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Oct. 7th, 2014



Carrier Bag, Shopping Bag

I'd thought carrier bag was the term used in the UK for what North Americans call a shopping bag, i.e., the more-or-less single-use paper or plastic bag your purchases get put in if you don't supply a bag of your own. Now I'm reading a novel by a Scottish author which is set in Edinburgh and where someone is said to have a shopping bag. Since I'm writing a short (I hope!) fic set near Loch Ness, I'm wondering whether both terms are in fact used, and if so whether they are interchangeable, if they have somewhat different meanings, if use varies depending on geography, or anything else I might not have thought of.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Sep. 24th, 2014


On Holiday

Suppose you want to go to Wales for a vacation in the summer, where would you go, why would you go there. It should be somewhere lots of people go so that there is a tourist industry.
I live in the San Francisco Bay Area and locals as well as tourists go to Wine Country for day trips, over night, and week long stays. Something like that would be great.

Sep. 16th, 2014

khalulu, kanji


Fine, be that way / get on like a house on fire

In the U.S. there's an expression "Fine, be that way," which is said in sort of mock-offense when someone is being stubborn and you give up on changing them. Is that or anything similar used in current British English? (Something Harry might say?)

Also, do you say "get on like a house on fire" for people who take an instant liking to each other? (Get along like a house on fire is common in the US.)
snape default


Giving a date in British English

I have a few questions on writing a date in English. I still follow the instructions I got in high school (I'm a non-native speaker) - but they may be long outdated. I was told that one always puts the number after the month and that one does this both in the header of a letter and when giving a date in a phrase, but I'm not sure whether this is still correct.

The characters who give the dates in this story are teacher-generation, fairly formal, and they give the dates when they are writing something, not in a dialogue.

What is the correct way in British English?

A I went to Hogwarts in the early hours of March 28, 1998.
B I went to Hogwarts in the early hours of 28 March, 1998.
c I went to Hogwarts in the early hours of the 28th of March, 1998.

A September 8, a Saturday, is convenient.
B 8 September, a Saturday, ...
C The 8th of September, a Saturday, ...

A The day of September 8 duly arrived ...
B The day of 8 September duly arrived ...
C The day of September 8th duly arrived

Thank you so much for your help!

Sep. 10th, 2014


colloquial question

Quick query regarding the use of certain colloquialisms that are common in the US and may possibly be in use in the UK as well.

The words "zip," "nada," and "zilch" are all commonly used for additional emphasis when referring to "nothing," as in "He's got nothing for us. Zip. Nada. Zilch."

Has any of these expressions made it into UK English, perhaps as a result of the influence of American TV/movies? Or would they just sound alien to a British ear? (Could I use them to back up an expression like "fuck all"?)


Sep. 9th, 2014

Toulouse cross


Woodland management and magic

Ceredwensirius’s recent query on offering tea to a distinguished visiting wizard kept forking into so many threadlets it got hard to keep track. But one threadlet got on to the subject of coppiced and pollarded trees in Epping Forest, and I thought that the magical implications of traditional British woodland management techniques might be worth a thread to themselves.

Epping Forest is notable for a number of strikingly large pollard trees. Pollarding is a medieval technique of tree management, originally evolved to provide animal fodder. The young growth of broadleaved trees makes nourishing food for deer and cattle; the trees know this and put all their early energy into growing a trunk tall enough that these animals can’t reach their young branches which all sprout from its top. But along comes a medieval peasant looking for fodder for his oxen or flexible withies for basketry or hurdle-making; the branches of a young but well established tree are above his head too, but he can just reach them with his long billhook. So; he reaches up with it, lops off all the branches, and drags them off. But the tree doesn’t die; next year it puts out new growth, necessarily from the same place as the previous year’s. It’s out of reach of animals so the new growth flourishes. Two or three years later the peasant passes by again…. Over the years this treatment, applied regularly, creates a very distinctive kind of macro-bonsai shape; a very thick but relatively short trunk and short stubby main branches terminating in knobbly swollen ‘fists’ from which shoots have been repeatedly lopped, each with many thin new shoots sticking stiffly out from them. If you’ve never seen a pollard tree in RL, you’ve seen one in the HP films, because the Whomping Willow as shown there is a classic pollard willow - no willow ever grows like that naturally.

