A friend of mine mentioned her favorite pun from the British radio show “My Word”: “His name was Skip because he was full of rubbish.”
So I looked up ‘skip’ and found that it is roughly equivalent to a ‘dumpster,’ although there are certain differences. I said something about this being my new British slang word for the day.
And was promptly told “It’s not slang, and it’s not British. We use it in the US, too.”
I tried to research, but I don’t know how to look up the use of the word ‘skip’ as a shipping container or rubbish bin as opposed to any of its other meanings using Google ngram.
Can anyone help me as to 1) whether it is considered ‘slang’ and 2) whether it’s commonly used in the United States as well as Britain and (apparently) Australia?
“Skip” is used in some parts of the US, but I too think of it as mainly British. “Tip”, with exactly the same meaning, seems to be exclusively British, so maybe that’s the source of the confusion. The US term “dumpster” seems to be a trademarked name that has become generic.
The Brits also refer to “wheelie bins”, which is their name for the large wheeled trash containers you have to take out to the curb. That term doesn’t seem to have travelled to the States at all.
Kaa said: I tried to research, but I don’t know how to look up the use of the word ‘skip’ as a shipping container or rubbish bin as opposed to any of its other meanings using Google ngram.
Using Ngrams can be tricky in that respect, but I finally hit on the 3-word phrase “fill the skip” (to differentiate from “skip” as a verb or “skip” as a noun describing the action of radio waves bouncing off the ionosphere. What I got was this.
Looking at some of the book excerpts cited, it appears it was originally used in the context of a large bucket for raising and lowering things into mines, or the holds of ships. So it was, in general, a container with some kind of mechanism built in for moving it and emptying it (eye-hooks, handles, whatever). The transition from its original use to a container for holding rubbish seems like a natural evolution. I had not heard it used that way, growing up in the Midwest, nor here in Arizona where I now live. It was always just a “dumpster” or “trash bin” to me. Hard to tell though whether the books were written in American English of British English, but it seemed like a mix of both.
Kaa said: Grammar Girl said there’s a way to get the ngram thing to distinguish between british and US sources
Yeah, Google Ngrams says there is too, but like I noted in my previous response, I’ve been unable to get it to work. Look right under the main text entry field. There’s a drop-down menu where it says “from the corpus” that allows you to select “English” or “American English” or “British English” but I can’t seem to get it to work for anything beyond single words. If you go to the Advanced Usage section it says there also a way to use tags to do the same thing, but that didn’t help me much either. Those instructions are not the most clearly written. It appears that what tags (or corpus) you can use depends on the number of words in the Ngram you’re searching for.
If anyone else has figured out how to do this (American vs. British English) thing, please enlighten. Thanks.
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