Talk:British and American English

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Wallets and Pocketbooks

I just noticed that Wallet is listed as Brit and Pocketbook as 'Merkin. SURELY this has been reversed from what it SHOULD be! We had a LONG discussion about this years ago at -- unless I am really wrong about this, I will switch the two around eventually.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:46, 10 February 2015 (UTC)

You say wallet, I say wallet, who says pocketbook? Americans, I thought. I may have heard it on the radio/TV a couple of times.
Just remembered billfold, which is obviously American. Ro Thorpe (talk) 21:52, 10 February 2015 (UTC)
Good catch! Shall I change the listing to wallet for Brit, wallet; billfold fer 'Merkins? And eliminate pocketbook entirely. As I said five years ago in the original discussion, NO 'Merkin male carries a pocketbook. Never, ever, not even once. But "billfold" is used occasionally. Less now, I think, than when I was young. Hayford Peirce (talk) 22:03, 10 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, that would be fine by me. Ro Thorpe (talk) 02:34, 11 February 2015 (UTC)
How about the female equivalents? What we call a handbag they call a purse. I don't know what they call what we call a purse, i.e. a small container mainly for money that can fit inside the handbag. (Just to confuse things, the Oscar Wilde sense of handbag is now obsolete, replaced by holdall here and grip there.) Peter Jackson (talk) 17:49, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
Merkin's use the word handbag also, in the same sense as a purse. But "purse" can *also* be that small currency container that fits inside a handbag. I think we discussed this earlier in the archived link. I don't think that the differences between the two countries are distinct enough to make this an item on the list. Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:04, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
  • I impulsively decided to archive this page. Hope that's OK. The previous section's talk at Archive 2 can be continued if need be. Ro Thorpe (talk) 03:52, 11 February 2015 (UTC)
Fine with me. It was getting a little long in the tooth. Superannuated? I don't THINK that 'Merkins use that word....Hayford Peirce (talk) 14:42, 11 February 2015 (UTC)
And therefore not healthful. Just seen that for the first time (on my WP talk page). Ro Thorpe (talk) 21:34, 11 February 2015 (UTC)
Okie, I've looked up superannuate and it doesn't say chiefly Brit., to my surprise. Are you saying that healthful is not used it Brit. at all? In M-W it has a long separate entry from healthy and there *are* differences.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:49, 11 February 2015 (UTC)
I don't recall hearing it, no. Ro Thorpe (talk) 23:04, 11 February 2015 (UTC)
Even great Rheault can nod. Here's what the Concise Oxford says about healthful: a. Health-giving; conductive to moral or spiritual welfare. Hence ~LY adv., ~NESS n. Nothing about it bein' 'Merkin usage. But I'm sure that we DO use it more.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:20, 11 February 2015 (UTC)
Never heard it on BBC, Sky, Al Jazeera, CNN. Perhaps they use it on Fox News, I tend to skip that one. Ro Thorpe (talk) 13:42, 12 February 2015 (UTC)

Twee and quaint

These aren't synonyms. Quaint is a term of approbation, twee of disapproval. Ro Thorpe (talk) 13:53, 12 February 2015 (UTC)

Well, "quaint" *also* has another sense of "odd, figures of fun, strange". "Old-fashioned" in a disapproving sense, too. I think that today, in the States, at least, it's a coin-flip as to whether it's a word of approbation OR at least somewhat disparaging. The M-W says of twee: (1905) chiefly Brit: affectedly or excessively dainty, delicate, cute, or quaint <such a theme might sound ~ or corny -- Times Literary Supp.> -- that's where I grabbed quaint from. Please give me a better one and I'll make the change. Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:23, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
Quite right, quaint can be negative, too. Once again the direct equivalent table model is failing us. Much better would be a list of words that are (normally) not used by Americans, and another of those not used by Brits, each entry as long as needed. Ro Thorpe (talk) 20:40, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
You are, of course, absolutely right. The question is: who will do it? Our manpower is severely constricted.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:00, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
Glad you agree in principle, anyway. Earlier I thought of bolding those that are normally restricted to one variety only, like sidewalk. Room for lots of disagreement there? Or just lots of work? Ro Thorpe (talk) 23:30, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
I think we're proposing something that is gonna be a lot of work, with only a couple of us contributing to it. A LOT of time, for instance, could probably be spend on individual items like tadpole/polliwog and purse/handbag etc. etc. Freeways, divided highways, dual carriage ways, motorways, etc. etc. etc.... Where is Doctor Johnson when you need him? Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:42, 12 February 2015 (UTC)
I don't think we need to worry about the amount of work. What actually needs to be done is for anything that's not straightforward "We usually say this, they usually say that" should be removed from the table and replaced by more dicursive explanation somewhere else, such as Lexis and idiom. This doesn't need to be done suddenly in one large operation. We can do it one item at a time whenever we feel like it. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:24, 19 February 2015 (UTC)
Yes, that's the way to look at it. Ro Thorpe (talk) 17:13, 20 February 2015 (UTC)

Some more words to consider

From Sword of Honour, page 217 getting near the end of the first book:

"A potty little show." M-W traces this back to 1860 and says it's chiefly Brit, meaning either trivial or insignificant, OR slightly crazy, OR snobbish.

Just means 'crazy' to me.

"All round the bum boats floated....", page 229. For the spelling section? In 'Merkin it is all around.

It's audible, not just spelling. Lexis and idiom, more like.

"she was not much of a dab at anything" -- M-W says it's chiefly Brit and is a "skillful person". I've also frequently seen something like "he's a dab hand" in all sorts of Brit books....

I only know it in the latter expression.

From The Mathematics of Murder, a little-known collection of short stories by the esteemed Michael Gilbert, a man who also writes a very clean prose:

The first story concerns murders being committed on railroad cars carrying commuters out of London. He refers to them as either coaches or carriages. I'm pretty sure that 'Merkin-talk is cars.


Also, to my vast surprise, he describes these carriages as having a central gangway "down the middle". The old Brit trains with individual compartments had a corridor, I think, but American ones with open seating would have an aisle.


On the same page, 17, he refers to a pantechnicon, which is NEVER used in the States. A very large lorry, I believe?


In the next story, page 33, he refers to a rough shoot (the great Geoffrey Household had a novel called A Rough Shoot), and I don't think there is any exact 'Merkin equivalent. Shoot does exist in 'Merkin but isn't much used, I think. Hunting rights I *think* is what we would say.... Maybe a blind....

I'd need the context for this one.

