U.K. vs. U.S. usage in Lee Child

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From Bert Vaux:

I was just preparing a facebook post on the use of "luck out" when I came across your nice entry on the very same passage on the Language Log! ["Lucking out", 10/8/2011; "More lucking out", 10/11/2011]

Anyway, a propos of your (in my opinion correct) observation that Lee Child generally does American English quite well, I thought you might appreciate the following examples (also from The Affair) where I think he slips up:

"hosepipe" for "hose" (p. 230 in my edition)

"not by a long chalk" for "not by a long shot" (238)

"drinks well" with the infamous British regular-plural-inside-compound (245)

[I'm not sure what we call this in American English; I know that some parts of the country call cheap/generic drinks in a bar "well drinks", from which I'd infer that the thing in question is called a well, but I don't actually know.]

These come with the caveat that I haven't actually researched their American vs. British distribution; I'm just going by my personal exposure to the two varieties.

Here's more context for the first of the usages that Bert cites:

Janice May Chapman had not continued the herbicide applications. That was clear. No hosepipe in her garage. No watering can. Rural Mississippi. Agricultural land. Rain and sun. Those weeds had come boiling up like madmen. Some boyfriend had brought over a gasoline mower and hacked them back. Some nice guy with plenty of energy. The kind of guy who doesn’t like mess and disarray. A soldier, almost certainly. The kind of guy who does things for people, gets things neat, and then keeps them neat.

The Wiktionary gives the gloss

n. UK, South Africa, southern US A flexible pipe for carrying water or other liquids; a garden hose.

suggesting that in "rural Mississippi", a garden hose might well be a hosepipe. But all of the 71 current examples of hosepipe in Google News are from the U.K., Ireland, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, or other Commonwealth-ish places.

In the case of the second example, Reacher is shopping in "a men's outfitters three enterprises south of where I started", and has a conversation with "an old guy behind the counter" with "a tape measure draped around his neck".

I hauled my choice to the counter and asked, “Would this be OK for a job in an office?” The old guy said, “Yes, sir, it would.”
“Would it impress a person at dinner?”
“I think you’d want something finer, sir. Maybe a pinpoint.”
“So it’s not what you’d call formal?”
“No, sir. Not by a long chalk.”
“OK, I’ll take it.”

Michael Quinion discussed this expression back in 2004, and confirms its status as "mainly British":

Q From Kriss Buddle, UK: Where does the expression not by a long chalk come from?

A This mainly British expression means “not by any means”, “not at all” and often turns up in conventional expressions such as they weren’t beaten yet, not by a long chalk.

And again, all the 14 examples in the current Google News index are from the U.K. and Commonwealth countries.

Bert's third example:

But Brannan’s bar was open. Defiantly optimistic, or maybe just maintaining some longstanding tradition. I went in and found nobody there except two similar guys fussing with stuff in the drinks well. They looked like brothers.

I don't have anything to add to his analysis. A well drink is a drink made from ingredients "from the well near the bar (and thus handy to the bartender) holding bottles of liquor". And calling that space a "drinks well" does seem a bit U.K.-ish. But I'm not sure what an American would call it, and I'm not finding a lot of examples of "X well" with this meaning for any value of X from any region. [Note: Bert's intuition is about the use of plural "drinks" in this noun compound, not the use of "well" or the compound itself.]

Anyhow, on at least two out of Bert's three examples, it does seem that Mr. Child fell below his usual standard of trans-Atlantic linguistic plausibility.


  1. Ø said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 9:33 am

    "[A] men's outfitters three enterprises south of where I started" sounds a bit wrong-side-of-the-pond as well.

  2. Bert Vaux said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 9:40 am

    Great entry, Mark! I think I actually had "hose" on one of my old surveys–I'll have to root through my files and see if any American hosepipe hits came up.
    It's possible, incidentally, that I have been unfair to Lee Child here, given that in my experience the British and American editors of their respective editions of airport novels do make the occasional dialectological tweak (though they tend to stick to orthographic discrepancies). In other words, it's not inconceivable that the editor of the British edition I'm reading changed Child's "hose" to "hosepipe" and so on (though I suspect it's unlikely, given how subtle these particular differences are).

