdgement (chiefly British). I'd forgotten that. But I'm surprised about Hayford's remarks on the other one, and will investigate.
Googling, I looked at Merriam Webster's entries for both. They overlap, but there is no US/UK difference mentioned that I could find. I must say that 'specialty' always had an American flavo(u)r for me - it was the name of an LA record label. Ro Thorpe 22:38, 25 May 2011 (UTC)
Collins English Dictionary 1979: Speciality or U.S. specialty (with different pronunciation), and judgment or judgement (no mention of BE/AE), but only Last Judgment, Judgment Day etc. Judg(e)ment was discussed in the forum (including legal usage). --Peter Schmitt 23:08, 25 May 2011 (UTC)
This is very strange. My Merriam-Websters Collegiate Dictionary, 11th Edition, which is the standard medium-sized American dictionary, doesn't even *mention* speciality. What does my 1932 M-W Unabridged International, the authority, have to say? Hmm, they have a long entry, with several meanings, and say, "See Specialty". And at "Specialty" they have an even longer entry with even more meanings. I confess that I've never heard the first one before. Sorry that I changed the name of the Wiki Motion, Peter. Can you, as a sysop change it back without too much trouble? Hayford Peirce 23:16, 25 May 2011 (UTC)
No need to change that back -- it is both correct. But since I was surprised about the "misspelled" I checked my dictionary. And I, too, learnt something (though, I think, I have noticed the difference before). --Peter Schmitt 23:44, 25 May 2011 (UTC)

Confusing entry

In the table, the entry on "-pp + suffix" and "-p + suffix" is (for me) confusing. Shouldn't it be similar to "-t+t + suffix"? --Peter Schmitt 22:14, 26 May 2011 (UTC)

Yes, they were the wrong way round. Thanks for spotting that. Ro Thorpe 22:30, 26 May 2011 (UTC)
Judg(e)ment, by the way, is in the spelling section. Ro Thorpe 22:37, 26 May 2011 (UTC)
Sorry, I didn't see this. --Peter Schmitt 23:22, 26 May 2011 (UTC)
OK! Ro Thorpe 00:31, 27 May 2011 (UTC)


Taken from RW: Had you ever noticed that American cats tend to say meow while British ones usually say miaow? (Peter Jackson). Is this true? --Peter Schmitt 14:05, 6 June 2011 (UTC)

I was under the impression that there were several acceptable spellings, but I do put 'miaow'... Ro Thorpe 17:07, 6 June 2011 (UTC)
Wiktionary says that 'miaow' is a traditional British spelling increasingly being replaced by 'meow'. Same old story. That impels me to include it, of course... Ro Thorpe 01:09, 7 June 2011 (UTC)


Heaux O Reault! Check out this M-W definition of "punter" -- I don't think that the two British meanings even exist in 'Merkin.... Hayford Peirce 17:23, 8 June 2011 (UTC)

Indeed, gambler and patron meanings are common in BrE. I'm not surprised they are non-AmE. Ro Thorpe 19:40, 8 June 2011 (UTC)
I dunno if 'Merkins call little boats "punts", either. So if you don't have a boat, you don't have a punter for it. I think that 99% of all 'Merkins, if queried, would say that a punter is the guy in American football who kicks the ball on 4th down situations. (The guy who tries to kick the ball through the goal posts at various moments is called the field goal kicker or the point-after kicker.) Hayford Peirce 19:45, 8 June 2011 (UTC)
it's a specific type of boat associated with rivers in university towns. the rest i dunno... Ro Thorpe 20:20, 8 June 2011 (UTC)
I think they might be "sculls" in 'Merkin-speak. Hayford Peirce 21:24, 8 June 2011 (UTC)
no, it's a flat thing you can stand up in, propelled by a pole. Ro Thorpe 21:35, 8 June 2011 (UTC)
Like a baby scow, then, or garbage boat.... Hayford Peirce 22:28, 8 June 2011 (UTC)
closer, but way upmarket. Ro Thorpe 23:30, 8 June 2011 (UTC)


I discovered this when I heard "frosting on the cake" on TV. --Peter Schmitt 11:24, 23 June 2011 (UTC)

I think we *might* have discussed this once before somewhere -- in 'Merkin English at any rate, they're just about interchangeable. There might *once* have been a clear distinction between the two, but for many years now it has been blurred. Hayford Peirce 16:01, 23 June 2011 (UTC)
My dictionary says "mostly U.S." with regard to "frosting". ("Frosting" was new to me.) That's why I asked. --Peter Schmitt 23:15, 23 June 2011 (UTC)
I myself grew up saying "frosting". "Icing" always sounded hoity-toity to me. Like saying "to-mah-to" instead of "toe-may-to". Although the phrase "oh, that was just the icing on the cake" is, I would say, *far* more common than using "frosting". Hayford Peirce 01:39, 24 June 2011 (UTC)
'Icing on the cake' is the expression, AFAIK. I had never, ever, in all my mumble mumble years of existence on the planet, heard the expression 'frosting on the cake' till Peter wrote it above. 'Icing' is always used in 'icing sugar' (has anyone ever hoid of 'frosting sugar'?) I say 'icing' for smooth finishes and 'frosting' for puffy ones, but I think that's just moi. I think 'icing' is also the correct term for the piped stuff used for lettering, though. Aleta Curry 05:31, 26 June 2011 (UTC)

You coulda knocked me over wiv a feavver....

I vaguely knew this, but didn't bring it to full consciousness until a long article in today's NYT sports section about the five minutes tennis players spend hitting balls to each other before the actual match begins. It's such a traditional part of tennis that no one, I think, literally even *thinks* about it. It's just what you do, and no one knows when it started. Anyway, in 'Merkin-talk it's called a "warm-up", and one can say either, "Let's go have a warm-up," or "Let's warm up." In Brit-talk, however, it's a "knock-up", and I doubt if one says, "Let's knock up." In 'Merkin-speak, the verb "to knock up" is rather vulgar, or at least it always has been. Perhaps it no longer is.... Hayford Peirce 19:52, 25 June 2011 (UTC)

"Warmup" is perfectly normal general usage over here, though I can't speak for tennis specifically. Peter Jackson 08:50, 27 June 2011 (UTC)
It was always 'knock up' in England when I played tennis. Ro Thorpe 13:39, 27 June 2011 (UTC)

The Tempest

I think yer wrong here, old myte: us 'Merkins say "a tempest in a teacup", not in a teapot. We could trying googling the variations, I s'pose.... Hayford Peirce 00:23, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

Well, I guess I'm wrong once again. Google gives 612,000 hits for teapot and 507,000 for teacup. I think that I've always said "teacup" myself. Except, of course, when I haven't. But I do know that I've never said "storm in a tea-receptacle" in me life.... Hayford Peirce 00:27, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

But neither... but nor

Brits apparently say (and write) "But nor" to start a sentence, as in this item in today's NYT op-edit column by a Brit: "Sure, they don't belong in Arcadia -- but then nor do we....he found the turbines 'absolutely beautiful', but nor are they Jenkins'...." I'm pretty sure that a true-blue 'Merkin would say, or write, "but neither." One caveat: it may be that the correct structure is "but nor" and that Merkins simply don't use it much in writing, whereas in speaking they *always* said, "And neither do I" and "But neither do I". Whaddya think? Hayford Peirce 21:17, 28 August 2011 (UTC)

Well, I think I always say "But neither". Sorry!
I came across "power outage/cut" somewhere. Certainly I'd always use the latter. Ro Thorpe 01:36, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
But do you think that there ekchewelly IS a difference in Brit/Merkin usage? Now I'm not so sure -- except mebbe as a written/spoken difference? Hayford Peirce 03:13, 29 August 2011 (UTC)
I can only say that 'But nor...', if not actually wrong, is a little alien/unsettling to me. Have to go out now; will look into it later. Ro Thorpe 14:14, 29 August 2011 (UTC)

the din of the dyne

I saw, I think in the NYT yesterday, something that mentioned something about a "dynasty", but said that since it was an English book, or movie, or something, naturally it would be pronounced "din-asty" -- not "die-(n)-asty" as in 'Merkin. Is this true? Didn't know that.... Hayford Peirce 18:36, 18 October 2011 (UTC)

yes, that's quite right. it's in the article, under 'other pronunciations', towards the end. Ro Thorpe 22:08, 18 October 2011 (UTC)
Ta, myte! I had missed that, somehow! We learn something new ever' day! Hayford Peirce 23:51, 18 October 2011 (UTC)