Also in this story, various lawyers and accountants look at account sheets -- I think these are bank statements or ledger pages but am not quite sure. Hayford Peirce (talk) 00:34, 4 March 2015 (UTC)

No idea about that last one. Ro Thorpe (talk) 14:05, 4 March 2015 (UTC)
Have to be careful with technical stuff. There's a varety of different accounting documents (or were pre-computer). Might need an accountant to clarify what's what. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:43, 5 March 2015 (UTC)
Yes indeed. I did a little googling on this one,then decided to stay clear of it. Hayford Peirce (talk) 14:04, 5 March 2015 (UTC)

Pronunciation -- Caribbêan

I just noticed this. At least in MY experience, BOTH pronunciations are common in the States -- Cah-RIB-ee-un, AND Care-ah-BE-un. Might be slightly regional. I know that over my own lifetime I have gone from one to the other. The second seems to be more common these days.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 02:39, 6 March 2015 (UTC)

I first became aware of the first (Cəríbbean) just in the last few years. Ro Thorpe (talk) 18:51, 6 March 2015 (UTC)
I THINK that when I wuz younger we used the first more, then as I aged moved to the second. But I just don't know.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:23, 6 March 2015 (UTC)

trucks and lorries

Am almost at the end of the second novel comprising the Sword of Honour trilogy. The first was written around 1952, the second in 1955. Both are quintessential Waugh, the master of "British" English prose. In the first novel there are many references to "lorries" as Guy Crouchback moves back and forth across the UK. Towards the end of the second book he is in Egypt and then Crete. Here Waugh begins referring to lorries as trucks, then back to lorries, then to trucks again. Generally describing the same vehicle a few pages apart. He would have killed himself rather than knowingly used an "Americanism" in his prose, other than in dialog (in which his Americanisms were noticeably BAD). There's no possible way that he could have done this by mistake and then not picked it up at some point in his rewriting and copy-editing. I wonder what was going on here. DID British soldiers in 1941 sometimes refer to lorries as trucks? Hayford Peirce (talk) 02:07, 11 March 2015 (UTC)

Don't know about that. I tend to think of lorries as bigger than trucks, but I couldn't specify the distinction out of my head. Peter Jackson (talk) 11:28, 12 March 2015 (UTC)
Got round to checking Chambers, which confirms: they're both for carrying goods, with lorries for heavier loads.
Another one where we have finer gradations is stones, which are in between rocks and pebbles. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:59, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
Oh my, I don't think I want to get into that! My tennis club locker room got a new electronic scale the other day -- it can be set to read in pounds, kilograms, or stones! A guy who had spent 25 in England and I were scratching our heads about the stones. I said it was 12 lb., he said it was 16. But neither made any sense for my weight in pounds. So I finally looked it up. 14 pounds. Wikipedia, incidentally, does NOT have an article about it. Hayford Peirce (talk) 13:58, 16 March 2015 (UTC)
I wasn't thinking of those stones (which are in our article). It's the more literal ones.
I know, I just brought this up as a "By the way...." Hayford Peirce (talk) 14:36, 17 March 2015 (UTC)
On the BBC this morning: it has been known for British material to be subtitled on American TV. They didn't mention whether it happened the other way. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:57, 17 March 2015 (UTC)

bowler hat and derby

The scholarly Companion to Sword of Honour that has been so useful says that "bowler hat" is the Brit term for "derby" (the first ones were made by an outfitter called, in part, Bowler. I think that 'Merkins also say bowler hat from time to time, but is "derby" ever used in this sense in Blighty? Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:55, 27 March 2015 (UTC)

Not to my knowledge. Ro Thorpe (talk) 00:53, 28 March 2015 (UTC)
Okie, then I'll put it in the list. Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:15, 28 March 2015 (UTC)


'Turnout' or 'pullout', says Wikipedia. Ro Thorpe (talk) 18:57, 21 April 2015 (UTC)

Yes, that sounds right to me. Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:54, 21 April 2015 (UTC)


We need an explanation of the different senses in Britain. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:20, 27 April 2015 (UTC)

OK, but it is covered in the Suffixes table. Ro Thorpe (talk) 14:54, 27 April 2015 (UTC)

Enquiry vs. Inquiry

Just came across a gift shop/nut (as the kind you eat) shop/ museum called Perry's Nut House in Maine that was once run by distant relatives of mine. They were using the word enquiry on their website, so I looked it up. M-W says only that it's chiefly Brit. usage for inquiry. To my 'Merkin eyes, it is misspelled.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 16:02, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

Generally, an enquiry is a question, an inquiry is an investigation. Both are pronounced with the stress on the second syllable, while I think you stress the first. Peter Jackson (talk) 17:24, 21 May 2015 (UTC)
Hah! I think Brits have Inquiry Agents, which I really don't think is used for 'Merkin PIs.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:50, 21 May 2015 (UTC)
As a Brit, I've never heard of Inquiry Agents (but then I'm v oldfashioned). If I wanted to ask about something, that would be an enquiry. If the government wanted to pacify public opinion by looking into something that had happened, that would be an Inquiry. --Martin Wyatt (talk) 19:41, 21 May 2015 (UTC)
It's hard to tell how common it is. I know that in one of the wonderful Victor Canning books about Rex Carver, Carver tells someone sardonically that he's "just a simple inquiry agent". And the phrase turns up here and there in various Google searches.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:33, 21 May 2015 (UTC)

Preparatory schools

In England these are typically age 8-13. I understand that in America they're substantially older. Wikipedia isn't explicit, but seems to imply 14-18. Would that be right? Peter Jackson (talk) 17:02, 28 May 2015 (UTC)

Yes. I went to a prep school, Phillips Exeter Academy, which, along with Phillips Andover (both founded by the same guy), are the oldest and best known. They, like MOST of them, I think, are for four years, grades 9 through 12. Some of them, such as Lawrenceville and maybe Grotons and St. Pauls, took in kids a couple of years younger, I think, being basically 6-year schools. As the years have passed though, I think that more or more of the schools have not only taken in girls but have also added younger grades. I don't know if even a majority of them are strictly four-year schools these days. Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:11, 28 May 2015 (UTC)

"it was hard grafting"

In the Michael Gilbert collection of stories Anything for a Quiet Life Jonas Pickett sets up shop in a small coastal town. After a while a fellow solicitor comes by to chat with him, mentioning the names of some of their competition. "I didn't come here to work myself to death," says Jonas. Mr. Clover looks at him doubtfully. "Well, we've been here for two years, and I don't mind telling you it was hard grafting at first."

