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

Tag: British English

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Quiz: how good is your American English?

We recently tested non-Brits on their knowledge of British English; now it’s time to turn the tables and see how well English-speakers outside of North America can handle the mysteries of American English. Have a go, and let us know how you do. Good luck! Quiz: how good is your American English? Game Over Hair […]

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British English quiz

Quiz: how good is your British English?

If you’re an English speaker and have spent any time in an English-speaking country not your own, you know how different the language can be. Sometimes the differences are slight – for example, the stress on different syllables of weekend between British and American English (wiːkˈɛnd vs. ‘wēkˌend, respectively) – but sometimes the differences are […]

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Talking proper: the language of U and Non-U

The release of The Riot Club, a fictionalized version of the Oxford University Bullingdon Club, based on Laura Wade’s 2010 play Posh, seems a fitting moment to consider how to talk posh. In 1954 the linguist Alan C. Ross published a study of ‘Linguistic Class-Indicators in Present-day English’, which first introduced the concept of ‘U’ […]

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‘Oh see, can you say…’ linguistic confusion for a Brit in America

When you’re a Brit living in the United States, as I am, sooner or later – and it’s usually sooner, even if you’re trying hard to fit in – you’ll end up using a word or phrase that your interlocutor just doesn’t understand. Everyone knows the obvious pitfalls, and they’re constant causes of amusement or […]

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Biscuit vs. cookie: a transatlantic debate

“England and America are two countries divided by a common language.” So said George Bernard Shaw (allegedly). Much has been written about words that are chiefly used in one country or the other (for example, eggplant in the US and aubergine in the UK), but there are also words that exist in both countries but […]

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19th century engraving of a platypus

Ask a lexicographer: part 4

Every now and again, we like to share a few of the very interesting questions sent to us by users of Oxford Dictionaries. Read how our lexicographers tackle questions about British and American English usage and the written treatment of foreign words. What is the plural of platypus? Is it platypodes? Platypodes is one possibility […]

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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 […]

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