H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
Hill. A train headed toward London is always an up-train, and the track it runs on is the up-line. Eastbound and westbound tracks and trains are unknown in England, and in general the Englishman has a much less keen sense of the points of the compass than the American. He knows the East End and the West End, but he never speaks of the north-east corner of two streets. When an Englishman boards a bus, in fact, it is not at a corner at all, but at a crossing, though he is familiar with such forms as Hyde Park Corner. The place he is bound for is not three squares or blocks away, but three turnings. Square, in England, always means a small park. A backyard is a garden. A subway is always a tube, or the underground. But an underground passage for pedestrians is a subway. English streets have no sidewalks; they always call them pavements or foot-paths or simply paths. An automobile is always a motor-car or motor.Auto is almost unknown, and with it to auto. So is machine.
An Englishman always calls russet, yellow or tan shoes brown shoes (or, if they cover the ankle, boots). He calls a pocketbook a purse, and gives the name of pocketbook to what we call a memorandum-book. His walking stick is always a stick, never a cane. By cord he means something strong, almost what we call twine; a thin cord he always calls a string; his twine is the lightest sort of string. When he applies the adjective homely to a woman he means that she is simple and home-loving, not necessarily that she is plain. He uses dessert, not to indicate the whole last course at dinner, but to designate the fruit only; the rest is ices or sweets. He uses vest, not in place of waistcoat, but in place of undershirt. Similarly, he applies pants, not to his trousers, but to his drawers. An Englishman who inhabits bachelor quarters is said to live in chambers; if he has a flat he calls it a flat, and not an apartment, which term he reserves for a single room.18Flat-houses are often mansions. The janitor or superintendent thereof is a care-taker or porter. The scoundrels who snoop around in search of divorce evidence are not private detectives, but private enquiry agents.
Note 18. According to the New International Encyclopedia, 2nd ed. (Art. Apartment House), the term flat is usually in the United States restricted to apartments in houses having no elevator or hall service. In New York such apartments are commonly called walk-up-apartments or walk-ups. Even with the qualification, apartment is felt to be better than flat. [back]