janitor * custodian * caretaker?

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duden

Senior Member
Slovak
Hi, please what do you call the man at school who repairs anything that needs to be repaired and who looks after the building? Is any of the three words more correct for him? Thank you
 
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  • duden

    Senior Member
    Slovak
    The caretaker can also mean the man/woman sitting near the main entrance to the school and watching for who goes in or out, can´t it? Is there any means of distinguishing the two meanings of the word?
     

    Luchie

    Member
    England, English
    I have never heard it used like that, a caretaker was always someone(traditionally male) who repaired things unblocked toilets, changed light bulbs, repaired broken windows ect.

    Someone who had the job of controling who came into a school probably would be a secutity guard, or possibly the job might be done by a Head Teacher or a Teacher.:)
     

    Ms Missy

    Senior Member
    USA English
    We referred to him as the janitor. Nowadays (in my area) a caretaker is usually someone who gives private nursing care to the elderly. I have a neighbor who is a caretaker for a 90 year old woman. "Caretaker" is also used to refer to a person who is in charge of the upkeep and maintenance of an Estate. Custodial workers are the ones who clean the classrooms.

    As far as controlling traffic in and out of the school, that would perhaps be a security guard or a "monitor." It definitely wouldn't be a teacher though. The teacher's Unions in just about all of the states are very strict about teachers being given non-teaching assignments.
     

    ilbisaac

    Member
    United States/English
    At my school, a public high school in California, the word "janitor" implies a dirtier job than "custodian." "Janitors" clean the bathrooms, mop up vomit on the floor, walk around with brooms, and change garbage bags around the campus. "Custodians" do the same thing, but this is a nicer word for those who also hold the keys to all the rooms and fix lockers and things like this. The two words are interchangeable, and using one over the other depends on where you are and what they call that job there.

    The words "caretaker" or "groundskeeper" imply a certain level of devotion that most workers in Los Angeles Unified School District seem to lack. I do believe I've heard "caretaker," but only at expensive private schools. Also, "caretaker" can be used to refer to people whose jobs have nothing to do with custodial work (as in Ms Missy's example).

    "Groundskeeper Willie" from The Simpsons is an example of the title, "groundskeeper," literally one who keeps the grounds and facilities of an establishment in tip-top shape. Note that this character is extremely devoted to his work... :)


    By the way, in California, the person who maintains traffic near school is called a "crossing guard," and they're usually quite friendly!
     
    Waking this thread up to ask how you all feel about the term "maintenance man"? After much googling, it seems to me that:
    "groundskeeper" implies lots of gardening,
    "janitor" in AE definitely sounds like someone who cleans up spills and keeps restrooms tidy and changes lightbulbs.
    "Caretaker", like groundskeeper, has a connotation of a certain devotion to the job, and also implies a real identification with the place one is tending to.

    So what about "maintenance man"? Is it the guy who comes over and fixes stuff, inside or outside, might do some odd jobs, from clearing brush, to replacing a tile, to whatever else he/she is qualified to do.

    Any ideas?
     

    cirrus

    Senior Member
    UK English
    I would say caretaker too. The person watches who goes in and out would be called a concierge, although these days this tends to be a camera over the door.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    The official name in Oregon schools (US) is "custodian" for a person who makes minor repairs, etc. I don't think your concept of "repairs anything" is precise since there are limits to what such a person is capable of repairing, e.g. replacing a furnace, repairing tornado damage, etc. Local laws often require that plumbing and electrical work, for example, work be done by licensed workers.

    A "caretaker" seems to be most often used here to refer to someone who lives on or spends the majority of the time on a piece of property for security, emergencies, minor repairs, etc.

    A person who provides care to the aged or otherwise infirm, is called a "caregiver" hereabouts.

    As you probably already have noticed usage varies quite widely.

    You might also review this thread: Caretaker Vs Warden
     

    TraductoraPobleSec

    Senior Member
    Catalan & Spanish
    Could you Native speakers of English confirm whether janitor is estrictly used in the United States? I have lived in the UK as well but have only heard the word in America.

    Regards from sunny Barcelona :).
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Thanks for your replies, but I guess I'd like to get your opinions about the term "maintenance man", and could it be interchangeabe with "groundskeeper"/custodian, etc, in certain contexts.
    "Maintenance man" seems quite usable as a general term, but whereas it might be interchangeable with "groundskeeper" in some contexts, it would not in others.
     

    Ms Missy

    Senior Member
    USA English
    "Maintenance man" seems quite usable as a general term, but whereas it might be interchangeable with "groundskeeper" in some contexts, it would not in others.
    For the most part, I don't think the two terms are interchangeable unless used in a context where a clear distinction is unnecessary. For example, if someone was hired as a 'maintenance man' their job description might include minor repairs inside and outside of the living quarters, as well as maintaining the grounds (landscaping). However I don't think someone hired as a groundskeeper would expect his job description to include the same tasks as that of a maintenance man. But I can only speak for my area. Here, the Department of Labor is very strict as to precise job descriptions since they also play a role in wages paid. (A maintenance man is usually paid more and has an office or tool shed on the grounds).

    Hope that sheds a bit more light
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    The official job title for this position in New York City schools is "custodian engineer", although they are generally called "custodians" for short.

    I would think of a "janitor" as a primarily a cleaner rather than a repairman. "Janitor" literally means "doorkeeper", as does "porter", and it is interesting to note that cleaners on the subway in New York are sometimes referred to as "porters", although never as "janitors". I have not met that use of "porter" anywhere else, although I suppose it can be found.
     

    cycloneviv

    Senior Member
    English - Australia
    Could you Native speakers of English confirm whether janitor is estrictly used in the United States? I have lived in the UK as well but have only heard the word in America.

    Regards from sunny Barcelona :).
    I can confirm that the word "janitor" is not used in Australia nor, according to my British house-mate, in Britain.

    We hear it on American TV shows and so would tend to know what it means, but it is not used as a job title here.
     

    TraductoraPobleSec

    Senior Member
    Catalan & Spanish
    I can confirm that the word "janitor" is not used in Australia nor, according to my British house-mate, in Britain.

    We hear it on American TV shows and so would tend to know what it means, but it is not used as a job title here.

    Thanks, Cycloneviv. You've confirmed what I already thought!

    Best regards from Barcelona :)
     

    WellNorth

    New Member
    Scotland/British English (Northern)
    I'm afraid I have to disagree here as a BrE speaker, though this disagreement might just be a function of age...

    "Janitor" was the job-title of a school's caretaker and groundskeeper here in Scotland in my youth. Cleaning and mopping up weren't normally part of his or her job - there were separate, after-school-hours cleaning staff for that. I haven't heard or seen "janitor" in use here in any other (non-school) context, however.

    So at least here in the Highlands of Scotland, the word Janitor would be understood in a native context.

    Hope this doesn't muddy the waters too much
    WN
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    My Collins dictionary, British edition, lists "janitor" as Scottish usage for a custodian in a school, in addition to U.S. usage.

    Intuitively, it would seem that it arrived with Scottish settlers and became ingrained in AE.
     

    Sepia

    Senior Member
    High German/Danish
    Although it is in Germany he has an English title, where I work. He is the

    Facility Manager

    This of course covers more than maintenance of the building - he also gets to wash the boss'es car.
     
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