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a_bees_buzz in hp_britglish

The responses to the post on really horrific Americanisms were just amazing. I try to be careful and I have British in-laws, but I still found several errors I have made. So, I've tried to turn the comments into a useful list. I used ??? to mark a few places where I wasn't sure of the correct interpretation. Please let me know if I've gotten anything wrong. I'd be happy to edit and to add any new contributions to the list.

Hot Topic brand clothing,
“crushes on”,
pancakes for breakfast,
“could care less” (do not use this in an American context either, it’s just wrong),
wooden houses, ranch-style houses,
baseball analogies for sexual activities (first base, second base, etc.),
public water fountains,
“that would be swell”,
"graduate" as either a noun or a verb.

Correct British expressions are:
Holiday, not vacation, except for Oxbridge, where 'long vacation' / 'long vac' is standard;
He’s nuts or he’s a nutter, not he’s nutters;
Lieutenant, not leftenant;
Got, not gotten;
I wrote to her, not I wrote her;
Mum, not Mom;
Present, not gift;
4x4, not SUV;
Living room or sitting room or drawing room or front room or lounge, not lounge room;
Nappy, not diaper;
Fridge or refrigerator, not ice-box;
Pavement or path, not sidewalk;
Streets, not blocks;
Chemist, not drugstore;
Wedding ring, not wedding band;
Disorientate, not disorient;
"No wonder" or "Oh well" or "Sod's law" or "Bloody typical, that is", not “go figure”;
That’s bad or that’s terrible or that’s rubbish, not that sucks;
He’s pants at… (if a child is speaking) or he's crap at, not he sucks at…;
Going out with or seeing, not dating;
Lift, not elevator;
Cottage or holiday cottage or chalet (for a modern, wooden, rental place), not cabin;
Swings, not swingsets;
Learnt, not learned;
Sweets, not candy;
Go and see him or go to see him, not go see him;
Fringe, not bangs;
Teaching staff, not faculty;
Term, not semester;
Tartan, not plaid;
Pudding, not dessert if you are upper-class, dessert or sweet or pudding if you are non-U;
Jumper, not sweater;
G-string, not thong;
Stands, not bleachers;
Biscuits (in most cases), not cookies;
Pyjamas, not pajamas;
A person who has been exposed to the sun is tanned, not tan.

General comments:
Lawyers are either barristers (who go to court and work from their chambers) or solicitors (who mostly do legal papers and work in law firms).
No one puts cream in tea, milk or lemon are acceptable;
Tea is always served hot, so no iced tea or use of the phrase ‘hot tea’;
A pudding course might be apple, cherry, or lemon meringue pie, but other types of pies are unlikely - other fruit fillings would be served as tarts or crumbles, chocolate tart is also possible;
Shepherd’s pie has a potato topping, not a floury crust;
Writing out zed in an acronym (eg. From A to Z, not from A to Zed);
A bathroom contains a bath (not a bathtub), a toilet or loo or ladies or gents contains a toilet;
If there is a room in a house that contains both a bath and a toilet, you would call it the loo/toilet when you were planning to use it for that function and call it a bathroom when you were having a bath, for non-specific functions you would call it a bathroom (eg. Your hairbrush is in the bathroom);
The issue of when children enter Reception vs. First Year depends on the decade and the region, see comments in this section and previous posts to be sure to make an appropriate choice;
There are no midterm or end of term exams at Hogwarts, just end of year exams;
Shops sell gifts, but you give a present to a friend;
Lounge is lower middle class/working class, living room is middle middle class, sitting room is upper middle class, drawing room is old-fashioned upper middle class;
Front rooms and parlours are reserved for guests, they are not casual rooms, and parlours are terribly old-fashioned;
It is not a big deal if a slightly underage person has an occasional drink;
Not all Irish people are whiskey-skulling alcoholics;
A pop quiz would be an exam on British music;
British boarding schools rarely have private rooms for any students, it is unlikely that Hogwarts would;
University and college are never referred to as school;
You graduate from a university, but leave a school - so the term "graduate" should never be used in reference to Hogwarts, either as a noun or a verb;
School leaver is the correct term for someone who once attended a school and no longer does, including both those who completed the full course and those who did not - it is not the equivalent of drop-out;
Bugger all or fuck all = absolutely nothing;
Bugger it all or fuck it all= I can't be bothered dealing with "it" any more;
"It is/ it isn't [that] X of a Y" is incorrect, the "of" should be left out, so "It isn't that big a deal" rather than "It isn't that big of a deal";
"Stop doing that already" is incorrect, the "already" should be left out;
A garment worn over nightclothes is a dressing gown, a garment made of towelling worn when wet is a bathrobe;


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???, not graduate;

The noun or the verb?
Both, actually.

