Language Questions

What is a fortnight?

Commonly used in the UK, a fortnight is the equivalent of two weeks or really as 14 days, from Old English FOURteen NIGHTs. (Not to be confused with four score, which is 80.) If you've not heard it used before, you wouldn't be the first. This editor had to look it up the first time the midwife said it. “I suppose in about fortnight we shall be told that he has been seen in San Francisco. It is an odd thing, but everyone who disappears is said to be seen at San Francisco. It must be a delightful...

Why are British billions and trillions sometimes different to US?

Sometimes when the British talk about billions, they actually mean what we Americans would call trillions. It's important to get clarification on which billion they're actually using in their figures because both methods are still being used. There is also a historical difference between billions, trillions and so forth. Americans use billion to mean one thousand million (1,000,000,000), whereas in the UK, until the later part of the 20th century, it used to mean one million million (1,000,000,...

How are dates written in the UK?

Dates in the UK (and most of the world) are formatted differently than the USA. Instead of Month-Day-Year as we would normally write them, the day is first, Day-Month-Year and said for example "the 7th of November" (07-11-2011) instead of as "November 7th". Pay extra attention on important forms and food expirations!

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