How to choose among the dozens and dozens of unfulfilled requests? I just clicked blindly in my inbox and found American ex-pat Liz being driven crazy/mad (in 2007!) by her British colleagues spelling window cill rather than sill. Liz works in architecture, so perhaps the UK specialists use cill more than sill, but I've found little evidence of it elsewhere as a preferred spelling. The OED has no entry for cill--and just mentions it as a historical/alternative spelling of sill, but the Oxford-published A Dictionary of Architecture and Landscape Architecture does list cill first. Searching UK websites, hits for window sill outnumber window cill by more than three to one. So, while one sees cill more often in BrE than in AmE (where, like Liz, I've never seen it), it seems to be a minority spelling. (Historically, it's been spelled/spelt sell and cell too. The earliest use for the 'window-part' sense in the OED is from 1428 and has the spelling sill.)

Since we're discussing windows, let's talk (BrE) double-glazing--i.e. having two panes of glass in a window in order to reduce noise and loss of heat. The AmE equivalent would be double-paned windows, but the AmE term is much less commonly heard term than its BrE equivalent since double-glazed/paned windows don't offer the same level of home improvement in the US as in the UK. I've never lived in a house in the US (I've lost count of how many) that didn't have windows that are structured to have two layers, and I've never lived in a house in the UK (I've lived in four) that had more than one layer of glass in a very (BrE) draughty/(AmE) drafty frame. But this is not to say that most American houses have double-paned/glazed windows--far from it. Instead, they have a window frame with two tracks, with a window permanently in the inner track and the option of a mesh (AmE and AusE) screen or a storm window (i.e. of glass or similar material) for the outer track. In the part of the country I'm from, where it's very, very cold in winter and very, very hot in summer, a spring ritual is to (AmE or BrE) swap/(BrE) swop the storm windows for screens, with a predictable reversal of ritual in the fall/autumn.

Incidentally, when I'm asked what (besides people) I miss about the US, window screens are in the top three. One cannot enjoy a breezy warm evening in England without sharing it with every moth, wasp and mosquito in the neighbo(u)rhood. (The other two in the top three, since I expect you'll ask, are electrical outlets in bathrooms and butter wrappers that are marked with measurements, for easy baking. Electrical outlets are definitely number one--the other two change position with the seasons.)

And as long as we're discussing materials that you can look through, the plastic stuff is called perspex (or Perspex) in BrE and plexiglass (or Plexiglas--or some other combination of capitalization and esses) in AmE. Both of these are originally proprietary names--and another AmE proprietary name for this kind of stuff is Lucite. (Though I'd use Lucite when it's a thicker, less flexible piece--such as in a paperweight or the like.)


  1. Traditionally, "storm windows" were extra windows which were designed to be hooked onto the exterior window frame; my parents live in an old house where the semiannual ritual of changing the windows is still required. Most homes built since the 1970s energy shock will have some form of permanent double- or even triple-paned windows. Some styles have semi-permanent screens on the outside; others have removable screens on the inside.

  2. (AM/E) We had storm windows as well, then when the plastic film came out, we added that on as well. (Adhere to edges on the inside, use blow dryer to shrink to fit.) Drafty old WWI tract home in Detroit, and Great Lakes winters.

    I'd only heard double paned much later, say 20 years ago, and double glazing only because of Creature Comforts at the animation festivals here.

    I think the whole plexiglass/lucite thing is gone, and generic 'plastic' used to delineate it from glass.

  3. butter wrappers that are marked with measurements, for easy baking.

    I'd be completely lost without weight measurements on my butter wrappers!

    But, um, I live in the UK. Possibly you're using the wrong brand? Lurpak ftw!

  4. I've always said double-glazed rather than double-paned.

  5. flickgc, thanks for the Lurpak tip, but I'll probably still have the problem that UK baking is done with weight measurements and US with cups and spoons--and I'm usually baking with American recipes. Is the Lurpak marked for grams?

  6. I'm writing from San Antonio and our house has, and came with, double-paned windows. Other places I've lived have all been older houses with heavy, thick glass windows with wooden frames around the panes and storm windows for wintertime. (Current house has metal frames holding the glass.)

    My two boys broke one of the panes of a double-paned window this summer - which we only had fixed a few weeks ago - we've been busy. But we could definitely feel the difference near that window, cold and hot. Makes me pleased that we have double-paned and wonder what else we might do to be energy efficient. -- Also, the screens are a must around here- especially as there as some not-nice bugs beyond mosquitos that we wouldn't want flying in. (Like assassin bugs)

  7. Screens are also lacking in the former colony of Hong Kong, as can be mosquito nettingg. We did not have screens in my Louisiana home (nor did we have the double-track windows that you mention -- all a bit difficult with the long French doors and windows), but we did have mosquito netting at every bed.

    Butter is sold in 227g sizes here -- approximately 1C -- which makes for easy baking, I find. (If only ovens were common here!) And yes, no outlets in the bathroom here as well.

