The American’s have enjoyed torturing the magnificence of the English Language over generations, and the boy Dean and I waste many minutes every week berating each other’s use of, and spelling of, God’s own language.
The car is a place where wonderful existing words from my language are easily sufficient to suit every dialect, but no, the Yanks have to pretend that what we say is not useable for their purposes. Typical…..
So here I go with just five examples of motoring terms that need no embellishment.
Of course, a boot is a boot, and has always been a boot. It stems from long before the Americans started building those black cars; it was the word for a built-in compartment on a horse-drawn coach originally used as a seat for the coachman and later for storage. So there. No argument.
Likewise the bonnet; yes, the lid that opens up to reveal the engine. ‘Twas always thus. I agree it can also mean a lovely hat worn by beautiful ladies, and babies, a cowl on a chimney, a piece of sail laced to the foot of a foresail to give it greater area in light winds, or even a headdress of feathers worn by some indigenous American tribes, formerly as a sign of war. But it’s the right and proper name for the lid on the front of a car. You see, us Brits chose a mainly feminine article that fits with the European notion that all objects have a gender. Which is why we tend to refer to our beloved cars as “she” and “her”.
The glove compartment is the place where us posh Brits hide our gloves. Always have done to be honest. In the early days of motoring, all British gentlemen would wear a pair of gloves specifically for driving their horseless carriage (along with a pair of goggles); they would never be worn for any other purpose, so how sensible and practical to keep them in the car. Class.
A windscreen does what it says on the packet – a large glass window at the front of a car. There is absolutely no good reason why any other word or term should be used. Are you listening Dean?
And finally, to the most British phrase of the lot. I give you our Sleeping Policeman. A method of traffic control without any human intervention. It’s brilliant, and it works. As a child, I use to think we were actually running over a real policemen who was asleep laying across the road, but I soon got the hang of it. I’ll be honest, I have failed to find the origin of this name, but let’s agree that they must always be referred to as sleeping policemen, because, well, it’s just such a wonderfully British phrase.
In Russian there’re some slang idioms that describe various parts of the car. I don’t think these expressions would 100% mirror British/American words but I will do what they call a ‘nice try’.
- Front side of the car: ‘muzzle’. Sounds pretty rude but it is not rude in fact. Well, guys, surely, use this word more often, describing the corresponding part, than girls.
- Rear side of the car: ‘ass’. Sounds pretty bad but, just like in case #1, not intentionally rude or vulgar. Just an expression when it comes to some informal talk. Could be used when describing a road accident: ‘His ass was struck’ means an innocent ‘He’s car got hit in the trunk area’.
- Windshield/windscreen. We just use something very close that could be literally translated as: ‘wind glass’. But we don’t use ‘shield’ or ‘screen’ words.
- Trunk/boot. We say ‘Baggage box’ that sounds in Russian as ‘Bagazhnik’.
- Hood/bonnet. We call it ‘kapot’. This is not a Russian world originally, God knows from where it was taken, maybe German?
Drive safely, guys.
Car Talk: what the hell?
When I was young, I loved cars and could tell you all about the latest. I could change points, plugs, and even timing. I’ve replaced starters, fixed transmission linkages, and generally fooled with simple engine repairs. But no more, lift the hood of any modern car and you’ll discover wires and tubes running in seemingly random directions. I have no clue what half that stuff even does! I don’t even change my own oil anymore.
But I’m still fascinated by cars. Hey: do you know why some cars have the steering wheel on the left while others are on the right? It’s an interesting story: when the very first cars were being built, everybody owned horses and carriages. So the logic was that if the driver sits on the right hand side in his carriage, that’s where he will feel most comfortable in his first car.
Americans drove buckboards. Kinda’ the pickup truck of the wagon world. They were driven from the left-hand side. You’ll not be surprised to learn the most popular vehicle in the US today is the Ford, F150, pickup truck.
In the United Kingdom the most common form of transport at the time was the Stagecoach and the team of horses were controlled from the right side of the bench seat. The Brits still sit and drive on the right.
As for naming parts of your automobile, let us start at the end:
- It is not now, nor has it ever been a boot. My poor, misinformed British brothers, a boot is something that goes on your foot when you are going to ride your horse. Perhaps the best name for this comes from the Russians: baggagenik; of course, where else would you keep your luggage? The Yanks would have named it a babushkanik (Grandma Trunk).
- Screens belong on windows, they are there to keep flies out and blokes in. It’s a windshield.
- And while I’m sure you lot wear bonnets, the thing on the front of your car is a hood.
- Back in the day, to start the car you needed to insert a crank in the front, under the radiator. Obviously, you’ll need gloves to keep your hands clean: we keep our gloves in the glove compartment.
- I don’t care for speed bumps and do not wish to discuss the subject. I always forget them and hit them too fast.
Now that you know some correct English, you may proceed with your day.