    [(myl) I have an American edition, and it has "hosepipe" as well.]

  3. Will Thomas said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 9:42 am

    My secretary, who is from rural South Carolina (USA), says "hosepipe". I, also from South Carolina, but not rural, always found it quaint.

  4. William Ockham said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 9:43 am

    Hosepipe seems perfectly normal to me, having grown up in semi-rural east Texas. Where Child used "long chalk", I would have expected "long shot". And "behind the bar" instead of "in the drinks well".

  5. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 10:33 am

    In AmEng a "well drink" is usually one made with a cheap/nonprestige brand of liquor, often poured from a bottle kept under the bar (in a space which might plausibly be called a "well") where the label and thus brand identity will not be readily visible to the customer (certainly not before ordering and possibly not when the order is being filled). It contrasts with "call drink," which is one made with liquor poured from a bottle kept behind the bar high enough up that the customer can readily see it and call for it by name when ordering, as when e.g. you order "Tanqueray and tonic" rather than "gin and tonic." The latter will typically get you a well drink with the gin possibly being a brand you yourself might have last voluntarily bought a bottle of when you were a broke college student.

  6. NotJohn said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 10:57 am

    Never heard the expression a 'well drink' nor 'drinks well' in the UK. In fact the 'drinks well' concept is not a normal one in a UK pub in my experience. I recognise what it must mean, having seen them in a few UK bars and a far greater proportion of bars in hotter climes. If you ask for a generic 'Gin and Tonic' in a UK pub, you would expect it to be dispensed from an optic (a measuring dispenser) attached to a fixed bottle high up behind the bar. Particular special brands would be dispensed from a loose bottle via a hand-held measure.A 'hose' to me is a larger bore – a 'hosepipe' is pretty much always a garden hose.

  7. Christian F. said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 11:19 am

    If I understand correctly, what the U.K. refers to as the "well" is what some U.S. bartenders call the "rail". There's an additional connotation with this: "rail drinks" tend to be cheaper and lower in quality. Drink specials and happy hours frequently promote the rail drinks.

  8. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 11:30 am

    Google books enables one to browse "A Bartender's Story" by Tom Obermaier ("Welcome to The Stockyards Bar and Restaurant where the good and the bad mix together like anybody's favorite cocktail"), which variously uses "drink well," "bar well," and "well" to refer to the relevant location, as well as "ice well" which might be a separate compartment full of ice cubes (with some of the references to unspecified "well" probably being references to that).

  9. Sandy Nicholson said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 11:31 am

    Like @NotJohn, I’ve never come across ‘well drinks’ or ‘drinks wells’ here in the UK. (Unlike @NotJohn, I can’t even imagine what they must be.) In fact, at first I read ‘drinks’ in ‘drinks well’ as a verb and assumed it was a peculiarly BrE use of middle voice that was being discussed. (Would you say that a drinks-well drink drinks well?)

    ‘Not by a long chalk’ and ‘not by a long shot’ are both familiar expressions, though if I were to use either of them myself, I’d probably tend towards the latter. If it makes a difference, I’m in Scotland, which is less chalky than (especially the south of) England. As for ‘hosepipes’, I’ve always called them ‘hoses’ and as far as I know have only ever heard the term ‘hosepipe’ in media reports of ‘hosepipe bans’ (bans on use of hoses for watering gardens during droughts) – these, too, invariably apply to the south of England, so perhaps they really do call them ‘hosepipes’ down there.

  10. Jonathan said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 11:44 am

    Typical conversation:
    "Bourbon and soda, please"
    "Any particular type of Bourbon?"
    "No. Whatever's in the well is fine."

    The context makes the particular well (a trough on the bartender's side of the bar) unambiguous. To describe the well outside of this context, no American would say "drinks well" any more than they'd call a cocktail party a "drinks party." If I had to refer to it out of context, I'd call it a "bar well."

  11. HP said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 11:56 am

    In my experience as a sodden old barfly (US midwest, mostly), the fixture in question is called "the well," without a qualifier. It's a term I picked up from professional bartenders, and although I don't spend as much time in bars as I used to, it seems to be generational — it doesn't seem to be a regular part of the vocabulary of younger bartenders.