  8. Canadian here. I've only ever heard of double-glazed windows. Without context I would assume that a double-paned window had a vertical or horizontal line dividing it into two parts within the same frame.

    My butter comes with markings on it showing where to cut it to get potions of a cup measurement. I suppose if I wanted weight I could just do the math to determine what portion of the 254g package I needed.

  9. I'm from SE England, and I don't think I've ever seen the cill spelling before.

    We have it drummed into us so much that electricity and water don't mix that it never occurred to me that there might be electrical outlets in bathrooms.

  10. I use mostly cheap supermarket butter; I've never seen one without weight markings.

    They are four lines marked on the edge of the wrapper dividing the butter up into five (so each 50g) portions. They're normally not labelled at all, though I've just looked at the pack I've got open at the moment and it says 50g by each one.

  11. I have heard (AmE) both double-glazed and double-paned. My impression is that double-glazed is a bit more common in technical and marketing parlance, while double-paned is the vernacular.

    @Zhoen: I work in a home improvement big-box store in the mid-Atlantic. People come in looking for "plexiglass" all the time. I'm not sure I've heard them call it "plastic" (or "plastic windows" or some such); when they ask for plastic they usually want the rolls of poly to fasten over the windows for insulation. "Lucite" is right out, though. (Lynne: Can you think of an AmE equivalent of "right out" in this sense?)

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  13. I never understand how butter can be measured in cups or spoonfuls, unless one melts it first! But then, I don't really understand American measurements.

    But on the original topic - are your screen windows not a security risk? I have never seen them, it never having been that time of year when I have visited the USA, and I can't see how they would work - are they not rather flimsy so could easily be torn, or if they are not, don't they block the light? They are just not something I can visualise.

    (Sorry, forgot to click the "forward follow-up" button so deleted and reposted rather than post something just for the sake of it).

  14. @Rick S: that might be fodder for a different post!

    @Mrs R: You can measure butter in cupfuls if there are markings on the paper! But the other way I do it is: if you want a cup of butter, fill a 2-cup measuring cup half-full of water, add butter until the water reaches the top. Remove butter from water.

    As for screens, if you live in a place where burglary is likely, when you leave the house, you close the main window before you leave the house. (Just as you would for a screen-less window.)

  15. I've just realized that I've been conflating the word "perspex" with "Pyrex" (heat-resistant glass). I had no word for "transparent plastic".

    I too have never seen "cill" and would regard it as a misspelling.

    @Anne T.: I've never seen one pane of a double-glazed window broken (cracked, yes). The vacuum between the panes should make this difficult. I remember on TV years ago "Tomorrow's World" demoing a built-in button specifically designed to break both panes in an emergency.

    I have never felt the need for a plug socket in a bathroom.* Do Americans watch television from the bath? Perhaps if I used a curling-tongs I might want a socket. Maybe, since UK/Irish bathrooms are smaller than US ones, people here spend less time in them, and do more of their grooming in bedrooms.

    *Of course there is the shaver-only socket in the sealed tubelight over the mirror. Would it be illegal to market an adaptor to convert this to the UK-standard 3-pin? If not, then legal notice: Patent Pending mollymooly 2009.

  16. I want to be able to dry my hair in front of the bathroom mirror. I've never lived in a UK home with a bedroom big enough to accommodate a bed, a wardrobe and a dressing table!

  17. Long-time reader, but I've never commented before now. Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks - I lived in Minnesota for a while and I was completely baffled by the screen on the outside of the windows. My first thought was that it was some kind of snow-repelling device (ineffective, if you were wondering), then that it was to prevent crime, even though Minneapolis is apparently the safest place in the universe, and it covered only one side of the window (the one that opened... no, I still didn't cotton on). Just one of many questions raised during my time in the States that your excellent blog answered for me.
    Anyway, now that I know I appreciate that the screen did keep those evil mosquitoes out. It did mess up a lot of my photos of snowploughs though - very difficult to take a moody picture through mesh.

  18. Mollymooly - The boys didn't seem to have much trouble breaking the window at all. Maybe the vacuum had weakened over the years. They were playing with a fort building toy, with a long foam piece with magnetic bits on the end that fit into a magnetic ball into which other long foam pieces could be stuck. One of the kids swung the foam piece with the magnetic ball attached, the magnetic ball became unattached, flew off and CRASH.

    I'm trying to figure out how a vacuum would affect the ability to break the glass. Not sure how that would work.

  19. re: electrical outlets in bathrooms - I've always assumed that the reason British building codes forbid electrical sockets in bathrooms is because of the higher voltage of the UK electricity supply grid, making the whole water/electricity combination that bit more potentially lethal. Don't quote me on that, though.

  20. @lynneguist: But I have never understood why one would want to dry one's hair in the bathroom - by the time one has dressed and done one's face, it's such a bore to have to go back in there to dry one's hair, and chances are, someone else is in there by then! I tend to take a hair-dryer with me when travelling even if I know the hotel will provide one for that very reason!

    I do have an electric toothbrush which plugs into the bathroom shaver socket. And an adaptor for it for when I go abroad.

