off topic, bloom / flower / back yard

Jane McGary
Sat, 08 Feb 2014 09:53:38 PST
Peter Taggart wrote,
>To me a 'yard' is either a measurement, or a utilitarian space
>-"stable yard", "timber yard", "truck yard", "kennel yard". A "back yard"
>to me is the space at the back of my house where I wash pots, mend the car,
>chop logs..... The "garden" is an amenity space where I grow plants, or
>children play on the lawn.... I would like to know the American English
>term for a  utilitarian space such as the British 'back yard'.

"Back yard," now often written "backyard" (which seems subliterate to 
me), is American English for any enclosed space behind the house, 
whether used for growing plants, children's play, kenneling dogs, or 
the storage of junk cars. "Front yard" (never, as far as I have seen, 
written as one word) is a space, often not enclosed, between the 
house and the road. "Garden" to many Americans denotes a place where 
food plants are grown. The use of "garden" for a space where 
ornamental plants are grown probably originated in elite usage and is 
now spreading via literature and the Anglophilia that has 
increasingly characterized American ornamental gardening in the past 
few decades. To put this in BBC film series context, "yard" is 
downstairs, and "garden" is upstairs (unless you're talking about 
corn [maize] and beans).

I hope I've navigated the terrain between lexicography and 
sociolinguistics carefully enough here not to insult any 
correspondents! In addition to "garden" books and articles, I've 
edited bilingual dictionaries and the journal "Language in Society," 
as well as a number of Oxford UP reference works -- but really, most 
of my relatives still call those spaces "yards."

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

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