So what means "grafting"? There are a number of meanings for "to graft", obviously, but none of them seem to quite fit. I THINK that what he's saying is, "It was hard making a go of it at first...." Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:17, 10 June 2015 (UTC)

Yes. Synonymous with hard work. Includes persistence. Ro Thorpe (talk) 12:39, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
And for the other thing, I would say 'travelling salesman'. 'Travellers' suggests itinerants in a caravan. Ro Thorpe (talk) 12:43, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
I've only come across the noun form "hard graft" before, but my Chambers gives both forms as meaning "hard work", so there's strictly speaking redundancy: "hard hard work" (like "PIN number"). Peter Jackson (talk) 17:03, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
I'll put graft or something into the list. Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:10, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
Michael Gilbert, who was probably almost as precise in his English usage as Evelyn Waugh, writes in the above-cited story: "One whole morning was occupied with the installation of an impressive safe. Travellers called hoping to sell them office accessories...." There's an old science-fiction story, a very lesser one, by Robert A. Heinlein called The Man Who Traveled in Elephants, but that usage, at least in the States, has disappeared. His story was circa 1940.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:10, 11 June 2015 (UTC)
Yes, I remember reading that and discovering it wasn't as odd as the title seemed to suggest.
The term "commercial traveller" presumably still exists. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:09, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
Yes, as far as I know "commercial traveler" is still around. Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:25, 15 June 2015 (UTC)


From American fiction I gather that the terms "cell (phone)" are quite common over there. I don't think I've ever come across the short form here, and even the long seems pretty rare. We correspondingly talk of a "mobile (phone)", as I think they do too. Peter Jackson (talk) 17:08, 11 June 2015 (UTC)

Yes, I THINK that a lot of 'Merkins, particularly younger ones, will say, "What's your cell?" Or "What's your mobile?" I THINK that at some point there might have been a subtle difference between a cell and a mobile, ie, the mobile might have been more connected with your automobile, but I could easily be wrong on this. I myself always say "cellphone".... Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:03, 11 June 2015 (UTC)


Doubtful about this one. I'd never heard of it and a search suggests it's a rather technical family term. Ro Thorpe (talk) 20:30, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

It should probably be removed. It ain't in either my 2nd Ed. M-W Unabridged of 1940 OR my complete OED. It was used in dialogue by an 80-year British admiral in a Michael Gilbert story. Talking about a traveling circus/fun-fair: " by a crowd of swindling didicoys, whose brats spend their days shop-lifting...." Maybe he picked it up somewhere on his OWN travels.... I didn't realize that it was so uncommon. Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:51, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Not in normal usage, as they say. Ro Thorpe (talk) 21:02, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
I have heard it in conversation, but I agree it's not common. Ordinary people probably mainly talk of gypsies; politically correct terms seem to be travellers, Romany and Roma. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:07, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
According to what I found, a "didicoy" is a branch of gypsydom but NOT a Roma.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:26, 15 June 2015 (UTC)
That may be "correct" usage, but I don't imagine the ordinary gorjo when using such terms makes such distinctions. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:37, 16 June 2015 (UTC)


So Americans use neither noun, I didn't know that. Presumably not the adjective either, 'in a roundabout fashion', meaning roughly 'indirectly'? Ro Thorpe (talk) 20:39, 14 June 2015 (UTC)

Strangely enough, us 'Merkins DO use that adjective in precisely that way. It's pretty common. Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:44, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Makes sense if adjective preceded noun. Ro Thorpe (talk) 20:48, 14 June 2015 (UTC)
Yes, it almost certainly would have, in both cases.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:54, 14 June 2015 (UTC)


I do like this article, always something to make me smile in it. Looking at it now made me turn to my copy of The King's English by Fowler (1906) - worth a look - a couple of vignettes: "There are certain American verbs that remind Englishmen of the barbaric taste illustrated by such town names as Memphis" and "A very firm stand ought to be made against placate, transpire and antagonize, all of which have English patrons" (Obviously Fowler's firm stand was in vain.) "The English and the American language and literature", according to Fowler "are both good things; but they are better apart than mixed." As differences he includes "fix up" (organize); "back of" (behind); "anyway" (at any rate); "standpoint" (point of view) "right along" (continuously), "some" (to some extent) and "just" (quite or very - as in "just lovely").Gareth Leng (talk) 14:30, 17 June 2015 (UTC)

When I was living in London in 1968 I bought Fowler's Usage and dipped into it mostly at random with great enjoyment. A true eccentric! But I did (and still do) agree with MOST of what he wrote. However, he certainly proved to be a VERY poor prophet when it came to: "A very firm stand ought to be made against placate, transpire and antagonize, all of which have English patrons" -- as far as I can tell, they are now very commonly used everywhere. Hayford Peirce (talk) 22:25, 19 June 2015 (UTC)

cutting the sandwiches

I'm PRETTY sure that a while ago we had a discussion as to whether Brits still said "cutting sandwiches" to denote "making sandwiches". Since it isn't in the list, I must have been overruled on it. But in Michael Gilbert's fine story Holy Writ, written, I believe, in the 1980s or 90s, an 8-year-old boy says, "Shall I cut the sandwiches?" And his father replies, "I cut them before breakfast." (They are on their way to a desolate spot for the father to replicate the Biblical story of Abraham -- Gilbert can have a *very* hard edge to his apparently very urbane stories....) As I've said before, Gilbert is a very meticulous craftsman with a judicious sense of language. I don't believe he would use a deliberate anachronism.... Any further thoughts on this? Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:29, 19 June 2015 (UTC)

I (b. 1950) don't recall hearing it. Are you sure it is a synonym for make? One can further divide a slice (or two) of a loaf into two or four pieces. Ro Thorpe (talk) 23:51, 19 June 2015 (UTC)
That's just how I'd naturally understand the phrase. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:42, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
Well, when I was teenager in the 50s, and for some years afterwards, I read a *ton* of British mysteries, all the early Agatha Christies, Dorothy Sayers, etc. etc. In the ones from the 20s and 30s, at least, my recollection is that people were always "going to the kitchen to cut sandwiches". Then later an Englishman named Peter Dickinson wrote a dozen or so *highly* regarded mysteries, many of which were set in earlier decades -- in *his* books people are always cutting sandwiches. From the context in all of these, as in the Gilbert story cited above, it's clear that they are making numerous sandwiches, not simply cutting previously made one into smaller pieces. I'll do a little research on this and report later. Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:27, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
Just looked at the Wikipedia article about Dickinson -- had forgotten how prominent a writer he is! From his mystery The Last Houseparty, a snatch of dialog: "Would you like to come over to the kitchen at eleven for tea or coffee?" "Thank you, but I've brought a flask." "Lunch, then?" "I usually cut my own sandwiches." Could it be an eccentric usage confined to mystery writers, hehe? Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:44, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
I did an "advanced" Google search for the phrase "cutting sandwiches in the kitchen" and turned up these items: Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:48, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
Commendable research, Peirce. I suspect it was frightfully upper class and dying out by the 60s. Ro Thorpe (talk) 20:47, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
Yes indeed, from this VEDDIE tony U. blog: -- "There’s also a stall selling biscuits, jams and various handcrafted gifts, all made by our very enthusiastic committee members. I usually work “below stairs” cutting sandwiches in the kitchen, which is fun in a bustling kind of way, but this year will be delightfully different – I’ve been put in charge of the stall." Pip pip, wot! Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:03, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
I'm sure there are other descriptive idioms like that that have been replaced by boring verbs like 'make' but I can't think of any at the moment. Ro Thorpe (talk) 21:08, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
Quite likely. But in this particular case, you think it would be too recondite to put in? Hayford Peirce (talk) 22:02, 20 June 2015 (UTC)
I suspect it's just dated. Ro Thorpe (talk) 03:03, 21 June 2015 (UTC)

packed our traps, and public assistance

Have started another Michael Gilbert, a novel called The Long Journey Home, which apparently features the solicitor Jonas Pickett in a minor role. The protagonist is chatting with someone in Italy who says he had spent 30 years working in the States. When he saw a "bust" coming, "me and my wife we packed our traps and headed for home." Is this like "part and parcel", as in "trap and trappings"? He also says that his children are now on "public assistance" -- this, I assume is "public welfare". Have we got distinctions here? Hayford Peirce (talk) 22:44, 20 June 2015 (UTC)