  21. In Australia, the mesh screen in a window (or door) is commonly called "fly screen" or "fly wire" (sometimes "flywire), and is pretty much standard on all Australian homes.
    @Mrs R: For windows where security is an issue, you can use a strong mesh made from perforated steel. The disadvantage with this is that it tends to block the light more than a flimsier screen might. Alternatively decorative bars or grills are fitted, see here or here for typical examples.

    RE: "cill" I have never come across this spelling before, and probably would have regarded it as a mispelling had I encountered it "in the wild"

    RE: electrical outlets in bathroom - I can't imagine NOT having!! There are four outlets in my bathroom - and I still find that is not enough: electric toothbrush charger, shaver, radio, washing machine, dryer, heated towel rail. We also have drummed in to us "electricity and water don't mix", and Australian building regulations limit how close to shower/bath the outlet can be placed. I wonder if UK bathrooms are generally smaller than Australian/US?

  22. I think UK everything is generally smaller than their antipodean and transatlantic language cousins. They just have less room than we have.

    I think this is the first entry of yours I have read just agape in disbelief that a civilized country would lack window screens and bathroom outlets. BTW, building codes typically mandate an outlet with a red button...I think it's called an intercept? Anyway, it's basically a built-in breaker just for that outlet. If something catastrophic would happen that would cause the power to that outlet to surge, the button pops up and interrupts the power (or vice versa).

    word ver: noses (just the place you're most likely to get bit by a mosquito should you lack a screen)

  23. Altissima - I think the issue in the UK is the same, in that there is a set minimum distance between shower/bath and electrical outlet. And UK bathrooms are indeed often small.
    Having said that - our bathrooms here in our house in the US are tiny - a natural result of the American insistence of having two bathrooms in a house if at all possible, no matter how small the overall floor area. Nevertheless, I've just been to check, and one of them does indeed contain an electrical outlet. Not having ever had a bathroom with one before, and thus not having a use for it, I'd never noticed it! Yello.cape.cod will be pleased to note it does indeed have a red button on it.
    I also agree heartily with yello.cape.cod about the screens - they were a revelation when we came to live here. Very ugly, though - perhaps the Brtish put a higher premium on aesthetics over utility?

  24. Yes, there would certainly be no room in most bathrooms I know for anything more than the bath, loo and basin (possibly a separate shower cubicle, but equally possibly this is incorporated into the bath). There is usually room to stand on the bath-mat while you are drying yourself afterwards, but no room for anything else.

    Bathrooms that have been converted from a bedroom in older houses can be bigger.

    But washing-machines, here, are kitchen things, not bathroom things! Maybe in a utility room or scullery in a big enough house, but definitely downstairs, not upstairs!

  25. Lynne, Buy a copy of the British paperback edition of Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It has a useful table of U.S./British/metric equivalents.

  26. For all your US readers shocked by the lack of electrical outlets in the bathroom, it should be pointed out that it is common to have a shaving point, fitted with a special kind of socket that can be used for electric razors and toothbrushes.

    Also, your description in comments of how you'd measure a cup of butter makes me realise exactly why I never managed to do good baking in the US. So much hassle.

  27. I'm not an expert but I had always understood that UK electricity can kill you, whereas N American is a lower voltage and won't. With this in mind I'm quite happy not to be drying my hair in the bathroom. This is also the reason why US toasters and electric kettles take forever compared to UK ones, (my US friends have neither appliance, using a grill thing for rarely eaten toast and a gas hob kettle to boil water). On the other hand, straying even further off topic, why do US clothes washers take half the time of Euro ones to do a cycle?

  28. There are four outlets in my bathroom - and I still find that is not enough: electric toothbrush charger, shaver, radio, washing machine, dryer, heated towel rail. We also have drummed in to us "electricity and water don't mix", and Australian building regulations limit how close to shower/bath the outlet can be placed. I wonder if UK bathrooms are generally smaller than Australian/US?

    If you can fit a washing machine and a dryer in a typical Australian bathroom, then definitely. Those things tend to go in the the kitchen or a special closet in the UK

  29. One frequently hears that it's the voltage that means that UK bathrooms can't have electrical outlets, but if that were the case, then you wouldn't be able to have them on the continent either, and I've happily dried my hair in Italian bathrooms. Also, consider this: no outlets in my bathroom, but directly below my kitchen sink are two, into which the washing machine and dishwasher plug. There are switches that you can buy that automatically turn everything off if water gets into the electrical system, but British building code apparently hasn't caught up with that.

  30. "Is the Lurpak marked for grams"

    Is that another one? I (Essex, UK) would say "Is the Lurpak marked *in* grams"

  31. I've only seen 'cill' in building plans or architects' drawings, assumed it was a technical term (UK), and obviously it will sound the same as 'sill'.

    Living in Detroit, I went along to the hardware store to get a screen one May in the 1980s - the manager decided to humiliate me when I asked for a 'screen window' ( my analogy was 'screen door', dredged from my memory), professing only to understand 'window screen'. If it hadn't been such a useful store, within walking distance of our rented house, I would have flounced away for ever!

