Talk:List of words having different meanings in British and American English: A–L/Archive 1

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

"Bleeding over"

I don't think it's necessary—or even useful—to have a parenthetical note in each individual case where the other meaning has "bled over" and become a secondary meaning. Mkweise 03:26 25 May 2003 (UTC)

If indeed they have bled over. Within living memory, "flat" meant "apartment" in the UK and in the US which suggests common origin rather than bleeding. Its meaning is also very dependent on context, hence the "flat tyre" comment. Likewise "spunk" originally meant "semen" in both countries but it has always been used with the bravery, cheekiness meaning, in the same way as "balls", "guts", "cojones". Seems like that has now come to the fore in the US but it has by no means disappeared from the UK. If I, as a Briton, refer to someone as being spunky, I'm certainly not referring to the size of their ejaculation! Over-simplification is a bad thing. That's why I think it's useful -- and even necessary -- to have parenthetical notes. Derek Ross 03:37 25 May 2003 (UTC)
You do make a good argment, but OTOH the way we now present the case of flat:
an apartment, (or a deflated tire) | a deflated tyre (or an apartment in some places)
it isn't strictly speaking a words having different meanings in British and American English. I, for one, have never heard it used in A.E. in the British sense. Mkweise 04:11 25 May 2003 (UTC)
I understand that to be the case for many Americans. However one (older) American contributed to Talk:American_and_British_English_Differences in March with some info which may well be of interest to you. Take a look at the flat/apartment discussion.
I'm also bit leery about some of the differences in this list. As you say, "it isn't strictly speaking a words having different meanings in British and American English". Well, I agree with you. Someone's been a bit over-zealous in looking for differences and the result is that some of them are pretty subtle. Most of them are okay, but remember that there isn't really any such thing as British English, just a bunch of dialects most of which are much more different from "British English" (by which I mean the English used by the BBC) than "American English" is. For instance I would never use the suggested British pronunciation of Beta in the American_and_British_English_Differences and I'm British born and bred. The pronunciation I would use is marked as American. There's something not right there. -- Derek Ross 04:27 25 May 2003 (UTC)
After a decade or so programming in the US I don't recall a US person using the beata pronunciation of beta. Always encountered baita. In SW Britain and London I found that beata dominated but wasn't as exclusive. If you're accustomed to baita it may be a regional difference.JamesDay 02:19, 15 Sep 2003 (UTC)
As you all know, beta is a letter in the Greek alphabet, so there is a modern Greek pronounciation (beata), so this pronounciation may also arise from the influence of modern Greek speakers, or students.
If it's worth anything, I appreciate the parenthetical notes. -- Dwheeler 03:59 25 May 2003 (UTC)

The Great Garage Debate

I was going to add this, but wanted to make sure I had it right, first.

Word British meaning American meaning
garage car repair establishment
(accented first syllable)
covered automobile parking facility (accented second syllable)

Hephaestos 17:53 21 Jun 2003 (UTC)

Yeah, but the US meaning also applies in Britain, house with garage etc. -- Jim Regan 16:08 22 Jun 2003 (UTC)
I agree with the pronunciation difference, but at least here in Louisiana "garage" has both meanings. The "place you park your car" definition has predominance, but if someone says "I had to take my car into the garage" it's unambiguously referring to a repair place. Phil Bordelon 02:24 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Maybe we need a page of pronunciation difference between AE and BE. But the only other I can think of is "tomayto" vs. "tomahto" -- Jim Regan 19:27 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Supposedly 'poh-tay-to' versus 'poh-tah-to' as well . . . at least, that's what the song says. I'm not convinced by its argument, though. Phil Bordelon 19:46 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Screw this, let's call the whole thing off. --Dante Alighieri 19:51 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)
W'pedia was lagging too much for me to respond to myself with that line, which only occurred to me after I had replied to Jim. Thanks, Dante. You brightened my day. :) Phil Bordelon 20:49 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)
Nah, it's po-tay-to. Which is inconsistant, but who am I to question it? "He lied to us through song. I hate when people do that!" (Homer Simpson, from "Homer and Apu") -- Jim Regan 22:44 23 Jun 2003 (UTC)

...Months later, this has appeared

Removed it again, because all the meanigs seem to be both British and American. Andy G 18:47, 23 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Let's set this straight.

