Sunday, September 11, 2011

shoes

So, shoes. Hard to believe I've not blogged about them already!  First slide, please:



[from UK shoe retailer Office] This, in BrE is a court shoeIn AmE it would be a pump.  (Or call them high heels wherever you are.)  Next slide, please!


[also from Office] In AmE this is a flat, more specifically a ballet flat.  In BrE this is a pump. More specifically, a ballet pump.  Very confusing. (And don't forget that ballet is pronounced differently in AmE & BrE.) What BrE & AmE pumps have in common is that they are low-cut--baring the top of the foot--but I think that the AmE definition is now so closely associated with heels that you can probably find AmE 'pumps' that aren't low-cut. (In fact, you can.)  Next slide, please!

[Office] This is a trainer in BrE. (Yes, people who train people are also called trainers in BrE.) In AmE, it's a bit more complicated:

This map from Bert Vaux's Dialect Survey shows the distribution of words for that kind of shoe in the continental US. Red = sneakers, light blue = tennis shoes, green = gym shoes. (Click on the link for the other colo(u)rs.)

These terms for the red shoe above can also be applied to this one:
[From the UK site for the US brand Keds] But in BrE, they can also be called plimsolls, (which Marc L wrote to ask about recently--thanks).

Next slide, please!


These kinds of things can be called flip-flops in BrE or AmE (sidenote: in South Africa, they're slip-slops). But in AmE (and AusE too, I believe), they can also be called thongs. I suspect that that term is being used a lot less these days because usage has mostly shifted to this.


I've had some correspondence with Erin McKean about whether the meaning of kitten heel differs in BrE and AmE. There are definitely two meanings out there, but dictionaries tend not to be very specific about kitten heels, so the AmE definitions are about the same as the BrE ones. Looking at on-line retailers, I have found both senses in both countries. The sense I use (and which I think Erin's agreeing with me about--so definitely an AmE sense) refers to this kind of thing [from Mandarina shoes]:


The heel is very short, very slim and is inset from the end of the shoe. It might also flare out a bit at the bottom.  But one also finds any stiletto with a moderate heel label(l)ed kitten heel in some places, like this one, which comes from (UK retailer) L.K. Bennett's 'History of the Kitten Heel':

I couldn't call this a kitten heel. To me, it's a not-ridiculously-high pump/court shoe with a stiletto heel.  But when I try to research these things on the internet, the clever-clever shoemakers won't let me compare their UK and US sites, forcing me back into the UK ones, so some avenues of research are not available.  I share Erin's feeling that the first sense is AmE and the second one BrE, but I've not been able to ascertain whether it's not so much a difference as a change-in-progress.  Feel free to let us know which sense is more natural in your dialect (please don't forget to tell us what your dialect is!).
 

If you'd like to enjoy some transatlantic shoe shopping, remember, that the sizes are different. Wikipedia has comparison charts and explains what the sizes are based on.

The last shoe-related thing relates to an email from Peregrine in 2008 (*blush*), who wrote:
I was reading (as I do from time to time) an English-Japanese/Japanese-English dictionary yesterday. 
What came up was the Japanese for shoe and variants of it.  What it said was, essentially
Variant a = AmE low shoe, BrE shoe
Variant b = AmE shoe, BrE boot
Variant c = AmE boot, BrE high boot
For reference this was the Sanseido Gem 4th edition.  I can't find a date but it's definitely post-War, I would guess from the '50s. 

[P.S. but see his addition to the comments section to see how I've misinterpreted his note] Low shoe is not something I'd ever heard of, but I did find it in reference to a Rockport shoe on amazon.co.uk. Checking on Rockport's site, though, they didn't use the term. It'd be easy to dismiss the Japanese dictionary as finding differences that native speakers wouldn't, but there is the question of whether boot or shoe really mean the same thing in AmE/BrE even if they refer to the same ranges of things in the two dialects.  This relates to a point that I made months ago on a post about 'prototypical soup', which I quote here so that I can go to bed sooner:
As far as I know, not much work has been done on regional variation in prototypes. The only example I can think of is a small study by Willett Kempton (reported in John Taylor's Linguistic Categorization) on Texan versus British concepts of BOOT, showing that even though both groups considered the same range of things to be boots, there was variation in their ideas of what constituted a central member of the BOOT category, with the Texan prototype extending further above the ankle than the British one.

And undoubtedly I've forgotten or missed some footwear differences. But that's what the comments section is for!