[}: why? These are the current standard usages. Peter Jackson 08:58, 13 April 2012 (UTC)

The rise of the phrase 'African American' alongside the likes of 'Italian American' is a separate matter, I think. 'Black' is still the neutral register for both variants. Ro Thorpe 17:44, 13 April 2012 (UTC)
Why do you hear Americans calling people African-American who aren't even American if it's not because they've been indoctrinated that black is incorrect? Peter Jackson 10:25, 16 April 2012 (UTC)
Ignorance knows no bounds. Ro Thorpe 16:45, 16 April 2012 (UTC)
WHERE do you see Americans, even ignorant ones, calling non-American black people "American-Americans"? I mean, do you have a quote from somewhere where some American writes, "When I was in Mali last week, I sure saw an awful lot of African-Americans"? I gotta say, that I have never noticed this (strange) phenomenon myself.... Hayford Peirce 00:11, 17 April 2012 (UTC)
The Mayor of New York (I think), welcoming Mandela a year or two back, called him something like "the most famous African-American in the world". You can probably track down the source if you really think it's worth the bother. Peter Jackson 09:14, 17 April 2012 (UTC)
I didn't find anything in my google search. Be careful though, stereotyping is a method that bigots use to communicate with each other. :) D. Matt Innis 13:41, 17 April 2012 (UTC)

opinion polls seem to make the two terms comparable among the people themselves. Peter Jackson 10:16, 25 May 2012 (UTC)


Could someone put in absolute/overall majority, please? As recently discussed in the forums. Too numerate for me. Ro Thorpe 16:04, 21 May 2012 (UTC)

I think it works like this:
  1. Br (relative) majority = Am plurality
  2. Br (absolute/overall) majority = Am majority
In British, majority seems to be used in both senses. It also means the numerical difference in votes between winner and runner-up. Peter Jackson 10:28, 23 May 2012 (UTC)

Thanks. I imagine 'Lexis and idiom' would be the best place. Ro Thorpe 12:57, 25 May 2012 (UTC)

Parliaments &c

Over here it's standard practice to refer to the "parliaments" of non-English-speaking countries. I think Americans would call them "legislatures", but maybe one could confirm this. Peter Jackson 09:58, 2 June 2012 (UTC)

Sounds right to me. Ro Thorpe 12:52, 7 June 2012 (UTC)
I think that Americans in *general* will speak about the legislatures of countries. But then will particularize when talking about, say, the Swedish parliament, deferring to what that country itself calls its body. They might say, "The Chambre de Deputes is the main French legislature." Hayford Peirce 20:05, 22 June 2012 (UTC)


The other day I heard the Foreign Secretary pronounce this the American way. This is probably particularly common when it's used in the financial sense, but this was the ordinary one. Peter Jackson 10:01, 2 June 2012 (UTC)

Hmmm. The 'Merkin way is, I suppose: LEV-rage, or mebbe LEV-er-age. Depending on whether yer the sort of speaker who says Feb-ru-ary or Feb-ry. What's the Brit way? Hayford Peirce 15:37, 2 June 2012 (UTC)
The base word is always pronounced leever over here, whereas I understand you say it levver. Traditionally we've used a corresponding pronunciation for the derivative, but I was commenting on the increasing Americanization of that.
Any comment on the preceding thread? Peter Jackson 10:14, 7 June 2012 (UTC)

Sugarman Treacle

Simon Templar used to use this name occasionally in the 30s and 40s as an alias, which always amused me when I was a kid. On a related matter, it now appears to me that "treacle" is not exactly "molasses". Cooks Illustrated of Sept/Oct 2008 has a recipe for "sticky Toffee Pudding Cakes" and says that they had to rework the recipe for the toffee somewhat because finding authentic treacle in the States was difficult. And WP, in its "treacle" article says that the two kinds of treacle, both golden and dark, are not as robust as molasses. On the other hand, the generally magisterial Harold McGee says on page 675 of "On Food and Cooking, The Science and Lore of the Kitchen", that they're the same thing.... Hayford Peirce 20:01, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

mus, nus, mous, nous, or something else

I have a book called The History of Professional Tennis by a Brit named Joe McCauley that has a ton of otherwise unavailable info about the days before Open Tennis. Organized year by year by chapters, it's not the sort of book you can read straight through. I did read the entire thing a couple of years ago, however, and one of the things I noticed was that he occasionally (maybe half a dozen times in the book) used a phrase like "Gonzales displayed greater mus in the second set and ran out the match." Or "Hoad's mus today was clearly superior to Rosewall's, and he brushed him aside easily." I did look the word up, and it seemed to be old Greek (?) for "strength", manly endeavor, firepower, or some such. I've just now been flipping through the book in question and can't seem to find an example, although I know it's there. Any ideas? McCauley is just writing a straightforward book, without any fancy language except this particular word, so I'm curious as to whether it's a Brit-type word -- it's certainly unknown on *my* side of the water.... Hayford Peirce 21:02, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

Never came across it myself, but English vocabulary is enormous. As our Brazilian colleague noted recently on the forum, Shakespeare alone uses over 14,000 words. Peter Jackson 09:20, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
There is 'nous', rhyming with 'mouse', meaning 'savvy', I think from Greek - could it be that? Ro Thorpe 13:52, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
Probably is. M-W give a first sense of it, "intelligent purposive principle of the world,". then a second meaning, Chiefly British, "common sense, alertness". I'll take another look in the book.... Hayford Peirce 14:28, 23 June 2012 (UTC)
Hah, I finally found an example! On page 85 of McCauley's book, he writes about the 1958 Slazenger Professional Championship in Eastbourne: "In the quarter-finals the All-England Club coach acquitted himself superbly to extend Trabert to a fifth set. In this he led 5-4 and, at 15-40, held 2 match points only for the American's greater nous to see him through the crisis...." Trust me, I doubt if *any* well-educated New York Times reader would have the *faintest* idea what this meant if it were to turn up in the pages of the Times. Is this worth an entry?" Hayford Peirce 01:50, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
Yes & yes, but both Oxford and Collins distinguish 2 senses: intellect, divine reason on the 1 hand and gumption on the other, of which the latter only is identified as Br & colloquial. So the American translation would seem to be 'sense, gumption'. Ro Thorpe 17:39, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
I think that your earlier suggestion of "savvy" is probably closer, also "gumption" is probably pretty close also. Hayford Peirce 18:03, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
Well, let's take a look and see what the magisterial 2nd Edition M-W. Unabridged says about it on page 1670. 1.) A long bit of philosophical baloney. "2.) Mental quickness or cleverness; ready wit humorous", nothing more -- this is a 1932-1940 book.... Maybe Nero Wolfe would have used it in a 1930's story.... Hayford Peirce 18:27, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
OK, I've made an entry. Ro Thorpe 19:30, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

Shakespeare's word count

Some sources say 31,123 or whatnot. Others say 15,000 plus 7,000 in the sonnets for a total of 21,000. I myself have always heard the 21,000 figure.... Hayford Peirce 16:10, 23 June 2012 (UTC)

The figure I was remembering, and seemed to be referred to on the forum, was 14,444. I found that many years ago in a book by A.S. Diamond called something like The Nature and Origin of Language, or Language: Its Origin and History. I haven't tried looking for sources yet, but would point out it depends on
  1. which edition you're looking at
  2. what counts as a "word"
Peter Jackson 14:30, 25 June 2012 (UTC)
Further thought. The second version you cite seems highly implausible. Think about it. There are 154 sonnets, mostly of 14 lines; one has 15, one 12. Total 2155 lines. The figure of 7000 additional words works out at more than 3 new words per line. Peter Jackson 08:41, 26 June 2012 (UTC)
Yes, that occurred to me at the time I wrote it. It comes from a very scholarly looking Shakespearean site, and I didn't check it out any further. But on the face of it, it sounds like baloney to me. I'll take another look, though. Hayford Peirce 14:25, 26 June 2012 (UTC)