Here in Britain, there are about four meanings:

  • an outbuilding or attachment to a house where a car is parked
  • a car repair shop
  • a petrol station (typically as "Shell garage", etc.)
  • some style of music or other that I know little about

It is most certainly never used over here to mean a car park (or parking lot as you Americans say). -- Smjg 12:38, 27 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Okay, I'm a Midwestern American. Sense 1 in your list is commonly used, though often referred to as a "parking garage" unless the context is clear (e.g., a co-worker asks you, "did you park in the lot or the garage today?"). Sense 2 is also used ("my car is in the garage -- the timing belt snapped"). "My car is in the shop" is also used, and is not ambiguous in U.S. English. Sense 3 is never used. "Gas station" is the term used almost exclusively. "Filling station" is very occasionally heard (and is less misleading, as you can often get diesel and kerosene, not just gasoline). I've never heard sense 4 used -- not as the word "garage" all by itself. The term "garage band" I guess is closest thing, but it imnplies something about the (lack of) professional status of the musicians, not about the style of music played. Still, rock is probably implicit, as I've never heard of a garage orchestra.  :) I hope this helps. Branden 06:26, 29 Jan 2004 (UTC)
Er, sorry, I should make one more clarification. Parking garage is never used in the U.S. to refer to the sort of small garage that is attached to a residence. Branden 06:30, 29 Jan 2004 (UTC)
Coming back a bit late...
Looking at your second and last sentences, do you mean that you only call it a garage if it's a physically separate building in the grounds of the house, as opposed to one that's built in or stuck on the side? What do you call the latter then? -- Smjg 13:09, 23 Mar 2004 (UTC)
A parking garage is practically always a free-standing structure or part of a large non-residential building (exception: apartment towers in urban centers), always accommodates a large number of vehicles, usually has multiple decks, and is not the sort of thing one has on the grounds of a residence. If a U.S. Midwesterner says his "car is in the garage", he probably means his car is parked at someone's house (his own). It's possible he means it's in for repairs, but he'd more likely say his car is "in the shop". --Branden 08:13, 27 Jun 2004 (UTC)
We in the UK call a parking garage a multi-storey car park (or just a multi-storey). -- Necrothesp 15:45, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)
garage parking lot mechanic shop
parking space at home


Can someone confirm the American side of this for me? Matthew Woodcraft

  • Oblong
  • British: Rectangular
  • American: Oval
In my (Midwestern and Southern U.S.) experience, the term "oblong" is fairly rare in conversational speech, and is used more broadly than you describe. It basically means any plane figure (or a plane aspect of a solid object) whose orthogonal axes are unequal. So one could say in U.S. English that an ellipse and a rectangle are both oblong, but squares and circles or not. You'd use the term identically when referring to, e.g., a table whose surface is asymmetric in the same way.
From WordNet (r) 1.7.1 (July 2002) [wn]:

       adj 1: of a leaf shape; having a somewhat elongated form with
              approximately parallel sides
       2: deviating from a square or circle or sphere by being
          elongated in one direction
       n : a plane figure that deviates from a square or circle due to
Branden 21:42, 10 Aug 2003 (UTC)

Fancy Dress + Costume

I'm no big expert on this, so if I'm wrong please forgive me, but what about "fancy dress party" as opposed to "costume party"?

What about them? I'm from the U.S. and have never heard fancy dress party spoken without a British accent.  :) Branden 06:32, 29 Jan 2004 (UTC)


Does "flashlight" mean "strobe light" in british english? Greenmountainboy 03:08, 11 Dec 2003 (UTC)

ObAaron: No. --Phil 08:52, Jan 29, 2004 (UTC)


I've just made the following changes: Bird a slang term for a woman is much less common than the other use of that word. Fag can also be a young public school boy who acts as a servant for older pupils. Geezer can mean a man aswell as a gangster. Mad has both meanings in UK aswell as USA, but insane is more common in UK than angry. Period can also be a section of time in the UK aswell. Rubber can also mean mean condom in UK.