    This restaurant supply catalog refers to the specific fixture as a "speed rail." That's what I point to when I think of "the well." I've never heard speed rail, which I don't think is a term used in casual speech.

  12. rpsms said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

    I looked up bartending suppliers online. In both the US and UK, I see that the racks for bottles kept near at hand are referred to as "rails" or "speed rails." Wells are apparently for ice. Small sample size, one was in Texas.

  13. rpsms said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 12:07 pm

    then again, I see a bartending book that uses the phrase "tender's well" ("a new addition tyo the tender's well") only once in a figure/caption.

  14. Coby Lubliner said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 12:16 pm

    The only Lee Child novel I ever read was Echo Burning, and what struck me about was not any linguistic mishaps but his ignorance of California culture (he seems to have thought that a woman descended from an old Californio landowning family would be considered "Mexican"). But then that book came out in 2001, a short time after his move to the US.

  15. Aaron Toivo said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 12:48 pm

    Is it actually the case that regular plurals inside compounds is a specifically British thing? Though I know little about how bars operate, that plural formation does not strike me as strange, and I natively speak PNW Am. Eng.

    Due to a recent discussion of that topic elsewhere I have at hand an example from an American newspaper headline:
    Boston bombings suspect moved from hospital to prison

  16. SlideSF said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 1:19 pm

    Interesting that most people are most interested in the "drinks well" example. As a longtime bartender in several regions of the US I can affirm that it is near universal that the "well" behind a bar actually refers to the "ice well", the large container where ice is kept for making drinks. Hanging off the well is a "speed rail" where the most common liquor bottles are kept. The whole setup, along with the mixing paraphernalia on top of the bar comprises the service are of the bar, and is sometimes referred to collectively as "the well". Pricier liquors are referred to as "call" brands, while the stuff on the rack are either "well" or "rail" drinks, depending on local custom.

  17. Robert Coren said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 1:29 pm

    "Men's outfitters" also sounds somewhat British to my (US) ear, as does "Those weeds had come boiling up like madmen".

  18. Michael Briggs said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 1:42 pm

    Some of you may have seen these comments on General Tso's Chikin. I thought my BritEng was fairly fluent, but apparently not.

    Matt said,

    June 12, 2013 @ 7:14 pm

    I actually kind of agree with Jorge and Jay; my wife works in the Japanese food service industry, and waiters use all kinds of simplifications and abbreviations when writing things down. I can totally believe that 几 is used for "chicken" in kitchen shorthand. The interesting question is why it's visible to punters.

    Michael Briggs said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 3:06 am

    @Matt, what are football kickers doing in the restaurant? "Visible to punters"?
    Matt said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 3:34 am

    See definition 5 here:

    (UK, slang) A customer of a commercial establishment, frequently of a pub or (alternatively) of a prostitute.

    (I'm not actually from the UK, so I probably picked it up from reading Zzap!64 and the like as an impressionable colonial youth.)

  19. Theodore said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 1:43 pm

    It's funny I can clearly remember when I first (and maybe last until this post) encountered "hosepipe": A Benny Hill Show musical sketch where B.H. was portraying a fireman ("Have you got a hosepipe? Yes I've got a hosepipe.") At the time, I thought the word was used to make the character quaint or rustic (though of course very English).

    Though I know "well drinks", I never thought about them coming from a "drinks well" or about the well in question being that space under the bar near the ice bin, soda gun, etc., though it makes sense. Maybe it's a term mostly used [conversationally] by bartenders themselves?

  20. Jussi Piitulainen said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 1:45 pm

    Is "operations research" a British thing? Google's first hit for me is a Wikipedia article that starts "Operations research, or operational research in British usage", suggesting the term is American.
    Perhaps it's just "drinks well" specifically that is British and oddly plural components of compounds can turn up in other places.