    As a scientist, I applaud the Archimedean simplicity of Lynne's strategy for measuring butter - eureka!

  32. Re bathroom sockets
    I quote the Scottish Building Standards Domestic Handbook 2009, Sect. 4.5.4:
    "In a bathroom or shower room, an electric shaver power outlet, complying with BS EN 60742: 1996 may be installed. Other than this, there should be no socket outlets and no means for connecting portable equipment.
    Where a shower cubicle is located in a room, such as a bedroom, any
    socket-outlet should be installed at least 3 m from the shower cubicle."

    Generally the three sets of regulations in force in the UK (England & Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland) take adherence to BS7671:2001 (Institute of Electrical Engineers Wiring Regulations) as their start point. However, there are differences in the finer points of what is allowed.

    I've only just got used to Scottish bathrooms having light, fan & shower switches outside the door, instead of pull cords inside. Pull cords are technically allowed, but Scottish houses just don't have them.

    RE double paned/glazed
    Double glazing is a unit of two panes of glass with air sandwiched between and a seal to the edges. The whole double glazed unit is set into the window frame.

    Double paned would suggest, to me, the introduction of a mullion or transom dividing the light.

    Re cill
    I'm an English raised architectural technician working in Scotland and I'd write cill. There's a whole world of Scottish building terms I've been baffled with since moving here.

  33. "I've only just got used to Scottish bathrooms having light, fan & shower switches outside the door, instead of pull cords inside. Pull cords are technically allowed, but Scottish houses just don't have them."

    I'm always mildly scandalised when I encounter switches inside a bathroom, unless they're those enormous hotel style switches. As for England vs Scotland, my parent's house in England has outside switches rather than pull cords.

  34. Most of the reasons for bathroom outlets have been touched on, but I don't see a mention of nightlights. The ability to make a trip without turning on lights (and destroying your dark vision for the return trip) is reason enough by itself. (Battery-powered nightlights don't last long enough.)

    The technical term for the safety device on bathroom outlets is "GFCI" (ground-fault circuit interrupter).

  35. Maybe this is regional, but here in NYC it's been YEARS since I've seen windows that weren't build to have two panes of glass and air in between. Literally, I don't think I've seen it since I was a child, or even earlier. The first thing we did when moving to our new house 16 years ago was upgrade our windows, and since then that's all I've seen.

    Windows in doors are single-paned, but other than that, haven't seen them.

    This is separate from storm windows and screens - all our windows are built double-paned with screens on the outside.

  36. I'm English and would see both "cill" and "sill" as OK, with perhaps a preference for "cill", though I haven't had any professional training in architecture.

    I've never understood why American recipes measure butter in cups, and I still don't, I'm afraid - the displacement method is neat but a lot of trouble. When it's done by weight, as in most of my recipe books, I usually just estimate the appropriate fraction of an 8 oz / 250g slab.

  37. So funny, since the bloody window screens here are the bane of my life. They look dirty from the outside, they pop out when you so much as touch them and my UK guests are forever walking straight into the patio door screens and grazing their noses!

  38. I second the observation about bathrooms on the continent having outlets--my bathroom in Prague did. Of course, I had to block half the bathroom and plug a washer into it...

    I live in Texas and I have gigantic dark screens on my windows here, but that's because I live on the bottom floor of some condos, and the dark screens keep people who walk by from looking in, and keep the horrible Texas sun out. I love it that way, but then again, I have a major aversion to too much light.

  39. You're lucky if you've never lived in a place with single-glazed windows in the US. I'm shivering in one right now, and it's really not even very cold here (Bay Area, California).

  40. Here is a thought about the outlet in the bathroom, and it might be completely wrong...
    But it seems like aside from the electrical safety issue, that maybe more people in the US don't have mirrors in the bedroom? Or if not going that far, maybe fewer vanities?

    Again, could be completely wrong, but being from the US, I always picture people standing in the bathroom blow drying their hair.

    The bedroom will generally have a full length mirror, and perhaps a wall hung one...but the "vanity" use is often in the bathroom. Think about movies, where a woman is getting ready to go out, especially younger women, they are frantically running around the bathroom, not a vanity in the bedroom.

    For a third time...I could be completely wrong, but there might be something there.

  41. David Young -- Most North Americans measure butter in cups because that's what cookbooks ask for. Few of us own kitchen scales to measure ingredients by weight. I don't think any of my friends or family have kitchen scales (I do though).

    I must say it sounds awfully inconvenient not to have window screens! Bugs coming in... Children falling out... Pets escaping...

    I am having a hard time imagining this pull cord thing. Are you saying that to turn the bathroom light on and off, you pull some sort of cord? Where does it hang from, all the way from the ceiling? What does it look like? I have seen cords attached to actual light fixtures, but if I understand correctly this cord is not in the bathroom itself?

    Also, don't people in the UK have bathroom fans? If they do, wouldn't there be a switch for that somewhere?

    Like Aviatrix, I only know "doubled-glazed windows", not "double-paned".