I can only presume yes in both cases. Ro Thorpe (talk) 03:09, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
I can't figure out precisely what "trap" would be in 'Merkin, there are MANY slang meanings for it, but none of them seem to fit this context. So I'll let it go. And "public assistance" seems to be used widely in the States also. Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:02, 21 June 2015 (UTC)
I found "traps" in this sense in a number of slang dictionaries, and in OED, which gives 1813 as earliest known occurrence. I can't remember ever coming across it before, though. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:07, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
It certainly doesn't seem to be widely used. So I'll give it a pass. Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:28, 24 June 2015 (UTC)
Not specifically British: Moby Dick, chapter 20. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:25, 4 August 2016 (UTC)
Sure it wasn't a lobster trap, hehe? Although I think Captain Arab was after bigger game.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 15:25, 4 August 2016 (UTC)


This at least needs clarification: "peanut" is perfectly normal British usage. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:33, 30 June 2015 (UTC)

This should probably be removed -- I think it's the sort of word that Agatha Christie might have used 80 years ago, along with motor and aerodrome, and that Evelyn Waugh used in the 50's, being toffish. I sure that no one in England today says, "Momma, please give me a groundnut butter sandwich...." Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:13, 1 July 2015 (UTC)
Indeed, I would have imagined that was different from 'peanut butter sandwich'. Ro Thorpe (talk) 13:30, 1 July 2015 (UTC)

polo and turtlenecks

From a recent NYT article about "polo shirts":

What an American calls a turtleneck sweater, a Briton calls a polo-neck jumper. A camel's hair coat was, in the 1920s, "a polo coat."

Here in the States, today, we DO have polo shirts, AND turtleneck sweaters, and, I believe, camel's hair coats. Thoughts and comments? Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:49, 20 July 2015 (UTC)

Me?? Sorry, no idea. Ro Thorpe (talk) 03:10, 21 July 2015 (UTC)
Yes, "polo-neck" is common usage here, and "turtle-neck" sounds like a descriptive term for the same thing. I'll reserve comment on the exact differences in meaning of "jumper", "sweater" and "jersey". Peter Jackson (talk) 10:25, 21 July 2015 (UTC)


I imagine it is still used, as the likes of Greyfriars still exist. The phrasal verb 'tuck in' is no doubt still used too. Ro Thorpe (talk) 14:43, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

"To tuck in" is used in the States in that sense too. (As well as to tuck someone into bed....) Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:20, 27 July 2015 (UTC)

Standing in the box

I've just been practising my Murkan, doing the crossword at One of the clues continued to puzzle me after I had answered it: Where people get grilled in London? In the witness box. Then I remembered from Perry Mason et al that witnesses take the stand in America. So no box, right? Ro Thorpe (talk) 19:41, 6 September 2015 (UTC)

Absolutely correct, it's the witness stand. I remember reading an old Brit legal novel in which one of the people in court referred to it as the "stand" and the judge, or someone, corrected him/her, saying, "You've been watching too many American TV shows." Maybe the wonderful Henry Cecil.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:22, 6 September 2015 (UTC)


also means noise. Is that usage also specifically British? Peter Jackson (talk) 10:46, 19 December 2015 (UTC)

I don't think so. Perhaps the Brits use it a little more often than the 'Merkins. I *think* that the 'Merkin sense of it can also imply an angry dispute as well, which contributes to the noise.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 14:36, 19 December 2015 (UTC)
I don't know. An American correspondent gave it as an example of a 'British word'. Ro Thorpe (talk) 04:29, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
Hmmm. If it *is* a Brit word, then it's certainly one that any 'Merkin would understand. Although maybe we use it more in the sense of "a fuss". Could be that I've simply read so many Brit books for 65 years that I think of it as being a common word everywhere. On the other hand, I certainly never said to my mother when I was young, "Why do the people in this book call blankets "rugs", and flashlights "torches" and Indians "Red Indians" and an argument a "row"?"
Well, let's look at Merriam-Webster. Here what it says, no less and no more: row n [origin unknown] (1746) a noisy disturbance or quarrel -- so, I would say, overall, that your correspondent is wrong on this. Hayford Peirce (talk) 16:51, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
No problem, I've removed it. I'm interested in your blankets/rugs example. To me they are separate things, blankets on beds, rugs on floors. Ro Thorpe (talk) 17:24, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
In old Brit novels by, say, Edith Blyton or whoever she was, the kids were always wrapping themselves in rugs. Maybe it's a term like lorry, motor, and aerodrome that has fallen into disuse.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:39, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
Ah, Enid Blyton, maybe her children lived in houses with nice clean rugs. As for 'lorry' falling into disuse, I don't think things are quite that bad, are they? Ro Thorpe (talk) 18:45, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
I agree that "lorries" are still about. But *sometimes* they also appear to be "trucks", even by Brit writers. I was shocked to see Evelyn Waugh of all people calling them trucks at *some* points in his Sword of Honour trilogy. And they clearly were "lorries", not railway trucks.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:02, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
See #trucks and lorries. Peter Jackson (talk) 15:18, 21 December 2015 (UTC)


From Enid's Five Go Back to Kirrin Island: "Well," said Julian, before Dick could catch his breath and reply. "There's the food of course. There are also ropes, spare batteries, rugs, and a couple of small spades and trowels. I've even packed a bone for old Timmy." I doubt if he was stuffing the family Persian carpets into his knapsack, hehe.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:08, 20 December 2015 (UTC)

In my version of Brit English, a rug is not a blanket, and only occasionally something on the floor, but more often a portable piece of woollen (or similar) cloth, often with a squared-off pattern, and often with a fringe (which blankets don't have) carried about for use in picnics and other outdoor activities. It may look like a blanket but is usually not as dense. The distinction may be more in the outdoor use than in the manufacture. --Martin Wyatt (talk) 23:01, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
Yes, that makes perfect sense. It was my MOTHER, who was not a trained Brit/'Merkin scholar, who told me that a rug meant a blanket. What are the blankets, somewhat like airline blankets (if those even still exist) that people used to put over their legs in carriages? Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:39, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
Well, apparently it *is* a "carriage-rug"! See: Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:41, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
Also called a "traveling rug". Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:50, 20 December 2015 (UTC)
Yes, portable rugs, typically with fringes, I'd forgotten about those. Ro Thorpe (talk) 14:57, 21 December 2015 (UTC)
Gotta have the fringes! Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:15, 21 December 2015 (UTC)

Prams &c

Just to complicate things, ordinary British usage nowadays is to call a pushchair a buggy, short for the trade name BabyBuggy. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:30, 2 January 2016 (UTC)

no one says East Indian for Asian.

