(In case you're wondering what my third favo(u)rite thing about living in England/Britain is, it's: everyone seems to have a hobby or passion [besides sitting in front of the tv/(BrE) telly every night]. What fun! If only everyone in my family had a hobby--it would make Christmas shopping so much easier.)
But enough asides (or since they came first, should I call them atops?). Here are some of the BrE institutional verbs I love:
- to sign on also known as to go on (BrE) the dole: to register to receive social benefits (AmE: welfare or unemployment insurance). I was going to link you to the episode of Spaced in which Daisy tries to sign on, but no one's uploaded that one to YouTube yet. Just when you start to think that you can depend on the Internet, it goes and disappoints you in a fundamental way.
One can use sign off to mean 'go off benefits (because one has become employed)', but I'm more accustomed to hearing it used to mean:
- to sign off: (for a medical doctor) to give a medical certificate (to someone), allowing them medical leave from work. This is usually done by one's (BrE) GP -- general practitioner (AmE: primary care physician [though that's (AmE) HMO-speak] or family doctor). This is often used in the passive--e.g. I've been signed off for the next five weeks. When it's used in the active form, the direct object comes between the verb and the particle: The doctor signed John off, not *The doctor signed off John.
- to section: to commit someone to a mental hospital--so-called because it is
done under various sections of various mental health acts (according to Wikipedia, that's the Mental Health Act 1983 (England and Wales), the Mental Health (Northern Ireland) Order 1986 and the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003). There are a number of examples of its use in this clip from the recent television comedy Peep Show. AmE uses to commit (as in to have someone committed) for putting someone into a mental instutition--but so does BrE.
There used to be a hair salon that specialised in dreadlocks and hair extensions (and more specifically, dreadlock hair extentions) that was called Sectioned. I thought it was the perfect name for such an establishment--right up there with Barber Black Sheep.
- to shop (someone): to turn someone in for some misdeed. This isn't only used for fraud against the government, but it's certainly used for that a lot. The OED has it going back for centuries, but says it's now "only slang or dial". For example:
Council [AmE: municipal government] launches 'shop your neighbour' dustbin [AmE: trash can] hotline (Daily Mail, 12 Oct 2006)
While it is slang-ish, newspapers and even the government use shop quite easily--although often in (AmE) quotation marks/(BrE) inverted commas in order to signal its 'slanginess'.
- to grass (up) (someone): again, to inform the police/authorities about someone's misdoings. More likely than shop (in my experience) to be used for non-fraud kinds of crimes. There are also the nouns grass and supergrass, meaning a person who grasses. And once one learns that, the name of the band [warning: link makes noise] makes more sense. AmE alternatives that I can think of for this meaning, such as rat, are also found in BrE.
Most smokers are law-abiding citizens, and I can't believe people will want to shop smokers. It is not the British way.That it is perceived as 'not the British way' might go a little way to explaining why (in my experience) British universities tend not to have Hono(u)r Codes, in the American sense. At many US universities, one must sign a document promising not to cheat and to report any cheating one knows about. At my UK university, students have to sign statements that they haven't cheated (when they take an exam or submit and assignment), but (as I found when someone grassed on a fellow student) there is no process in place to allow for the investigation of an accusation of cheating that comes from a student, rather than a faculty member.