Harry et. al. will not graduate from Hogwarts, they will ???

Also, I gather that a person who completed the full seven years would not be a Hogwarts graduate, what would they be called?
- We don't 'graduate' from school at all, we just leave, so there is no replacement for graduation.

- Leftenant? Eh? That looks to me like a phonetic spelling of the way we say 'Lieutenant', but no one writes it like that, do they?

- A fridge (refrigerator) is a fridge, a freezer is a freezer, one with both is a fridge-freezer.

- 'Professor' is a title given to those who hold a departmental chair in a university. Someone who just teaches ought not to be called a professor. I presume that at Hogwarts, teaching is like holding a 'chair' of, for example, DADA. Or that, you know, JKR is a bit thick.

- You can buy iced tea (lipton, for eg.), and it's tasty, but it's seen as a bit odd.

- A bathtub is most commonly known as a bath.

- Front room and parlour != living room/lounge. It's a room which is kept for guests and not otherwise much used. It's less and less common now. Front room can also mean, naturally, the room at the front of the house on the ground floor, which in my house is my bedroom!

- It's fine if a slightly underage person has an occasional drink. Underage <18. Also it's not a big deal if you choose to give your *child* (ie more than slightly underage) a few sips, in fact it's legal to do so for a child above four.

- Traditional breakfast foods might include drop cakes or oat cakes or flap jacks No, none of the above. These are teatime food/snacks. Breakfast can include toast, cereal, porridge or less commonly, cooked breakfast (eggs, bacon, beans, sausages, tomatoes, mushrooms...) or kippers.
Thank you for your comments. I've made some edits. I think I'll just leave the whole breakfast foods issue alone - I can see how I misread that series of comments, but it's too complex of an issue for a simple reference list.

I presume that at Hogwarts, teaching is like holding a 'chair' of, for example, DADA. Or that, you know, JKR is a bit thick

But would a high school have chairs?

Apparently, someone did write 'leftenant', since it made the list. I didn't make up the list, I'm just compiling it.

Is there a school leaving ceremony at all?
-Teaching staff, not faculty ??? is this a distinction between high school and university, because the British universities definitely have faculties which are made up of professors - given that Hogwarts uses the term ‘professor’, would ‘faculty’ then also be appropriate?;

At the University I'm at a faculty is a group of departments. We have the Faculty of Arts, Faculty of Science, and Faculty of History & Social Sciences.

-Pie is not a likely choice for pudding;

Err, apple pie, chocolate pie, lemon pie.

-British boarding schools do not have private rooms for any students;

This really depends on the school and how old the student is. Some of the more expensive schools will have private rooms for the students at the very top of the school. (On the other hand, Hogwarts having private rooms makes me go O_o because it doesn't appear to be so from the books)
Are you saying that pie is a likely choice? Someone had mentioned that as jarring.

I'm familiar with the use of the term faculty for a group of departments, but as an academic myself, I have heard British academics also refer to the teaching staff as the faculty. It seems to be particularly common in discussing differences between the faculty and the administration, at least in the conversations I have had. This may be an Americanism that they have picked up, but if so it is common enough that it should be acceptable if the speaker is an academic.

This still leaves open the question of whether the Hogwarts staff would counsider themselves the school's faculty.
Hurray, I'm upper middle class. Out of my way, plebs! :-p
I think that bit was based on a conversation I was having with shezan in the last post: it's a bit unnerving to have your random impressions and prejudices exalted to the level of Established Fact!
A bathroom contains a bath (not a bathtub), a toilet or loo or ladies or gents contains a toilet, you would not find both in the same room;

This is definitely wrong! I've only ever lived in one house where the toilet was in a separate room to the bath.
I think maybe that comes from discussion of loos in public places, like a restaurant; if someone uses bathroom there that sounds very odd! But in houses, yes, very often it's the same room. Still, you probably wouldn't say 'I'm going to the bathroom' if you were going to the loo.
One that grates with me, though perhaps doesn't with everyone, is when someone says something along the lines of "stop doing that already". We'd not add the already to the sentence. Have I explained that clearly?
Perfectly clearly. I'll add it to the list. Thank you.