Does this sound like complete nonsence to you or is it just me?:

Saul Taylor 08:52, 24 Dec 2003 (UTC)

It makes sense to me, being the sort of slightly facetious comment I might make if someone suggested that I "ring" someone. -- Yath 08:14, 9 May 2004 (UTC)


Why on earth would you use a purely American term to define the "British" meaning of a particular word? For example, to the British Bum means Butt. To be of any use, this article must be completely comprehensible to all English speakers. I would suggest the use of culturally-neutral English in all definitions. 05:05, 31 Dec 2003 (UTC)

Yes, I like this idea. Greenmountainboy 15:03, 31 Dec 2003 (UTC)


I think skillet means the same thing in British English as it does in American English. Can someone verify this? Greenmountainboy 15:03, 31 Dec 2003 (UTC)

I've never heard of that word before. I'm British, btw. Saul Taylor 01:44, 1 Jan 2004 (UTC)
I knew someone from Manchester who always called a frying pan a skillet
(to) ring to call (someone) by telephone to make a bell-like sound; you cannot ring people unless they are wearing a bell. (Note: "To give someone a ring" is to call someone in British English, while in American English it's to give an ornamental band to someone). Also understood as "to call on the telephone" when said as "here's my number, give me a ring when you can" or similarly.


Regards "tyke": Both terms are used in British English. The word is described as "chiefly Scots and Northern English" in the Chambers dictionary. I'd also suggest that it's use for "Yorkshireman" is no more insulting than Scouse or Geordie. In Australian English it's an insulting word for a Catholic, but as far as America and Britain are concerned, I think both sides of the Atlantic use tyke to mean "little rascall", but Britain also uses it to mean dog and Yorkshireman. -Nommo 14:28, 12 Jan 2004 (UTC)

I'd also suggest that it's use for "Yorkshireman" is no more insulting than Scouse or Geordie. - possibly true, though it is also can mean "a crude uncouth ill-bred person lacking culture or refinement [1]. Certainly when my US wife referred to a (Yorkshire) friend's children as "Little Tykes" there was an embarrasing silence. -- Chris Q 14:39, 12 Jan 2004 (UTC)


"Tailgater" also has the supposed British meaning in the US. Meaning is derived from context. RickK 02:10, 18 Jan 2004 (UTC)

Garage again

Removed garage again - see higher up this page. Andy G 18:47, 23 Jan 2004 (UTC)


I've just looked this up - the page here states that the British meaning is spelled "sherbet" and the American and Australian meanings are "sherbert". But the text of the American definition has mixed the two spellings, and various online dictionaries seem to give either both spellings or only "sherbet".

Further to the inconsistency, our article states that sherbert is slightly different from sorbet, and others indicate that they're the same thing. Or is "sorbet" another word with different meanings that are being mixed up in the various sources?

And some sources are hopelessly out of date. AHD's second definition:

Chiefly British. A beverage made of sweetened diluted fruit juice.

No mention at all of the only meaning that tends to be used over here anymore, which as whoever just edited quite rightly says, is sweet fizzy powder.

What I'd do is:

  • Tidy up the sherbet page a little
  • On the list, change the left column to just say "sherbet", the only spelling that exists over here, and put "(also spelled sherbert)" in the American column.

Smjg 15:16, 2 Feb 2004 (UTC)

Hello, I'm the user who added sherbet/sherbert and I also added the British section on sherbet. So... do you think that Americans spell it sherbet or sherbert... you're right that the British spelling is nowadays always sherbet. Actually that would make sense, when I did a google image search for sherbet, I got lots of pics of the frozen dessert.
Re: sorbet/sherbert, I'm pretty sure they're different things. The OED only says that it's a kind of water-ice (19th C), and that sorbet is a synonym of sherbet (the drink), and then says sorbet can also be a water-ice. You're right that a lot of sources are hopelessly out of date!
I just did an informal survey of sherbet and sorbet recipies online. None of the sorbet recipes had dairy (milk etc) in them. And most of the the sherbet ones did. I think it's safe to assume that the modern meaning of sherbet/sorbet is that they are different things (as per the FDA stuff quoted in sherbet), but if we stick with the description of sherbet as a type of frozen dessert, we wont be wrong. By the way, you're obviously right about the fact Americans also spell it sherbet, I'll sort out the main article. Cheers, fabiform | talk 19:13, 2 Feb 2004 (UTC)


Between Meadow's law and SIDS saw that Brits call it "cot death" and Merricans call it "crib death." Does that suggest a broader split over cot and crib? For USians, a crib is a small bed with high headboards and slatted sides. A cot is usually made of canvas stretched over four low legs. And a cradle is much smaller than a crib, and usually/often rocks like a rocking chair. Is it different in British English? Am I making any sense? jengod 19:08, Feb 4, 2004 (UTC)

Looks like US crib = Brit cot; US (adult-sized) cot = Brit camp-bed; cradle the same for both. Andy G 21:21, 4 Feb 2004 (UTC)


