garbage vs. trash

Natalie Maynor maynor at CS.MSSTATE.EDU
Mon Jan 22 19:22:27 UTC 2001

Peter McGraw wrote:

> When I was a kid growing up in S. California in the 40s-early 50s, we made
> the same distinction.  So did the local waste haulers:  the collection of
> the two was strictly separated.

In today's Starkville, Mississippi, trash pickup means leaves and
branches and such, while garbage pickup is whatever you put into the
city-provided garbage bags that you put on the curb twice a week.

I'm trying to decide now whether my own distinction between the
terms is based entirely on the type of stuff being thrown away.
I think that's at least part of it -- paper-type stuff vs messier
stuff.  But I think size of the container may also be related.
My office has a trash can, but outside in the halls of my office
building, there are large garbage cans -- with the same type contents.

> has seemed to me that everywhere else I have lived, "trash" referred to all
> refuse without distinction, and "garbage" was mostly relegated to
> figurative usage (though I've never heard of the unit in the sink referred
> to as a *"trash disposal").  I personally have never quite adjusted to this

The figurative uses of the terms are interesting.  E.g., "talking
trash" and "talking garbage" don't mean the same thing to me.  And
one can be trashy but not garbagy.
   --Natalie Maynor (maynor at

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