blinkers and indicators

Better Half, Grover and I were waiting to cross the street/road yesterday. BH and I were both annoyed when the oncoming car that was making us wait suddenly turned left instead of passing us. Simultaneously, we made sarky (BrE informal, = sarcastic) comments. The funny thing about our comments was that each of us had accommodated the other's dialect. That is to say, BH used an AmE term and I used BrE:
BH: Nice use of your (AmE) blinkers! (=BrE indicators)
Me: Nice (BrE) indicating! (=AmE signal(l)ing)
In AmE, the more formal term for blinkers is turn signals.

Is dialect accommodation the definition of true love?


  1. Is dialect accommodation the definition of true love?

    Nah, but it is polite. I (an American) remember one day working with a British woman (in a third, non-English-speaking country). When she asked me for the flashlight, I told her that it was next to the kerosene tin.

  2. (By the way, had you run into the geeky AmE "snarky" to mean sarcastic? I'd always wondered where that word had come from, and now I think I see a family resemblance.)

  3. Anon, if you were being polite, should you have said paraffin tin? (BrE paraffin (oil) = AmE kerosene; In AmE paraffin only refers to the waxy form.

    Jo, I love the word snarky because there's something really satisfying about the /sn/. I just started writing a lot about it, but I'm going to move it to another post...

  4. BrE blinkers = AmE blinders, for horses.

  5. My favorite bumper sticker of all time is "Visualize Using Your Turn Signals".

  6. mollymooly: the horsey sense of "blinkers" remains at least vestigially in AmE, in expressions like "blinkered vision" and so forth. (Or have I read so many BrE texts that it's part of my dialect, and I'm confusing that with AmE?)

  7. No, you're right, JB. Horses wear blinkers in both dialects.

  8. And in New England, they're "directionals."

  9. ...which is short for directional indicators, as is indicators.

  10. As a BrE speaker, I've got to admit I don't think of 'blinkers' as particularly American. I use the word without sensing any American influence (after all, it's not a word that comes up often in American movies or T.V. programme imports!), and so do many Brits. The COED (11th ed., 2004)does not mark the usage as 'Am.', which it usually does for adopted expressions.

  11. Well, BH followed his statement with "Did you like my American English?", so he apparently does perceive it as AmE.

  12. Don't know about the rest of the country, but we don't say "blinkers" in California. Blinkers sounds rather British to me actually.

  13. I (in Canada) might understand blinkers on a car to be the hazard lights or four-way flashers, but I wouldn't use "blinkers" for the turn signals, even though they are the same light bulbs.

  14. To my BrE ears, 'indicators' sounds impossibly formal. You'd only call them that if you were quoting the highway code or a car spares catalog(ue). Otherwise they're winkers, not blinkers.

  15. Is dialect accommodation the definition of true love?

    As an American linguist married to a Scot linguist, I must say yes!


  16. That's sweet :)

    Though having lived with a New Yorker flatemate for this academic year, such dialect accommodation gets somewhat confusing when we start using each other's "pants" (the word, not the garment, mind!).

  17. Do you indicate or blinker your intention to turn?
    I hate the blinkers for indicators, because most drivers use them like blinkers on a horse!
    I am Australian.

  18. Blinkers is 100% NOT an English word. We always say indicators as they indicate the direction of travel. We mock the American term ‘blinkers’ a lot!

    1. Um, that is what the post said, so I'm not sure what the full caps and exclamation point are about. I'll just say: no need to mock people's differences.


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