Late addition--thanks Anonymous in the comments! Just a few days ago, this was my Twitter Difference of the Day, but I somehow forgot to mention BrE football boots. In AmE these are cleats or soccer shoes. Perhaps this is what the distinction in the Japanese dictionary was about. In BrE, my Converse Chuck Taylors are referred to as basketball boots, where I would call them (AmE) high-tops.

Another P.S. (13 Sept 11): I forgot mary janes!  This was originally a trademarked term in AmE for  a brand of girls' shoe, which came in patent leather and had a strap like this:

According to the OED, this is still a proprietary term in BrE--so it often has lower-case initials in AmE but should have upper-case (and be more restricted in application) in BrE. I've had to explain the term to BrE speakers a couple of times, making me think it's more common in AmE.  These days, of course, it's used for any shoe with that kind of low-cut front and a strap across--even if it involves a heel, an asymmetrical or double strap, velcro. Mary janes (I kind of want to hyphenate that--some people make it one word) are very, very Lynneguist.

A couple of notes before I go:
  1. I had a great time discussing how English and American folk "do" politeness at The Catalyst Club this week. Great audience, great night out!
  2. I am about to begin The University Term from Hell. The (orig. AmE) upside is that I don't have to teach in the spring. The (orig. AmE) downside is that it's unlikely that I'll get much blogging in. But I will try!

92 comments:

Lauren said...

You are correct about the AusE use of "thong" - it's the most standard form across the whole country. It helps that the (AmE) "thong" is a "g-string" here - although jokes about wearing thongs in public still abound.
As for kitten heels, I'd say the first definition is the one I think of as the most prototypical, but would possibly imagine a context where I would extend it to the second one. But then, I'm not much of a shoe shopper!

Max said...

For what it's worth, I (Pacific-Northwest American) would consider "gym shoes" to refer specifically to the white-soled shoes that won't scuff up a gym floor.

Jo said...

The typical shoes worn by US military men with office-wear uniforms are generally called "low quarters" (http://www.marlowwhite.com/cgi-bin/commerce.exe?preadd=action&key=80-110, for example), which is one of the few cases I can think of a non-boot being called anything like a "low shoe." Relevant?

Peregrine said...

Morning all. Looking at my email again, I don't think it was that clear, the "low" and "high" were my additions to help distinguish the range of things with different names (type b) from type a and c, which have the same names on both sides of the pond.

Perry
Durban

Anonymous said...

On the boot thing, I believe that the spiked shoes for playing sports outside are called boots in Britain and cleats in the US.

Also, I (Pacific Northwest American) would view tennis shoes both as a general term for sneakers and as a word for the shoes that don't scuff tennis courts, depending on context.

Anonymous said...

I (BrE) would use "kitten heel" for the first picture, not sure about the second.

ros said...

I think there is a difference between normal, everyday British terminology and that which is used by shoe sellers. So, while 'pump' is used in the way you list by sellers, I don't know anyone who would call that a pump. It's a ballet shoe. Other flat shoes are called flat shoes. Pumps are the kind of plimsoll worn by small children who haven't yet learned to tie their laces. Similarly, I would only use kitten heel in the way that you describe as AmE, but you're quite right that shoe shops use it much more widely.

Shannon said...

I (American) had a pair of Nike hightops that I wore when I lived in New Zealand. They referred to these as 'basketball boots' and just yesterday I saw something similar on a UK website that referred to the shoes as 'baseball boots'. I'm pretty sure in the US we'd never refer to a sneaker that went just over the ankle as a boot though obviously fashionable shoes we'd call ankle boots though maybe the former is regional. I definitely never heard anyone in California refer to a 'basketball/baseball boot'. I think Anonymous at 07:32 is also right that what AmE cleats is BrE boots, but then I am not sporty at all!

Sadie said...

@Ros - I think I'd call it a ballet pump, and I'd call the elasticated slip-on plimsolls plimsolls and not pumps.

I agree that what shops call things is not necessarily the same as what most people call them, though, and I'd certainly only call the first example a kitten heel.

(Also, having spent a couple of years in Massachusetts as a child, I'm really surprised to discover that 'sneaker' isn't universal across the US!)

townmouse said...

As Ros said, Converse hi-tops are (or at least were a decade ago) generally referred to as baseball boots in the UK, I think because nobody here has the faintest idea who Chuck Taylor is and so it makes as much sense to call them baseball boots as basketball ones. Plimsolls also have regional variations in the UK of course, including (just to make everyone's confusion complete) some people referring to them as pumps)

townmouse said...

oops, that was Shannon not Ros who mentioned the baseball boot and I see the plimsoll/pump variation has come up too... the dangers of commenting while short of sleep

Anonymous said...

