Saturday, April 28, 2007

bungalows and ranch-style houses

Better Half just read yesterday's post and noted that I didn't mention a type of house I've been meaning to mention for a while: the bungalow.

The term has come up a lot since my friend Recyclist bought a house that she calls a bungalow, but that doesn't (chiefly AmE) jibe with BH's notion of what a bungalow is. The word comes from India, where it refers to a one-stor(e)y house with a thick thatched roof. This has been extended outside India to refer to single-stor(e)y houses. But in my part of the US (and I do believe this varies in different parts of the US), it's used more specifically to refer to a house like this one (and like Recyclist's), which has a front porch with pillars and a partial 'attic' top floor. These were popularly built in the 1920s and 1930s, I understand. According to this internet discussion (which led me to this photo), this would be called a dormer bungalow in BrE--but having never seen one here, I haven't had any occasion to hear such a term used. What BH would call a bungalow--i.e. a one-stor(e)y house--I (when in America) would call a ranch(-style) house--not to be confused with the culinary horror ranch(-style) dressing. Buttermilk-based foods are generally not to be found in England, which is sometimes sad. Buttermilk pancakes, for instance, are particularly nice. But not having to face ranch dressing is one of those things that makes living in England a pleasure.

34 comments:

Ambarish said...

I was brought up in India, and in my tongue (Tamil) a bungalow is more like a mansion and certainly with more storeys than one. But it could well be a North vs. South thing. In which Indian language does it refer to a thatched house?

Interface said...

In my part of Aus (Victoria) the house in the photo would be called a California Bungalow

John Cowan said...

Houses, schmouses. But ranch-style dressing, now that's something that makes salads worth eating. Especially the no-fat variety.

jack said...

I would consider "ranch house" to be as specific a term as bungalow is - a ranch house is a post WWII suburban house with an open floorplan and (usually) a hipped roof. They are found in suburban type areas, a lot of tract housing was built in ranch style.

I can't think of any special term that I would use to describe one storey houses in general.

jack said...

Also, I just noticed that you spelled storey as "stor(e)y." Is "story" one of those American spellings that a lot of Americans don't use (like "archeology" and "dialog")? I don't think I've ever spelled it without an "e."

marek said...

Whatever the original meaning in India, the BrE meaning is pretty clearly limited to one storey houses. They can be semi-detached (as discussed in the previous post) but I can't imagine their being terraced, and they can't cheat and have an attic (except just possibly a very small one with very inconspicuous dormer windows).

They don't, in my experience, have an association with thatch - indeed a bungalow with thatch would be more likely to be called a thatched cottage than a bungalow. That probably links to a background thought that to be a bungalow, it has to have been built after the British colonisation of India, which pretty much excludes anything with thatch.

In my school playground many years ago, the derivation was popularly supposed to be that you build a house, then bung a low roof on it.

marek said...

Oh, and I have never heard the term "dormer bungalow" - and if it did exist, the house in the picture would not be one, since the window in the upper storey is not a dormer window. To be a dormer window, it must (a) be set in a sloping roof and (b) itself be vertical (ie, be a window, not a skylight).

lynneguist said...

Apologies to Tamil (and other Dravidian language) speakers! I was vague about which language bungalow comes from because I read different language sources in different dictionaries. Hindi is the most common, but I've read other related languages as well--e.g. Gujarati. OED says Hindustani. Its original meaning was 'from/belonging to Bengal'--so presumably the original type of bungalow was built by Bengali speakers.

I agree with Jack that there is a specific type of 1-stor(e)y house that is a ranch house, but I treat that as the prototype for ranch houses, and am perfectly willing to call other one-stor(e)y houses ranches.

On the spelling of storey/story, story is the 'preferred' form in the OED--that is, storey doesn't have its own entry, it's just cross-referenced to story. Etymologically, it comes from the same source as the narrative type of story (from the Greek historia. Story is also the first choice in the American Heritage Dictionary. But where there are alternative spellings, I've been including them in brackets often just to avoid anyone complaining that I didn't use their spelling! This doesn't seem to be a matter of different dialectal prescriptions--just of a more common and less common variant. Which you prefer probably depends as much on your experience with architecture as your dialect.

lynneguist said...

For more on the technical use of the word prototype, there's this Wikipedia article...

James said...

1. A lot of Americans don't use "story", "archeology", and "dialog"? I would say those are all the standard forms. I don't think I had ever come across "storey" and "archaeology" until I left America.

2. An Australian friend moved to America, and ordered a salad. What kind of dressing would he like? When it comes to food, he reasons, anything French is safe. But it doesn't occur to him that a dressing might be called French but not be French. And so he learned that the hard way. He still rants about it.

jack said...