I am in the USA. No one says East Indian. Tom Kelly (talk) 15:37, 10 January 2016 (UTC)

I would say you're right on that. Hayford Peirce (talk) 16:15, 10 January 2016 (UTC)
Added by User:Peter Jackson on 21 November 2011. Ro Thorpe (talk) 18:15, 10 January 2016 (UTC)
Well, what do they say? In American usage, as I understand it, Asian means East Asian. Here it means South Asian. So what do Americans call South Asians? I came across the term East Indian in a report on some politician, I think in one of the Western states. They probably said he was the first East Indian to hold a certain office or something like that. Peter Jackson (talk) 11:42, 11 January 2016 (UTC)
[1] says they're often called Asian Indians. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:35, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
The reference I mentioned above must be to Congressman Dalip Singh Saund, I think. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:43, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
Could be. I dunno why he isn't being called Indian, though. That horrible Bobby Jindal, late gov'r of Louisiana, is usually referred to as Indian-American, occasionally Asian-American. Never, to my knowledge East Indian-American. I *think*, without doing any research, that 'Merkins use "Asian" to mean *anyone* from Japan, China, India, Southeast Asia, and Bangladesh. Pakistan? Not sure. I know that if anyone said to *me*, "That lady is an East Indian," I would reply, "What does *that* mean?" In WWII, of course, the Japanese built what *they* called "The Greater East-Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere," or at least that's how it's generally translated. Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:05, 12 January 2016 (UTC)
From today's news, anent Obama's State of the Union Address:

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley says the nation should resist the temptation to "follow the siren call of the angriest voices" during anxious times.... The daughter of Indian immigrants is delivering the Republican response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union address.... Haley calls herself a "proud daughter of Indian immigrants" and says individuals willing to work hard and follow the law shouldn't feel unwelcome.

Hayford Peirce (talk) 01:33, 13 January 2016 (UTC)
The references I found on internet search for the above Congressman suggest a variety of terms in use.
In some contexts the term "Asian" may well be used in a broad sense as you suggest. But, when the police issue a description of someone they'd "like to speak to", or a writer describes a character as "of Asian appearance", such broad meanings would be nonsensical. In such contexts Asian must mean East over there, South here.
I think we probably want to remove all these items from the main list and instead have a separate subsection alongside religion &c for ethnic groups. I'll make a start on that. Peter Jackson (talk) 18:10, 14 January 2016 (UTC)
Good idea. This is a can of worms. And remember, what a policeman in Birmingham, England, is gonna call a person of interest is probably gonna be quite different from what a cop in Birmingham, Alabama is gonna call the very same person. Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:16, 14 January 2016 (UTC)

Color commentator

I've just come across this as AmE equivalent of BrE summariser at a sports event on TV. Ro Thorpe (talk) 17:59, 17 January 2016 (UTC)

No 'Merkin, not even I, would understand what a "summariser" was.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:34, 17 January 2016 (UTC)
A summarizer is usually someone who has played at a higher level than the commentators who give the "live" commentary, and inserts remarks when there's a bit of time to spare. Is that what the American term means? Peter Jackson (talk) 15:17, 18 January 2016 (UTC)
The guys (or girls) who describe the action that's going on are called either announcers or broadcasters or sportscasters. These people may or may not have actually played the sport that they are describing. In the old days of radio *some* of the announcers had once played the sport, but most of them had not and came to their jobs through a variety of ways. Vin Scully, for instance, who has been calling the Los Angeles Dodgers' games for 66(!) years now, had never been a baseball player. I think that *all* sports (in the States) now have their regular broadcasters AND what they call "color commentators" -- the later generally being former players who actually played at a fairly high level -- so that their names are recognizable to the people listening (or watching), and therefore carry a certain weight of expertise. Chances are that the broadcasters actually have more expertise in the subject than the commentators, but who knows? If you asked Vin Scully, however, who his summarizer was, he would look at you blankly and scratch his head.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:22, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
The guys who call the action for the most part are sometimes called the "play-by-play" broadcasters -- they would probably do 75% of the actual talking during a match or game.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:25, 22 January 2016 (UTC)
It sounds from what you say as if both roles have different names. I admit I'm not much interested in sport as a whole, so my impressions based on Test Match Special may not apply to sports other than cricket. On TMS they have "commentators", who give the impression they've played at some level, but never (?) at test level. They give the main running commentary. The "summarizers", who are all former test players, add comments as convenient. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:13, 23 January 2016 (UTC)
Tennis has similar pairs, and football and golf too, I think---both called 'commentators', and the 'expert' probably also 'summariser', in British English. Ro Thorpe (talk) 22:43, 23 January 2016 (UTC).


How about "different from" (BrE) v. "different than" (AmE)? Where would it go? Ro Thorpe (talk) 16:33, 25 January 2016 (UTC)

I think you're gonna find 'Merkins all over the map on this one. I think 'Merkins mostly just use both of them at complete random. But here's what the NYT Manual of Style and Usage says: You can't go wrong with different from; you can, and almost always will, with different than. Whatever the hell that means! From Strunk & White: Different than. Here logic supports established usage; one thing differs from another, hence different from. Or, other than, unlike. Now I'll leave the rest up to you, hehe.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:23, 25 January 2016 (UTC)
I think "different to" is quite common in practice in British usage, though more likely to be considered "incorrect"; "different than" is much less common over here, though there are cases where construction would be quite awkward without it. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:54, 26 January 2016 (UTC)
"Different to" is definitely NOT used in the States. Hayford Peirce (talk) 16:05, 26 January 2016 (UTC)
In my GB youth we were taught to resist saying 'different to' and that 'different from' was correct; 'different than' was unknown. Ro Thorpe (talk) 16:35, 26 January 2016 (UTC)
Life and words are complicated. Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:48, 26 January 2016 (UTC)
I don't think that we should have an entry on the "different from-than" business. It's clearly not a simple straightforward Brit/'Merkin divide. Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:48, 26 January 2016 (UTC)

