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Spigot - UK Vs US usage

Discussion in 'English Only' started by James Brandon, Aug 8, 2008.

  1. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    If a 'faucet' in AE is a 'tap' in BE, apparently 'spigot' is also used in AE to mean a 'faucet'. However, in BE, 'spigot' is not the whole tap, but a part of the tap - it is the key-shaped part at the top used for winding the tap. In BE, 'spigot' never refers to the whole tap or faucet.

    So, my question to AE speakers, here, is as follows: What do you call a spigot in the British sense? Maybe you don't have a word for it, which would, on the face of it, make America a poorer nation for it... Perish the thought.
     
  2. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
  3. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    Thanks - very interesting. I have checked the other 2 Threads, and they pretty much cover it, and are very comprehensive.

    -Tap appears to be British English, and used in Commonwealth countries, including Canada (although one Canadian person said they might use 'faucet' as well).

    -Faucet is used across the USA.

    -Spigot is only referred to my one American contributor, who seems to be saying that it would apply to a tap placed outside the house - by the garage door for instance, and to water the garden or something.

    -The technical meaning of spigot in British English remains what I have said and is not referred to - it is probably mostly (or only) used in the plumbing trade (where each part would have a specifid name, as in any such trade).

    -Americans appear to be saying that 'handle' would be the preferred term when referring to 'spigot' in the narrow British sense - so this answers it.

    -Several contributors point out that some spigots are in the shape of a key or cross, rather, while others are more like 'knobs': 'twist the knob' carries various connotations that make the use of the expression not so straightforward, apparently.

    -Several contributors point out that they would just say: 'turn on (or off) the tap' without specifying.

    -It is interesting that Americans say 'faucet' but 'tap water' (and not 'faucet water', although it comes out of what they call a 'faucet' and not a 'tap') - but then again some American contributors point out that 'tap' in the US can mean the 'pipe' bringing the water, if I understood correctly.

    And I am off to getting my PhD in plumbing...
     
  4. MarcB Senior Member

    US English
    Just to add fuel to the fire. In AE tap only is used in the figurative sense ie to tap a source....... Draught beer is also beer on tap and comes from a tap.If I were to buy the device it is a faucet. Tap and faucet for water are interchangeable in my variety of AE. Faucet is used only for water and mostly indoors.Tap and valve are used for gas.
     
  5. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    I had always assumed that 'faucet' was used in AE and 'tap' in BE, but obviously it is more complicated than that. I get the feeling that 'faucet' is used only in AE (I have never heard it in the UK) but this does not mean that 'tap' is used only in BE, if that makes sense...
     
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    More for your plumbing collection:

    Faucet is the most common term in the northeastern U.S. Tap is commonly understood, but less used. In addition to MarcB's beer keg example, many people use tap rather than faucet to refer to outlets in a basement or wherever they have the 'guts' of their plumbing and heating systems.

    Now to the hard one, spigot. It is generally understood to be the entire control valve and aperture, rather than just the part one turns to open and close it. It is used, infrequently, to name outdoor taps/faucets/valves. These may be for garden hoses (see GWB's post in the linked thread) or parts of fountains.

    Here is where it gets interesting. The word spigot, used or misused by AE speakers to name a physical device, has been in steep decline, and is actually fairly rare today. Yet it lives on in figurative speech, especially in "turn the spigot". This is a figurative synonym for "open the door" or especially "open the floodgates". Such usage is modern, current, and shows no signs of fading away. It retains the BE sense or something one turns to allow a flow, together with the AE sense of the entire source of whatever flows.
     
  7. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    I do not think any AE contributor had mentioned "to turn the spigot" and I have certainly never heard this one in BE.

    It is not uncommon for an idiomatic expression to carry on being used while built upon a word/image that is, itself, completely obsolete. Think of: "milch cow" for instance...

    It reaches the point where the only use of the niche-word in question becomes the idiom in question, and not anything else, even though it may have been commonly used for the 'real thing' in days gone-by. I cannot think of any other examples off the top of my head, but there are many more.
     
  8. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    I don't suppose you read The Telegraph much. ;)
    I googled "turn the spigot", domain= .uk and got nine hits. Three of
    them were from the newspaper (?) named above. They used both

    –turn the spigot on
    and
    –turn the spigot up ( :eek: )
     
  9. James Brandon

    James Brandon Senior Member

    Greater London (UK)
    English + French - UK
    I don't think the expression is common in the UK. It could be that one journalist at the Daily Telegraph likes using it, and his contribution represents 90% of the Daily Telegraph's output, which represents 99% of the UK-based entries. That is what is nice about stats: the lower the number of items examined, the more of a say it gives to individuals. After all, if you have 4 entries and one person has generated 2, that is 50%!

    PS I read the FT, because I get it in work - for free.
    PPS August is a bit of a slow month, as you can tell.
     
  10. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    EEUU-inglés
    We agree. Nine hits is in the neighborhood of statistical microscopic dust. It appears that the term is not in use in the U.K., outside of that one strange Telegraph writer. It is not uncommon in the U.S.
     

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