And flip-flops/thongs are called jandals in New Zealand, just to be different. I have heard that it comes from "Japanese sandals" but I don't know how true that is...

pkaustin said...

I saw them on sale in Lisbon recently as Havaianas -- Wikipedia has a list of regional names that covers other parts of the world.

Happy Homemaker UK said...

What a fun blog you have here! I just learned a few new things :)

David Crosbie said...

—When I was a boy growing up in Nottingham (England), in the 50's, the 'proper' name for those canvas sports shoes was plimsolls . As I grew older I learned the alternative gyms shoes, but only after I'd learned the word gymn, of course. An alternative sometimes used was pumps. In my circle the word pumps referred only to plimsolls.

I should point out that back then we still thought of ourselves as a mighty nation with two navies. The tale of The Plimsoll Line and our Merchant Navy was very much what schools were expected to teach. Rightly or wrongly, we associated plimsolls with games on the decks of cruise liners — something that few experienced, but we all knew from the cinema screen.

James said...

Growing up in Southern California in the 70s, flip-flops were definitely called thongs. To me flip-flop has a very northeast feel, though with the appearance of thong underwear, maybe flip-flop has pushed out thong.

Martin J Ball said...

Blimey -
a whole set of lexical items I'd never heard of before on either side of the pond!!
My BH tells me that she thinks kitten heels are sometime called penny heels in the UK ....

lynneguist said...

Thanks, Martin, but all I can find for 'penny heel' online are high-heels (of various sorts) with an upper that looks like a (orig. AmE) penny loafer. Not in my dictionaries.

Does anyone else know that one?

Cathy said...

I grew up in Northern California in the 70's, and we also called those rubber shoes that go between your toes "thongs". Old people called them "shower shoes".

I don't know when I started hearing "flip flops", but I guess it was in the late 80's, around the time that Victoria's Secret started appearing in malls with the other meaning of "thong".

We also had these: http://store.nike.com/us/en_us/?l=shop,pwp,c-1/hf-4294967024/t-Swimming&sitesrc=uslp#l=shop,pdp,ctr-inline/cid-1/pid-152775 -- which we called "zoris". Japanese zoris go between the toes, but ours were really rubber versions of slides.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I (BrE) would call the first example kitten heels.

One thing you haven't mentioned is shoe sizes. I knew they were different on either side of the Atlantic, but, popping into a shoe-shop in Kansas a few years ago as whatever I'd been wearing had died, I realised I hadn't the faintest idea what size to start looking for! Fortunately I saw a box with the sizes listed in US and continental, and as I know my continental size, that gave me some idea where to start looking. Of course, I now can't remember what size I take in American shoes!

james said...

There are, of course, also court shoes for men, which also expose the top of the foot but have little or no heel. They're usually made in patent leather and are worn (though not very often, these days) with white tie.

Richard Gadsden said...

Re boots and sportswear.

I (Northern English BrE) would regard anything that covers the ankle as a boot, and anything that doesn't as a shoe - indeed if asked for a definition, that would be what I would give.

Football boots are shoes - they were originally boots (ie hi-tops) when they were named, but when they were lowered below the ankle, the name had already stuck. Running shoes (ie the things that track-and-field athletes wear) are shoes, because they have always been below the ankle - but both cover almost exactly the same amount of the foot.

The things on the bottom of football boots are called "studs" in BrE. The things on the bottom of running shoes are "spikes". Spikes are sharper (spikier) than studs. Modern ones are more likely to be metal, where studs are more likely to be plastic or plastic-coated metal. Shoes with spikes on can be called spikes; shoes with studs on can't; they're football (or rugby) boots.

As far as I know, AmE doesn't make the distinction between studs and spikes, but uses "cleats" to mean both. Cleats can also be used to mean the shoes or boots that have cleats on.

lynneguist said...

Look again, Mrs Redboots--there's a paragraph on sizes (and that one's not a late addition!).

Thanks to all for the comments!

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

So you did mention sizes! Oops!

Ребекка Кон said...

I'm from the DC area and I've heard shoes made by Chuck Taylor or similar styles that do not have hi-tops referred to as "low-tops". I also seem to remember a distinction being made where ked-type shoes were called tennis shoes while bulkier athletic shoes were sneakers.

Robbie said...

If you look at American-written BrE-AmE "translation" books or articles written even as late as the 1950s or '60s, they all claim that "boot" is (was) the standard word where Americans would say "shoe".

