Out of the Woodwork: Does Your Shop Speak English?


An ocean-wide gap in terminology can cause confusion.
By Philip W. Leon
Page: 88

From the June 2008 issue #169
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The first time I went to England, I soon learned to take the lift instead of the elevator. And to avoid getting run over by all those cars driving on the wrong side of the road, I usually took the tube instead of what we call the subway. When the power goes out we reach for a flashlight, but they say electric torch. No matter which side of the pond you are on, the differences between modern American English and British English can be both charming and confusing, and those differences can also be found in the workshop.

We call basic tools by different names. What Americans call a wrench the Brits call a spanner. Apparently, we emphasize what the tool does – in this case to twist or force a bolt – and the English describe the fit or span of the tool to the size of the bolt. Similarly, what we call a ball-peen hammer they call a ball-pane hammer. The spelling probably mirrors the pronunciation in this case. Any end of a hammer that is not the flat, pounding end is the peen. The claw on a hammer is, in fact, a peen, but most Americans make that distinction. For Americans, the claw hammer is the standard, but in England, the common woodworker’s hammer has a spade-like peen and is called the “Warrington pattern cross pane.”


From the June 2008 issue #169
Buy this issue now