As a Brit, I don't agree with "geezer" meaning gangster. It is mostly used (at least in London) in the same way as the word "bloke" e.g. "I met this geezer down the pub....", "old geezer"=="old bloke" "fat geezer"=="fat bloke" etc.. However it has started to be used differently in recent years, as per this Guardian article [2]

As an American, I've never heard it used except to imply that someone is old. Often redundantly as in "old geezer" or as in "fat geezer"=="Fat old man". I've never heard the gangster use before. Osprey


So what does "Mad" in Mad magazine mean? Angry? Have you heard of Angry Cow Disease? Does the acronym for Mutually Assured Destruction imply that it is an angry action or an insane action. Is Mad scientist confusing to you? I could go on. Mintguy 10:02, 6 Feb 2004 (UTC)'

I'm not going to put mad back in, but here's my contribution to the debate: "There's also 'mad hatter' and 'mad as a hatter'--there are plenty of examples of mad meaning insane. But if you go up to an American and say, 'Jimmy's mad,' the American will say, 'Why? What's he got to be angry about?' Not, 'Of course, he's mad. That guy's crazier than a junebug!' "jengod 17:58, Feb 6, 2004 (UTC)

I think the interpretation of "Jimmy's mad" would depend on the emphasis and the context rather than the words used, whichever side of the Atlantic you were on. Hence it is not a "word having different meanings in British and American English". Mintguy (T) 21:04, 6 Feb 2004 (UTC)

The main meaning in BrEng is "crazy". The main meaning in AmEng is "angry". It is therefore useful to people if "mad" is in the list.


My (Brit/NI) wife just used the phrase "made redundant" (again) to refer, of course, to someone being "laid off" as we would say in Americay. Before I add, just wanted to float it here for a while. Do words that have an *additional* meaning in the UK appear here? - Feb 24, 2004 Gnetwerker

Maybe your wife was right (they usually are), depending on what she meant. Made redundant is not necessarily the same as being laid off. Redundancy implies your position has suddenly disappeared (you are a cleaner and the company has decided to use contract cleaners). Laid off means you are terminated (dishonesty, misconduct. whatever) but your position remains and someone may be hired to fill it. Sure, some might write "I was laid off because I was made redundant", but "I was laid off" by itself doesn't always mean redundancy. No? Moriori 23:46, Feb 22, 2004 (UTC)
Traditionally in the UK, to be "made redundant" was indeed to lose your position because it had disappeared (and usually referred to white collar and professional workers). To be "laid off" was to lose your job because there was no longer sufficient work (such as when a factory's order book was not full enough or work finished on a construction site) and usually referred to blue collar workers, who would often be rehired when business picked up. The distinctions between the two are now very blurred. I (as a Brit) would never associate either term with dismissal due to dishonesty, incompetence etc - that's to be "sacked" ("fired" in American parlance). To be "let go", on the other hand, can often be a euphemism for being sacked (or may have no negative connotations and mean to be laid off). -- Necrothesp 15:36, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)
The British English term of being "made redundant" is the same as "being downsized" in the USA. May be better if this went on the List of British English words not used in American English, unless the term is also used in America. -- kiwiinapanic 02:56, 29 Feb 2004 (UTC)
I thought that employees were made redundant, and companies were downsized. Maybe I was wrong.... -- Smjg 12:57, 1 Mar 2004 (UTC)


I think from reading on the Web that Brits and Americans have different meanings for series, when it comes for TV.

US: "I love season two of the TV series Buffy the Vampire Slayer." UK: "I love series two of Buffy the Vampire Slayer--it's the best of the seven."

Whadja think?

I agree, it might have something to do with the fact that American seasons typically last a lot longer than British series. Saul Taylor 01:41, 12 Feb 2004 (UTC)
In the UK we tend to use "series" for both meanings - the individual season and the whole thing. -- Necrothesp 14:45, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)

"spanner" means nothing at all in the US

Adjustable wrench

so it presumably doesn't belong here. But one might have included "wrench," which is a verb in both countries, yet seems to be a noun (meaning spanner) only in the US.