  21. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 1:49 pm

    It is a well-established stereotype (I personally can't say how true) that beverage purveyors on the Old World side of the Atlantic are notoriously stingy with the ice cubes. Hard to disentangle cause and effect but maybe this is consistent with them not typically having a properly-sized US-style ice well to work with, and thus nothing to hang a speed rail from, and thus no context to refer to either well or rail drinks by those names. I do recall having seen behind UK bars what NotJohn called "optics" although I may not have entirely understood their function as being to dispense the well/rail-equivalent default booze.

  22. Robert Coren said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 1:58 pm

    The only instance of "hosepipe" I can think of in my experience is the verse from What Shall We Do With the Drunken Sailor?: "Put 'im in the scuppers with a hosepipe on him."

  23. GeorgeW said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 3:04 pm

    I grew up in Florida when Florida was culturally and linguistically southern. I don't recall ever hearing 'hosepipe.' In fact, I wouldn't know what it was unless the context was very clear.

  24. Ted said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 3:09 pm

    NotJohn: I think there may be a difference in practice (if not legal regime) that explains the absence of well drinks in Britain, which may in turn account for Mr. Child's apparent conclusion that a typical reader might not recognize the term "well," without an adjective, as referring to the area below and behind the bar.

    In most US bars (in my experience, anyway), the bottle caps or corks are generally replaced by pouring nozzles. Practiced bartenders don't measure the quantity of liquor they add to a drink; instead, they have learned, through experience or training, the rate at which liquor flows through the nozzles and can mix drinks quickly by tilting each bottle for the appropriate length of time.

    I was startled, the first time I ordered a drink in an English pub, to see the bartender measure a precise quantity of liquor through a series of stop-cocks that prevented him from dispensing even a drop more than the specified amount. (And that specified amount — perhaps 50 ml? — was absurdly small. I quickly learned that one has to order a double to get anything approaching a normal-sized drink.)

  25. Ted said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 3:20 pm

    Here's an example: To make a perfect Manhattan, the Harvard Student Agencies bartending course manual ("Bartending 101") says to "pour in a five count of whiskey," where each number the bartender counts appears to equate to a half-ounce of liquor.

  26. Mark P said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 3:44 pm

    I have heard hosepipe used enough in Alabama and Georgia to find it unremarkable, although it is usually a rural usage. I think it's on its way to being archaic in the South.

  27. Ø said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 6:50 pm

    Jeez, I always thought (without really thinking) that a hosepipe was a metal pipe that a hose can be attached to. What does "hose" mean if "hosepipe" means "hose"?

  28. Vireya said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 6:55 pm

    If I heard someone in Australia say "hosepipe", I would assume they were from someplace else. Probably England.

  29. Michael Cargal said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 7:27 pm

    I worked my way through college as a bartender on both coasts in the 1970s. We used well booze for well drinks. The rack where the well liquor was held was called the rack. We never used "well" except as a noun-adjective, well gin, well drinks.

  30. L'Esprit de l'Escalier said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 8:21 pm

    The military boyfriend probably used a gasoline pickup truck to transport the gasoline mower.

    Congratulations to the author for saying gasoline rather than petrol, but for anyone in Mississippi to bother to specify the fuel for a lawnmower is contrary to Grice's Maxim of Quantity.

  31. Jerry Friedman said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 8:22 pm

    Aaron Toivo: The Brits have trades unions and drugs squads, but we have the sports news.

    Ø: I suspect that the "hose" in "hosepipe" means "stocking, pant leg [BrE "trouser leg]".

  32. Peter said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 9:35 pm

    @J.W.Brewer: re your stereotype that UK bartenders are stingy with the ice, it’s certainly an objective fact (at least in my experience) that drinks are typically served with much less ice in the UK than in the US. Whether stinginess is the cause, and on which side, is more debatable: a Brit might assume the reason for the copious ice is to get away with serving less actual drink.

  33. Rhoda said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 9:46 pm

    I'm from Manchester, in the North of England, but have lived in London for 13 years. I've never heard of either drinks well, or well drinks. And I would always say hosepipe, with hose as a verb, i.e. hose down the garden/the car. Hosepipes are a regular news thing in England, because they get banned in water shortages. http://www.hosepipeban.org.uk/

  34. Rhoda said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

    And Peter, yes, too much ice in a drink suggests there's little actual drink in there!

