paddy wagon

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xpell

Senior Member
Spanish - Spain
Please, is the expression "paddy wagon" still used in common English to convey the meaning of a prisoner transport van?

I'm talking about this kind of vehicle:

http://www.nashuapd.com/SV/prisonervan.jpg
http://www.nashuapd.com/SV/prisonervan-2.jpg
http://www.carsandracingstuff.com/library/e/express04.jpg

If not, what would be the most idiomatic way to say it, please? (If possible, avoiding the words "prison" or "prisoner", because I'm using it in the same sentence.) Maybe "jail van" would do?
 
  • wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    The choice of word in this case depends on the facts. What is the procedure in the jurisdiction you are referring to? What stage of the process are you describing in your sentence? Your sentence needs to be factually correct and that consideration needs to take precedence over the question of repetition. Facts come before style.

    In some places, a police van is used to take a person from the point of arrest to the police station, whereas a prison van takes a convict from the court to the prison, or from one prison to another. Whether the van is a police van or a prison van may depend simply on whether it is owned by the police service or the prison service.
     

    xpell

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Spain
    OK, I'm talking about the transport of a person who has been arrested, imprisoned on remand, and is now being taken to the airport for extradition to be tried in a different country. It's a small van because there's just one person being carried to the airport.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    It depends on what the system is in the extraditing country. If he is being taken from prison, we might expect a prison van to be used.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Returning to the question asked
    Please, is the expression "paddy wagon" still used in common English to convey the meaning of a prisoner transport van?
    In BE, no, and it never has been in common use. You need AE speakers to advise you on AE usage, but while you are waiting, look in the Wordreference dictionary for paddy wagon and follow the "in context" link to find examples of modern usage.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    For 'paddy wagon', Chambers English Dictionary (1990) says 'black Maria'; for 'black Maria' it says 'prison van'.
    These expressions have long been in regular use, but it seems to me the first question is what type of van the sentence is about.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Yes, I remember using the term Black Maria (note the capitalization). I also remember the term paddy wagon from American books and films. Chambers' definition doesn't demonstrate that "paddy wagon" has ever been in common use in BE. Curiously, Black Maria also originated in the US, but certainly became naturalised here. I won't bore you with links to Ngrams, but paddy wagon is at least 5 times more common in AE than BE and, at its peak in the late 1950s, Black Maria was about 10 times more common in BE. The difference for Black Maria is now much less . Black Maria and paddy wagon are running level in AE now, but paddy wagon barely gets a look-in in modern BE. I'll link the Ngram for black maria,paddy wagon in AE, you can play with variations for yourself.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    I trust Chambers both as to the orthography ('paddy wagon' with a small 'p' and 'black Maria' with a small 'b') and as to the usage.
    Their work is and always has been scholarly and well researched. The 1990 dictionary recognises both terms as common expressions in this country.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    Well, the OED's orthography differs, and may well be more reliable. All its citations are "Black Maria(h)".
    Black Maria, n.

    Forms: 18– Black Maria, 18– Black Mariah. Also with lower-case initial(s).
    Note "Also with ...". I don't see how you can describe "paddy wagon" as "common" in modern BE when there's clear evidence to the contrary.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    I'll link the Ngram for black maria,paddy wagon in AE, you can play with variations for yourself.
    Ngram Viewer seems to be having a stroke. I have never heard black maria in AE. Clicking on the links on that page, there are less than two pages of hits for black maria, yet paddy wagon goes on and on (at least 64 pages).
    "Paddy wagon" does not refer to a specific vehicle in current AE. It can be used metaphorically of any such transport.
     

    Seabright

    New Member
    US Midwest English
    I think most Americans still recognize "paddy wagon" as denoting a police van for prisoners. But you should be aware of its pejorative overtones. "Paddy" is a racist term for Irish. In New York, the police force was once predominantly Irish and if you were arrested, a wagon presumably full of Irish policemen would take you away.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    I think most Americans still recognize "paddy wagon" as denoting a police van for prisoners. But you should be aware of its pejorative overtones. "Paddy" is a racist term for Irish. In New York, the police force was once predominantly Irish and if you were arrested, a wagon presumably full of Irish policemen would take you away.
    :thumbsup:
    Chicago, where I was raised, was a similar situation, but I don't recall hearing the term in recent years, i.e. about 60 years ago when we moved to Los Angeles.

    I seem to recall my grandmother or great-grandmother using the term "Black Maria," (/məˈr.ə/ mə-reye)

    Wikipedia has an intersting and relevant discussion of police vans at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Police_van
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Well, the OED's orthography differs, and may well be more reliable. All its citations are "Black Maria(h)". Note "Also with ...".
    Although the OED recognises lower-case usage, it appears from its citations that the origin of the term is American, with both words capitalised. That is certainly a case for a capital 'b', but I take Chambers' authority, in conjunction with that of the OED, as sufficient to establish 'black Maria' as a recognised British form.
    I don't see how you can describe "paddy wagon" as "common" in modern BE when there's clear evidence to the contrary.
    Evidence to the contrary?
    What I said was that Chambers' 1990 dictionary 'recognises both terms as common expressions in this country'.
    That link
    shows both terms constantly appearing in British books digitised by Google from the second half of the twentieth century.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    We've noted before that Google Ngram's division between AmE and BrE isn't 100% reliable. When I look at the actual examples, I find quite a few that are not BrE:(.
     