We have "wrench" as in the tool over here, but it isn't as common. I think mostly as in "monkey wrench", the adjustable sort. -- Smjg 10:39, 2 Mar 2004 (UTC)
Although even that is an Americanism. The correct British term is "adjustable spanner". -- Necrothesp 15:55, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)
CALD gives both "wrench" and "monkey wrench" as "mainly US", and COED gives no qualification in this respect. For that matter, I've also come across "wrench" used over here to mean the sort pictured.... -- Smjg 16:47, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)


Disclaimer: I'm a Canadian, but I consider myself fluent in American English. To me, the most common meaning of band is a musical group. The second most common meaning is strap, such as in "rubber band". The jewelry ring meaning is only understood with context. -Tom

I concur. The most common use of "band" in the Midwest is to refer to a small group of people; often a musical group, but maybe a set of compatriots; see the HBO television series Band of Brothers. --Branden 08:21, 27 Jun 2004 (UTC)


The American definition isn't quite right - hunting refers to pursuing animals by any means. -Tom

As a Brit, neither do I understand it as referring to any specific means. Neither do any of the dictionaries I've looked in so far. Is the person who put it in still here to provide evidence to the contrary?


Firstly, "stroke" is rarely if ever used for the / character in the U.S. Secondly, where is "to take a slash" used? Can anyone confirm that this is an Americanism? The entire "slash" row should go away as far as I can tell. -- Yath 08:29, 9 May 2004 (UTC)

I think the U.S. Army uses "stroke" to mean the slash sign, or what Unicode calls a "solidus" ("/"). At least, I first encountered this usage in reruns of M*A*S*H when I was a kid. I agree with you about "to take a slash" not being an Americanism. I've never heard this. -- Branden 06:52, 16 May 2004 (UTC)
The only terms I (a Brit) would generally use for this character are "slash" (mostly in computing contexts) and "stroke" (mostly as a symbol used to mean "or" or similar). -- Smjg 13:33, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)
As another Brit, I would use "oblique" for this character. The only time I would use "slash" is when using computing expressions, and then only to avoid confusion. I would always look on it as an Americanism. -- Necrothesp 14:37, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)


This addition "make a telephone call (also British usage, but this is becoming rare)" should've had the summary "usage ambiguation" not "usage clarification".

Do you mean that Americans also have what you've put as the British meaning, or that this is also a British usage? If you'd followed the pattern of the rest of the list, it would be clear. But either way, it doesn't clearly match my understanding.

But looking it up, all I can find is dependence on context and phrasing. As a Brit, I 'call' people on the phone (on the odd occasion that I get round to it). OTOH, one might 'call on' or 'call in on' someone, or 'call round', meaning to pay a brief visit.

-- Smjg 11:18, 20 May 2004 (UTC)

Americans have, I think "had" what is listed as the British meaning, but that it is falling out of use. Once when I was a child growing up in the late 1970s and early 1980s, encountering a "closed" sign on a store that said "Thank you -- please call again" was enough to confuse me, as I hadn't ever heard that meaning used. It has now been many years since I've seen such a sign. (These days, businesses seem to content themselves with a simple "CLOSED" or just turning the "OPEN" neon sign off.) If someone said, "the lady had a gentleman caller last night", it would be understood in the British sense but would be notably archaic. Does this help any? --Branden 08:25, 27 Jun 2004 (UTC)
Yes, "please call again" is intransitive "call", as is "call on". So there's no discrepancy here. And CDAE lists "call on" without any indication of obsolescence, so it must be still in use to a reasonable extent. I'd say there's no real difference, so the term isn't really worth listing. I'd also say "caller" is ambiguous except when clarified by context. -- Smjg 13:33, 5 Jul 2004 (UTC)


  • Is it necessary to uniquely compare 'bloody' with 'wicked', as there are several other synonyms?
  • American dictionaries Merriam-Webster and American Heritage both list 'shag' as a cormorant.
    • This is also a UK meaning, though the slang usage of the word is much more common.
  • Oxford English Dictionary lists 'purse' as 'a small pouch for carrying money', and 'wallet' as 'a pocket-sized, flat, folding holder for money and plastic cards', both acceptable in North America.
    • The key difference here is that purse whould never be used for a handbag in the UK.
    Also, in the UK a purse is a female item whereas a wallet is more a male one (a woman might carry a "wallet", but a man would not carry a "purse"), even if the actual object is identical. The only exception I can think of is that some old men carry a rather female-like container for their change, and if one wanted to impart a slightly condescending tone one could call it a purse.
  • It has been stated of 'yield' that 'the given UK meaning is hardly ever used', i.e. 'give way under force or pressure'. While this may be true, do British speakers ever say 'yield' meaning 'give way to or become succeeded by someone or something else', e.g. 'yield to traffic'? I have only heard 'give way'.
    • Yield is used in the sense of giving way to traffic.