I'm guessing this is a partial misunderstanding because of the tendency for the average pre- and just-post-war Brit (especially men and children) to wear "sensible" sturdy, clumpy shoes that might as well be called boots.

Anyone here in a position to confirm or deny?

Graham said...

For me (BrE, southern, born 1960) there is no overlap between trainers and plimsolls. Plimsolls are very light shoes (normally canvas, lace up), used for gym work and some other sporting use (e.g. at school we used them for tennis, although we realised serious tennis players used "tennis shoes" which were similar but slightly more substantial). Either shoes could be either black soled or non-marking soled (much to the distress of gym and boat owners trying to enforce rules). I still use plimsolls for sailing in good weather (and "sailing boots", which are a specialist ankle boot, if conditions are worse).

"Trainer" (or its equivalent "training shoe") didn't exist in my schoolboy vocabulary but the word arrived for me with the products (which I would say was about 1980) and referred to a much more substantial and heavier shoe (more substantial than both plimsolls and tennis shoes -- with no overlap in usage).

In all cases, those words were reserved for sports shoes (along with various specialist "boots" for each sport). The pictures you show seem to show casual shoes-- even today I would be very hesitant to use the word plimsoll, trainer, tennis shoe or XXX boot for anything other than a shoe designed for sporting use, although I understand that many people use "trainer" when they are referring to a non-sporting shoe that bears a resemblance to a "training shoe".

By the way, "basketball boots" were briefly fashionable in my youth -- I had a pair in the 1970's I think.

David Crosbie said...

I remember winkle pickers — shoes with extremely pointed toes. However, I never grasped how pointed they needed to be to qualify.

People also spoke of brothel creepers and co-repondent's shoes. This was clearly to characterise the wearer, so I never troubled to find out what the shoes looked like. Any pictures, anyone?

sister-luck said...

Penny heels is the German term for kitten heels: Pfennigabsätze.

Chuck Taylor shoes - which seem to become fashionable every 10 years or so - are either Converse or Chucks though the latter was the word prevalent in the late 80s.

Dru said...

What are usually officially called gym shoes or plimsolls are called daps in South West England and South Wales. I've always understood it's onomatopoeic, because they go 'dap, dap, dap' on the floor.

They're also called sand shoes somewhere.

Co-respondents' shoes are the ones with two tone colours, usually black and white, either because they were made with different colours of leather, or because they are the sort of shoes co-respondents would wear.

I think brother creepers is an old name for suede shoes.

Dru said...

A second comment. I've always understood the difference between boots and shoes is that shoes stop below the ankle bone, whereas boots cover at least part of the ankle, and should give it at least some sort of support. They may of course go much higher. Is that usage not universal?

Lady D said...

@sister-luck: How do you pronounce Converse? In the early 70s they were popular, and where I live (South Central PA) it was pronounced KAHN-verz. Just curious if that's the universal pronunciation or a local peculiarity.

lynneguist said...

Lady D: I say 'KAHN-verss'. No /z/.

Dru: The boundaries of the boot category are nearly the same--though the prototypes can still differ. I.e. if someone says "I need new boots" do you visualise something up the calf or just over the ankles?

There is a difference in terms of height and materials, it seems, though. My in-laws call Grover's tiny Chuck Taylors 'boots' (and as we've heard already, they can be 'basketball boots' in BrE). In AmE, they're not. They're sneakers or shoes, but not boots. But if you had something in a stiff leather that came up as high, you'd call it a boot--e.g. hiking boots, ankle boots.

Are co-respondent's shoes the same as AmE 'saddle shoes', then? (A second colo(u)r goes over the top of the foot, like a saddle. They lace up.) Better Half has a couple of pairs of them and knows no term for them--just calls them 'two-tone shoes'.

bklynharuspex said...

My understanding of "co-respondent heels" is that they're not a specific form, but any overtly sexy shoe of the kind worn by the Other Woman -- what is less printably known as the fuck-me pump.

Saddle shoes would be more associated with the schoolgirl than with the demimondaine.

David Crosbie said...

Lynne

the prototypes can still differ. I.e. if someone says "I need new boots" do you visualise something up the calf or just over the ankles?

Doesn't it depend on the function? I disagree with Richard Gadsden's perception that what footballer wear nowadays are football shoes. And I think this extends to metaphorical kicking — you put the boot in even if you're actually wearing shoes.

