Articles, quizzes, and grammar tips for word-lovers everywhere

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How do British and American attitudes to dictionaries differ?

For 20 years, 14 of those in England, I’ve been giving lectures about the social power afforded to dictionaries, exhorting my students to discard the belief that dictionaries are infallible authorities. The students laugh at my stories about nuns who told me that ain’t couldn’t be a word because it wasn’t in the (school) dictionary […]

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Why did the zebra cross the road? The language of driving in the US and UK

Why did the zebra cross the road? The language of driving in the US and UK

In the UK’s not-too-distant past, it was possible for most any Tom, Dick, or Harry (with a little money) to plunk himself down in the driver’s seat of an automobile, turn on the ignition, and zip around to his heart’s content—without ever having taken a test. Collective shudder. So I think we can all be […]

Jack and the Flagpole: what do you call the British national flag?

Bunting

Travelling around Britain, as I’ve been doing this week, I have been struck, as anyone would be, by the profusion of national flags. Not only are they to be found draped on cars and pinned in bedroom windows this year, the British flag is also being displayed on civic flagpoles, high-street lamp-posts, and pub-signs, and […]

Are you sitting comfortably?

Furniture

Regular readers of this blog may remember a recent poll in which we posed the following question: What do you call the piece of furniture pictured below? Sofa Couch Settee Other The results were as follows: 58% were in favour of sofa, 29% plumped for couch, settee was chosen by 9%, and 4% of respondents […]

Chipping away at British and American English

Fish and chips

It has been said that Great Britain and the United States are two nations divided by a common language. When it comes to potatoes, this is most evident in three words: chips, fries, and crisps. Basically, British crisps are US chips, while British chips are US fries/French fries. Confused? Let’s look a little closer. *Orange* […]

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