Awesome. adds post to memories immediate-like
Rode his bike or biked, not cycled;

No, cycled is also common in British English. When talking about a bicycle informally, you'd probably be more likely to call it a bike (so also 'bike shed' and 'bike rack' for places when bikes are stored and secured), but cycle is still used.
Someone mentioned "cycled" as being incorrect in the earlier post. Any other opinions out there? We don't seem to have a consensus yet.
British boarding schools do not have private rooms for any students;

Not strictly true; the school I attended (as a day boy rather than a boarder) gave boarding sixth-formers (17-18 year old students) private rooms.
Duly noted and corrected. Thanks.
Present, not gift;

I think I'm looking at unadulterated HP text (that is, not dumbed down for Americans--which there was a lot of in the first book but not so much by book five), and it's full of the word "gift" in the context of something given by one to another. I wonder if this is something that's more regional/inidividual?
Just to make things more confusing, I'd say 'present' tends to be used more for wrapped-up goodies and generally more whimsical things whereas 'gift' tends to be used for abstract things ('the present of laughter'?) and anything given with a bit more meaning or on a more solemn occasion.

Re the OP: I don't think the use of lounge/sitting room/living room is that stringent. There may be a slight trend but it seems fairly random to me. I say living room and think 'lounge' sounds a bit posh.
Some public [=American private] schools do have individual rooms for pupils from 13 onwards, although it's rare.

On the other hand, I don't think we should extrapolate too far from the current [or even past] British school system. Hogwarts would probably mtake little or no notice of the Muggle system.

I would think it best to stick to canon: JKR writes about 'professors' but not the 'faculty'. There is a staff room [to which Harry and Ron gained access in CoS. In most schools, pupils would never dare enter the staffroom. Even Potters.]

Cottage or holiday cottage, not cabin;
Chalet would also be possible, for a modern wooden construction rented out for holidays.

Learnt, not learned;
Both are ok, though some people use one more than another.

Go and see him, not go see him;
Or Go to see him, which feels more formal.

Pudding, not dessert;
Both are ok, but they're not quite the same thing.

Lounge is lower middle class/working class, living room is middle middle class, sitting room is upper middle class, drawing room is old upper middle class
You've got the gradient broadly right, but only drawing room feels upper middle class (and old fashioned).

Front rooms and parlours are reserved for guests, they are not casual rooms;
Parlour is dreadfully old fashioned, verging on archaic.
Oh, and... Do not use "graduate" as either a noun or a verb
This is correct in the context of tertiary education, just not on leaving secondary school, in case anyone's confused.
He’s pants at…, not he sucks at…;

Do people really say "pants" in that context anymore? I'd say He's crap at... It's much more common.
Children certainly do.
Pudding, not dessert;
Pudding's less generic than "dessert" where I am- it's just things like mousse, whereas dessert is anything you might eat after a main meal. If I'm going to make something for dessert, I won't say I'm going to make "pudding" unless it really is some sort of pudding.

Dressing gown, not bathrobe;
It's a bathrobe if you wear it when you're wet after a bath/shower- if you wear it over a nightie/pyjamas (oh, it's pyjamas, by the way, and never pajamas) it's a dressing gown. At least, in my experience.


Pudding in the UK is not just this mousse/blanchmange like thing. Britain has a rich and varied pudding culture. A true pudding (i.e. food steamed in a muslin or in a pudding bowl) can be savory (steak and kidney pudding) or sweet although the default meaning nowadays is sweet.

Both dessert and pudding can be used as the name of the sweet course after a main meal.

Dessert, except when used in restuarants, is one of those words which is laden with class meaning. Although it sounds posh, it is mre likely to be used by aspiring lower middle classes rather than the upper classes.

Something I've read in a couple of fics which annoyed me, the word "draw" instead of "drawers" as in, "Harry got his clothes out of the chest of draws."

No he didn't, he got them out of a chest of drawers!

I don't know if this is an Americanism or what, but lately there seem to be quite a few instances with the word "dove" used as a verb, both in fics and in published novels. "He dove under the sofa." No he didn't, he dived under the sofa. There is nothing that jars me out of a story quicker than that word used as a verb! It is just awful.

