Names for brackets (was: Extension of Tourette's)

Dennis Preston preston at MSU.EDU
Mon Apr 7 13:24:05 UTC 2008


Except for the Hungarian part, I am an old American feller, and I
will have to say that my system is not like Damien's but not like
yours either:

() parentheses
[] brackets (but "square brackets" in phonology)
{} curly brackets (never braces)

"Braces" are for trousers, teeth, walls, etc...


>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Damien Hall <halldj at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
>Subject:      Names for brackets (was: Extension of Tourette's)
>Wilson said:
>>  As far back as the early 'Seventies, I heard (post)graduate students
>>  refer to braces as "curly brackets." At that time, I feared for the
>>  future of the English language. A great weight has been lifted from my
>>  shoulders.
>Sorry, Wilson, if it causes you to start losing sleep again after a mere night
>of respite, but your e-mail was the first indication to me that this wasn't a
>straightforward across-the-pond lexical difference!  Of course, I should know
>by now that things are never as straightforward as they seem in language.
>Anyway, as I say, up to now I'd thought that the fact that I referred to all
>kinds of brackets differently to all Americans whom I'd heard
>referring to them
>meant that it was just a thing between the US and the UK.  My system, which I
>maintain stoutly, is:
>()   me / UK: 'brackets';         US: 'parentheses'
>[]   me / UK: 'square brackets';  US: 'brackets'
>{}   me / UK: 'curly brackets';   US: 'braces'
>To unify the set, I also most often call <> 'angle brackets', and I have even
>been known to call // 'slash brackets' (when these two last enclose stretches
>of characters, of course).  But, to be fair, I don't know whether these
>represent general UK usage, simply me, or US and UK usage.
>Damien Hall
>University of Pennsylvania
>The American Dialect Society -

Dennis R. Preston
University Distinguished Professor
Department of English
Morrill Hall 15-C
Michigan State University
East Lansing, MI 48864 USA

The American Dialect Society -

More information about the Ads-l mailing list