Are all these dictionaries incorrect? Thanks. Pædia 21:24, 2004 Jun 28 (UTC)

    • In Congress sessions on C-SPAN I sometimes hear Reps saying they want to "yield myself such time as I may consume". [[User:Poccil|Peter O. (Talk)]] 06:30, Sep 3, 2004 (UTC)

Listing of common meanings

Recent edit summary: this article is supposed to illustrate the differences between word usage -- grass means first and foremost "the green ground cover" in US English, too, so I removed that explanation

Notice that the column headings are "most common British meaning" and "most common American meaning". Even if these headings are rather out of date with current usage, it makes no sense to me to randomly omit the most common meaning from a given entry.

Moreover, we already list several meanings that are common to both sides of the pond. Without them, quite a few entries would be blank on one side. And though for some instances we have considered only one context, there is no common context of the definitions of "grass" we have. So removing the "green ground cover" meaning just doesn't seem right. -- Smjg 16:42, 8 Jul 2004 (UTC)

this article's a little UK-centric I've noticed other articles on wikipedia are. I don't know where most writers or admins are from, so I'm not saying this whole 'pedia should be american-centric. However, this article does little to help an American understand some of the UK meanings- like trunk. what the heck is trunk line?? And there are multiples for some. Of course, I know the US meanings really well. We call a huge suitcase a trunk, too. Anyway. I might do some of the tweeks (small changes, that is), but anyone else is welcome to. Kzzl

Trunk-line isn't a term in the US? Hmm. How odd. Better?
James F. (talk) 17:06, 25 Jul 2004 (UTC)


The article seems to be making a distinction based on capitalisation. In the UK, "Government" is used like "Administration" is in the US (with the differences based on political system). Meanwhile, "government" is used to mean the business of or pertaining to the running of a nation. Presumably, the latter meaning (that is, uncapitalised) is present in the US as well, while the capitalised version is not used in favour of "Administration". To be honest, this kind of difference needs a fourth page: List of words which are different in American and British English but directly equivalent. A bit of a mouthful, but how else do you describe it...?  : )

For this bit of the article, I'm going to run with something like

government Capitalised, refers to the executive (though this will include some of the legislature). Can take the indefinite article, referring to any party in power. See Parliamentary system. Corresponds to "Administration" in American usage.

Uncapitalised, refers to the business of running a country.

The word "Government" is not used in its capitalised form.

The uncapitalised meaning is the same as in the UK.

which I'll add after posting this to let you know why I've made it more complicated. Wooster 20:49, 3 Aug 2004 (UTC) (wondering how many Britishisms/Briticisms he's made in this message : ) )

The fact it's capitalised or not is actually irrelevant. The only time it needs to be capitalised is when you refer to 'the British Government' or 'Her Majesty's Government'. If you're just saying 'the government' then lower case is fine. Some people do prefer to capitalise, but it's not actually necessary, just a matter of individual style (like 'the prime minister' or 'the pope', which some people also prefer to capitalise). -- Necrothesp 23:17, 28 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I don't think that that's really correct (well, it's no more correct than any other denunciation of Protocol) - the office of Prime Ministership is afforded the capitalisation through being treated as a proper noun by dint of being polite. You can not use the capitals, but only in the same way as that you can answer the telephone with expletives. The terms "Government" and "government" are distinct in meaning.
James F. (talk) 00:56, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I agree to an extent in that my own inclination is often to capitalise, but it is not actually necessary. The BBC News website, for instance, rarely capitalises 'the government' or 'the prime minister'. If you refer to 'Prime Minister Tony Blair' or 'the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom' then it does require capitalisation, in the first instance because you are using it as part of a proper name and in the second because you are giving the office something approaching its formal title, but not otherwise. Otherwise, saying 'the prime minister' is no different from saying 'the general' or 'the dustman' - it's a job title. It's a matter of style, but it is not incorrect to fail to capitalise. There is no distinction in meaning. -- Necrothesp 13:51, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)


Pacifier doesn't mean one who opposes war in the UK. That's a pacifist. A pacifier is simply one who pacifies. I've therefore altered the entry. -- Necrothesp 08:37, 5 Aug 2004 (UTC)

Country notes.