  42. Oh, so many things to comment on!

    First, double- and triple-paned windows have a specific gas -- not generic air -- in them, although which one it is escapes me (despite having spent thousands of dollars on the buggers in the past few years). When the seal breaks and humidity gets in there it's ugly.

    Screens: they come in a nearly clear version, if the shading is bothersome. As far as guests walking into screen doors, Americans do that, too. Hang a few earrings on the screen at eye level during parties.

    If I had grown up in a house with the bathroom switches on the outside, I would have quickly learned to shower, pee, etc. in the dark. Do not British siblings inflict such misery on each other?

    The displacement method is the best way I've found to measure shortening, but for unmarked butter I'd just go with the "more the merrier" method.

  43. If I had grown up in a house with the bathroom switches on the outside, I would have quickly learned to shower, pee, etc. in the dark. Do not British siblings inflict such misery on each other?

    what i mean is, my brothers would find great joy in turning off the light on me...

  44. I don't have brothers, but I can report that male cousins take great delight in turning off lights in bathrooms when their girl cousins are in there.

    Regarding the pull cords - yes, they come all the way down from the ceiling and if you're unlucky enough to have an electric shower there will be another one to turn that one on and off as well

  45. @canadia - Oh and the fan switch is usually incorporated into the light switch, which is even more irritating as they then run for 20 mins after the light has been switched off. Another good reason to learn to pee in the dark...

    On the electrical safety issue, European houses are wired up differently to UK ones so although the voltage is almost as high there's something technical about the ring main that means our electricity is more lethal than it is on the continent - which is also why we have earthed three-pin plugs

    I'll shut up now

  46. Bathrooms that have windows don't always have fans - windowless bathrooms must, and it is for that reason they're linked to the light switch. Oh, and of course you know that when I, as an Englishwoman, write "bathroom", I mean just that - a room with a bath in it. Cloakrooms that just have a loo, and possibly a basin, in there, don't have to have pull cords or outside light-switch.

    Small brothers soon learn not to switch the light off on you when you're in there.......

  47. This is totally perverse, but even though I have never in my life seen "cill" before, the more times I read it in the comments the more it looks... right. Maybe it's because it looks so much like a stereotypical BrE/AmE distinction, and that makes me feel like I should use the "more English" variety...

  48. Here in New England, I've always thought that using "pane" for "glazing" was simply an indication that the individual was unaware that glaziers were individuals who glazed windows (i.e., dealt with the panes of glass, the glaziers' putty, et cetera). As this includes most people, I expect, it would probably mean that "double paned" was more common. Since anyone who has to deal with windows (either buying, fixing or constructing them), will soon learn these terms, however, I wouldn't think that they will fade away.

    It confounds me that butter packaging sometimes does not have a guide (whether mass or volume); we're talking about such small amounts (Tablespoons, oftentimes) that having to fuss around with itty bits of butter is idiotic. My favorite brand does not have markings on the wrapper, but does on the box, so I've cut this out and saved it for reference; this is an advance on their part, as before not only were there no markings, but the butter came two sticks to the pound (instead of the more usual four).

    I have to say that it might be the Yankee in me, but Americans have entirely too many electronic doo-dads, and while I should say that every room should have at least one outlet, the absence certainly wouldn't seem to rank as inconvenient as not having window screens. This latter astonishes me. Is this a Br thing, of does all of Europe labor under these conditions?

  49. As far as I know, screens are totally unknown in Europe. I wonder whether they are used in Australia?

  50. I'm in the Loire Valley in France and I've most of the old French-style windows in my house replaced with double-glazed sliding windows. I asked the window contractor about having screens installed with the new windows. He looked perplexed and said it was far to complicated to do so. Of course, he also thought that the sliding windows were a pretty bad idea and that I would learn to hate them. I like them though.

    My bathroom has two electrical outlets in it. It's a salle de bains with a bidet, sink, shower, and bathtub (but no toilet). The separate WC room has no electrical outlets in it. The window in the WC actually has a screen in it, but it is just sort of perched on the window sill and not really attached to the wall or window frame. It was like that when I got here 6 years ago.

    1. Flywire screens are absolutely necessary in Australia - mind you, some temporary English neighbours complained they spoiled the view. Flywire doors too. Lets the breeze in and keeps next-door's dog out.

    2. Anthea Fleming07 April, 2023 12:10

      We need flywire screens on windows in Australia. I've heard English visitors complain they spoil the view. Flywire screens are also needed on doors - ours also has a security grill.

  51. "It confounds me that butter packaging sometimes does not have a guide (whether mass or volume); we're talking about such small amounts (Tablespoons, oftentimes) that having to fuss around with itty bits of butter is idiotic."

    Surely a tablespoon can be done by sight.

    "the absence certainly wouldn't seem to rank as inconvenient as not having window screens. This latter astonishes me. "

    Well, in much of Europe there's no real need. It's a much more urban environment for the msot part, we don't have as many flying insects (except in Scotland, where it's never hot enough to justify opening the window), and it rarely gets excessively hot except on the Mediterranean coast.

