[Ads-l] A spade is not a shovel.

Chris Waigl chris at LASCRIBE.NET
Tue Aug 1 08:09:53 UTC 2017

On 7/30/17 11:42 PM, Barretts Mail wrote:

> What would be interesting to know is whether people who regularly use both types of tools use the distinction, in which case “spade” might remain in the US as jargon. 
> When I’m shoveling dirt, I usually use a spade because: 1) it’s lighter, 2) shovels are more common, and 3) it doesn’t occur to me that there is an advantage to using the squarish type.
I've been following this discussion with some consternation, but have
held back because I'm not an AmE native speaker. But checking with my
spouse, who has the requisite credentials (and has also done a fair bit
of amateur farming in her life) has convinced me I'm on the same page as

Spade and shovel are quite clearly distinct tools! A spade's primary
function is to cut into soil and loosen chunks of it, while a shove's
primary function is to scoop up and remove the loosened or other loose
material (such as snow, leaves, manure, ...). They are related of
course, but specialized. Digging a hole normally requires the use of a
spade (for the digging) followed by a shovel (for the scooping, lifting,
removing). Filling a hole from a supply of loose material requires only
a shovel.

A spade's blade is usually flat, and typically either rectangular or
slightly trapezoid . Like so:
. (There are specialized models for certain planting tasks that make
cylindrical holes and therefore have a single cylindrical bent to the
blade, for example: http://hunsci.com/WDF-1070364.html . Also, they can
be pointed, as long as they remain a digging tool, such as this
collapsible one:
) In a spade, the central axis of the blade is in the same plane as the
handle -- everything is straight and aligned.

A shovel is a scoopy sort of thing, and to facilitate the lifting and
moving, the central axis of the blade is at an angle to the handle.
Also, the blade is usually curved. Here is a prototypical shovel:
http://www.ldoceonline.com/media/english/illustration/shovel.jpg Not at
all the same thing! For looser materials, you get even more angled and
curved shovels such as this snow shovel (which would be pretty much
completely unsuitable to use as a spade):

So much for the usage I am used to. So no, a spade is not a shovel.


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

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