-wards words

There's also 'inwards' and 'outwards', which, like 'forwards', lose the 's' also in BrE in compounds like 'outward-looking'. So the new section needs elaboration, but I'm not in the mood at present. Ro Thorpe (talk) 21:54, 14 February 2016 (UTC)


I think you'll find this is perfectly normal in British usage, with only Oxford refusing to recognize it. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:58, 29 March 2016 (UTC)

I was surprised not to find it anywhere. Could you provide a ref, please, so I can put it in English spellings instead? Ro Thorpe (talk) 14:39, 29 March 2016 (UTC)

Chambers 12th ed p 1075, near the end of the entry on "on"; gives the 2-word version as an also, which probably means substantially less common, though I can't find a statement to that effect. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:02, 31 March 2016 (UTC)

Thanks, done. Ro Thorpe (talk) 19:54, 31 March 2016 (UTC)
Fowler's, second edition, has an anguished cri de coeur about "onto" and whether it exists or not. I remember reading this about 45 years ago and just checked the book -- he is still anguished 45 years later, hehe. Hayford Peirce (talk) 01:32, 1 April 2016 (UTC)

As an aside, Indian English seems to have created an analogous word "upto". Peter Jackson (talk) 08:45, 1 April 2016 (UTC)

Another aside. Fowler also mentions that words like "everyone", "someone" and "anyone" didn't exist in the 19th century. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:46, 1 April 2016 (UTC)

The Law of Averages?

Am reading another Michael Gilbert novel, an old one from 1955 called The Country-House Burglar in the States and Sky High in the UK. In it a Chief Constable is talking about a pre-war country-house burglar named Feder, "Outwardly a respectable average adjuster in the City. And no nonsense. If you had an average to adjust, he'd adjust it for you." I gotta say, I *think* this is the first time I've ever encountered this word. And, considering the source, and the context, it clearly isn't slang of some sort. So wot is it? Hayford Peirce (talk) 15:45, 14 June 2016 (UTC)

Never come across it either, far as I recall. Chambers 12th: "an assessor employed by an insurance company in marine claims". Cf the same dictionary on one I have come across: "loss adjuster n an assessor employed by an insurance company, usu in fire damage claims." Peter Jackson (talk) 10:00, 16 June 2016 (UTC)
From the BIG OED, there are numerous uses going back a long time regarding shipping expenses etc., but the current meaning seems to be: "The expense or loss to owners, arising from damage at sea to the ship or cargo." And from the Merriam-Webster 2nd Unabridged of the 1930s, an Average Adjustor is: "Admiralty law: One whose profession is to adjust the several liabilities arising from general averages." Now do we understand, hehe? Hayford Peirce (talk) 16:23, 16 June 2016 (UTC)

Milk bars

In the Michael Gilbert I'm reading a lady drops in at a London "milk bar" circa 1955. According to Our Competitor, milk bars exist in Poland and Australia, although they seem to be quite different from each other in those two countries. In the States, a "milk bar" is totally unknown, I would say. (Except for a Milky Way candy bar...) What were they in 1955 London, and do they still exist in the same form today? Hayford Peirce (talk) 01:23, 26 June 2016 (UTC)

I vaguely remember around 1970 there was a place called The Milkmaid, which specialized in milk and milkshakes as its main drinks. Maybe that's the sort of thing, though they did food too. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:21, 2 July 2016 (UTC)

a couple more from Michael Gilbert's 1955 Sky High

1.) "Ahead showed a square of alders and brambles. In the middle an affair of tumbled bucks and rotted timbers, stood the remains of a barn." No clue, me, as to what a buck is.

2.) "Don't tell me," he said, "that you've had a little man in a bowler hat hidden in the dickey. Extraordinary." A dicky in earlier 'Murkin was, I think, a kind of collar or shirt for gentleman -- see one of the songs in Carousel.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:17, 1 July 2016 (UTC)

2 I've always understood as a sort of bib standing in for a proper shirt, but maybe I've got hold of the wrong end of the stick. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:54, 1 July 2016 (UTC)
From online M-W:

plural dickeys or dickies 1 any of various articles of clothing: as a: a man's separate or detachable shirtfront b: a small fabric insert worn to fill in the neckline 2 chiefly British a: the driver's seat in a carriage b: a seat at the back of a carriage or automobile

Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:30, 1 July 2016 (UTC)

something the cat drug in?

Just finishing up The Country House Burglar. The hero is crawling up the stairs in pursuit of the bad guy: "You got to it by a steep secondary staircase which was covered only by a thin drugget and had a most peculiar squeak." Drugs, anyone? Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:36, 5 July 2016 (UTC)

more Brit talk from my next Michael Gilbert

I finished Sky High and am now slowly going through his 1966 The Crack in the Teacup, about a young lawyer caught up in municipal corruption in a Channel resort town. So far here are the words that are unfamiliar to my 'Merkin ears:

page 28: " "and who's a jobbing builder" "

page 29: " "Have I got a smut on my nose?" "

page 30: " "He blethered about the personal touch." " In the States we would say "blathered" -- could this be a typo?

page 61: "a much older wall of knapped Sussex flint"

several pages: drains -- obviously used in the sense of what 'Merkins call sewers or sewage. If an American butler said to an Brit. livin' in the States, "Your lordship, the man is here about the drains," he would be referring to the drainpipes leading down from the gutters, *not* to the sewage pipes.... Or so I'm pretty sure.

page 70: " "Neither Jack nor I have had much time for canvassing." " Out politicking and seeking votes. There are 'Merkin words for it, but they escape me at the moment.

page 86: "waiting for the dixie to boil" -- some sort of teakettle or camping utensil?

page 89: " "If you two don't do what you're told, and quick, you'll be on bounds for a week." " There are a couple of 'Merkin phrases for this that I can't put my finger on. grounded is one, I think.

page 101: "Grand Avenue joined the Marine Parade at a point opposite the Municipal Bandstand...." Esplanade or some such?

page 103: "and three battered wooden settles round a table...." Chairs? Stools? Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:08, 11 July 2016 (UTC)