  35. Eorrfu said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 9:50 pm

    Although I have heard of well used as a compound noun with a specific type of alcohol I only remember hearing rail drinks and would find that word to be modern on the east coast or mid-Atlantic.

  36. Ted said,

    June 13, 2013 @ 11:05 pm

    L'Esprit: Good catch. Here in NY it wouldn't be terribly odd to say gas mower, if you need to distinguish it from an electric mower or one of the spool ones that turns when you push it. But we'd never say "gasoline" in full. And most of the time, we'd just say "mower" and assume that the reader would understand that we meant gas mower.

    In the same way and for the same reason, if the boyfriend happened to write something, I would say he used a pen. I wouldn't feel the need to specify that it was a plastic disposable pen unless there was some unusual circumstance that might cause a reader to expect a fountain pen or a quill.

  37. mollymooly said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 2:11 am

    I guess "hose" is a clipping of "hosepipe", i.e. "flexible-as-stockings pipe", as opposed to a default pipe, which is rigid. Americans retain "hose" in "pantyhose"; Brits calls these "tights".

    The image of a barman reaching under the bar to pull up a bottle of spirits [aka hard liquor] is something I've only seen in American TV and movies. In GB and Ireland, beer taps are on the bar and bottles are behind. Reaching down too much probably breaches health and safety laws these days.

    The standard spirit measure was a fraction of a gill. In England it was a sixth of an Imperial gill, now rounded to 25 ml; in Ireland it was a quarter gill, now rounded to 35.5 ml. The optic (genericised trademark) is used for measuring a unit from common bottles fixed inverted behind the bar; a handheld measure is used for less-common bottles. Moderately common ones will have a pouring nozzle; rarely-ordered ones will have to have their cap unscrewed/uncorked

  38. michael farris said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 3:16 am

    "I grew up in Florida when Florida was culturally and linguistically southern"

    I grew up with one foot in cracker Florida and the other in retirement Florida and hosepipe is unfamiliar to me as well. Without context I would have assumed it was either, the spicket (which some people call a spigot), a metal pipe coming out of the ground that the spicket is attached to or a spray nozzle.

  39. Jon said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 3:24 am

    In the conversation with the tailor (sorry, Brit here), can I comment on the use of the word "hauled"? I would have thought that the use of "haul" implies a reasonable amount of hard work and effort. You might haul a tree stump, but you would carry a pile of leaves. It seems odd, then, to say that you would haul a suit. On the other hand, I quite understand that, for a character like Jack Reacher, simply "carrying" something is frankly unmanly. Reacher would always haul, even if rescuing a kitten from a tree, so the use of this word is entirely appropriate (but amusing).

  40. Damien Hall said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 4:13 am

    As Bert hinted yesterday morning, a good copy-editor should pick up on dialectological differences (whether orthographic or lexical), and should signal them to the author, who will then have the opportunity to say whether they want them changed. I suppose orthographic ones may be done automatically, but lexical ones should probably be asked permission for. This can even extend to 'localisation' where the author of a novel wasn't in fact very familiar with the culture of the place they were writing about (eg in one recent example I can think of, the author was writing about Iranians but had given some of them Arab-sounding, not Persian-sounding, names; the copy-editor picked this up and gave some hints, and some of the names were changed). Another recent example is that a British friend of mine had written a book where they talked of someone's 'quiff' (what Elvis had); the editor of the American edition wanted to change that to 'pompadour', and so asked the author. Not sure whether it was changed or not, in the end.

  41. Narmitaj said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 6:12 am

    "Hose" for the flexible green garden pipe tubing is well enough known in the UK to be able to feature seamlessly in the classic 1976 Two Ronnies word-misconception sketch "Four Candles", where hose is confused with hoes and o's ("Mon Repos") from about 2:20 here.

  42. L'Esprit de l'Escalier said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 10:10 am

    @Ted: ah, yes, what you and I usually mean when we talk about a pen is what, if asked to specify further, I would call a ballpoint. The English people I once worked with called this a "Biro".

    UK informants: do you tend to reserve the word "pen" for the older kind of implement that had to be filled or dipped?

