1. The WordReference Forums have moved to new forum software. (Details)

going to a place 'on spec'

Discussion in 'English Only' started by wolfbm1, Jun 10, 2013.

  1. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Hello.

    I would like to say that we went on a three-day beach holiday to the seaside without having made a booking in a hotel.
    Can I use the expression 'on spec' for that purpose and say:

    We went to Gdańsk on spec in the last long weekend. :confused:

    The Polish expression is similar to the English 'It was a blind date'. But I don't think I could say:
    We went to Gdańsk without having made a booking in a hotel. It was a blind trip.

    (I think I've got a wrong word order in the title of this thread. It should be: going to a place on spec.)
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  2. Alby84 Senior Member

    Boston
    American English
    Hmm, I see people haven't been very quick to reply to this one. "On spec" definitely isn't a common expression in English. From what I've gathered, it seems to stand for "on speculation" which doesn't seem to fit here in my humble opinion. I'm assuming there's probably a common expression for this in Polish where one may simply not exist in English. Are you implying that you made this trip without much prior planning? For example, I might say that "I went to New York last weekend on a whim," meaning I just went there because I wanted to and didn't really plan ahead or I could say something like "I just bought my new car on an impulse" meaning that I just felt like buying it even though I did not really think it through.
     
  3. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    That use certainly is consistent with our dictionary's definition of on spec:
    on spec ⇒ as a speculation or gamble: all the tickets were sold so I went to the theatre on spec​

    I suppose other people are familiar with this use. However, that is not the use of 'on spec' with which I am familiar. To me, you do something 'on spec' when do something you hope will be profitable without assurance that it will pay off:
    They wrote the film script on spec. = No one had promised to buy the script, but they hoped someone would buy it.
    He built the house on spec. = He built it without knowing who would buy it, or whether anyone would.

    Cross-posted.
     
  4. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I would never use "on spec" in a sentence like this. But then again, I don't think I've ever said or written "on spec" in my life; to me, it's glued to the concept of "working." I'd say you could only ever work "on spec."
    I just want to point out that we can certainly say:

    We went to Gdánsk blind.

    That is, we didn't do any research about Gdánsk before we went there; we went there without any idea of what would be in store for us. So an adverbial "blind" is possible in a similar context here.
     
  5. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Hello Alby84. Yes, I am trying to say that I travelled somewhere 'blindly' because I have made my decision on a whim, hoping that I will get some kind of decent accommodation. Actually, the expressions 'on a whim' and 'on an impulse' are close enough to what I want to say. Thank you. :)
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  6. Alby84 Senior Member

    Boston
    American English
    Blind may fit what you are looking for, but it still really isn't a very common way to express going on vacation in English. In my opinion, you would be much better off saying something like "My family and I took an unplanned trip to Gdańsk." In English when you say that you're going into something blindly, it's rarely a good thing, or at least, it seems to have a negative connotation.
     
  7. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    I certainly understand it and have heard it many times. The use as per "holiday to the seaside (or indeed anywhere) without having made a booking at a hotel." is correct. At one time, when communications were not as good as today, it would be common to hear this sort of construction that does not state directly what is being speculated on precisely e.g. "We went to Gdańsk on spec."

    Today, you might say,

    A: "We could go to the theatre."
    B: "Don't you have to book?"
    A: "I don't know, we could go on spec." Here it is clear that the speculation is whether there will be entry without booking.

    Or

    A: "I want a cheap Ford, so I'm going to the car auction."
    B: "Do you know if they'll have any cheap Fords?"
    A: "No, but I'm happy to go on spec." (Just in case they have and not be disappointed if they don't.)
     
  8. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thank you, Lucas. I will use the adverbial "blind" then.
     
  9. Alby84 Senior Member

    Boston
    American English
    Ok, judging from the replies so far, Americans don't seem to use the term "on spec" as much as their British counterparts. That being the case, if someone from England gives you a good usage of "on spec," and you feel comfortable using it that way, I say go for it.
     
  10. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thank you all.
    Now I have a choice between:

    We went to Gdańsk on spec.
    We went to Gdańsk blind.
    and
    We took an unplanned trip to Gdańsk.

    I could add that actually I was able to rent a nice room with a view to the Baltic sea and that we had a lot of sunshine there and sunbathed a lot. :)
     
  11. Alby84 Senior Member

    Boston
    American English
    Well, I'm glad you had a wonderful, blind, unplanned trip to Gdańsk on spec, Wolf :) And I hope you have many more! :)
     
  12. theartichoke Senior Member

    English -- Canada
    "On spec" for me carries the connotation of doing something which you speculate will turn out well, but without any assurance of such an outcome. So, something like a cross between Cagey's explanation in #3 and lucas's in #4. If you go to Gdansk on spec, it's because you think you might enjoy Gdansk, but you don't know much about it and have no way of really knowing whether you'd like it or not.

    It's not an expression I use often, except for when I refer to a certain professor of mine, who told me she decided to have a baby just to see whether she wanted one or not. Having children on spec, I say, is a bit too risky for my tastes.
     
  13. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Actually I've been to Gdańsk many times and I know it quite well. It is a big port city and there is always a lot of accommodation available. So my speculation was that I would get a place to stay overnight.
    However, a few years ago I went to a small fishing village, Mrzeżyno, also on spec. I mean the accommodation only. I had already stayed in that bautiful village a couple of times. (It resembles the village of Mundesley near Cromer in Norfolk, England.) That day there were many more tourists like me who came blind. All the inexpensive rooms near the beach were taken. Luckily there was one room available in a nice hotel a bit farther from the beach. I could even rent bikes there.
     
