"machine" 'car, automobile'

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jul 17 15:12:29 UTC 2008

At 7:54 AM -0700 7/17/08, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>from Wilson Gray back on 6 June:
>  >"Machine" for "automobile" is still hip in BE slang, as well as
>"'chine," also used as a verb meaning, roughly, "drive like a maniac." <
>there's a possible subtlety here that i didn't comment on at the time:
>the distinction between a word's having the meaning 'car,
>automobile' (as in "my machine's parked in the driveway") and the
>word's sometimes being used to refer to cars or automobiles (as in
>"that's a mean machine you got there").  it isn't always easy to tell
>how the word's being used.

True; in non-deictic contexts lacking telltale
frames like "driveway" or "parked", where
sentences like these are uttered against a
neutral discourse background--

Mi si è rotta la macchina.   'My car broke down'
Dov'è la sua macchina?      'Where's your car?'

--it's clear that there's been a conventionalized
narrowing.  In my variety of English, "My machine
broke down" or "Where's your machine?" don't
really work this way.  In BE they might.


>on another front, i checked out "machine" in a few sources: not in
>DARE or in Smitherman, but  Majors, Juba to Jive (not the most
>reliable of sources), does have an entry:
>   (1950s-1960s) an automobile, one's car
>citing p. 71 of David Claerbaut, Black Jargon in White America (1972).
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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