  43. Richard Wein said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 10:15 am

    Jussi Piitulainen: Is "operations research" a British thing? Google's first hit for me is a Wikipedia article that starts "Operations research, or operational research in British usage", suggesting the term is American.
    I can confirm that "operational research" is the preferred term here in Britain. My degree was in Statistics and Operational Research.

  44. Richard Wein said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 10:28 am

    UK informants: do you tend to reserve the word "pen" for the older kind of implement that had to be filled or dipped?
    No. I use "pen" for any writing implement that uses ink, and I think that's standard. To stipulate the fillable type I would say "fountain pen", though I haven't needed that term for a long time. For a "ballpoint pen" I sometimes use the informal term "biro".

  45. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 10:34 am

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shot_glass has an interesting table (accuracy not vouched for by me . . .) of national variations in what is considered a standard single or double measure or "shot" of spirits, which confirms mollymooly's indication that the poor English are toward the deprived end of the international spectrum. The traditional US single (approx equiv to 44 ml when translated into Esperanto) is just shy of the usual English double, and in contexts where the US single gets metricated (e.g. when instead of the bartender pouring you are given a 50 ml "airline bottle" to open yourself) it exactly equals the current metricated English double.* Now I'm wondering about the etymology of the slightly archaic-feeling AmEng "jigger" (in the sense of a standard single measure of booze and/or the implement used to measure it), but should probably get back to the day job instead of researching that.

    *apparently publicans in England are now legally allowed at their discretion to use the 35 ml standard traditionally more common in Scotland and Ireland instead of the 25 ml standard traditional in England, but I have no idea how commonly that option is employed in practice.

  46. Rhoda said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 10:36 am

    L'Esprit de l'Escalier, Biro is just one of those brand names that's become adopted, like Americans say Kleenex and Band Aid where we'd say tissue or plaster. A pen is the same thing. A dipped pen would be a fountain pen (from the ink fountain?)

  47. Richard Wein said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 10:47 am

    P.S. To be clear, if I didn't need to be specific I would usually say "pass me that pen", whatever type of pen it was.

  48. The Ridger said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 12:10 pm

    "Those weeds had come boiling up like madmen." struck me as not particularly American, too.

  49. The Ridger said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 12:13 pm

    I also meant to say, that even if suggesting that in "rural Mississippi", a garden hose might well be a hosepipe is valid (it probably is, I heard "hosepipe" growing up in Tennessee and from my Alabama grandmother, though it's pretty quaint now) would Reacher use it? It's not like he's from the rural South.

  50. Joe said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 1:11 pm

    @ Rhoda

    Dipped in the ink well (or filled from a bottle of ink).

  51. Robert Coren said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 1:16 pm

    I think I'm in line with common usage (insofar as anybody talks about such things at all today) in making a distinction between a fountain pen and a dipped pen; for me a fountain pen has some kind of mechanism for filling it with ink for extended use, rather than being dipped in an inkwell at short intervals.

  52. Joe said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

    re: "a men's outfitters three enterprises south of where I started"

    Where to begin with this one!

    An upmarket (AME "upscale[?]") men's clothes shop might describe itself (perhaps ironically, if it was that kind place) as a "gentleman's outfitters", but personally when I hear "outfitters" it makes me think of some place where you might hire a guide, horses and mules and stock up on coffee and bacon and whiskey before you went off into the wilderness to shoot bear (if you lived in western Montana or Alberta in the 19th century that is).

    I can't imagine any Brit using an expression like "three enterprises south". I'm guessing he means "three shops down" ?

  53. Joe said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 2:28 pm

    I (born in England, living in Scotland for the last 20+ years) have never heard the terms "drink(s) well" , "well drink" or "rail drink" but knew immediately what was being described.

    I've never worked in a bar, so I'm not familiar with the relevant terms of art, but I'm used to seeing large (presumably chilled) stainless steel containers built in below the bar counter, some of which contain ice, and some of which contain bottles of the "non-prestige" spirits (with pouring nozzles attached) and house wines (stoppered).

    The prestige spirits and sample bottles of prestige wine (the bottles of prestige wine served will usually come from a glass-fronted temperature-controlled storage cabinet elsewhere) will normally be displayed on shelves (with or without rails) behind the bar staff and high enough up that customers can see what is on offer and ask for the relevant brand.

