You are viewing hp_britglish

Previous 10

Dec. 8th, 2014

LegoPerse

persevero

Britpicky rant

Not my usual pre-Christmas 'no eggnog' post, but one about drinking ages, inspired by two stories in succession getting it wrong.

The age at which it becomes legal to buy alcohol in the UK is 18. It is also usually illegal for someone of 18 or over to buy alcohol for an under-eighteen to drink in a pub, bar or public place. BUT it is legal for someone aged 16 or 17 to drink (and therefore to be bought) beer, cider or wine for consumption with a meal in the dining-room of a pub or restaurant. The age at which it becomes legal to drink alcohol on private premises is FIVE.

So, most of the 'you can't give me a drink because I'm under-age' lines are wrong. It's perfectly legal to give your child a glass of wine on a special occasion, say, though giving more than a moderate amount of alcohol to a child is likely to constitute an offence of a different sort.

Oh, and I refer everyone to my previous remarks on eggnog. The sort we have is lethally alcoholic and, though definitely a winter drink, not a part of your average family Christmas celebration. Just because our children can drink at home, it doesn't mean we routinely get them drunk.

Nov. 2nd, 2014

khalulu, kanji

khalulu

turn (someone) on/ on to (something)

Just checking to see if this idiom is used in either or both sense in British English (fic is set about 10 years ago, Harry and Draco speaking). Someone turns you on: you are sexually attracted to them. Someone turns you on to something: they awaken your interest in it or point you toward something useful that you hadn't been aware or appreciative of previously.

Thanks!

Nov. 1st, 2014


starfishstar

"dressing up" as a term both for wearing nice clothes and for wearing fancy dress(BE)/costumes(AE)?

Hello lovely folks! This time around, I've got a truly language-related Britpick question. I've written something into a story that it's now occuring to me may not work in British English...

I have Remus and Tonks going on their first date (finally! yay!) and going out in Muggle London, because that's easier for Remus than potentially facing anti-werewolf prejudice in wizarding establishments. I then kind of played with the phrase "to dress up" – Tonks says, about going to Muggle London, "We'll play dress up!" (As in, hey, don't worry, it'll be fun; we'll dress as Muggles.) But when he arrives, Remus finds she's also "dressed up" – as in, put on a nice outfit for the occasion.

Does that double use of the phrase work in British English? Can "dressing up" mean both what children do on Halloween (dress up as someone else) and what adults do for a special event (dress up in nicer clothes than usual) or do you use a different phrase for one or both of those meanings?

I know there's a British/American difference in terms of BE saying "fancy dress" (a fancy dress party) where AE would say "costume" (a costume party) so now I wonder if this impacts other clothing-related phrases as well...

Thank you! Seriously, this community is such a resource and such a delight.

Oct. 27th, 2014

wine pour

smallbrownfrog

adding alcohol to a nonalcoholic party drink

Would it be correct to say that somebody "spiked the punch" at a party? In the US that would mean secretly adding alcohol to a bowl full of a nonalcoholic party beverage. Also, is a nonalcoholic party drink called "punch" in the UK? Or would there be some other term for the sort of party drink one might serve (ladle) from a big bowl?
Tags:

Oct. 7th, 2014

tiger

timetiger

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


kohaku_imaki55

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

khalulu

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

therealsnape

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


eilonwy1

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"?)

Thanks!

Sep. 9th, 2014

Toulouse cross

syntinen_laulu

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.

Previous 10

dumbledore

December 2014

S M T W T F S
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031   

Syndicate

RSS Atom
Powered by LiveJournal.com