I think in terms of winter boots, climbing boots, hiking boots, work boots, fashion boots, riding boots .... Only for the last two would my prototype extend up the calf. Confronted with flimsy footwear that offered no protection from weather or hard knocks, I would be reluctant to call it a boot no matter how long it was. (Calling it a fashion boot might be all right, though.)

lynneguist said...

David--your prototype for 'hiking boot' will differ from that for 'fashion boot', but that doesn't mean that you don't also have a prototype for 'boot'. It's an idealised, schematic representation.

tarhoosier said...

Cleats: athletic shoes with hard ridges or metal spikes to enhance traction. I wore them in baseball/softball and the acceleration was enhanced tremendously thereby.
As a teenager in the 60's the thongs were ubiquitous. Flip-flops came later for the same footwear. Shower shoes is the term for those in jail (gaol) where such foot wear is ubiquitous

Wouter said...

Lynne, there's a slightly technical solution to get round your problem of "clever-clever shoemakers won't let me compare their UK and US sites, forcing me back into the UK ones, so some avenues of research are not available".

What you could do is install a second browser and use a free proxy server located in the US. (if you google free proxy servers, you'll get entire lists of them. Set up your second browser to use one of these proxy servers and the websites you visit will think you're in the US (because of the US proxy) and will no longer redirect you to their UK sites.

David Crosbie said...

Lynne

It's an idealised, schematic representation.

Yes but that doesn't make it visual.

My prototype is half of a workaday protective alternative to shoes. If ever I try to visualise a boot in the abstract, it's something that never has a foot in it. For me, plural boots in the visual abstract don't even come in pairs.

woodpijn said...

Fascinating - I had no idea "pumps" were formal-looking shoes in the US. Like Ros, I think of "pumps" as almost the same as plimsolls - typically worn by children for school gym.

Now I won't get confused if I come across a description of a formally-dressed American wearing pumps.

Little Black Sambo said...

According to where we happened to be living in England, plimsolls were known locally as pumps or daps. Trainers, when they came in, were always quite distinct and never called plimsolls. In Australia we learnt to call plimsolls sandshoes.
(Aren't co-respondent shoes those men's shoes with vulgar white bits let into them?)

lynneguist said...

I'd make a plimsolls/trainers division in my own (2nd dialect) BrE, but I was following web retailers in including the former within the latter. I wonder how younger folk, who grew up with the word 'trainer' think of it.

Andrew R said...

I am a little surprised nobody so far has referred to kinky boots. These are (in UK) those that cover the calf and usually end just below the knee . They became a fashion item , as I recall , with Emma Peel in The Avengers [late 60's ?], but do have the advantage of keeping one's legs warm in a cold English winter . I have no idea at all what the US equivalent may be .

They are - as it were - in opposition to short boots which , as a mere male , I understand are or were either pixie boots or Peter Pan boots .

The Ridger, FCD said...

Wow. Since I only know the term "kinky boots" from the movie, I had no idea that was the generic name for the style.

For me, those flat canvas shoes are "deck shoes".

Boris Zakharin said...

My feelings might be influenced by Russian equivalent words, but I wouldn't call the shoes you picture sneakers. I might use one of the other two US terms, but since I never wore such shoes stateside, I can't be certain. The sneakers I do wear look more like this:
http://www.joesnewbalanceoutlet.com/detail.asp?style=MX622WN

Boots were also a huge culture shock. Most of what's sold as boots in the US shoe stores are not what I think of when I say boots at all. In my mind boots have to have a significant portion, probably the majority, of the leg up to the knee covered. Snow boots are the *shortest* type of boots in my mind. I shudder to think what I would think in the UK. Is there a different word for these things there?

sister-luck said...

The German pronunciation of Converse has a short o: 'KON-verss'.

And we also say Pumps for BE court shoes, pronounced [pɶmps].

jb said...

As far as pronunciation of "Converse": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmkwzqG4How

Not featured in this commercial are the 'chucks' actually being discussed in the post, however.

Lady D said...

The Emma Peel boots referred to were called "go-go boots" in my part of the US.

Elissa said...

Re: thongs/flip-flops

'Thong' is very much the standard word here in Western Australia. I don't think flip-flop has any standing here - thong is firmly ensconced (And, in true West Aussie style, any change would be stubbornly resisted).

@pkaustin: Here Havaiana is a brand of flip-flop - the expensive/fashionable ones.

DRK said...

What a rich topic, I had no idea!

In Texas, we say: flip-flops, tennis shoes (but my raised-in- Illinois daughter calls Converse hi-tops "Chucks"), and ballet flats. And, yeah, we used to call flip-flops "thongs", but now that's just G-string bikinis. And those first shoes are kitten heels, but the second pic is just low-heeled pumps, and not nearly as cute, IMHO.