Here's from a book about statistics, at:

The same ideas have been used to analyze the works of Shakespeare. Statisticians Bradley Efron and Ronald Thisted wondered how many words Shakespeare actually knew, many of which he never used. Now, the nationalities at the party correspond to different words in Shakespeare’s plays and poems. The data collected at the party can be regarded as the first sample. For the Shakespeare question, the first sample consists of the complete known works of Shakespeare, specifically the number of words that are used once, twice, three times, and so forth. Table 1 shows a (small) part of the first sample. The table says that in the works of Shakespeare, 14,376 words were used exactly once, 4343 words were used exactly twice, and so forth. The full table is much larger and continues far beyond 10 occurrences. For example, in the full table, we would see that 5 words were used exactly 100 times and 846 words were used more than 100 times. In his complete works, Shakespeare used 31,534 different words and a grand total of 884,647 words counting repetitions. (The task of counting words is a nontrivial task; the results are compiled in a concordance of the works of Shakespeare.) Table 1. The number of words in the complete works of Shakespeare that are use once, twice, up to ten times.

Number of words & occurrences

  • 14,376 -- 1
  • 4343 -- 2
  • 2292 --3
  • 1463 -- 4
  • 1043 -- 5
  • 837 -- 6
  • 638 -- 7
  • 519 -- 8
  • 430 -- 9
  • 364-- 10

On the other hand, a 1974 Kirkus Review of the Harvard Concordance of Shakespeare says this: "Weighing in at just under ten pounds -- 1,612 pages, an entry for each of 29,000 words (335 comprised the Bard's core vocabulary) -- words words words -- but such words -- a reference of inestimable value -- the last word in concordances."

So the people at Harvard who did the counting (who knows *how* they counted them), came up with 29,000 apparently.... Hayford Peirce 18:31, 26 June 2012 (UTC)

The people at the Open Source Shakespeare at have this to say on their "stats" page, which pretty much jibes with the Harvard count:

Quick facts

  • The plays contain 34,896 total lines spoken by 1,221 characters.
  • There are 884,429 total words in Shakespeare's 43 works.
  • There are 28,829 unique word forms, and 12,493 occur only once.
  • Those unique words account for 43.3% of total word forms.
  • The top 10 most frequently occuring words make up 21.4% of all words.
  • The top 100 most frequently occuring words make up 53.9% of all words.
  • The top 1% most frequently occuring words make up 66.7% of all words.

question -- what counts as a word? are played, play, and playing three words or one? Hayford Peirce 18:45, 26 June 2012 (UTC)

Same lexeme, but three different words. Ro Thorpe 22:20, 26 June 2012 (UTC)
I think it's more complicated than that. play noun and play verb are different words. played is the same word as play verb. Not sure whether playing counts as same word as play verb, or whether it's two additional words, gerund and participle. Peter Jackson 09:35, 27 June 2012 (UTC)
Checking, I see the OSS linked above follows an 1864 edition. See the article I linked above for info about differences between editions. In particular, the number of plays has varied between 36 and 43, so, quite apart from textual variation, one would expect quite some variation in statistics. Peter Jackson 09:40, 27 June 2012 (UTC)

doghouse vs. kennel

I think that 'Merkins use both, but in somewhat different ways. When I was a little kid, we had an enormous old house with a big back yard, two German shepherds, and a Victorian-type structure out in the garden that was an average-sized doghouse but with filigree and stuff on it that certainly fancied it up. That was the "doghouse". Inside the house, we had a largish added-on room called "the shed" that had work benches for us kids and was generally just an enormous walk-in room to get out of the snow when you came in the side door. But it also had a built-in "kennel", a caged-in area to keep the dogs when necessary. So to me there was always a clear distinction between the two. If you have a *caged* area outside, then that is probably called the "kennel". If it's a wooden structure, then that's the "doghouse". ALL indoor areas, I think, are called "kennels". And don't forget, the people that put on the biggest dog show in the world are the American Kennel Club, not the American Doghouse Club. Or maybe it's the Westminster Kennel Club.... Hayford Peirce 20:13, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

I think there may have been such a distinction here in the past. Remember Peter Pan? Hence the phrase "in the doghouse". But I think that's the only normal use of the word here nowadays. But Aleta is the one to ask really. Peter Jackson 14:24, 25 June 2012 (UTC)

fall vs autumn

I think we had an informal discussion about this somewhere a couple of years ago. Just came across this article explicating the whole thing (more or less): Hayford Peirce 16:41, 4 October 2012 (UTC)

Yes, good article. There are indeed only two real seasons, bearable and unbearable; and I remember that I only became aware of the transitional ones later in my childhood - a common experience, I should imagine. Her point that fall fits in with the other three, being Saxon, is well made - but what about the lovely word autumnal? Ro Thorpe 21:24, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
Autumnal is indeed a fine word! Don't think we could use "fallen" instead, hehe. My own experience is that 'Merkins use the two words interchangeably. Maybe because I grew up in New England, with its beautiful autumn leaf display, then the transition into a *real* winter, then the coming of spring so that I could play baseball again, I was always super-aware, even as a little kid, of the notion of four seasons. The "winter" we spent in Florida, no. Also, everyone in the States, even if they don't follow baseball, is aware of the fact that the teams go south around the first of March to train for the forthcoming season - this is called "spring training".... Until I read this article, I had no idea that the whole notion was fairly recent.... Hayford Peirce 22:54, 4 October 2012 (UTC)
I once assumed that Americans didn't say autumn, until I remembered the tune Autumn Leaves. They certainly do seem to be interchangeable. Still I don't hear Brits saying fall. Southern England fits your New England description nicely, and primary school teachers are very inclined to teach spring and autumn. Ro Thorpe 02:01, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

cross out/strike out

I think this is wrong, at least to a degree. I never in my life heard the term "strike" out until I started writing novels around 1985 and discovered that there was a snarky way of crossing over words that was called "strike out" -- I used the technique in my first novel, Napoleon Disentimed. So maybe it existed before I knew about it. BUT I guarantee you this -- if you take a billion 'Merkins with pen and paper and they write something, and then they draw a line through one of these words, they are going to say, "I crossed it out." Never in a billion years are they gonna say, "I struck it out." To strike out is basically a baseball term that has entered the language in a way totally different from this usage. "Failure". Ie, "I struck out with that girl I was with last night." Hayford Peirce 01:56, 6 October 2012 (UTC)


Wot about kerb vs. curb? It's the same word but spelled differently, like swop vs. swap.... Hayford Peirce 15:23, 20 June 2013 (UTC)

Nice one. English spellings has it, but for some reason it never made it over here. Ro Thorpe 17:50, 20 June 2013 (UTC)

Last section

is still unclear, if not wrong. CUP American style is l.c. after colon, but some authorities use cap. Peter Jackson 09:51, 31 August 2013 (UTC)

I'm inclined to scrap it then. I was just going on observation. Ro Thorpe 13:03, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
I've seen it both ways all my life, and have never been able to make up my own mind about it. I use far more colons than the average person, I think, and I basically just use Caps about 50% of the time, depending on my mood, I imagine. Hayford Peirce 15:22, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
I've rewritten. A ref to CUP could be added if the section is thought still worth including. Ro Thorpe 17:57, 31 August 2013 (UTC)
Okay, you got me to pull down my New York Times Manual of Style and Usage. Here's what it says: (note the colon, hehe) "In ordinary writing, the first word after the colon is not capitalized if what follows is not a complete sentence: There were three considerations: expense, time and feasibility. But: He promised this: The company will make good all the losses. Upon reflection, that certainly makes sense to me. Hayford Peirce 04:27, 1 September 2013 (UTC)
Thanks, yes, very clear. I've rewritten again. Ro Thorpe 13:55, 1 September 2013 (UTC)


is used here by lawyers, I think. Have to check the exact meaning, but I've a feeling it refers to land. Peter Jackson 10:40, 13 January 2014 (UTC)

Yes, checked OED. Originally a term in English law, referring to land. Analogization mainly American. Peter Jackson 09:10, 14 January 2014 (UTC)

OK, I'm happy with the entry as it is, then. Ro Thorpe 20:56, 14 January 2014 (UTC)
I've qualified it a bit. Peter Jackson 11:27, 16 January 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that's fine. Ro Thorpe 13:04, 16 January 2014 (UTC)

Whilst I've been away....