I'm currently taking an "Intoduction to Archaeology" college course. The room is decorated with about a dozen posters advertising graduate schools and various state "Archaeology Months" (saying things like "October is Mississippi Archaeology Month!") Of all the posters and books in the room, only one uses the standard American spelling. The textbooks and the the official course listing also say "Archaeology."

I think I'm wrong about "storey" being used somewhat widely by us Americans. Somehow the "e" version creeped into my own spelling. I think my problem is that I'm just not a very good speller and tend to go by what I call the "looks right" method - it's correct if it looks to be spelled in a way I'd previously seen it. This can be a problem when you read books published in Canada and Great Britian, or read and post on a lot of message boards and blogs. However, I still maintain that "archaeology," "dialogue," and even a couple other "gue" words like "epilogue" are common enough in the U.S. as to not be considered Anglophile spellings or be flagged as incorrect by Microsoft spell check.

Rebecca said...

A dormer bungalow to me looks like this in that the dormer windows are standy-up, pointy windows? I dunno.

There's a funny sketch on Goodness Gracious Me where the Dad tells the son that all words are Indian. He starts off with bungalow, IIRC

Celeste said...

Rebecca,

I wouldn't call that a bungalow at all. I think that's a 'cape', with dormer windows.

Celeste

Celeste said...

And, let me add, it's not just that a bungalow has a porch with pillars, it has a porch which is integral to the architecture of the house. The porch of a bungalow, in other words, could not be removed.

johnb said...

That image is clearly of a two floored property - and while in BrE in might just creep into bunglow becuse it has very low eaves, it was clearly designed to have a second floor in the roof space.

Now this image http://www.gerrymullinauctioneer.com/detailpopup.asp?PkID=422 clearly is a BrE bungalow

Ken Broadhurst said...

Lynneguist, what kinds of salad dressing do they serve in the UK? Thousand Island? Russian? French (American-style)? Vinaigrette? Italian?

lynneguist said...

American names for salad dressings don't generally mean much in BrE.

If you get a side salad in a restaurant, it may not have any dressing at all. (My mother couldn't bear it, but that's my mother.) Otherwise, it will usually have an oil-vinegar-mustard kind of vinaigrette-type thing--which is what is understood here when one says French dressing--but the 'French' isn't usually used in the title. In AmE French dressing has tomato (in some form--sometimes ketchup) in it.

Salad cream is the classic English lettuce-topper. It looks like mayonnaise or Miracle Whip (and pretty much has the same ingredients), but people who like it insist that it is very different. (Being a hater of mayonnaise, I've never wanted to try it.) It has been nominated as an icon of England--and is acknowledged as an old-fashioned taste.

Better Half says it was a revelation to him when he went to America and there were named choices of dressings and everyone (else) knew what the names meant--because all he'd ever had growing up was iceberg lettuce with a bit of tomato and cucumber with the option of salad cream or 'squeezy Jif'--i.e. bottled lemon juice--though as a child he hadn't reali{s/z}ed it came from lemons. Jif is a brand name, but these days it's the name of a toilet cleaner that used to be called Cif--BH suspects it's the lemon juice repackaged. But he's pretty suspicious of most cleaning products.

Celeste said...

For just a moment there, I was puzzled by the 'squeezy Jif', because it brought to mind peanut butter on iceberg lettuce - yuck.

Anonymous said...

Re: Interface's comment about "California Bungalow"

In my part of California, which is a small southern Calif. beach town founded in the late 19th c, we'd call that a cottage. It's a little sad to look at them, because nowadays they are generally torn down when they're sold after their elderly occupants die.

The fancier old houses, which are about the same size and were built about the same time, but with lots of nice woodwork, are "craftsman houses". They are historical structures that can't be torn down.

Now that I think about it, I don't believe I've ever heard someone say the word bungalow. I know it only from reading, and kind of vaguely undertand it to be a small house, somewhat larger than a cottage. A ranch house is definitely larger than a cottage or bungalow, and here in the west, it's the kind of house you actually do find on horse ranches as well as in suburban tracts.

lynneguist said...

It's funny that Anonymous doesn't know of bungalows in Southern California, since many Americans (especially of a certain age) will know the term from reading about old (1930s-1950s) movie/film star dwellings in Hollywood. Hollywood bungalow gets lots of Google hits, but unfortunately, I can't find any images that show house exteriors. But here is the first one I found by searching Beverly Hills bungalow. As one can see here, this type of bungalow is not at all as modest as the type of thing we call bungalows on the east coast.

marek said...

The derivation of BrE French dressing is fairly clear - the oil and vinegar base with optional herb/mustard flavouring is what you would expect in France.

The derivation of the AmE version is (to me at least) much less clear: I have never encountered a tomato-based dressing in France, so presumably the presumed frenchness comes from somwhere else. Does anybody have any ideas?