When I lived in Hawaii in the early '90s, they called flip-flops "slippers".

Anonymous said...

The blue pair of sneakers/plimsolls in the article would be called takkies in South Africa. In fact the trainers would be called takkies too nowadays, but may not have been when that style of shoe became more popular in the late 70s or early 80s. I'm not actually certain what we called them back then, I think we usually used the brand name, so they'd have been referred to as Nikes or whatever.

biochemist said...

May I suggest that the prototype ‘boot’ is defined by its fitness for prevailing weather? In the British climate, this would imply a sturdy construction with a good sole that will grip in muddy conditions – hence the studs or cleats for football or rugby, or a thick tread for walking. When stepping out on to the moors, Jane Eyre doubtless wore leather boots just above the ankles, fastened with laces and numerous hooks: Mr Rochester’s riding boots will have had a longer upper as protection against the rain (same for Wellington boots). On the other hand, desert boots, as they were known in the 1960s, were constructed of soft light-coloured suede reaching above the ankles, to keep the sand out, one assumes. Their soft crepe soles and general racy image gave them the nickname ‘brothel creepers’in the UK.
The flimsy gym shoes that some of us remember from the 1950-60s are known as sand shoes in Scotland – here again the elastic panel over the instep may keep out the sand at the seaside, certainly more effectively than those wretched open-toed sandals. The crepe sole on these shoes and on tennis shoes of the Dunlop green flash type and the blue plimsolls illustrated in the original post was fine for grassy surfaces. Trainers/sneakers/running shoes now reflect their heavy use and have elaborate treads and interior structures – almost like boots, in some cases! Deck shoes, of canvas or leather construction, have a sole that grips the wet deck. If you play a racquet sport on an all-weather court, these soles have been known to cause dislocated knee injuries...

Katie said...

Would have likes to have been in on that politeness discussion. Fwiw I hardly ever say pump, using heels or high heels instead.

Cameron MacDonald Black said...

For me growing up in Glasgow, Scotland, "gym shoes" were sandshoes. They never had laces, and once we weer all learning how to tie laces the term gradually died out, and I haven't heard it used at all for probably decades.

Never even heard of kitten heels.

Mrs Redboots (Annabel Smyth) said...

I grew up calling light canvas shoes "sandshoes" now I come to think of it (BrE, Southern); my mother and aunt, who had lived in South Africa, tended to call them "tackies". We said either gym shoes or Plimsolls interchangeably for the plain white-with-laces or black-without versions that were ubiquitous and cheap - my daughter, 20 years ago, had to have both at her secondary school. Quite why "gym shoes" when we did gym bare-footed, I have never known.

We played lacrosse at my school (ghastly game), and our footwear was called boots. In fact,they were very like modern All Stars, only with cleats - a matter of canvas and leather, rather than all one material. This was in the 1960s.

Joe1959 said...

@bbklynharuspex

In Edinburgh that would be "shag-me shoes" / "fuck-me boots" and, since Lynne is always interested in prototypes, for me the prototypes for both would have pointed toes and 3"+ stilleto heels; the prototype for the latter would also be at least mid-calf.


@Cameron MacDonald Black

In Scotland I have also heard plimsolls referred to as "Gutties" - presumably from "Gutta Percha" (latex produced by trees of that genus) - the stuff they used to make golf balls from.


And, for what it's worth, I agree with Lynne's definition of a kitten-heel.

Peter Matthew Reed said...

I'm having a hard time finding it now, but at some point in my linguistic education, I was shown a map of BrE terms for "the shoes you wore for PE". I am getting some instructive results on Google with the search {site:http://www.bbc.co.uk/voices/recordings PE}, which shows "daps" for Welsh (and West Country) English and "kittyses" for Manx English. What I'm trying to say is it seems a bit more complicated in BrE too.

Anonymous said...

As an avid reader of 19th century fiction and/or historical fiction, I'd like to point out that "pumps" used to be a lightweight shoe worn for dancing (by both sexes, I think). Also, Victorian men's everyday footwear was "boots", which I assume were ankle-height.
I believe the term "co-respondent shoes" for two-tone ones (for men) goes back to the 1930s, when divorce was regarded as scandalous.

Kate (Derby, UK)

Richard Gadsden said...

Re: David Crosbie's comment that

I disagree with Richard Gadsden's perception that what footballer wear nowadays are football shoes.

That wasn't what I intended to say.