  52. @Flatlander: The gas between the window panes is argon. It's inert, so it doesn't react with the rubber, plastic or adhesive compounds in the sealed unit.

    Having worked for a window manufacturer here in Canada, the industry talks of "argon-filled thermo-sealed, double-glazed units with low-e coatings". (Low emissivity coating let visible light through, but reflect heat back, keeping the home warmer in the winter and cooler in the summer.) Screens are a must.

    "Double-paned" is used to refer to windows with one fixed pane and one removable pane, usually with wooden or plastic fake mullion bars between the panes. This allows for easier cleaning of the continuous surface, but is much less insulating.

    The company owner and management were Welsh, and the eldest spelled it "cill" whilst everyone else spelled it "sill". I thought it was a Welsh variant.

    I always have to retrace my thoughts when someone says "stick of butter". I'm entirely used to butter coming in a single 1 lb./454g/2 cup block, with the cutting chart on the package. I had to use this on-line butter converter to finally understand what one "stick" was. Upon reflection, I have seen them in restaurants, being cut up into butter pats.

    @Mrs. R: The women I know would never put on their makeup when their hair was still wet. They would just end up having to put it on again after it was washed/blown away in the drying process.

    @jhm: The average room here on Ontario has 2 or 3 paired outlets, and that is rarely enough. The kitchen in my 100-year-old retrofitted home has 4 sets, and the living-room only has 3, which is insufficient for TV, DVD player, lamps, telephone, computer, monitor, modem, router and printer. In new construction, the standard is now one on every wall in bedrooms, living room and dining rooms. Dens/family rooms have more and kitchens often have one for every 6 feet/1.8 meters of counter space.

  53. @ Detailbear: I was taught that you did your make-up first, then dried your hair as it helped "set" your make-up so it lasted longer into your day!

    To return to the original topic, back in the day, double-glazing here was an extra window added over the existing one, which was a huge bore as it made it all but impossible to open the windows. Gradually, manufacturers made the double-glazing easier to open, and now replacement windows, with two panes of glass and inert gas between, are the norm.

  54. Hi just found you on Ken's blog.

    It all depends on how old your house is, whether it has double glazing or not. If not, most people change it over.

    We don't have electrical sockets as they say it is so dangerous!

    I have never seen the word "cill" up until now...always "sill" and as for the butter wrapper, some do but just divide it up.

  55. I'm from Australia and I'm used to having lightswitches and normal powerpoints in the bathroom (although not in the toilet), window sills, single-glazed windows, flyscreens and screen-doors. You can find houses lightswitches outside the bathroom and no flyscreens or screen-doors in Australia, and that shits me (esp. in the summer).

    I'm surprised the other Australian commenter has their washing machine and drier in their bathroom, because normally they're in a separate room called the laundry. I've seen them in the bathroom in a German apartment before, which is at least reasonable compared to the English habit of putting them in the kitchen. Whoever came up with that?

    As to the commenter who thinks it's never hot enough in Scotland to open the window, I'm currently in Germany where it's 6°C and I have my window open. Maybe Scottish houses are designed differently, but German ones seemed to be sealed so if you don't want to die from carbon dioxide poisoning you need to open them. Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating, but I still think German rooms are stuffy and uncomfortable compared to Australian ones.

    (I also don't like their windows here, which can either be opened a crack, or you swing them open like a door so you can't put your desk under them. Sliding windows for teh r0x0r.)

  56. Astonishing, this outlets in the bathroom business (says he from the UK) - I'm afraid I've always dismissed the continental habit of outlets in the bathroom as inadequately safe - now I hear that Americans and Australians do it too? Amazing! The whole idea gives me the creeps - such is the power of safety propaganda!

    So why is it? I can't believe lower voltage in the States or a different wiring arrangement on the continent or the presence of a circuit breaker can make it safe to have power around when you are wet head to foot ... but is this just cultural difference rather than something in the physics? Or do we have a building regs expert who can give us the answer?

    After all, we have water and power in the kitchen and the utility room. What's going on?

    Incidentally, the washing machine in the kitchen thing is about the kitchen being the housework centre of the house, I think, where the housewife conducts her strange routines while hubby is away enjoying himself at work (joke).

  57. Picky, I don't know how safe it is or isn't, or why, but I know I've never heard of anybody accidentally electrocuting themselves in the bathroom, and I've only very rarely heard of people doing it on purpose (and if they're going to do it, they'll find a way regardless, that's what I always say).

    What do you think we're doing with our (scary) electricity when we get out of the shower? Going up to the sockets and poking paperclips in them while soaking wet?

    Sometimes I plug in the heater, or the (window) fan, or the radio or phone charger in my bathroom (not because I need the phone in there, but because it's the most convenient outlet that the whole family can get to!), but I wipe my hands before and only touch the plastic parts. Haven't died yet (though I guess now I'm honor-bound to keep you posted if I do!)