Heaux there Aulx Noble Rheau!

Whilst I haven't contributed much here lately, I haven't forgotten about it. Whilst chatting online the other day with one of the many Brits amongst us here in the States, it occurred to me that 'Merkins almost NEVER use "whilst", just about always using "while". Amongst IS used occasionally, but I would wager that it is 5% to "among"'s 95%. Cheerio! (By the way, she checked out this page and found it outstanding!) Hayford Peirce 21:11, 2 February 2014 (UTC)

Very pleased to hear that. Of course, you're welcome to make any changes. I have been discussing 'whilst' and 'amongst' recently, was it here? I can't find it. I see Caesar Schinas uses 'whilst' above - I thought he was American. [Wrongly.] Long departed, anyway. Ro Thorpe 00:19, 3 February 2014 (UTC)

Two minor items

My friend said that in the definition of "independent schools" they aren't ALWAYS "public schools". And that Glasgow has an underground tube system that *they* call the "subway". Mebbe just to spite the Brits! Hayford Peirce 21:19, 2 February 2014 (UTC)

She adds: "if you want to clarify further, i /think/ the definition of a public school is one which was set up by a certain charter to provide 'free' education,

free being that it was open to the public" Hayford Peirce 21:26, 2 February 2014 (UTC)

Indeed, there are "private" schools too, but the public ones are posher and more expensive, true pillars of the establishment. AmE public school = BrE state school. Ro Thorpe 00:29, 3 February 2014 (UTC)
Properly speaking, a public school is non-profit-making, a private school is a business. Not all public schools in that sense are posh or expensive, while some private ones are. The public image of a "public school" is something different again.
Equivalences aren't straightforward: 1/3 of English state schools are also church schools, while/st America separates church and state. Peter Jackson 10:22, 3 February 2014 (UTC)
Even Eton has free places. They get round that by allocating them on the basis of exams including Latin, which is not taught in state schools, so only those whose parents can afford preparatory schools or private tutors can get them.
One public school that does live up to the original intention is Christ's Hospital, where there's a maximum parental income.
Maybe most are in between. Peter Jackson 11:44, 3 February 2014 (UTC)
And of course it's common nowadays for people to call them all private. That's probably more politics than Americanism. Peter Jackson 11:46, 3 February 2014 (UTC)
"Subway" here usually means a pedestrian/cycle underpass. Peter Jackson 11:47, 3 February 2014 (UTC)

Standing and running

We already have this in the Vocabulary section. Perhaps the Vocabulary entries that need some explanation [often thus] should go in the Lexis section, but that would take a lot of reorganisation. Ro Thorpe 16:41, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

framed and stitched

I've been chatting with a Brit lady elsewhere and she used the word stitched in the sense, "UK coppers stitched a Brit. Member of Parliament." I was baffled until she told me that it meant framed. This is a new one for me.... Hayford Peirce 21:35, 14 August 2014 (UTC)

Very colloquial, if not slang. Also 'stitched up'. Ro Thorpe 23:43, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
The latter is the only form I've come across. The former is presumably recent. Peter Jackson 10:18, 15 August 2014 (UTC)

some further comment from my Brit friend

  1. <sophie-> you can add a note if you want that judgment is only used in british english for a court judgment
  2. <sophie-> so a court’s ruling, would always be a judgment, not a judgement even though judgement is BE
  3. <sophie-> i think so anyway
  4. <sophie-> also sulphur has been standardised within chemistry, so it will always be spelt sulfur in that context
  5. <sophie-> can you see how pedantic my teachers in britain were!?
  6. <sophie-> you could flesh out the murder bit under law too
  7. <sophie-> in that the definition for murder in england is literally ‘the unlawful killing of a human being under the queen’s peace with malice aforethought’. no requirement of premeditation or planning as for first degree murder
  8. <sophie-> and that the differences between 1st and 2nd degree in the uk is determined by the court by virtue of a voluntary manslaughter defence plead (suicide pact + diminished responsibility + loss of control) not by a prosecutor Hayford Peirce 22:03, 14 August 2014 (UTC)
I've reformatted the above into NL for ease of reference.
  1. Not quite clear what the "only" applies to. Legal literature always uses gm for court rulings (here); for other uses I'm fairly sure you'll find both gm and gem; it's more a question of relative frequencies.
  2. included in 1
  3. ditto
  4. Sulfur is the official recommendation of IUPAC (along with aluminium and caesium) but all British books I've seen ignore this
  5. Included in 6
  6. True, but is it needed in this article?
  7. I don't think English law officially recognizes a distinction between voluntary and involuntary manslaughter (unlike some/most? US systems). The rest of this seems confused. There are the following possibilities in the mroe straightforward cases:
    1. charge of murder
      1. plea of guilty
      2. plea of guilty of manslaughter, not guilty of murder
        1. verdict of guilty of murder
        2. verdict of not guilty of muder
      3. plea of not guilty
        1. verdict of guilty of murder
        2. verdict of guilty of manslaughter, not guilty of murder
        3. verdict of not guilty
    2. charge of manslaughter
      1. plea of guilty
      2. plea of not guilty
        1. verdict of guilty
        2. verdict of not guilty
    3. no prosecution

Does this differ significantly from American systems? Peter Jackson 10:33, 15 August 2014 (UTC)

swimming bath

Seems to me that I recall seeing swimming bath being used in Brit lit as opposed to swimming pool in 'Merkin talk. When I wuz 15, I thought that this was incredibly odd. Fifty-five years later I've come to think that bath actually makes more sense than pool. Hayford Peirce 15:27, 16 August 2014 (UTC)

Beckenham Baths of my youth: perhaps usage is confined to indoor pools. Ro Thorpe 17:09, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that would make sense. On the other hand, if that usage were common for indoor pools, then the term might well have moved outdoors. On the third hand, how many folks in the UK have outdoor baths or pools in the first place? Hayford Peirce 17:43, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes, that seems most likely. Alas I can't remember the name or location of the open-air pool my dad used to take me to in a park in SE London. It may have closed by now, anyway. Ro Thorpe 20:26, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
Here's a link that has many references to baths -- but I don't know what the most recent one is: Hayford Peirce 20:44, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
Many references to Torquay at its famous "swimming bath". Apparently A. Christie lived there.... Hayford Peirce 20:48, 16 August 2014 (UTC)
One of the most famous features of the OLD San Francisco were the "Sutro Baths", a truly opulent Victorian sorta thing. You can still see their ruins today, just beside the Cliff House.... Hayford Peirce 21:04, 16 August 2014 (UTC)

Art galleries

Hi Peter and Ro, I'm totally confused by this. Are you saying that Americans call commercial enterprises in which paintings (and other objets d'art) are displayed and sold "museums"? If so, let me assure you as an American (North, U.S.A. division), that such is not the case. Art galleries are called "art galleries". People buy and sell paintings there. Museums, in which paintings are on display, but not for sale, are called "museums". There is a total distinction between the two, and the two are never confused. I live in Tucson, an urban area of about a million people. Half a mile from me is the deGrazia Gallery in the Sun; two miles from me is Gallery Row, where five or six galleries that offer paintings for sale are next to each other in the same building. Take a look at this link to see ALL that a Google search brings up for "art gallery tucson": [1]. Hayford Peirce 14:12, 26 August 2014 (UTC)