They are football boots. But "football boots" is a pat phrase; you always say "football boots" even though the footwear actually referred to are shoes. I'd never call them "football shoes", though - they're "football boots".

If you took the studs off and switched them to a normal sole (without the fitment points for the studs), you'd have no doubt that they were shoes.

Ruth said...

Being from Canada, to me a trainer or a sneaker is a runner and gym shoes would be the runners I left in my gym bag. Although I think retailers call them running shoes.

David Crosbie said...

Richard Gaddsen

If you took the studs off and switched them to a normal sole (without the fitment points for the studs), you'd have no doubt that they were shoes.

Yes, soles can be crucial. I still own a pair of dancing clogs, although I haven't danced in them in over forty years. If you substituted a 'normal' sole, they'd be shoes.

We're basically in agreement. It's the footballing aspect that prevents those 'boots' from being shoes. For you, that means the physical paraphernalia of studs etc. For me, it means the abstract function.

stephinboots said...

Also AusE would give you runners or sandshoes for trainers, plimsolls and things inbetween.

stephinboots said...

We Australians (at least my generation, BabyBooomers) call plimsolls, trainers and things of that ilk runners or sandshoes.

Anonymous said...

Nowadays always trainers, but growing up in Scotland in 1960s, I learnt gym shoes, my sister learnt sandshoes, my North of England mother said pumps.

Sarah said...

I would use 'plimsoll' specifically for the black elasticated primary school PE shoes.

'Pumps' would cover them too, but extends to coloured varieties and lace ups. 'Pumps' have soft uppers and low profile rubber soles.

'Trainers' covers everything from the Adidas type in the picture to the 'shiny whites' sported by your local chav/ned.

'Running shoes' for actual sports use are generally distinguished from 'trainers' by the shop that sells them...

Anonymous said...

I would agree that the first shoe is a kitten heel. But if it flared out at the bottom, it would then be a Louis heel.

Anonymous said...

In the UK in the late 1960s and early 70s our football/rugby footwear came above the ankle, so they were definitely boots. My guess is that the name stuck when the style evolved to something different. "Soccer" has only become popular in the States recently, long after the new low styles came in.

Dap is very much the traditional English language term for plimsolls in South Wales, but has always been treated as slang rather than a "correct" term.

Eimear said...

I think "runners" would be the commoner term in Ireland although "trainers" is also used and everywhere understood. In general esp. for the older generation "plimsolls" means the same as in the U.K. Also, Northern counties, like Scotland, use "gutties" and for some reason in Limerick they use "tackies".

Stephanie Holt said...

'Trackies' in AusE is pants - tracksuit pants, or tracky daks (various spellings). Very strange to imagine trackies worn on feet!

Stephanie Holt said...

tackies? trackies?

Spanish Cow said...

Bit late to the discussion, but just wanted to add that 'trainers' had pretty much become the only term in town (for practically any type of sporty shoe) when I was growing up in Scotland in the 80's/90's. Have never actually heard the word 'plimsoll' used in conversation in Scotland (sounds very Enid Blyton to my ears), and the 'sand shoes' mentioned above by a couple of my compatriots was definitely before my time.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

On the subject of flip-flops, aussies always call them thongs, and it has the other meaning there too, and kiwis call them jandels.

lynneguist said...

The comments are getting a bit repetitive!

bklynharuspex said...

Okay, here's a new one for your amusement. On the blog of the King Arthur Flour company, one reader wrote to say that the apple "slab pie" under discussion, called Apple Slices by some of the posters, was called "Boots" in her house, because her husband's mother "used to send it to him at Boy Scout camp in a box from a pair of boots. Treats from home were always attacked and eaten by all the guys working there, but a pair of boots sent from home cause “my other pair got wet”? Always safe from thieves."

rachel said...

Couple of comments: according to a biography of Plimsoll, plimsolls were so called because they were waterproof up to the line and not so above.

And what you describe as ballet pumps are called "dolly shoes" by my teenage daughter and all her friends in Glos, UK

Tania said...

Speaking from experience as an AmE speaker who frequents UK shoe shops, referring loudly to "pump" or "pumps" might get the kids giggling (BrE "pump" = "fart")

ros said...

Tennis shoes to me, in the UK, are Green Flash. Which is to say these: http://www.jamesandjames.com/products/dunlop/dun1555whgn.htm

You might have them in other colours but green was the standard at my school and that was what we all wore for tennis (and other things that weren't hockey or lacrosse).

freerun said...

I'm really surprised to discover that 'sneaker' isn't universal across the US!