    Last edited: Jun 11, 2013
  14. Like PaulQ (post 7) and most other BE speakers, I find 'on spec' normal and common.

    I don't know anybody over here who would say 'I'm going to Gdansk blind'. If they did I'd have to ask them what they meant.

    Rover
     
  15. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thank you, Rover_KE.
     
  16. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Like Cagey (post #3), my only understanding of "on spec" is the creation of something in the hope of financial gain but without securing a commitment from a prospective buyer. If I were told that someone planned, or took, a trip "on spec", I'd assume it involved a speculative business venture of some kind.

    Do we have another BE/AE split here?
     
  17. Alby84 Senior Member

    Boston
    American English
    Hey Parla,

    There was a English gentleman yesterday who explained that "on spec" was in common usage in England before the days where most hotel booking took place online. I think there may be a generational gap these days in terms of its usage.
     
  18. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    PaulQ (post #7) attests that "on spec" meaning travel without a reservation is current for him (BE). It seems to me the it's an across-the-pond gap rather than a generational one.
     
  19. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    I wonder how you would put it, if you had gone somewhere without a reservation. Would you say:

    I went to X without a reservation. Luckily I managed to find a nice spot.

    In post #13 I wrote a short story. What words would you use instead of 'on spec' or 'blind'?
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2013
  20. Alby84 Senior Member

    Boston
    American English
    I was actually referring to its current usage in Britain rather than the US. In essence, I question whether or not this is still used by the under 30's in Britain.
     
  21. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    If you wanted an alternative, "I went to X without having booked a room."

    The thing is that "I went to X on spec." does require some additional context. Years ago, I went to Bangkok on spec, only to find that all the hotel rooms had been booked because of a Basketball Championship. So, I later said, "I went to Bangkok on spec but there were no rooms."

    So, for a statement about the future: "I'm going to Gdansk on spec. There are hundreds of hotels, so it should be no problem." or

    A: "Are you going to book a room for us?"
    B: "No. We can go on spec. I've done it before and there's no problem."
     
  22. Parla Senior Member

    New York City
    English - US
    Something like that, yes.
     
  23. vil New Member

    Varna, Bulgarien
    bulgarien
    He decided to become a writer instead and began sending out scripts ON SPEC.
    He built the house ON SPEC.
    We did not know wherher you would be at home or not; we just called ON SPEC.
    You both married9though of nothing else-regularly came out ON SPEC, they made their decision at last; indeed pretty quick.
     
  24. Cagey post mod

    California
    English - US
    I have to admit that I don't understand this last sentence. Would you please explain what you mean, using other words?
     
  25. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thank you, Parla. So, in the U.S. you don't use the prase 'on spec' the way Paul does, regarding travel.
     
  26. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thank you, Paul, very much for the interesting examples. :)
     
  27. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Neither do I. It is pretty mysterious.
     
  28. vil New Member

    Varna, Bulgarien
    bulgarien
    spec - from speculation

    "Yes, both married - thought of nothing else - regularly came out on spec. they made their decision at last; indeed pretty quick."

    Fr.Marryat, "Newton Foster" chapter XLVI

    both married - thought of nothing else

    they dreamed for their marriage only

    regularly came out on spec

    they emerged regularly here and there in society
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2013
  29. velisarius Senior Member

    Greece
    British English (Sussex)
    The novel "Newton Forster" mentioned by vil has interesting examples of both "on speculation" and "on spec". The reference is to impoverished young English ladies who voyaged out to the East to find husbands. It was a voyage of speculation because the initial outlay of a large sum to pay for their berth on ship would be gambled against the chance of gaining a rich husband. Some even snared their prey on the voyage out, or at ports on the way; so that often ships arrived in India with only the less attractive ladies who had not been so fortunate. In the passage quoted in post # 28, "they regularly came out on spec" seems to mean that the two ladies regularly ventured out into local society, each time trying to capture a more eligible bachelor.
     
  30. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thank you, velisarius, for the interesting explanation.
    The women regularly came out on spec, because they had great expectations or hopes of finding a suitable marriage partner.
     
  31. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    on spec = on the chance [of success] In 'on spec', the probability of the 'chance of success' is unqualified and thus, unstated but in 'on the chance of success' it is often given by either 'on the good chance of success' (high) or 'on the off-chance of success' (low.)
     
  32. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thank you, Paul. So, when we do something on spec we we don't how high or how low is the chance of success.
     
  33. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    "On spec", to me, means "in the hope of a (financial or other) reward, but without any guarantee that the reward will be forthcoming". So I would use vil's:
    But I wouldn't use wolf's:
    - at least, not with wolf's intended meaning:).

    EDIT: I've just realised, re-reading the thread, that I'm agreeing with Cagey's post 3...
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2013
  34. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thank you Loob. I wonder how you would phrase my sentence. Would you say something like:
    I went to X without having made a booking?
     
  35. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    I'm really not sure, wolf. I think that to convey the casual meaning you're looking for, I'd probably include the word "off": I went off to Gdansk.

    But if you wanted to make it clear that you hadn't booked any accommodation, I think I'd have to expand this to something like:
    I went off to Gdansk without booking anywhere to stay
    or
    I went off to Gdansk without knowing where I was going to spend the night
    or
    I went off to Gdansk, not caring that I had nowhere to stay
    Or....
    :)
     
  36. wolfbm1 Senior Member

    Poland
    Polish
    Thank you very much, Loob. :)
     

Share This Page