Thanks. I've made a provisional change. I don't think what you call an "art gallery" would be so called here. Maybe someone more arty than I knows better. Peter Jackson 10:04, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
When I spent six months in London in '68, my closest friend was an American who worked for Christie's. He, and everyone around him, talked about art galleries, and we used to walk past some on the streets. I could be wrong, of course. Wish I could ask him, but he died the other day.... Hayford Peirce 23:17, 28 August 2014 (UTC)
Yes of course there are things called art galleries here, but they, or some of them, you'd call museums. Peter Jackson 08:44, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
To clarify (?)
  • place people go to look at art for art's sake: Br art gallery, Am museum
  • place people go to look at things (which may or may not include art) for some sort of intellectual interest (in a broad sense): Br Am museum
  • place people go to buy art: Am art gallery, Br art shop? (I'm really not sure about this one; can't remember ever hearing anyone mention one, though they obviously exist)
Peter Jackson 09:03, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
Here's what WP has to say in the article Art museum:
"The term is used for both public galleries, which are non-profit or publicly owned museums that display selected collections of art. On the other hand private galleries refers to the commercial enterprises for the sale of art. However, both types of gallery may host traveling exhibits or temporary exhibitions including art borrowed from elsewhere.
"In broad terms, in North American usage the word gallery alone often implies a private gallery, while a public gallery is more likely to be described as an art museum. In British and Commonwealth usage, the word gallery alone implies a public gallery, while a private or commercial gallery will be distinguished using those terms, and the word museum alone is generally understood to refer to institutions holding collections of historic, archaeological or scientific artefacts, rather than of fine art."
Peter Jackson 09:08, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
I've now changed it to accord with this, as WP is likely to be more reliable than my pure guesswork. Still open to correction by anyone who knows better. Peter Jackson 09:11, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
Thanks, Peter! I've gotta admit, this is something on which I've been absolutely tone deaf! If only dear old Harry Bailey were around to enlighten us, I'm sure he could have given us 10,000 words on the subject! Hmmm, now I'm wondering if he was notable enough for a bio, I'll do a little researc... Hayford Peirce 13:53, 29 August 2014 (UTC)
On consideration, I think this is too complicated for the table, so I'll move it elsewhere. Peter Jackson 09:17, 30 August 2014 (UTC)

two more, I think

I'm reading End-Game (The Final Throw in England, 1982) by the great British mystery/thriller/everything author Michael Gilbert, a veddy Bittish barrister in London for many years. 1982 is fairly recent, and even though Gilbert wrote well into his 90s, he kept up to date with things.

Even though I'm reading the American edition, it has kept the original British text except for stuff like quotation marks. In this book, within a few pages I see that Gilbert has used "crutch" whereas a 'Merkin would use "crotch" ("I kicked him in the crutch"), a usage I have seen many times in the past. Also, somewhat to my surprise, he used "shower-bath" instead of "shower". Were Brits still using that in 1982?

There's a third one that I'm trying to track down but am having trouble finding.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 22:40, 14 December 2014 (UTC)

I always thought that 'crutch' in the sense of 'fork of the body' was a variant, perhaps rather old-fashioned, pronunciation of 'crotch'. But the Oxford dictionary has it as a variant spelling too. Ro Thorpe (talk) 01:40, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
I would say that in the States the word "crutch" is used 100% for the wooden or metal thingee that you put in your armpit under yer shoulder to help you hobble around when you have a broken foot. I don't recall ever seeing a human or tree "crotch" spelled "crutch" in any 'Merkin context.... In all the British thrillers I've ever read, though, it generally seems to be "crutch". Or maybe I've just read too many Michael Gilberts.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:20, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
A last remnant from the ages of free-for-all spelling, then. Crutches and crotches are totally separate now in British English. Ro Thorpe (talk) 01:37, 16 December 2014 (UTC)
Isn't a shower-bath just a bath with a shower attachment? Ro Thorpe (talk) 01:50, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
I imagine it is, if you mean the European bathtub that has some sort of shower attachment along with it, generally a flexible hose and a nozzle of some sort at the end. So that you can sit in the tub, say, and then spray yourself with the nozzle. Or leave it attached to the wall, perhaps. In the States this is rarely seen, perhaps in some hotels. Either bathtubs or showers are separate units, or the shower outlet is fixed in the wall up above one end of the tub. I can't recall ever having seen or heard the term "shower-bath" here in the States. I suppose that Googling it would turn up some examples, and I suppose that if you used the term to my gardener, say, he would probably figure out what you meant, but I seriously doubt if he would ever use the phrase himself. Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:20, 15 December 2014 (UTC)
Yes, we have those attachments in our European house. Ro Thorpe (talk) 01:37, 16 December 2014 (UTC)

SIX more from the same source, End-Game by Michael Gilbert

Surgery, which a British doctor has, or the room in which he does his business. In 'Merkin this would be, most probably, office hours for the first and office or consultation room or examination room or some such for the second.

windcheater in Brit, windbreaker in 'Merkin.

Busker in Brit, street artist or street performer or some such in 'Merkin.

It's difficult to pin down a single 'Merkin word for some of these.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:18, 17 December 2014 (UTC)

Sounds good. You're most welcome to edit the article, you know. Ro Thorpe (talk) 23:15, 17 December 2014 (UTC)
Yeah, I know, myte, but I am diffident 'cause I'm not 100% certain of the 'Merkin versions. Here is a FOURTH one, all of them within about three pages, which overwhelmed me: answer-phone by the doctor's side door -- I've never heard that in the States, where I THINK it is called either the speaker or speaker-phone or intercom. I used to have them myself until the system got so old that it couldn't be easily replaced when the main motherboard gave up the ghost. I'll try to find out if there is ONE word that describes it.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:29, 17 December 2014 (UTC)

Just came across an American saying "hit the ceiling" where I'd naturally say "hit the roof". The former is more logical, as the roof is on the outside.

I THINK that 'Merkins say both, but that "ceiling" is more common. There's some sort of Google tool, I think, that allows searches through written records to find the frequency of words per year -- I haven't used it myself but have read about it. Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:58, 18 December 2014 (UTC)
Just did a Google on these two phrases -- 76 million for one, 84 million for the other, so it's a wash. I won't bother to put it in. Unless you can show that one is REALLY Brit and the other 'Merkin.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:31, 20 December 2014 (UTC)

"Surgery" is also used analogically by MPs.Peter Jackson (talk) 11:35, 18 December 2014 (UTC)

Members of Parliament? Military Police? How are they using it? The U.S. military, of course, has a euphonism called "surgical strike", derived, I imagine from "surgical precision".... Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:51, 18 December 2014 (UTC)
No, parliament. Some MPs have 'surgeries' where you can go in the hope of having your 'complaints' 'treated'. Ro Thorpe (talk) 19:16, 18 December 2014 (UTC)
Ah, dint know that. Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:23, 19 December 2014 (UTC)

arse -- this one is so obvious that I thought it had been there years ago. ass

good on you -- the Brit = good for you, the 'Merkin'. If no one else does it, when I finish the book (almost there), I'll put all of the six or seven above into the list if I can remember HOW to do it! Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:23, 19 December 2014 (UTC)

I'd say 'good on you' was a colloquial variant of 'good for you'. (And perhaps Australian: 'good on yer, myte'.) Ro Thorpe (talk) 03:41, 19 December 2014 (UTC)
Apparently now 'Merkins are saying it in sort of a snarky way. All in all, it's probably too nebulous to bother with. Or there's no definitive answer. Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:27, 19 December 2014 (UTC)
Yes, there's a lot of nebulosity about. As for ass/arse, that's mentioned in "Lexis and idiom". Do you think it needs a more formal entry? If so, there's the question of spelling or pronunciation or both? I imagine the R spelling came into BrE quite some time after the pronunciation had begun to distinguish itself from that of the donkey ass. Ro Thorpe (talk) 02:53, 20 December 2014 (UTC)
I didn't know it was featured elsewhere. I'll hang on.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:19, 20 December 2014 (UTC)
Hang on though, I have a feeling it's in Chaucer, with the R. Ers or some such. Ro Thorpe (talk) 02:57, 20 December 2014 (UTC)
It goes back to Old English, ærs, ears (can't tell 'is ærs from 'is ears?) according to Wiktionary. It doesn't say when the American version lost the R. Ro Thorpe (talk) 18:58, 20 December 2014 (UTC)

brackets vs. parentheses

I see that (primarily) in the list of British words brackets [ ] are used just about interchangeably with parentheses ( ). Is this just happenstance or is there some guiding philosophy about which ones should be used when? If not, then I think they ought to be standardized as either one or the other. Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:52, 20 December 2014 (UTC)

