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Off topic: Schoolbag or school bag?
Thread poster: Matthias Quaschning-Kirsch

Matthias Quaschning-Kirsch  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 12:25
Member (2006)
Swedish to German
+ ...
Oct 17, 2011

Today at school, in my daughter's class an English test was returned. Among other things, she had written the following sentence:

"The schoolbag is blue."

Her teacher marked it as a mistake, because she wanted my daughter to write school bag instead of schoolbag.

I did some research in the Internet - getting more and more confused! There seem to exist both spellings, but which is the most common and where? First, I supposed that schoolbag might be AE and school bag rather BE (or was it the other way round?), but I couldn't verify my presumption, particularly as british spelling and usage seem to have americanized a lot during the last decades.

Is there anyone out there who can give me a closer explanation? But don't bother too much - it will not have any influence on the grade.

Best regards,
Matthias

[Bearbeitet am 2011-10-17 17:35 GMT]


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Mary Worby  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:25
Member
German to English
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No detailed explanation Oct 17, 2011

But as a UK native, I'd agree with your daughters teacher. Although at my children's school they call them book bags. Or is that bookbags?

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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:25
Hebrew to English
Free variation Oct 17, 2011

Wow, the teacher was pretty prescriptive on this one. The truth is that with words like this you'll find a lot of free variation (different spellings all used at once).

The three variations I found are:
1. School bag
2. School-bag
3. Schoolbag

OED: (UK)
school bag n.1895 Montgomery Ward Catal. Spring–Summer 118/3 Water~proof *School Bags; made of enameled cloth, with flap and leather shoulder strap.
1913 P. Geddes Masque of Anc. Learning 3 Boy enters, swinging his school-bag.
1977 ‘C. Fremlin’ Spider-orchid xiii. 90 She'd dumped her school bag on the floor

Websters: (US)
Definition of SCHOOLBAG
: a bag for carrying schoolbooks and school supplies
See schoolbag defined for English-language learners »
See schoolbag defined for kids »
First Known Use of SCHOOLBAG
1841

The life cycle of compound words usually follows this pattern, it begins life as two words commonly put together, next comes hypenation, before finally being written (and conceived of) as one lexical item.

I don't think there is a clear UK/US divide either, as I would have written "schoolbag" as one word, despite what the OED says.

In future, it might be prudent to write "satchel" when dealing with this teacher.

P.S I think in this day and age we should be moving away from such prescriptivism. (teachers included)

[Edited at 2011-10-17 17:50 GMT]


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Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:25
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Schoolbag Oct 17, 2011

Quite apart from the fact that I used to carry a SCHOOLBAG myself, it is not difficult to imagine that the school might decide to produce special bags for carrying particular things and bearing the school insignia. Such a bag would be a "school bag".

There is only one correct answer: schoolbag.

I'm guessing, but I suspect that same teacher probably thinks that "everyday" means the same thing as "every day", or that "momentarily" means the same thing as "in a moment". She is probably also very uncertain as to how to use apostrophes correctly.

Of course if the teacher is female, she might be referred to behind her back as "the School Bag".



[Edited at 2011-10-17 19:14 GMT]


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Michael Grant
Japan
Local time: 20:25
Japanese to English
There's no clear winner: Oct 18, 2011

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language has it as two words: school bag
-> http://www.yourdictionary.com/school-bag

But Merriam-Websters says it is schoolbag
-> http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/schoolbag

In the IT world (at least far as Microsoft is concerned) it's:

check box instead of checkbox, when writing about check boxes,
but checkbox when used in HTML.

MS also uses:
check mark instead of checkmark,

Web page instead of webpage, and

Web site instead of website

And then we have the W3C, which uses Web page instead of webpage, and checkbox instead of check box...

Words like these, which are so often used together, really act like compound words, so I don't see why they can't be written without the space in between. But the issue is not as cut and dried as that!

Sounds like another Oxford comma debate-type issue...you can't please everybody.


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:25
Portuguese to English
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School bag Oct 18, 2011

Rightly or wrongly that's how I write it. It gets called a 'book bag' (a slim A4 sized canvas bag) at primary school and then progresses into a 'school bag' at secondary

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George Hopkins
Local time: 12:25
Swedish to English
As always... Oct 18, 2011

... refer to a standard dictionary, eg, Collins.
In my day the item used was a satchel -- somewhat bigger than A4.

I would like to give the teacher full marks.


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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
I beg to differ Oct 18, 2011

Mary Worby wrote:

But as a UK native, I'd agree with your daughters teacher.


As I UK native speaker and formar TEFL hack, I would not agree with the teacher. Both forms are acceptable in UK English as far as I'm concerned. To signal one as "wrong" and, even worse, mark the child down for it, is at the very least debatable.