A "jobbing builder", I vaguely assume, is a self-employed contractor hired for particular jobs.
No one in the States would know what you meant if you used this term.
I think "smut" in this sense is still fairly common.
I guess that it's a piece of dirt, or soot, that drifts out of the sky, but in the States it's really only used, if at all, to describe "dirty" pix or literature. And even that has probably vanished.
I've heard "blethered" fairly often, though I see typing this that the (apparently American) system red-lines it. Might be regional, though.
Yes, that's probably the case.
Flint-knapping is something they did in the Stone Age.
Ah, an anthropologist would know what it meant.
Surprised you haven't come across "canvassing"; it's standard WP terminology, so I vaguely assumed it was standard over there too.
Yes, I did a little research and it IS used here. But not as common as in Blighty.
Don't recall "dixie", though your guess sounds plausible. Cf. Australian "billy".
Once again, could be regional. Or a word from Gilbert's youth. But he DID keep up with things....
Haven't come across "on bounds". Various terms are used in different contexts: "grounded", "confined to barracks" &c. Is this quotation in the context of a public (private) school?
Sort of, but really a gang of disreputable teenagers going to create trouble in a seaside resort. The older ones are telling the younger ones to begone while they talk about sex....
"Parade" in the context you give sounds almost like a proper name. I suspect such usages are local.
It's definitely a proper name in this book.
I've come across "settle" occasionally, including I think American sources, but it's not common. It seems to mean something not much different from "settee" or "sofa", but I'm only guessing that. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:55, 12 July 2016 (UTC)
Okie, that makes sense. Hayford Peirce (talk) 02:00, 19 July 2016 (UTC)
Chambers says "blether" is Scottish, "blather" is American and dialect. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:19, 23 July 2016 (UTC)
Hmmm, I don't think of "blather" as being dialect. (It can be either a noun or a verb, by the way.) Maybe it started out as regional? I'll do some checking.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:21, 23 July 2016 (UTC)
Just checked my 1940 M-W Unabridged for "blather". Doesn't say anywhere that is a dialect word. And says it's the same as "blether". Hayford Peirce (talk) 20:13, 23 July 2016 (UTC)
MW is rather careless about British usage. E.g. it just says "metre" is a British variant for "meter", without mentioning that there are 2 different words spelt that way in America but distinguished over here.
When Chambers talks of dialect, it means dialects within England, I think. Peter Jackson (talk) 15:04, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
Yes, that's likely. I can't put my finger on an example right now, but the big M-W, and to a lesser degree the Collegiate one, do label some words as dialect, but I can't remember if they specify Brit. or Amer. Hayford Peirce (talk) 15:43, 25 July 2016 (UTC)
I'm not sure where this should go in the article: it's not really a vocabulary difference, because they're obviously the same word; but it's nor really spelling, because there's a different pronunciation; and vice versa. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:01, 26 July 2016 (UTC)
The vocabulary table has variants, like aero/airplane and afterward(s), so I'd put it in there. Ro Thorpe (talk) 14:48, 26 July 2016 (UTC)


According to both Chambers and Merriam-Webster (i.e. both sides of the pond), there are 2 species commonly called turnips: 1 of them is also known as swedes in Britain and rutabagas in America; the other seems to have no name of its own. Peter Jackson (talk) 14:42, 18 July 2016 (UTC)

I thought that we had discussed this years ago. If not, this is a FOOL'S ERRAND. Even in the States there is absolute chaos in determining what a turnip is as opposed to a rutabaga. It depends on what part of the country you live in. In New England, where I grew up, it's completely the opposite from California, to which I moved as a teenager. Hopeless. "Swedes" MAY exist in some parts of the country as fodder that is fed to animals.... I don't think they are ever considered human fare.... In any case, I don't like ANY of them, hehe. Hayford Peirce (talk) 01:51, 19 July 2016 (UTC)
We may well have done. There doesn't seem to be one of those panels giving links to archives of this page, like the ones they have in WP. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:51, 19 July 2016 (UTC)
Strange. I thought that there *used* to be links. Maybe something that got lost when we switched servers? Maybe John Stevenson would know? Hayford Peirce (talk) 18:12, 19 July 2016 (UTC)

Chinese Checkers

is the spelling of Booker T.'s tune (checked on YouTube). Would this be a specifically American variant? Ro Thorpe (talk) 17:12, 1 August 2016 (UTC)

Apparently, yes. In UK it is Chinese chequers, or so I believe. Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:13, 1 August 2016 (UTC)
WP article on it cites Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary for the British spelling. In any case it's not called "Chinese draughts". In fact, again according to WP, it's neither Chinese nor a form of draughts/checkers, but a German adaptation of the American game halma. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:52, 2 August 2016 (UTC)

Halma, I used to play that in Germany! Thanks for replies; I'll put the variant in. Ro Thorpe (talk) 14:53, 2 August 2016 (UTC)

Navvies in the Navy?

I don't THINK any 'Merkin would know what you wuz talkin' about if you said a "heavy laborer" wuz a "navvy". I see the term in Brit. thrillers, however, from time to time.... "Laborer" would probably be the 'Merkin equivalent, although there may be others.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 05:22, 9 August 2016 (UTC)

They were originally the (mostly Irish) workers on the navigation canals, whence the name. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:38, 9 August 2016 (UTC)
Makes sense. Probably were called that also in the early days of the Erie Canal.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 14:27, 9 August 2016 (UTC)


is sometimes used to mean a pigtail or something similar. I've only ever come across this in American sources, but is it in fact an American usage? The dictionaries I've tried say archaic, but the sources I've seen are fairly recent. Peter Jackson (talk) 13:43, 19 October 2016 (UTC)

It's ancient. Might be talking about Chinese men's pigtails 100 years or so ago. No one today unless they're my age or a scholar would know what the hell was being talked about.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:38, 20 October 2016 (UTC)

Sassy & cheeky

Do Americans say 'cheeky'? Ro Thorpe (talk) 22:47, 4 November 2016 (UTC)

I really don't think so. But I don't think sassy is used much anymore, either. What the alternatives are, I can't think of at the moment. But I'll give it some thought.... Insolent? But that's formal. Maybe some words revolving around "dis"? Hayford Peirce (talk) 03:07, 5 November 2016 (UTC)


In Britain, when an insurance contract specifies that you pay the first so much and the company pays the rest up to a limit, that first amount is called an excess (charge). From something I heard on the BBC this morning it sounds like it's called deductible in America. The rather confused explanation in a Wikipedia article seems to confirm this. Peter Jackson (talk) 10:50, 12 November 2016 (UTC)

Yes, it's always called a deductible. There may be excess verbiage at some point to explain PRECISELY what this means in relation to your own policy (since the companies are always trying to minimize what it INITIALLY looks like you'll have to pay out of your own pocket), but it always boils down to "deductible". With all of my familiarity with British terminology, if you told me that my insurance policy had an excess on it, I really would NOT have known what you meant. Hayford Peirce (talk) 22:43, 12 November 2016 (UTC)

ring roads and beltways

I think that both terms are used in the States, along with loop and various other words. The Beltway in Washington,which has officially been given that name, has popularized it, of course, but it is by no means universal. I remember a long time ago, when a lot of the country's fledgling electronic industry was on Route 128 around Boston, THAT was called a ring road, certainly not a beltway.... I have a feeling this may be one of those cases of "a distinction without a difference". Could be wrong, too, of course.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 23:48, 15 November 2016 (UTC)