  58. For the UK readers surmising that outlets are permitted in US bathrooms because our bathrooms are larger, I can testify that in Manhattan, where all our rooms are tiny, every last bathroom has an outlet. I could not imagine going without!

    @Ginger Yellow: "Well, in much of Europe there's no real need." [for screens]

    I have lived in Germany and Portugal and trust me, there is a need. There are flying bugs (bees in Berlin, pesky flies in Portugal, noisy mosquitos, annoying moths) even in urban areas, and I suspect Europeans are more resigned to a fate of buzzing noises in their ears disturbing their sleep. Once you've had a screen, you'll never go back!

    I used to joke about opening up a screen shop and now I'm thinking it shouldn't be just a joke!

  59. Picky -
    I am not a building code expert, but I am an architect.

    The thing is that I think it is a bit of paranoia instead of actual danger.

    After all, an outlet is not an exposed wire, nor is a switch. both have plastic covers to keep the metal parts protected.

    Think about it, sure you are dripping wet, but are you then sticking your hand directly into the outlet? No.

    Now, by building code, all outlets within 3 feet of a sink/shower/tub etc. must be GFI, which simply means that it has a breaker in it that will cut off all power if there is a short or the like.

    Frankly, I am an architect, not an electrical engineer, so any deeper questions about the more technical side of things, especially in the UK, is way over my head. But in general, the outlets in bathrooms/toilets are completely safe.

  60. Do you know, I have a horrible unpatriotic feeling that bill is right - unless some UK buildings regspert wants to object ...

    Sorry, Lynne, this has gone horribly unlinguistic - but its interesting, innit?

  61. As an Australian who has lived in the UK and the USA, and now returned home, I am horrified that double-glazed windows are not mandatory in new buildings in Australia, given our recently-developed love affair with air conditioning.

    There is so much hoo-ha about energy efficiency, saving the planet etc etc, and yet double-glazing is so incredibly overpriced compared to single-glazing (to the point of being unaffordable for most people).

    And I had a chuckle when I read about the lack of power points (which is what we call electrical sockets here in Australia) in UK bathrooms. I remember my husband having a fit about having nowhere to plug in his hair clippers! We bought an extension cord and plugged them into the bedroom power point and used them in the bathroom anyway. (With the hair dryer, I just sighed and resigned myself to doing my hair in the bedroom. Which was awkward, because I liked to use product on my hair, and needed to wash my hands after putting it in, but before drying! Totally inconvenient having to trot from bathroom to bedroom!)

    The lack of fly-screens in the UK also used to bug us (pun intended).

  62. I just realised that I've never written windowsill down before. It feels really weird for a word I quite often use.

    About the weight thing, yeah we have an odd system in that most cookery books either give both measurements or just metric. And I don't understand how butter (being a solid) could be measured as a liquid.

  63. Well, Nathan, butter melts.

    So we know that a certain amount of melted butter is the same amount of butter when it's solid, right?

    So the butter companies make it easy for us and just mark out every tablespoon on the stick.

    Besides, we measure flour and spices that way too, and they're solid as well.

  64. But, conuly, flour flows, doesn't it.

  65. So does butter. If you melt it :P

    But we can also measure nuts in measuring spoons, and, I don't know, anything else you can cram in there.

  66. On the off chance you see this: a tablespoon is one finger-width of a 1-cup stick of butter. A quarter cup is four tablespoons/fingers.

  67. I've always thought it odd that Europeans insist that Americans cook wrong since we cook by volume rather than by weight. I get that weighing is more accurate- but the European kitchens I've seen don't use scales to measure out ingredients- they have cups with weight markings. If you put your flour in a cup to a fill line, it's by volume, not by weight, even though the line has a weight measurement. Americans are just a bit more honest about the whole process!

    What I miss in the States are the windows that are: sealed shut, tip in for a bit of breeze, or completely open. American sliding windows are so inefficient to open and close. And with double-hung windows (both windows can slide), there always seems to be a gap somewhere!

  68. Measuring jugs and cups do exist in the UK - and most supermarkets now sell American-style measuring cups - but are normally used alongside kitchen scales rather than as a replacement for them. I measure rice and couscous and stuff like that, but prefer to weigh flour (other than a tablespoon for a sauce) and sugar, as it's more accurate, and pasta, as I don't see how you can have an accurate measurement of that, given that the shapes can vary so much.

  69. Why would you need an "accurate" measure of pasta?

  70. To cook the correct amount for the meal, of course! 50g-60g per person, and I can't estimate that by eye.

  71. Mrs Redboots - I live in the United States in Minnesota. Known for its cold and snowny long winters. I sell double pane windows and storm windows. Most storm windows of today are aluminum framed with two tracks within sit 3 sashes. 1 screen sash and two glass sashes. When one wishes to have fresh air, you open your primary window, lift the bottom glass sash up, revealing the screen section.
    Do they impair vision? Somewhat through the screen portion.
    Visist our website at if you desire more information.