We said "UK: Blah" and "US: Bleh", but we're meant to be talking about "British and American English", so shouldn't they be "BE: Blah" and "AE: Bleh"?
James F. (talk) 01:11, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)


The reason why I put 'thousand million' in the 'most common British meaning' for is because that is the most common British meaning - e.g. it is now used exclusively in the UK Gov and BBC websites for finance, science, demographics, etc.; it is the value taught in schools. By reverting the 'most common British meaning' entry to 'million million (but US meaning more common)' an ambiguous statement has been created. Ian Cairns 08:04, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)

I take your point, but it's only more common among those who don't take the trouble to understand what billion means (bi-million, i.e. million x million). Sadly, the government and BBC are as ignorant in this respect as are many other people. And I would actually dispute that more people use the American version in Britain. Everyone I know would use million million and would refer to a thousand million as an American billion. Use by the government and the BBC does not equal use by everyone. I would say that billion billion is still the commoner usage. -- Necrothesp 16:07, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I also would prefer people to use the million x million as a billion, but it just isn't so. We have to reflect the usage, not what we'd like to be the case, and I have no doubt that the American billion is now used almost exclusively in Britain. -- Chris Q 06:51, 31 Aug 2004 (UTC)
I think we should keep the listing, as the ambiguity still exists at least in theory. Though I'd be inclined to explicitly say "million million" or "thousand million".... -- Smjg 16:39, 1 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Sorry, but I think "almost exclusively" is exceptionally wide of the mark. -- Necrothesp 12:26, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Hello Necrothesp. In my experience in the UK over, say, the last 10-20 years, the British newspapers, TV, magazines, websites, personal communications, etc. have used the short-scale billion so consistently that I have trouble remembering the last time I saw a long-scale billion in the wild. The only times I can certainly remember seeing this is in some dictionaries (those which tend to delay reflecting new usage) and as a historical footnote added to defining the short-scale billion in schools / textbooks - however, neither time is it being used actively. I would put the proportion of short-scale usage that I come across at very much greater than 95%, probably 100% In a spirit of enquiry, may I ask which sources of long-scale billion you come across in the course of your day? Clearly, your peer-group uses long-scale. Would this be in a particular industry sector, etc.? Your experience is very different from ChrisQ's or mine, and I'm trying to understand where this usage is prevalent in the UK today. Many thanks, Ian Cairns 17:21, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Hi. No, my field (archives) doesn't use billion on a regular basis at all. I'm just going on usage by people I know and by myself. Before about 10-15 years ago, I would have been surprised if anyone in Britain would have interpreted 'billion' to mean thousand million. Not only is it illogical for it to mean this (although I acknowledge that most people probably don't consider the logic), but there is absolutely no reason to change something long used in Britain and still used almost exclusively in the rest of the non-US world (as far as I know, 'milliard' is still the standard term used for a thousand million in France, Germany and the Netherlands, for instance). Yes, it is true that the government has started using the American billion, and therefore the media tends to use it, but I would still suspect that a majority of ordinary Britons think 'million million' when they hear 'billion'. Not that many of them probably think about its meaning at all, apart from as "a very large amount that means virtually nothing to me". As I said, I have no proof to offer here beyond the usage that I hear from people who are not involved in government, media or big business. In actual fact, I think the truth is that most people neither know nor care exactly what a billion is and just use it to mean a large amount. It is, however, interesting that we talk about greater international understanding and yet begin to use a definition only used extensively in the United States when we did not do so before. It seems ironic (and illogical) that the government is so keen to introduce the metric system (used in Europe but not the US) and the short billion (used in the US and not Europe). I know the debate here is about usage not logic, but it's an interesting point. -- Necrothesp 17:47, 2 Sep 2004 (UTC)
I am interested that you say Billion is used as "million million" in most of the non-US world. I assumed that most or all of the other English-speaking countries (Canada, Australial, etc.) used the short Billion. Would anyone from an English-speaking country other than the US and the UK like to comment? -- Chris Q 06:12, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Here in Canuckistan, or at least the part I'm from (Ontario), "billion" is usually understood in the American sense. It's also the usage that the Canadian Press favours, if that's any indication. -- Hadal 06:22, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
You may well be right that most of the other English-speaking countries use the short billion. But as far as I know, non-English speaking countries generally use the long billion. I say this both because all the European dictionaries I've seen give 'million million' as the definition and because I've heard this debate before with Europeans contradicting American claims that the long billion is unusual. -- Necrothesp 14:35, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
In fact, see billion (interesting article), which claims that Brazil is the only non-English speaking country to commonly use the short billion. In fact, the French and Italian governments at least have officially announced their retention of the long billion. Also see the (contradictory) quotes in the conclusion referring to British usage. -- Necrothesp 14:43, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)
Now, if the French wanted everyone to think of a billion as a million million, they should've called it a bimillion—though, that'd be multiplication rather than exponentiation. Let's say that a thousand thousands is a million because mille fois mille égal million; then a thousand millions is a milliard and a million millions is a billion. So why isn't a billion billions, say, a bille? and a bille billes a trille? and a trille trilles a trillion? The only advantage of the French system is that the Latin prefix can be directly related to the number of noughts in the lot without a +3 shift from leaving the thousand-million crook. But the system is flawed from the start because the affix cycle was an arbitrary choice. It's a logical choice to make the cycle as small as possible, so the American system was the better to settle on. (I invented a superior numbering system though.) lysdexia 20:41, 3 Nov 2004 (UTC)