    Legally all drinks must be measured and these are the current licensing rules in Scotland:

    There are specific requirements concerning the quantities that some alcoholic drinks must be served in, particularly with regard to beer or cider (one third of a pint, two thirds of a pint, a half pint, or multiples of a half pint), gin, rum, vodka and whisky (25ml, 35ml, or multiples of these), and wine (by the bottle or specified quantities of 125ml & 175ml or multiples when sold by the glass, or in sizes of 250ml, 500ml, 750ml or 1 litre when sold in a carafe).

    Licensing conditions require that free tap water is available and that beer, cider, gin rum vodka, whisky & still wine are available in the minimum sizes specified above.

    Draft beer and cider (AME "hard cider") are "measured" by being dispensed into an appropriately sized glass. Bottled beer and cider are sold "by the bottle" (which legally must be labelled with the volume). I can't actually remember when I last saw a bottle of spirits inverted on a stand behind the bar and the contents measured from an optic. If I'm in a bar it's usually in central Edinburgh and the wines and spirits in the places I frequent are invariably measured using a stainless steel “thimble” measure.

  54. Ken Brown said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 4:53 pm

    I'm in a pub in London right now. I've probably been in hundreds of bars and I've worked in a few. "Well" is not used to describe a bar or the drinks If you wanted some generic brand of strong drink rather than a named one you might say "house vodka" or similar but you probably wouldn't, because they usually give the cheapest anyway.

    For me, "hosepipe" is entirely unmarked, but "hose" is possible.

    "Gentleman's outfitter" sounds old-fashioned. The unmarked BrE would be "clothes shop". At least in the south-east of England.

  55. Martha said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

    I have never spent much time in bars, but I think I always thought that a "well drink" was like a fountain drink. At least, that's what I was thinking when I first started reading here.

    Regarding "hose pipe," I'm confident I've never heard that before now. This is what I imagined: http://image.shutterstock.com/display_pic_with_logo/615808/615808,1280332261,5/stock-photo-running-water-from-faucet-in-garden-58066591.jpg

    "Three enterprises south" sounds foreign to me as well.

  56. Martha said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

    Sorry about the duplicate comment! My browser went crazy.

    But I also wanted to add, by the way, that I'm American.

  57. Adrian Morgan said,

    June 14, 2013 @ 6:28 pm

    Am I right in thinking that even in Britain, "long chalk" is restricted almost exclusively to older speakers? That's an impression gained mostly from television.

    The linked explanation of "long chalk" is new to me, and interesting. The usage has always puzzled me, because for a piece of chalk, four inches is pretty long, which won't do at all for an expression meaning "not even remotely".

    "Long shot", on the other hand, makes sense. "You couldn't even shoot the target from here" is a reasonable metaphor for "not even remotely". So as the etymology of "long chalk" is forgotten, it's reasonable to expect "long shot" to take over.

    I'm Australian. I've never heard "chalk" here. It's always "shot". That is, when it isn't "way".

  58. Colin Fine said,

    June 16, 2013 @ 3:48 am

    Adrian: I would certainly regard "long chalk" as old fashioned, though unremarkable in context.
    And I'll add my voice to the chorus of British readers for whom both the word and the concept of the well were completely unknown before this post.
    As for plurals in compounds, I deny that it's particularly British. Somebody has already pointed out the US use of "sports". And when I worked for a company which did software for modelling solid objects, we called it "solid modelling", but our US rivals called the technology "solids modeling". (Like many such examples, I believe their use was motivated by a possible ambiguity with "solid" being an adjective).

  59. Elissa said,

    January 21, 2014 @ 10:41 pm

    The term "hosepipe" has been a standing debate between my husband and I.
    I am from rural middle east Tennessee on the Kentucky line and he is from Chicagoland area.
    Needless to say he and I have a language barrier.
    I had to prove that "hosepipe" is an actually term used in reference to a "garden hose".
    So I "Googled" and apparently the term "hosepipe" is used in the UK, South Africa and Tennessee. What are the odds! He says he wins but I know I do!

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