Agreed. There was a distinction, but it wasn't very important and has been eroded. Ro Thorpe (talk) 22:52, 20 December 2014 (UTC)
Should we flip a coin, or leave it for prolonged discussion? Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:20, 20 December 2014 (UTC)
I'd use round brackets (parentheses) as a default so that later if it turns out there really is a distinction that needs to be made (or distinctions), we can bring back the others. Ro Thorpe (talk) 00:06, 21 December 2014 (UTC)
Sure, why not? Hayford Peirce (talk) 00:28, 21 December 2014 (UTC)
OK, I've done a few, but I'll leave it up to you now, as my shoulders still haven't recovered from the early days of CZ and are already aching. Anything repetitive... Ro Thorpe (talk) 00:42, 22 December 2014 (UTC)

Tadpole the British word too. I'd never heard of 'pollywog'. Ro Thorpe (talk) 19:18, 21 December 2014 (UTC)

Well, I've vaguely heard pollywog over the years, but tadpole is the basic 'Merkin word. I saw online that pollywog was the Brit. But I really don't know. Who put this in here in the first place? Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:23, 21 December 2014 (UTC)
I'll investigate. Meanwhile, why did you put 'z' next to 'zee'? Ro Thorpe (talk) 19:27, 21 December 2014 (UTC)
Just because "zed" is always written out just the way it's pronounced, whereas the "zee" sound is more frequently written as z than zee. But it's no big deal if you think it should be removed.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:35, 21 December 2014 (UTC)
Well, maybe you Merkins write out 'zed' when you want to specify that you don't mean 'zee'. We might however, put ", Z" after each one, as some readers might wonder what zed and zee are supposed to be, since neither are normally written out. Ro Thorpe (talk) 21:35, 21 December 2014 (UTC)
I don't think us 'Merkins ever use "zed" -- why don't you fix it up the way you think it should be, either by addition or omission.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 22:07, 21 December 2014 (UTC)
Right, I've made a footnote, as there wasn't enough room in the table. Ro Thorpe (talk) 00:10, 22 December 2014 (UTC)

I think I put pollywog in. I've only ever seen it in American books, but I've just looked it up in Chambers, which doesn't classify it as such. Peter Jackson (talk) 15:28, 22 December 2014 (UTC)

Yet Hayford had it down as British. Seems to be just a rare variant in either version. Ro Thorpe (talk) 17:37, 22 December 2014 (UTC)
Simply because I did a Google search for, I think, "pollywog", and the first entry I came across said it wuz Brit-talk fer tadpole. And I didn't look any further. Probably should have.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:58, 22 December 2014 (UTC)

Maybe Z should be listed in the pronunciation section. Peter Jackson (talk) 15:30, 22 December 2014 (UTC)

Good idea, I've put it in. Ro Thorpe (talk) 16:37, 22 December 2014 (UTC)

My old COD (1976 edition) says polliwog is dialect and US. Anyone got a recent Oxford handy to check whether things have changed or whether this is a disagreement between dictionaries? Peter Jackson (talk) 09:22, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

The magisterial 1940 second edition unabridged Merriam-Webster, which I have in its glorious 2000 or so pages, says merely that pollywog is a variant of polliwog. When you look at polliwog, it says merely that it comes from Middle English and is a tadpole. Nothing more. When you look at tadpole, it has several drawings and a long scientific description. So at least in the time in which I was growing up, tadpole was the word we would be using. I've also got the old complete Oxford that I need a magnifying glass to look at.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:11, 23 December 2014 (UTC)

Oxford 1989 says the same as the older one. I'll find a recent one soon.

I think we can agree tadpole is the normal word everywhere among educated people. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:58, 27 December 2014 (UTC)

Just found a 1993 Oxford, same as earlier. Peter Jackson (talk) 11:00, 27 December 2014 (UTC)

Does anyone think it should be retained? Ro Thorpe (talk) 20:11, 27 December 2014 (UTC)
No. I just got out my magnifying glass and squinted at the entry in the OED. It apparently was a ME variant from about a dozen other similar words. OED cites a half-dozen or so quotes from the 15th through 19th century. It then says there's an American usage of calling some sort of politician a pollywog. It's all rather obscure. What is clear, however, is that it does NOT say. "This is the Brit version of the American tadpole" or vice versa. It just seems to be an obscure word that people in both cultures occasionally use. Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:24, 27 December 2014 (UTC)

I think I agree it doesn't belong here. It may be an interesting example of disagreement among dictionaries, a salutary reminder of their fallibility. Peter Jackson (talk) 14:21, 28 December 2014 (UTC)

Indeed. I've removed it. Ro Thorpe (talk) 20:38, 28 December 2014 (UTC)

Just noticed one in your remark: "15th through 19th". We'd never say that; it's always "to". Can't see it in the article. Peter Jackson (talk) 14:25, 28 December 2014 (UTC)

Hmmm, this may just be a personal matter of usage. To me, "15th through 19th" would mean between 1401 and 1899. "15th to 19th" would mean between 1401 to 1799. I'm pretty sure that in both Brit/Murkin "to" and "through" have different meanings.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:14, 28 December 2014 (UTC)
As Peter says, Brits don't use "through" between dates, so that's a genuine difference that should go in. I don't know about the ambiguity; it seems to be present in both usages. Ro Thorpe (talk) 20:32, 28 December 2014 (UTC)
I'll be darned, I never knew that! I'll leave it up to you to find some way of conveying this concisely.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:08, 28 December 2014 (UTC)

Now checked a 2010 Oxford, and it gives polliwog as NAm and dial. This confirms it's a disagreement between dictionaries. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:54, 29 December 2014 (UTC)

Two more, from Evelyn Waugh's great Sword of Honour

I have the revised "Recension" or however you spell it, of his war trilogy. On page 18 of Men at Arms, he has "Some of the furniture had gone to the country; the rest would go into store." In 'Merkin talk that would be "into storage", NEVER into "store". On page 19, he describes leaving a London club (for gentlemen) during the Blackout: "Once fuddled gamblers, attended by linkmen, had felt their way down these steps to their coaches." I don't have the foggiest idea of what a "linkman" might be. Certainly American clubmen of the early 20th century in Boston, say, didn't go around with them.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:26, 25 January 2015 (UTC)

I think that in 'Merkin talk one might say, in military-type talk, an "ammunition store".... Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:00, 25 January 2015 (UTC)

I think we'd usually say "into storage" these days too. Nor can I remember ever coming across "linkman" before. According to my dictionary, "link" is an old word for a particular type of torch, and a linkman is a torchbearer, which makes sense in context.