Ambarish said...

Right, so I confirmed with other Tamil speakers that to them, a bungalow is a mansion. But Wikipedia does suggest that in Gujarati, a bungalow is one-storeyed. Maybe I should start a blog on Indo-Aryan loan-words in Dravidian languages :-)

andrea said...

I'm living in Delhi (hindi speaking area), and a 'bungalow' here is generally a house that is not attached to another house, or more generally, a residence that is not located in multi-family housing. usually they are 3 or 4 floors around here, and are most definitely mansions.

I grew up in the US though, and my idea of bungalows came from "Nancy Drew and the Bungalow Mystery" ... and in my mind's eye was picturing a small house, like the one in your picture, as a bungalow! Imagine my surprise when I found that the word refers to something completely different in India.

And Ranch dressing is good as long as it's made well (and at home) ... it's good with pizza...mmmmmmm... something I do miss from the States :D

flatlander said...

There's a particularly hideous house style that I hope has not been exported from America called the split ranch. The front door leads directly to the landing of a staircase, as if one has wandered into the service entrance.

Andrea, I too associate bungalows with Nancy Drew!

Sonya said...

To me, a bungalow is a Craftsman-style house of modest size. This is influenced by my recent house hunt in Pasadena, California, where there are many of these bungalows. The magazine American Bungalow showcases Craftsman houses, though many of them are too big to fit my idea of a bungalow.

Stephen said...

Well if we are talking about India we must talk about the circuit bungalow. These were bungalows built for government representatives to live in , either permanently or whilst on a visit.

Then there are the Luytens bungalows built in New Dehli for the Indian government (fairly small by modern US standards, as even the PM's bungalow is only about 1400 sq feet) but still large by the standards of Old Delhi.

And it is the fact that bungalows were the name of the houses built for the Raj bureaucracy that explains the transformation in India to a word for a detached house, or even a two or three storey McMansion.

Suelily said...

Andrea and Flatlander, me too! The only context I ever had for the word bungalow was Nancy Drew... :)

Robin said...

I'm from the US Midwest and I have never heard anyone say the word "bungalow." I do associate it with the 1920's and 1930's "Hollywood love nests." It has a vaguely exotic flair, definitely a place a murder might take place or . The small Craftsmen homes that people are mentioning are closest to what I envision a bungalow to be.

To me, a ranch is a very specific type of one floored house, built mostly between 1950 and 1970 and located in the suburbs. Not any single floored house would be called a ranch. I don't have a term that encompasses all one storied homes.

And I like split-level ranches!

Robin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
bstirling said...

Here in my part of western Canada, a bungalow means a house with one floor (plus possibly the basement). One would likely refer to a house with an attic like that as either having one and a half storeys or perhaps as having a finished attic. But houses here don't tend to have functional attics. They're usually full of that pink fibreglass insulation.

Do people in other areas use the terms split-level or side split for houses that have half floors?

Julia said...

I have just started to read your blog. I am interested in the differences in how English is spoken/written throughout the English speaking world. Also I lived in Canada for 5 years and have a sister who lives in England so now am confused about usage and spelling.

In the midwest a bungalow was the type of house you pictured. I was surprised yesterday by seeing a bungalow in Tucson, AZ. It was in the middle of the block surrounded by small stucco covered one story houses. It seemed out of place somehow.

Also another type of ranch house is the raised ranch which was the most common type of house in Alberta, Canada.

When we visited the UK people referred to some one story houses as villas. I don't know if I ever got a definition of a villa. I had thought of them as some sort of large rambling palatial place in Italy.

John Cowan said...

I have no idea why American "French" dressing has tomato in it, but I note that ketchup didn't have tomato in it either until it reached these shores from China: it was a fermented-fish sauce like Roman garum or Vietnamese nuoc mam.

Julie said...

A "ranch-style" house is not the same as a "California bungalow." A bungalow has a roofline at right angles to the street, whereas a ranch-style house has a roofline parallel to the street. Generally, yes, it's a smaller, less showy version of a "Craftsman" house.

This is our California bungalow. It's about 900square feet, about half the size of a typical 50's ranch house. Note that the other houses on the street are of the same style. Photo taken about 1959.
http://www.rhoadsart.com/bio/Pers/school.html#stump

Anonymous said...

When I see "Hollywood bungalow" in print, I hear Jim Morrison's voice in my head. Can't help it.

Otherwise, I (AmE) think the most likely place to enocounter the word "bungalow" would be in the phrase "artist's bungalow," which would by definition be small and quaint, and therefore would probably, but not by definition, be only one story.

Unmodified, "bungalow" calls to mind the sort of thatched-roof beach hut that I think you orignally imagined as well, but neither the word nor the hut is terribly common, at least here in NY.