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    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    What I said was that Chambers' 1990 dictionary 'recognises both terms as common expressions in this country'.
    That link
    shows both terms constantly appearing in British books digitised by Google from the second half of the twentieth century.
    Yes, it was your use of the word "common" I objected to. Apart from the errors of attribution Loob refers to, you can add "antidisestablishmentarianism" to see how common "paddy wagon" is in BE.

    PS You could also try a Google search for "paddy wagon" site:uk and see how many of the "about 255" results actually refer to prisoner transport.
     
    Last edited:

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    It is a familiar term to myself and recognised by Chambers. Its frequency in Google web search or Google books is, as far as it goes, positive evidence. That cannot disqualify it from its place in the language.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I'm not trying to disqualify it from its place in the language. I'm not denying it exists. This thread started with this question
    Please, is the expression "paddy wagon" still used in common English to convey the meaning of a prisoner transport van?
    You appeared to object to my answer
    In BE, no, and it never has been in common use. You need AE speakers to advise you on AE usage
    That is a correct answer. "Paddy wagon" has never been common in BE. 255 hits in a Google search amounts to a trivial frequency of use, especially as most of those hits do not refer to prisoner transport. If the editors of Chambers actually say that it is a common expression they are wrong. If, as seems more likely, they merely record the existence of "paddy wagon" in some form of English then I have no reason to disagree with them.
     

    Language Hound

    Senior Member
    American English
    I can't remember if I've ever used "paddy wagon," but I certainly know what it means.
    Some dictionaries qualify it as informal, others as slang.
    And the Grammarist website has this to say about it:
    The term paddy wagon (sometimes one word—paddywagon) usually denotes a large police vehicle used to transport multiple arrestees, and it sometimes refers to any large police vehicle regardless of its use.1 The term is of American origin, but its exact derivation is unknown.
    It mentions one theory about its origin, the same one mentioned by Seabright above. Another theory I've heard is that it was called a paddy wagon because of the large number of people of Irish origin it used to haul away.

    It goes on to say that "Even if this theory about paddy wagon‘s origins is untrue, the prevalence of the theory leads some to believe that paddy wagon is offensive. Still, paddy wagon is used often, even in some edited publications." Articles in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, The Los Angeles Times, and even the American online version of The Guardian are all cited. I wasn't able to get the date of the WSJ article, but the three others are all from 2011.

    In addition, there is this USA Today article from September 23, 2014, "Ford revamps police paddy wagon for a new era,"
    which states, in part,
    Ford is making a new play for the paddy wagon business.
    It has created a paddy wagon concept version of its new, full-size Transit commercial van -- officially known as the Prisoner Transport Vehicle or Transit PTV -- to show off to police agencies. It can carry 12 detainees in three compartments...
    So my answer to your question, Xpell, is:
    Yes, it is still used in AE.
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    It's still used in AmE but not very often - at least not in my hearing. It dates from 1930, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, and to me, it sounds thoroughly out of date.

    It is still used jokingly or metaphorically, though. I mean, if someone you cared about was transported in a van to prison, you wouldn't use "paddy wagon" - it just sounds too jokey. But if you wanted to talk/gossip about someone you didn't know personally and didn't care much about, you might say "He was hauled off in the paddy wagon" or something like that.

    (Cross-posted with Language Hound)
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    If the editors of Chambers actually say that it is a common expression they are wrong. If, as seems more likely, they merely record the existence of "paddy wagon" in some form of English then I have no reason to disagree with them.
    Chambers does not say it is common, but their dictionary, unlike the OED, does not attempt to be a comprehensive survey of the language. Their book is much smaller and confines itself to terms in fairly frequent use. Their practice is to keep the frequency of terms under review and to drop those passing out of use and replace them with those which are becoming more common.

    Their research of course includes corpora and modern internet tools but is not confined to those. They employ a team of well-qualified lexicographers and have their own in-house materials. The practice of regularly reviewing frequency and dropping older terms is quite perceptible if you compare editions of different dates.

    I was careful to say first:
    For 'paddy wagon', Chambers English Dictionary (1990) says 'black Maria'; for 'black Maria' it says 'prison van'. These expressions have long been in regular use
    and secondly:
    The 1990 dictionary recognises both terms as common expressions in this country.
    Thus I confined my comments to the scope of the 1990 dictionary, which gives a reliable view of the language in the period leading up to the date of publication. The mere fact that the two terms appear in the 1990 dictionary means that Chambers' expert team regarded them as in reasonably frequent use up to that date.
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    In this small island, the dominant usage of Paddy Wagon relates to the tour company:
    http://www.paddywagontours.com/

    With that background, I think we can be sure that paddy wagon has no negative connotation for visitors to Ireland, and no pejorative connotation for natives.
    We'll try to ignore the leprechauns, various other fae in pointy hats, sheep and other stereotypes that the company is promoting. :confused:
     

    Mahantongo

    Senior Member
    English (U.S.)
    "Paddy wagon" is still used on occasion in the New York City area, including by television news reporters who seem oblivious about the fact that "paddy" is an offensive ethnic slur. "Patrol wagon" is the technical term used by the NYPD, but few people outside the Police Department have ever heard of it; "prisoner transport vehicle" would probably be an alternative that would be easily understood by anyone.

    In my life in the northeastern US, I have never encountered the term "black Maria" outside of books or newspaper articles written before 1930.
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    UK/IRL: It surely can't be long before the term black/Black maria/Maria goes the same way as panda car, given that virtually all prison vans/wagons these days appear to be white ... and tend to be called prison vans/wagons.
     
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