This entry is mostly an excuse to post a picture of the pretty (and, in person, pretty imposing) Christmas tree at Rockefeller Centre, which Better Half and I visited a week ago. This was the first time I'd been to New York City during the (AmE-preferred) holiday/(BrE-preferred) festive season, and I was excited to watch the ice skaters in the rink below the tree. But when we got there, all I got was an opportunity to teach Better Half an AmE (or, as the OED puts it, "Chiefly N. Amer.") word: Zamboni. This is a proprietary name for a machine (in vehicular form) used to resurface ice in ice rinks, introduced in 1962 (patented in 1965) by Frank J. Zamboni & Co. of Paramount, California. BH had never seen one before, however he was not content to watch it do its job for more than 10 minutes before declaring that we weren't going to see any ice skaters. Instead, we merried ourselves with the fantastic light show at Saks Fifth Avenue.

A few days later, in a (AmE) book store/(BrE) bookshop, I spotted a children's book called Z is for Zamboni: A Hockey Alphabet, illustrating that in AmE hockey refers to a sport played on ice. In BrE, one must say ice hockey to refer to that sport, and hockey refers to what Americans would call field hockey.

Merry Christmas from Better Half and me!


  1. Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays/Festive Wishes to you and Better Half, too!

  2. About the hockey distinction- in my area (Greater Philadelphia) we refer to field hockey as hockey and ice hockey as, well, ice hockey. Probably because hockey (field variety) is so popular here?

  3. But I note that the Philadelphia Flyers, of the National Hockey League, do wear skates! I expect it matters who's doing the talking in Philadelphia whether it's ice hockey or not--some of the local leagues call themselves ice hockey leagues, and some just hockey. The latter is fairly unthinkable for an ice hockey league in the UK.

  4. Hi, as a linguist wasting time in the middle of the night when I should be preparing a paper, I just typed ice hockey and linguistics into google to see what came up. (Ice hockey being my second favourite thing in the world...after linguistics...or should it be the other way around?) Anyway, in Aust hockey most definitely is field hockey, UNLESS you play ice hockey. I'm continually confusing people now that I play, because within the ice hockey community, it's hockey. But without, it has to be ice hockey.

  5. And a Festivus for the rest of us.


The book!

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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)