djh514 at YORK.AC.UK
Sun Feb 21 12:06:59 UTC 2010
Just a little addendum to the admirable coverage of _letter bomb_. Victor
mentions that there exist the perfectly good terms _mail bomb_ and _parcel
bomb_, which might in some cases block _letter bomb_ from referring to
anything but an actual letter. Despite this, though, as Victor shows,
_letter bomb_ has in some cases taken on the general function of _mail
bomb_, and seems to be the term of choice for metaphorical uses.
In BrE, the potential 'blocking effect' of _mail bomb_ wouldn't be as
great, as we refer to what's carried by the Royal _Mail_ (strangely) as
_post_; the people who deliver it are _postmen_ and _postwomen_; etc. We
don't call bombs of this type _postal bombs_, so any bomb delivered by post
here is a _letter bomb_, no matter what the actual form of the posted item.
Some raw ghits:
LETTER BOMB in .uk sites: ~2,660
MAIL BOMB in .uk sites: ~710 (possibly incl also uses of _mail_ as a verb,
though the usual BrE verb for that is _post_)
POSTAL BOMB in .uk sites: ~345
PARCEL BOMB in .uk sites: ~834
(POST BOMB in .uk sites: ~4,890 - but this is polluted by many uses of
_post_ as a verb)
The first page of _parcel bomb_ hits includes an interesting example of
_letter_ 'mail item (of any size)':
Headline: 'BBC NEWS | Europe | Prodi survives parcel bomb attack'
Search-engine teaser: 'EC President Romano Prodi escapes injury after
opening a booby-trapped letter at his Bologna home.'
In the text, we find the device (which was a book) referred to both as a
_letter_ and as a _parcel_:
FWIW, we also don't really have the term _going postal_ - if it was used,
it might be understood from context, but it would really be marked as an
'American' thing to say (unsurprisingly, maybe, as the story actually
happened in America!).
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