There is a difference between "what I think is correct" and "what a broad consensus agrees is right". English, having no royal academy or similar institution, tends to be guided by the latter criterion.

If you feel as strongly about this kind of thing as I do - ever since I was chastised at the age of eight by a teacher who (wrongly) insisted that an innocent worker bee was a wasp - then you could perhaps go and ask the teacher what their criterion is for this sweeping assertion.

PS: The "schoolbag" form would be even more strongly indicated IMO if used as an adjective (schoolbag contents, schoolbag blues...).

[Edited at 2011-10-18 09:10 GMT]

[Edited at 2011-10-18 09:10 GMT]

I wouldn't know whether to hit the teacher with my handbag or hand bag.

[Edited at 2011-10-18 09:27 GMT]

A handbag, or purse in American English, is a handled medium-to-large bag that is often fashionably designed, typically used by women, to hold personal items such as wallet/coins, keys, cosmetics, a hairbrush (i. e. NOT a "hair brush") pepper spray, cigarettes, mobile phone etc. QED.

[Edited at 2011-10-18 09:29 GMT]


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:25
Hebrew to English
Rucksack, backpack, schoolbag... Oct 18, 2011

I used to carry a rucksack to secondary school, sometimes I called it a backpack.
As in "Mom, where the hell's my backpack?"
"Oh $hit, I've spilled coke in my rucksack". (Happened on a school trip to Wales once).



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neilmac  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 12:25
Spanish to English
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A bit of a ruck Oct 18, 2011

Ty Kendall wrote:

I used to carry a rucksack to secondary school, sometimes I called it a backpack.
As in "Mom, where the hell's my backpack?"
"Oh $hit, I've spilled coke in my rucksack". (Happened on a school trip to Wales once).



My thoughts exactly - how odd would these words look if written separately?


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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:25
Hebrew to English
Standard dictionaries are not gospel... Oct 18, 2011

George Hopkins wrote:

... refer to a standard dictionary, eg, Collins.
In my day the item used was a satchel -- somewhat bigger than A4.

I would like to give the teacher full marks.



I think we should be careful at worshipping at the alter of dictionaries, they don't always reflect actual usage or even proper usage.

For example, Collins online dictionary isn't exactly consistent.

Schoolboy, schoolgirl, schoolmaster, schoolteacher, schoolmistress and schoolhouse are all listed as compounds, so why not schoolbag? It's neither consistent nor logical.

If you ask me, the child in question demonstrated remarkable linguistic prowess and creativity, the automization of compounding like this is what comes naturally to a native speaker i.e. it's a natural linguistic "instinct" just as much as contractions, connected speech etc.

It was most definitely harsh of the teacher in question.


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Christine Andersen  Identity Verified
Denmark
Local time: 12:25
Member (2003)
Danish to English
+ ...
I'm with the child Oct 18, 2011

I would have written schoolbag, and Tom in London confirms my tendency, thanks, Tom

I once told a client that in English, many rules can be taken with a pinch of salt, but we ALWAYS write Wednesday (and other days of the week and the months) with capitals. In French and Danish one does not, and he thought it looked untidy to sprinkle capitals 'at random' through the text.

I think we started the discussion when I disagreed with the Microsoft spelling and grammar checker about commas.

There is a fine line between making up the rules as you go, and accepting the many alternatives, as long as there is some consistence in it.


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:25
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Do ghits count? Oct 18, 2011

Because I struggle to get any with 'schoolbag'.

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Ty Kendall  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:25
Hebrew to English
I got over 3 million hits..... Oct 18, 2011

Lisa Simpson wrote:

Because I struggle to get any with 'schoolbag'.



Firstly, I think you have to view google hits the same as you would a dictionary, it's not infallible. Fewer hits might just mean that not many people tend to blog about schoolbags, who would? Schoolbag enthusiasts?

Secondly, when I try for "schoolbag" with Google, I got over 3 million hits (and that's making sure to eliminate all cases of "school bag").

Ranging from schoobag manufacturers....
"The average weight of schoolbags (6.6 kg, 11.7% of body weight) carried by secondary students in five New Zealand schools exceeded recommended...."
http://www.ergonomics4schools.com/research/schoolbags.htm

...to news reports of Marijuana found in a kid's schoolbag
"conducted a raid on the dormitories of the school and discovered a quantity of marijuana in the schoolbag of a Sixth Form student"
http://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2011/05/21/marijuana-found-in-schoolbag-in-presidents-college-male-dormitory/


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XXXphxxx  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 11:25
Portuguese to English
+ ...
Any in the UK? Oct 18, 2011

The two links you've given are for New Zealand and Guyana respectively. I think the original post was about usage in the UK.

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