Which raises some interesting issues. Someone on the Hogwarts staff (Professor Sprout? Possibly assisted by Hagrid?) must have pollarded the willow every few years – an extremely dangerous task for an expert and very brave wizard tree surgeon, as being pollarded must enrage the tree to its limits. Why was such an onerous task deemed necessary? Is it possible that it takes regular pollarding to create a Whomping Willow? – i.e. that you take a naturally aggressive species of willow and continually build up its aggression (and also ensure the whippiness of its branches) by pruning it? This would explain why they are so rare and valuable, because the dedication and danger entailed in rearing one is clearly great.

Then there’s coppicing. This is a prehistoric method of managing woodland to continually produce useful timbers by cutting down trees for their timber but leaving the stump; new trunks sprout from the stump (known in forestry as a ‘stool’) which are typically nice and straight (after an initial kink where they sprouted from the stool). When they are full-grown, you cut them down and new trunks sprout again. Over generations of this process the stool gets bigger and bigger, growing outwards from the original stump. And the tree doesn’t die of old age, because each time it’s cut it starts again as several saplings. Thus the oldest known tree in the British isles isn’t a majestic oak or yew as you might expect, but a small-leaved lime: a species which you wouldn’t normally expect to live much beyond 100 years. It’s at Westonbirt National Arboretum and is reckoned to be at least 1000 but quite possibly as much as 2000 years old, and still young and healthy. It now has more than 60 trunks: in fact it is now a substantial grove or small wood in itself, and yet it’s all a single biological entity. There’s got to be scope for magical use of that, surely.

Sep. 7th, 2014



Tea and home baked items

The setting is roughly 1965-1968. I've read several posts about how to serve tea and the different types of 'tea' (read American trying really hard to wrap her head around high tea, afternoon tea, and tea traditions in general) that one might encounter but what I haven't found is whether tea would be served to a well-respected, higher-status surprise guest (Dumbledore).

The family receiving the guest has fallen on hard times (the Lupin's post-bite) and in US terms, especially for that time period, would have meant a lot of food made in the home as opposed to purchased ready made.

If it matters, I've placed the family in Essex county the county of Essex (apologies to all) and created a 'wizarding enclave' somewhat separate from the Muggles and modeled loosely after Godric's Hollow. The town I picked is real horrible but for obvious reasons does not have an actual wizarding enclave and has been changed to Epping Green, courtesy of lil_shepherd. Thanks ever so much.

So, if
1.) It is appropriate to offer Dumbledore tea - details on this please please please as I clearly do not understand English + tea
2.) Would it be acceptable to offer something to go with that? I've been researching English Sweet Dishes here and discovered that Brits also like pound sponge cake. I understand pound sponge cake. Everything else on the list? Not so much. But I'll work with your suggestions (I'm just excited that something familiar might be appropriate).
3.) Where in the house would this tea be held (informal kitchen setting, formal dining room, living room - very American)  if 1 = TRUE.

Thanks in advance for your help.

EDIT: I love this community! Thank you for the quick response!!

Aug. 25th, 2014


Laying in plates?

I'm reading the newest JK Rowling's Cormoran Strike mystery, and there's a British phrase that I just don't understand. I goggled it but had no luck.

The phrase is laying in plates,

So they weren't lying in wait for Quine?"

"No, but they could haven been laying in plates,"

Thanks in advance.
edit in purple


1970s general terms of address

If one student was speaking to a small group of peers (e.g. Sirius to the other Marauders), would they address the group as "guys"? Like, "Hey, guys, look what I found!"

Other alternatives my brain is suggesting are lads, blokes, and chaps, none of which I'm sure about the usage on.

Further, would there be any casual term of address for a mixed group, like all the male and female students on a Quidditch team or something? What about a group of all girls?

Thank you all very much! :)

ETA: Thanks all! I don't know how "you lot" escaped my brain, but that's exactly what I was going for.

Aug. 16th, 2014



Breaking into Fort Knox

So I have this scene were a bunch of students have basically just fortified the Hogwarts express and repelled an attack by Death Eaters.  I want one Muggleborn to say to another something like "They'd have more luck breaking into Fort Knox," or the "Express is more secure than Fort Knox."  Which any American would know means that the place is virtually impenetrable.  Is there a British equivalent of somewhere that is basically so secure that only stupid people would try and break into it?  Or a phrase that means similar?  I want it to be a Muggle phrase so no Gringotts parallels or any thing

Edited for clarity

Answered: I think I'll go with "more luck stealing the crown jewels."  Thanks everyone!

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