I suspect this sort of thing is relics of a bygone age. Remember, as late as 1933, H.G. Wells, in The Shape of Things to Come, in what purports to be a document written centuries in the future, feels comfortable writing "burthen". One can't help wondering sometimes how well in touch writers are with the language as used in real life. Peter Jackson (talk) 15:14, 26 January 2015 (UTC)

Well, Waugh is pretty much regarded, I think it fair to say, as having been the preeminent writer of English prose of the 20th century. Not the most exciting, perhaps, but the purest, clearest, and, although reasonably ornate from time to time, the most straightforward. So I think it likely that any word in any of his books is the precise one that he wanted to use and that he knew precisely what it meant. I've read all of his books many times and have tried in part to model my own writing on his; his writing was not "precious" in any sense: I don't think he ever tried to achieve some sort of effect by using archaic or little-known words. Men at Arms was written around 1953, more than 60 years ago, and at this point in the book he is writing about the activities of 1940, 75 years ago. So I think it more than likely that at that point in time "into store" was probably reasonably current usage. I defer to Peter, though, when he says that in today's world "into storage" would probably be used. So this is not an addition for our list. As for "linkmen": Waugh is writing about a fictional men's club whose origins go back in time at least a century or so. His sentence about "fuddled gamblers" might well be referencing clubmen of the 1850s or even earlier. I've looked at my big old unabridged Merriam-Websters -- it says that a "linkman" is one who carries a link (see Peter's comment above), AND that it is an attendant at, say, a theater who summons vehicles and shows passengers into them. What we would probably call a "doorman" today. It says, however, that is is now rare. And that definition comes from the 1930s. So if it were rare then, it is almost certainly extinct today. So, another entry that we won't make.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:45, 26 January 2015 (UTC)

What about bumf, also in the early pages? Apparently it's the Brit equivalent of "paperwork". But is it too slangy to include? Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:50, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

In the sense of the actual documentation – instruction booklets, welcome packs, guarantees, contracts, forms ... – rather than the work. I hadn't realized you didn't use the word, but my Webster confirms. Peter Jackson (talk) 18:10, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
Not one 'Merkin in a million would know what bumf is if he saw it. Tell me what the 'Merkin equivalent is and I'll put it into the list. Or you can do it.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:34, 29 January 2015 (UTC)
There's no one-to-one correspondence here, as there is with, say, petrol and gasoline. So it shouldn't go in the table, but in one of the other sections. Ro Thorpe (talk) 02:04, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
Okie, if you would do the Honours, then! I'm reading my way through Sword at dinner every night and have noted another half-dozen that I'll bring to your attention fairly soon.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:33, 30 January 2015 (UTC)
The 'Lexis and idiom' section would be the right place for these, I think. If you'd like to have a stab at putting 'bumf' in there... Ro Thorpe (talk) 18:42, 30 January 2015 (UTC)


I've found an enormous "Companion to Sword of Honour" online in which word after word is explicated. For linkmen, which we discussed above: "On dark nights in eighteenth century London you hired linkmen or linkboys to carry torches for you on your journey home." Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:26, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

Good, that could be quoted almost verbatim. Ro Thorpe (talk) 04:27, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

More from Sword of Honour

Hallo -- throughout. 'Merkins say, or at least write, hello. Is Hallo still current 'Brit-talk'?

I think the A and U versions must be reaching obsolescence. I'll make a note of this in the H list. Thanks! Ro Thorpe (talk) 04:18, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

"Quite soon the party bowled away into the night," page 52. Sped away, I would think, in 'Merkin.


"The local newsagent", page 53. Newsdealer or Newsstand, I think.

Yes indeed, do put it in the table.

Batman, page 55, not quite sure what the precise 'Merkin equivalent is -- orderly or personal attendant or some such.

The latter, I'd say.

"I must make a signal putting him off." Page 55. Notify him.

No, I think this must be visual. What's the context?
Not in this case. Apthorpe has Bechuana Tummy (a hangover) and can't go to Sunday luncheon at the Captain-Commandant's. He tells Crouchback that he must make a signal putting him off, ie, write him a note -- they discuss how to word it. Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:17, 1 February 2015 (UTC)
Strange. Military usage, perhaps. (Never read the novels, but enjoyed the BBC TV version many years ago.) Ro Thorpe (talk) 23:47, 1 February 2015 (UTC)
Almost certainly military slang of the epoch, and maybe semi-spurious. I think that Apthrope is gonna end up as being a wannabe.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 01:48, 2 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I think so. Ro Thorpe (talk) 15:41, 2 February 2015 (UTC)

"the other side of the lean skew nose." Page 62. I think this would be skewed in 'Merkin, or even something else, but am not really sure.

Would be skewed in Br as well now.

"People would think you were chaffing." Page 69. Joking, I'm pretty sure. Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:21, 30 January 2015 (UTC)

Yes, presumably.
Please don't be shy about making entries in the lexis section. I can always get my batman to manhandle any disreputable ones. Ro Thorpe (talk) 04:25, 31 January 2015 (UTC)

Still more

We already have hire and the 'Merkin rent. What about the Brit hire-rent (page 87) and hire-purchase? Essentially the same?

billets, page 87 -- a : an official order directing that a member of a military force be provided with board and lodging (as in a private home) b : quarters assigned by or as if by a billet

palm-lounge and snuggerie, page 87, kinds of cafes, bars, hang-outs, etc?

"make themselves useful in the butts", page 94 -- the target area of the rifle range

burgee page 102 -- I don't know if this is used in American yacht clubs or not: 1: a swallow-tailed flag used especially by ships for signals or identification 2: the usually triangular identifying flag of a yacht club

in a frightful wax page 109 -- in a fury, in a rage, really mad, something of that nature

Too dated, this one. Very Vile Bodies. As for the others, best left to someone who actually lives in Britain. Ro Thorpe (talk) 23:19, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

"flown with wine" page 112 -- high? tipsy? not really drunk, I think, but more mellow Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:55, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

dyke -- drainage ditch. Is dyke still used? Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:04, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

Okie, I'll leave these until we hear from a card-carryin' Brit. resident. Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:27, 3 February 2015 (UTC)
Haven't heard of hire-rent; hire-purchase is very common.
Billets is certainly standard in sense b; wouldn't be surprised if a too, but can't recall coming across it.
I'll research this a little more. Maybe it can make the list, maybe not. Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:04, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
Apparently billets is used in the States in precisely the same way -- it simply isn't used as often, however, and probably not at all in the last century, or close to it. Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:23, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
Haven't heard of palm-lounge or snuggerie, but a snug is I think some sort of alcove in a pub.
Butts are I think the actual targets (originally for archery). Might well be used more broadly as you take it.
I don't know anything about yachting either.
Never come across that sense of flown.
Dyke is certainly used in the sense of a rampart of earth or something similar (like the famous ones in Holland). Not sure about the opposite sense you mention.
As the subject of pubs has come up, there does seem to be some difference of usage here. You do have the word, but more commonly call them bars, I think. Here, an establishment whose main purpose is selling alcohol for consumption on the premises is usually called a pub, with bar normally reserved for similar parts of larger establishments (hotels, clubs, colleges ...). It's not wrong to call a pub a bar, and the generic usage "bars" includes them. Peter Jackson (talk) 11:26, 5 February 2015 (UTC)
I don't think "pub" is ever used in the States, unless it's consciously mimicking a British one. And I *think* I learned years ago in London that a "pub" might have a "private bar" or just a smaller room called a "bar", as opposed to the larger public room where the actual bar was situated. But I was never clear about why this distinction was being made. Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:04, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
My dictionary gives both meanings for dyke. Confusing for a word to have opposite meanings, and usage tends over time to edit this out. We used to have two words cleave with opposite meanings (different spellings and pronunciations in Anglo-Saxon): you'll be familiar with one from Scoop; the other is in the Bible (and the marriage service?). Maybe both still current in literary English, but I don't think either is still in ordinary use (though the derivative cleaver is of course). Similarly, let in the opposite of its now normal sense survives only in the legalistic phrase "without let or hindrance". Peter Jackson (talk) 17:53, 5 February 2015 (UTC)
Not quite right: there's also a "let" in tennis, where the served ball hits the top of the net and dribbles into the serving court, giving the server another chance to serve. This is a "let" in the sense of "hindrance," I would say.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:04, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

Major and Minor

In Brit schools with two brothers attending, the elder is called Smith major, say, and the younger Smith minor. Or abbreviated to ma. and mi. How do we handle this? (I was baffled by this when I started reading Brit. books in my teens....) Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:02, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