  72. In Calif. anyway we have energy requirments to be met, I don't see anyplace that sell single pane windows anymore, all windows get replaced with dual glazed (that's a term sometimes used) windows. And that's what is put in new homes. As to screens they are pretty much standard in the US, I did see some in Spain-that way my game when on tourist buses spy which buildings had window screens. The could be adapted to most window styles in the UK as for the 'casement style' there is a crank mechanism at the bottom of the window that lets one open a window since the screen is on the 'inside' but these kind of windows are only usually found in expensive homes. There is the Pella Rollscreen windows as well when they roll up into the frame if you need to clean windows. As for electrical outlets in bathrooms, yes we have them newer homes have GFI's on them and I have never seen them near a shower or bath or low on the wall they have always been above counter level like in kitchens so above any water level of the fixtures. In all my years I have never encountered a shock. Some older homes tho had an grilled off electric heater and leg level, but I think that is no longer allowed by electrical code, all electric devices like that have to be on the ceiling or high on the wall, I think lights/fan/heat can all be separately switched but that may be per local code.

  73. Hi there,
    just a quick note. used to work in a company that did windows, as I understand it double pained is just that two panes of glass set into a frame, a double glassed unit is a single piece that is two panes of glass sealed together with a pressure gap between them or air gap as they quote. this gap my be filled with a gas that has a low heat soak value to reduce the amount of heat being lost between the two panes of glass. the gas can also reduce sound waves travelling between the two panes of glass to. the easy way to show this is if you have a helium filled balloon and put it by one of your ears it will feel like you have gone deaf in that ear. because the helium doesn't transmit sound as well as air dose. the new triple glazing is coming that has three panes of glass each piece is a different type and thickness of glass, and the gaps between them will be filled with different types of gas to reduce sound and heat transfer even further. so the correct term is a double glazed UNIT or triple glazed UNIT. the term unit defines the two panes are 1 single unit. but in areas were units are prone to breakage an out heavy grade out pane of glass ie lead plate or lead plate laminated glass can be put in the unit to make it very hard to break the gas help take up inpack shock and the lamination add far greater strength to the out pane. 1 have seen a test unit and bounce a brick off one. made a scratch but a quick polish that was gone.

  74. Just couldn't resist adding that my Dad who was born in in North West England, UK in 1902 and was a shipwright working with wood all his life, used 'cill' never 'sill' and taught me to do the same. I've always puzzled over it and hesitated when I come to write it as you rarely come across this spelling nowadays.

  75. The British English equivalent of "electrical outlets" is "sockets".

  76. In Britain, socket is widely used, but not all sockets are at the interface with the power supply. I can't say I've heard the term electrical outlet. I'm not even sure I would understand it without supporting context.

    To make sure that there's no confusion with other sockets, I'd say power point or just point. In fact. I can speak of a point with two sockets. I suppose I could speak of a point with two double sockets.

    Come to think of it, why outlet? Surely from the consumer's point of via it's an inlet?

    In my experience, quite a few British bathrooms have an electric point — along with the majority of hotel bathrooms. But they are furnished with two round-pin sockets, so most British appliances with their three square-pinplugs are incompatible.

    Not surprisingly, the appliances that are normally sold with two-pin plugs are an electric shavers and electric toothbrush holder/chargers. Other appliances may work with a two-pin-round -to-three-pin-square travel adaptor. However, the socket generally has some fuse or other safety feature which means that some appliances just won't work.

  77. About socket

    It occurs to me that many British speakers say the plug when what they're referring to is a plug in a socket — or even an empty socket. Strangely, this doesn't ever seem to lead to ambiguity.

  78. The same in Ireland, David. A little irritating when you think about it!

  79. Another possible reason for no electrical sockets in bathrooms on the UK is that up until relatively recently, you would only have one bathroom in a house, even if it was a 4 bedroom. So the pressure is always on to get your bathroomy stuff done ASAP and get out of there for the next person.

    So can you imagine if people were in there drying their hair or use the hair straighteners for hours on end - the resulting death wouldn't be by electric shock, it would be by hair dryer cord strangulation committed by an irate family member!

  80. BrE. Re bathroom electrical safety. I’ve rarely managed to have a bath or shower without the room getting very steamy, more often than not resulting in condensation on walls (which are generally tiled). I’m no expert, but this does seem to be more of an inherent danger than a wet body. Conversely, the steam doesn’t seem to cause problems for light fixtures, wherever the light switch is placed.

    Although we don’t have a great insect problem in most of the U.K., I can see the attraction of screens in summer. What puzzles me is, given the prevalence of air conditioning I’m th U.S., why do you need to open windows?

    1. I get the 'but you have air conditioning' thing from British folk a lot. The prevalence of air-conditioning in the US is really over-estimated by Europeans, probably because their experience of the US is mostly Florida, Las Vegas, and hotels in general. The house I grew up in (where my dad still lives) doesn't have a/c, except for (in recent years) one window unit in his bedroom. 2/3 of my brothers' houses don't have it. The temperatures are much (much) higher than in UK in summer, but we make do with good insulation, fans, and open windows/screen doors.

    2. That should be '(AmE) a/c'. :)


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