In AmE one asks one's boss for a (pay) raise. In BrE, one asks for a pay rise (or perhaps one seethes with quiet resentment instead). These differing expressions are both nouns, of course. The verbs are basically the same. The boss would raise your pay. Your pay would rise.
Why are they different? (a) Because they came about after AmE and BrE separated, in the 19th century, and (b) because there are two possible verbs to make the noun out of (both of which were already nouns in English anyhow). AmE went with making a noun with the form of the transitive verb (someone raises your pay) and BrE went with making a noun with the form of the intransitive verb (the pay rises). Both of these verbs had been nouns in English since the 16th century--it was only their application to pay that came up in the 19th century.
AmE, unlike BrE, also uses raise as a noun in other financial contexts, such as a raise in the minimum wage or a raise in the federal government's debt ceiling (both found in Mark Davies' Corpus of Contemporary American English [COCA]). This does not mean (as at least one BrE speaker has suggested to me) that the noun rise doesn't exist in AmE. In fact, AmE uses rise as a noun 10 times as much as it uses raise as one (according to COCA). But compare this to BrE, in which the noun rise is 53 times more common than the noun raise, at least in the British National Corpus.
AmE uses the noun rise in non-financial contexts (e.g. a rise in crime) and in financial ones--and BrE would use rise in all these contexts too. What's interesting is to consider is how Americans know when to say raise and when to say rise. So, let's look at some of the financial contexts from COCA:
|a raise in (65 hits in COCA)||a rise in (711 hits in COCA)|
|minimum wage||home prices|
|federal government debt ceiling||your credit card debt |
and your water bill
|pay, salary||dollars per capita income|
|Medicare payments||stray costs|
The noun phrases in the table are the first six different things (in the COCA results) that one could have a raise or rise in. I've put pay and salary in the same box just because it was too boring to count them separately, but it was hard work getting up to six different noun phrases for a raise in because most of them were about pay, and were things like they haven't had a raise in 10 years.
The thing to notice about the table is that the raise things are all things that a single authority makes a change in. The government sets the minimum wage, the debt ceiling and Medicare payments (which in context seemed to mean co-payments), and a company, boss, or parent (or someone like that) sets pay, salaries and allowances. So we have the sense of an agent in this action: someone raises your pay, allowance, etc.
In the rise column, we have things that are subject to more influences, and therefore are not raised by any one authority, but seem to rise because of market forces pushing them up. (The second example, credit card debt and water bill, is about the effects of dating a [orig. AmE] bad boy. I don't think we can see the bad boy as an authority that's raising the water bill.) There was a counterexample in the first page of a rise in results that I must note: a rise in the cap on taxed salary, which is surely decided by a single authority. While the raising of pay is definitely raise in AmE (British pay rise sounds really weird to us), other kinds of authority-led upturns in cost or earnings are less uniformly raise. So, for instance, COCA has 9 cases of raise in the minimum wage and 2 of rise in the minimum wage (all from US news sources).
As noted above, raise as a noun is not absent from BrE. In both AmE and BrE, one could execute a little raise of the eyebrow. And if you're doing that now, feel free to leave a comment.
In other news:
I'm quoted in a royal-baby-watching story on today.com on British-versus-American names for baby paraphernalia. It took me about a half an hour after receiving the reporter's request to figure out why a US news establishment wanted to talk about British baby-stuff terminology. As it was for their wedding, it seems like there's more media interest in Will & Kate's baby in the US than in their own country. Which only makes me gladder I live in the UK where I can be spared some of that! Still, it's always fun to talk with the press. If you want to read more about baby stuff, here's a link to my 'babies and children'-tagged posts.