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

Lynne Murphy m.l.murphy at SUSSEX.AC.UK
Wed Apr 9 02:40:02 UTC 2008

This discussion has taught me that few of you are going to agree with the
claims I made about the UK/US differences in bracket terminology in the
early days of my blog. I claimed that Americans tend to call these  { }
'braces'.  That's what I learned to call them when studying formal logic.
(None of the readers at the time contradicted me, though it was before I
had a lot of readers!)



--On Monday, April 7, 2008 3:24 pm +0200 Dennis Preston <preston at MSU.EDU>

> Wilson,
> 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...
> dInIs
>> ---------------------- 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

Dr M Lynne Murphy
Senior Lecturer in Linguistics and English Language
Arts B135
University of Sussex
Brighton BN1 9QN

phone: +44-(0)1273-678844

The American Dialect Society -

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