My two pennies worth :)

take care,
The 'draw' was just a really bad error on the writer's part. We know that it's 'drawers' . . . :-)

Regarding the question about not using ice-box, but something wizardly instead of fridge, I think I have used "cool cupboard" or "cool box". Some older grand houses in Victorian times etc. had an "ice-house" although I don't know if they kept food in there or if that was just for the ice. :)

take care,
An ice house here in the States was almost always used exclusively for the storage of ice. Don't know about across the pond.

You'd go and cut the ice off of the lakes during the winter, and put it in an ice house, where it would stay cool until you hacked a hunk off for your icebox throughout the rest of the year. The exception was if you were aging meat, you'd put it in the ice house because the animal wouldn't fit in your icebox. (You'd only do this if you were planning on cooking the entire animal at once, though.)
Thanks for sharing this, Buzzy! A lot of it was familiar to me already, and luckily I do have my own sources (a good friend and a brother-in-law!), but I did find some entries that were new to me as well.
Wow, this is incredibly informative and really helpful - it's great that you started this discussion. But one thing I'm wondering, after having read a few Brits explain a couple things differently, how much of the differences are regional? Even in America a lot of things are dependent upon where you grew up - certain slang words and even just regular catch phrases are different from place to place.

But anyways, thanks for doing this and thanks to all who contributed.

Oh but one more thing . . . try not to be too harsh on us Americans, I think it's at least a good thing that some of us try to get British English correct even if we fail at it a bit.
What's supposed to be so bad about "..., is all"? I've certainly used it in dialogue before now, as in "Of course Neville isn't my boyfriend. He never has been. We've been to the Yule Ball together a couple of times, is all."[written just after GoF, when it was apparently quite likely the Yule Ball would become an annual event]
I don't know that it's bad, but we never say it in Britain. It would be "....,that's all".
For the record, there is a public water fountain at Heathrow. It appeared, as if by magic, not ten seconds after I complained aloud that there certainly would not be one.

Why not icebox? The resistance to this has always mystified me. All other technology in wizardom is pre-1850, or at least some archaic past where bathing was yearly. Giving wizards refrigerators should be an anachronism. Where would they plug them in and how would they figure out how? Mr. Weasley, if presented with a fridge, would cut the plug off and add it to his collection. On the other hand, a block of ice, given a wand and a source of water, would be infinitely renewable and understandable.
I know this is old, but this I mentioned this in another post.

"..., is all"

Hagrid does use this in the UK version of the books.

"Servitude!" said Hagrid scathingly. "He's doin' Dumbledore a favour is all -" OotP - Chapter Thirty: Grawp

So to say to never use it, would be incorrect. It might not be common, but it has been used in canon.
There were some very vehement anti- "is all" posters, but there have been a few defenders. I'll take canon as the ultimate arbiter; it has been removed from the list. Thanks for the input.
Why not pancakes for breakfast?
I don't know, I just reported what the brits on the list said. You might want to troll through the comments on the post that inspired this one - someone asked what annoyed the britglish group when they saw it in fics. Most of this list came from the comment threads that generated.
Not that you would often use it in the wizarding world, but tin foil, not aluminum foil. The metal is aluminium anyway :)
Also: something can be pants no matter how old you are...



Yes, something can be pants no matter how old you are, but the older you get the more childish you sound.
Clean equivalents: rubbish, nonsense, awful, just awful, dreadful, simply dreadful (very affected), terrible, wrong, just wrong, rotten, harsh, a downer, stinks, mengs (slang for stinks), garbage (though dustbin not garbage can), useless, 'aving a laugh.
Coarse equivalents: bollocks, shit, shite, bullshit, crap, gay (though this usage is homophobic), taking the piss.
Sucks, incidentally, is well understood in the UK, just not much used. Blows ditto.
Orientate is a violation of every law of nature I can think of. I know it's common usage, but it's still just horrid.


Thanks, this is comprehensive and very well done!
Every law of nature? Hmm. Not quite sure how it violates gravity, but I'll take your word for it. *grin*
Another one that annoys me, if you are still looking, is the use of the word "tan" instead of "tanned", as in "Harry was looking very tan". In the UK we would say "Harry was looking very tanned".
Excellent addition!

I know there are some people who have this entry bookmarked and use it as a reference, so I'll edit that in.
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