The same problem with the billion entry also exists for the Trillion entry. Ian Cairns 11:19, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)

And the same explanation from me. -- Necrothesp 16:07, 29 Aug 2004 (UTC)

StuartH: The name of the page is there for you to read. The column heading is also there - 'most common British meaning'. Your edit could lead someone to understand that the traditional meaning is nowadays the most common meaning. See above discussion on billion and the articles billion, trillion, short scale, long scale etc. Thanks, Ian Cairns 12:22, 2 Oct 2004 (UTC)


I'm not sure that this belongs. Is there any evidence to suggest that they really are forms of the same word? Or that anyone would confuse the two? -- Smjg 10:52, 3 Sep 2004 (UTC)


Huh? I have never heard a Brit use "period" with the American meaning of denoting emphasis. We Brits use "full stop" for that meaning as well. It derives from the punctuation mark. -- Smjg 11:36, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Discussion at User talk:Necrothesp#List of words having different meanings in British and American English.
James F. (talk) 13:02, 20 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Controversial changes

I disagree with the changes Lysdexia has just made:

Removing meanings that are common to BrE and AmE

Given a meaning that is not listed, we have no means of seeing whether that meaning is common or just not yet considered for this list. Consequently, it could also lead to the same meanings being repeatedly added to one side of the list and then removed by someone who decides that the meaning is valid on both sides of the pond.

Moreover, it makes the list look incomplete where the BrE meanings form a subset of the AmE meanings or vice versa.

Perhaps better would be something like this:

Word British meanings Common to British and American American meanings
garage fuel filling station vehicle repair shop

building attached to or in the grounds of a residence for storing a car

(parking garage) building serving as a public parking facility

The only thing left to consider is how we should list meanings that are 'rare' on one side....

-- Smjg 15:44, 4 Nov 2004 (UTC)

  • I vote to go back to the old table. There was nothing wrong with it and it looked better than the current effort. -- Necrothesp 11:06, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)
    • Actually, having looked at it again I go along with Smjg's idea. -- Necrothesp 15:46, 5 Nov 2004 (UTC)
  • I agree with Smjg's idea. -- WLD 22:16, 22 Nov 2004 (UTC)

Prefix "to" on verbs

This looks pointless to me, and creates inconsistencies (wanting nouns to be prefixed with "a", etc. to match). In my mind, the left-hand column should read like headwords in a dictionary.

Part of speech would be indicated as "(noun)", "(verb)", etc. after the word (as is already done for some entries), and only where the entry considers just one POS of two or more that a given word can be (the word deemed to be unambiguous in other PsOS).

-- Smjg 15:44, 4 Nov 2004 (UTC)

"Most Unique"

Being a bit of a pedant, could I suggest we use the term 'most common' rather than 'most unique' for the columnn headings? Or, preferably, 'more common', as some words do have multiple commonly used meanings. A thing is either unique or it isn't, and some of the words most definitely do not have unique meanings, let alone 'most unique'.

WLD 16:59, 22 Nov 2004 (UTC)

I agree. Maurreen 17:47, 22 Nov 2004 (UTC)


If British chips are thicker cut than the standard American version, then they are probably more like what Americans would call "Home fries". RickK 20:49, Nov 25, 2004 (UTC)


Neither the American or British definitions give a metric equivalent or something to compare it with, both simply refer to each other. This shows that one is larger, however whether a pint is the same as the Pacific Ocean or a jar of honey is not shown. Could we be given a base of reference?