Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"tip" and "skip"

At my company, I work with a British freelancer who writes reading passages and reading-comprehension questions that are inserted into the grammar-vocabulary book I'm writing (in any given 18-page chapter, the freelancer writes 3 pages, and I write the remaining 15). The man is a pro, and I enjoy working with him, even though "working with him," in this case, means receiving emails from him because he lives way down south in the city of Masan, near the southern edge of the peninsula (Seoul is way up north, with its back pressed perilously against the DMZ). Not only does my colleague turn in his assigned work well ahead of schedule, he also produces passages that require very little proofreading.

That's not to say everything's perfect. When I proof my colleague's passages, I'll find the occasional minor punctuation error or inconsistency, but the thing I most frequently alter is my colleague's Britishisms. I've heard some people say that US and UK English overlap about 90%, but the more I read of British English, the less convinced I am that this conventional wisdom is true. There are so many differences.

Case in point: my colleague sent me a passage about a family in which the father, a man with no knowledge of computers, has decided to yank the old computer from his desk and take it to the local dump. What the father doesn't realize is that his son's 5000-word essay is stored in the computer's drive: the son had assumed the essay would be safe because the father almost never touched the computer. The story my colleague wrote uses the terms "tip" and "skip," neither of which I clearly understood until I got to the end of the story. Just to be sure, I looked the expressions up, which is how I discovered that, when a Brit says, "I'm taking this to the tip," he means, "I'm taking this to the dump." Once he's at the dump, he'll toss his garbage into a "skip," which turns out to be a dumpster.

I learned a lot of British English by reading the Harry Potter series. I obviously still have much to learn. Unfortunately, since my company's preferred style is US English, I had to change "tip" and "skip" to "dump" and "dumpster," respectively.


The Maximum Leader said...

A propos of nothing, if you have to deal with commercial trash hauling in the US you still use "tip" to determine the cost of disposing of trash from commercial sites. One is billed a "tip" fee for each time a dumpster is tipped into the dump.

I have never heard of a dumpster called a skip.

Kevin Kim said...

"Skip" was new to me, too, but see here, the second "skip^3," definition #1: "a large open container for transporting building materials, etc." You can also search Google Images for "DATS skip" (Australian, apparently), and you'll see plenty of open-top cargo containers as well as one or two bona fide dumpsters.

Conversely, if you look up "dumpster" in Google images, you'll see plenty of dumpsters as well as one or two open-top skips, so at a guess, the terms "dumpster" and "skip" overlap a great deal—to the point where I'd call them synonyms (especially given how "skip" is used in my colleague's short story), if not exactly identical in meaning. Another reason to think of "skip" and "dumpster" as analogues of each other: when you look up "DATS skip," a link for "rubbish removal" comes up, and that's what dumpsters are known for: rubbish removal.

Anyway, your info may have been apropos of nothing, but it was interesting all the same. Thanks.