In the posh schools only. That would make a nice note in the lexis section, assuming the practice hasn't been discontinued. Ro Thorpe (talk) 23:17, 3 February 2015 (UTC)
I was pretty sure that was the case, but was too lazy to ask....
Speaking of which, is posh still used? I don't think it's much used in the States. Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:30, 3 February 2015 (UTC)
Well, in classless America... But still very much used in Britain. Ro Thorpe (talk) 01:13, 4 February 2015 (UTC)
I wonder if there is ONE 'Merkin equivalent? A posh restaurant would be a luxury, or luxurious, or fancy, or upscale restaurant. There are probably other adjectives, depending on what is being described. Hayford Peirce (talk) 01:28, 4 February 2015 (UTC)
Well, that encapsulates the problem with the either/or table, as all those are perfectly good British. Ro Thorpe (talk) 02:19, 4 February 2015 (UTC)
Apparently in both the States and UK it can mean fashionable or elegant, BUT in UK at can also be the equivalent of hi-fallutin', which is pejorative.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:13, 4 February 2015 (UTC)
Quite so. Ro Thorpe (talk) 19:23, 4 February 2015 (UTC)
I think only at least moderately posh schools use surnames at all these days. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:18, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
I think that the Simon Raven novels, written mostly in the '60s and '70s were still using these terms in private schools. Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:07, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, that's the sort of thing we're talking about. It was still like that when I was at school at that time, and I assume it still is in many schools. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:13, 7 February 2015 (UTC)


'Wireless' for radio was already very old-fashioned when I was a teenager in the sixties, and eventually it dropped out of use altogether as a noun, though it's still used as an adjective with its literal meaning. Ro Thorpe (talk) 23:14, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

I thought that was the case, but wasn't quite sure. Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:34, 3 February 2015 (UTC)

Spelling: pyjamas vs. pajamas

The first is mostly Brit, the second is 'Merkin. Any place to put these? Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:53, 4 February 2015 (UTC)

Already in the Spelling section. Ro Thorpe (talk) 00:59, 5 February 2015 (UTC)


In SoH they're talking about old times in the Kenya of White Mischief and there's a mention of "dinner parties in pyjamas". I've looked this up and the first definition is "loose lightweight trousers much worn in the Near East". Nothing to say that is Brit rather than 'Merkin. Wottya think? Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:58, 4 February 2015 (UTC)

Well, the only pyjamas I know are the ones you wear in bed. Waugh is very much another time, another place... Ro Thorpe (talk) 01:02, 5 February 2015 (UTC)
I've heard of youngsters nowadays having pyjama parties but haven't enquired just what those are.
Pyjamas were originally adapted from garments we came across in India, and the word is derived from some language out there (forget which). In the olden days men wore nightshirts in bed.
I read in a James Bond book (forget which) that Americans don't actually wear them (or anything else) in bed. In the context that might have referred only to men, and of course it may be out of date. Peter Jackson (talk) 11:32, 5 February 2015 (UTC)
Hindustani from Persian I think. Peter Jackson (talk) 17:47, 5 February 2015 (UTC)

Three more from SoH

"rather fly in his way", page 116, made me think it meant "cautious" in its context, but the dictionary says it's keen or artful -- the second word would fit the context. I'll put it in unless there's an objection.

lumber-room, page 120, apparently were the great attic rooms in country estates in which spare lumber and everything else was stored. It the States I think it would be attic or storeroom, but the one is not necessarily the other. Wottaya think?

"in the mealies", page 121, is apparently Brit-talk for "in the maize", which is Brit-talk for "in the corn". Is this too obscure a word -- it describes what Crouchback grew at his farm in Kenya? Hayford Peirce (talk) 22:09, 4 February 2015 (UTC)

Of those three, I've only heard 'lumber room', and I'd say you have it exactly. Ro Thorpe (talk) 01:05, 5 February 2015 (UTC)

Looking glass

I don't think this was ever the British term. Rather it was the "U", i.e. posh, term. Maybe it still is. Peter Jackson (talk) 11:36, 5 February 2015 (UTC)

Interesting comments

I enjoyed your takes on these items. Now, to spare me undo mental agony, WHICH of these do you think I should put into the list? Thanks! Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:55, 5 February 2015 (UTC)

Well, as I said yesterday, I think the list should be restricted to straight BrE v. AmE "translations". Others would go better in the lexis section, with a bit of explanation. (Not that I'm volunteering!) But if you want to put everything in a list, that's okay by me. Ro Thorpe (talk) 23:11, 5 February 2015 (UTC)
I'll look over the various candidates again and see if there are any that are obvious translations.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:09, 6 February 2015 (UTC)
Thanks. Ro Thorpe (talk) 14:37, 7 February 2015 (UTC)

Named FOR or AFTER -- and U and Non-u

I just saw that in the Wikipedia article about Arthur C. Clarke that a header has been changed from "Named for Clarke" ('Merkin) to "Named after Clarke" (putatively Brit). I *think* 'Merkins use both interchangeably.

Also, you might take a look at their U and Non-u article -- there's a small list of examples that in some cases overlaps with our own. But we have to remember that the whole U and Non-u discussion got started 60 years ago, about the time Waugh began writing Sword of Honour.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:20, 6 February 2015 (UTC)

Yes, "named for" sounds quite unnatural to us. WP policy is to use the style of English appropriate to the subject of the article, if any. That doesn't seem to be our policy, but I think it should be. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:18, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
All right, I'll put that in. CZ policy, as I recall, was MOSTLY "Whoever starts the article gets to keep it his/her way -- if I started the W. Churchill article, for instance, it would be in 'Merkin-talk thereafter. Although this may well have been modified or simply fallen into disuse. Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:03, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
I read an amusing book called Watching the English by anthropolgist Kate Fox. According to the language section I was brought up to use a weird mixture of upper-, middle- and working-class speech. I suspect the real situation is quite complicated, varying between social circles, geographical areas ... Peter Jackson (talk) 10:28, 7 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I would think that today, with the near universality of communications in myriad forms, the situation is far more fluid and complicated than it was even 20 or 30 years ago. Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:03, 7 February 2015 (UTC)

A fine quote from E. Waugh, somewhat pertinent to our discussions

from a long Atlantic article written some years ago that I've just run across....

The article on the preservation of the aristocracy [by Waugh] fascinated Life's editors, and judging from the resultant flow of letters, Life's readers. The latter were variously appreciative and outraged, some by what they took to be undue respect for the aristocracy and others by what they thought to be undue contempt for it. I sent Waugh a copy of the issue containing his article, and later, for his amusement, excerpts from the letters. "Thank you for 'Life' and the extracts from correspondence," he replied. "It is a sad thing that these simple illiterate immigrants should have been taught to read. They clearly do not understand a word of the language."

Hehe. Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:30, 7 February 2015 (UTC)

Added five; four to consider

I added five that I think are pretty straightforward. Here are four I don't think you'll ever hear a 'Merkin saying or writing:

"the piping days of peace"

"take a dekko" at something

"unless you blot your copybook in a pretty serious way"

wallah, as in box-wallah or book-wallah

On the other hand, they're not labeled as being chiefly Brit. They may be outmoded or slang.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:00, 8 February 2015 (UTC)

The first I can't remember coming across. Dekko is still in use to some extent, as is butcher's in the same sense, which I don't suppose you have either. The third is standard. Wallah is Anglo-Indian, and the memory of it faded with that of the empire. Peter Jackson (talk) 15:55, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
piping is from a Hamlet soliloquy. Are dekko and butcher's NON-slangy enough to add to the list, or should I leave them out? Should I add "blot your copybook" as meaning "foul up" or "screw up"? Apparently in Injuh "box wallahs" are still in great demand to deliver lunches to businessmen. The NYT magazine had a long article about them a year or so ago.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:42, 9 February 2015 (UTC)
Hamlet alluding to pipes of peace, that's just Shakespeare being poetic. Yes to blot... and indeed, no to dekko and butchers. Ro Thorpe (talk) 00:51, 10 February 2015 (UTC)
I think I agree. At any rate butcher's is Cockney rhyming slang: butcher's hook = look. My dictionary says rum is slang too. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:06, 10 February 2015 (UTC)
Oh, and of course Indian English is another variety alongside British and American. One example I came across is prepone, which is rare elsewhere but common there. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:08, 10 February 2015 (UTC)