Picky said...

Peter Matthew Reed: the map showing where the different dialect terms for pump/dap/plimsoll etc are predominant appears in The dialects of England by Peter Trudgill. It's visible on Google Books.

Joe said...

I also wanted to weigh in on "daps" for "plimsolls". My father, who grew up in South Wales in the '40s & '50s, has always called that type of shoe "daps". He is adamant that the name is an acronym from "Dunlop Athletic Plimsolls". however, he uses the word to describe any canvas-shoe-with-a-rubber-sole, not just the products of the Dunlop company.

I always thought "brothel creepers" were the thicker-soled soft shoes worn by Teddy-Boys in the U.K., and Greasers/ rockabilly fans in the U.S. Often with a suede or velour top panel in leopard-print, or something equally ghastly.

Anonymous said...

In NZE, like many have said flip-flops are called jandals. Though most people would understand what you are talking about when flip-flops/thongs are mentioned. It was quite a suprise to learn that jandal was only used in NZE when it is such a handy term that doesn't have the thong connotations or is kind of childish sounding (in my mind) like flip-flop. The plimsolls that you showed in your post would most likely just be called Keds, just like Converse shoes would be called Chucks.

wedge firmly said...

Coming to the party late. From the American Midwest so I say flip flops and tennis shoes.
I always consider mary janes as having a T strap not a single one across the instep. That being said, in the theater world mary janes with a single strap and heel are called character shoes.
To confuse things even more, I've heard mules (the frou frou slip on shoes with a heel, usually worn with a negligee in old movies)called slides but have also seen casual slip ons with open toes called slides. Is that just regional?
What about slippers, houseshoes and bedroom shoes? I think the latter is regional since that's what my Southern Mother called them.

Aritul said...

Interesting. I would definitely would have referred to the "trainers" as tennis shoes or sneakers, not runners, running shoes, or gym shoes. I don't see them as suitable for running or going to the gym.

And I regard the two examples that you posted for kitten heels as kitten heels.

Megan Onions said...

In some parts of Britain, "gym shoes" are referred to as daps. This is especially the case for older generations, as the word was very popular in the period around the 1970s.
Thank you for highlighting this aspect of our (BE speaker here!) differences in a reader-friendly and fun way.

Megan Onions
http://www.veritaslanguagesolutions.com/

laner said...

Having lived in South Africa, I'm surprised you didn't mention that we call trainers/sneakers (or anything similar) 'takkies', as one Anonymous has pointed out.

I've never heard anyone here say 'slip-slops' instead of 'flip-flops', but we will call them 'slops'.

(As a comment on another article of yours about toilets, I'm also surprised that you dropped your use of the word 'bathroom' while in South Africa - everyone I know says 'bathroom' or 'loo' and would be mortified if someone asked where the 'toilet' was!)

Elian said...

What's a spike heel compared to a stiletto heel then? Always thought that "stiletto heel" was chiefly BE and "spike heel" the AE equivalent. Apparently the former gained ground on the latter among AE native speakers.

lynneguist said...

They're the same thing, as far as I'm concerned. Corpus of Historical AmE has two 'spike heels' pre-1960, but since the 60s, 'stiletto (heel)' has become the term of choice in AmE.

Mindy said...

Tennis shoes here, but really tenna shoes ;) no one I know actually pronounces it all the way out.

Anonymous said...

BrE is kinky boots (sexual kink as they were based upon S&M 'underground' boots; true ones had high stiletto heels) by the time of Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Were Made For Walking" they were known as Go-Go Boots in AmE.

In BrE kinky boots, also knee boots as opposed to calf boots and thigh boots, were distinct from "bootees" which were women's (ladies'!) dress ankle boots with or without high heels; though I haven't heard that term for more than 40 years, except from 80 year old women and ladies.

Anonymous said...

Some of my family and my school headmaster and some of the pupils parents would have also been mortified to hear any of us using the word "toilet"; the prefered word was "lavatory", - "toilet" was regarded as lower middle class.

Anonymous said...

Some say that a spike heel tapers evenly to a small 1/4 inch or less tip; whereas a true stiletto follows the traditional shape of a slender high heel, curved inwards to achieve maximum thinness for at least half its height and thus being 1/4 inch or less in thickness for at least half its height. There are also pencil heels, sometimes called pin heels or even rapier heels, that are shaped like a round cross-section pencil for at least 3/4 of their height (or length!) and are about 1/4 inch or less in diameter and often made entirely of steel, sometimes covered in the shoes material and sometimes left exposed.