Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dustcart

Magazine article The Spectator

Mind Your Language: Dustcart

Article excerpt

Bin lorries and garbage trucks have routed the old southern English term

Are we seeing the end of dustcarts? I don't mean that those noisy, noisome vehicles will cease roaring at the dawn and blocking traffic in the afternoon rush-hour. But the name of the thing is now often given as bin lorry , or, in full American mode garbage truck . 'Climb in the cab of the garbage truck and get to work!' urge the Danish makers of the Lego City Garbage Truck (£12). 'Drive around Lego City looking for trash.'

Calling the dustman a binman used to be a northern trait, as Paul Johnson, long of this parish, observed while making different complaint in Enemies of Society (1977): 'Dustmen (or binmen in the North of England) become refuse-collectors.' The most famous dustcart of recent years was one in Glasgow that in 2014 killed six people and injured 16 three days before Christmas. It was widely called a bin lorry even by London-based journalists.

The problem is not that we no longer put dust in dustbins or have dustmen heaving dustbins into dustcarts. People still speak of sailing from a port even though the ferry has no sails. …

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