Negligence and Malpractice

"If you sue a doctor for not doing their job with due care and attention, this is usually called negligence in England and malpractice in America." -- I don't think this parses correctly -- you're saying that the act of SUING is the negligence or malpractice. Think it needs to be reworded....Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:32, 26 November 2016 (UTC)

Yes, I think it could be clearer. Maybe I'll think of something. Peter Jackson (talk) 15:44, 28 November 2016 (UTC)
How about: When doctors are sued for not doing their job with due care and attention, it is because they are usually being accused of negligence in England and malpractice in America. Hayford Peirce (talk) 16:07, 28 November 2016 (UTC)
That makes the sentence construction clearer, but obscures the point that the distinction is linguistic, though that might be considered obvious from the context. How about changing the second part of your sentence to "what they are accused of is usually called ...", or something like that? Peter Jackson (talk) 09:39, 29 November 2016 (UTC)

Hire cars &c

Ordinary British usage distinguishes between a taxi, which you can flag down in the street, and a private hire car, which you have to order. Dictionaries don't seem to have noticed this. I don't know what we call a car you hire to drive yourself. Peter Jackson (talk) 12:00, 8 December 2016 (UTC)

I think a hire car. At least I just got an email from my Aussie son-in-law, a well-educated chap, who said that he was going to drive his hire car from Paris to St. Nazaire....Hayford Peirce (talk) 14:22, 8 December 2016 (UTC)
What about rental (or rented) car? Peter Jackson (talk) 10:44, 22 February 2017 (UTC)

three more from a 1956 (circa) Michael Gilbert story

The Brits use bedsitting, bed-sitter, bedsitter, etc, and the 'Merkins simply don't. My big old MW unabridged calls it Engl. and says it's an apartment that combines a bedroom and a sitting room. I really can't think of an American equivalent, although it must exist. The same story also speaks of the letting plan, and the letting agent -- this would be "leasing" in the States. And it contains the phrase "difficult to mark him to earth", which was new to me. We say "run to earth, and I thought the Brits did too....Hayford Peirce (talk) 19:51, 31 December 2016 (UTC)

Yes, a bedsit, as it's often shortened to, is a one-room flat. And yes, 'run to earth' is what I'd say; never heard the 'mark' phrase. Ro Thorpe (talk) 18:48, 1 January 2017 (UTC)

Word of Mouth

Latest episode of this series was specifically on this subject. Here are a few things they said:

  1. "vetting" was virtually unknown in America before 2008;
  2. "fortnight" is not used there;
  3. Webster deliberately rejected "aristocratic French" spellings like "honour" and "centre".

I should add that MW 2003 doesn't seem to support 1 and 2. Peter Jackson (talk) 09:59, 7 March 2017 (UTC)

I think that "vetting" was known by the "elites" but not much used. It certainly wasn't used as commonly as it is today. "Fortnight" is similar in that I think most educated people "knew" what it meant (or still do) but certainly never use it. I don't think that in all my life any American, no matter how well-educated or how great an Anglophile, has ever used "fortnight" in talking to me. As for #3, that *may* be. I thought that around the time of Teddy Roosevelt spelling reforms were made with a number of words, changing "theatre" to "theater", for instance. Hayford Peirce (talk) 17:10, 7 March 2017 (UTC)


See [2]. Peter Jackson (talk) 08:25, 4 April 2017 (UTC)

Yes, whoever made that comment is absolutely right. Hayford Peirce (talk) 15:04, 4 April 2017 (UTC)


Do Americans ever talk of "dog cookies"? Peter Jackson (talk) 13:20, 9 April 2017 (UTC)

They probably do these days, in which there are so many specialty items for dogs. But it they do, they're probably referring to what would be more like real *human* cookies than what are generally called dog biscuits. In other words, they aren't using the word cookie to replace the word biscuit. Hayford Peirce (talk) 16:17, 9 April 2017 (UTC)

to tick someone off

I've seen the phrase from time to time in Evelyn Waugh's military novels and always thought that it was almost like sending him a rocket or whatever the exact phrase is. Apparently, from what you say, it's much milder than getting a rocket. Thanks! Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:45, 19 May 2017 (UTC)

Welcome! Ro Thorpe (talk) 02:43, 21 May 2017 (UTC)


In my experience this is always pronounced neesh in Britain nowadays, but it seems from various sources that Americans generally stick with the old pronunciation nitch. Peter Jackson (talk) 14:35, 22 May 2017 (UTC)

Or nish as in fish. I don't THINK that I've heard 'Murkins say nitch, but I could easily be mis-hearing, there's not much of a difference there.... Hayford Peirce (talk) 14:57, 22 May 2017 (UTC)
I'm looking at my 11th Edition (print) of the M-W Collegiate and it shows "nich also nēsh or nish" -- so your guess is as good as mine. Hayford Peirce (talk) 21:01, 22 May 2017 (UTC)

I came across this long ago in Asimov's short story "A loint of paw", which seemed to expect this pronunciation. Peter Jackson (talk) 14:29, 11 September 2017 (UTC)


My impressions:

  1. Hey in American can mean Hello/Hi; in Britain it can only mean Oi or Ahoy.
  2. Eh in American can mean Er; in Britain it can only mean You what?

Peter Jackson (talk) 09:13, 30 May 2017 (UTC)


I've never heard of a metalled road either, but if it is a British term it'll be so spelt, with a double ll. We certainly could talk of a paved road here, but that would mean paved with stone, not metal. Peter Jackson (talk) 14:27, 11 September 2017 (UTC)

I'll add a second L to the word. I dunno why Kennedy used the word -- he's a well-known British historian who also holds a post at Yale. He ought to know what he's doing.... In any case, here is what a little research shows:

Why are tarmaced roads called metalled roads? Best Answer: Metal or metalling has had two distinct usages in road paving. Metalling originally referred to the process of creating a carefully engineered gravel roadway. The route of the roadway first would be dug down several feet. Depending on local conditions, French drains may or may not have been added. Next, large stone was placed and compacted, followed by successive layers of smaller stone, until the road surface was a small stone compacted into a hard, durable surface. Road metal later became the name of stone chippings mixed with tar to form the road surfacing material tarmac. A road of such material was called a "metalled road" in British usage, although this would be very rare in modern usage. It would be more common to refer to a macadam road. The word metal is derived from the Latin metallum, which means both "mine" and "quarry", hence the roadbuilding terminology.Hayford Peirce (talk) 16:29, 11 September 2017 (UTC)

An aside that reminds me of: it's been said that the word "tarmacadamization" (admittedly rare) illustrates the nature of the English language:

  • "tar" is Anglo-Saxon
  • "mac" is Celtic
  • "adam" is Hebrew
  • "iz(e)" is Greek
  • "ation" is Latin

Peter Jackson (talk) 09:11, 12 September 2017 (UTC)