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Can "chalkboard" and "blackboard" be used interchangeably? If I have a green chalkboard, can I still call it a blackboard, or would that be incorrect?

Also, I have heard that "blackboard" is used more than "chalkboard" in certain areas, and am not sure about how true this is.

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Technical terminology for frequently-used artifacts varies widely. In general, a green blackboard is called a blackboard. Either may be called a chalkboard. Consult local native speakers before using any other names. – John Lawler Aug 21 '13 at 20:27
Related: Do you say 'white blackboard'? – Callithumpian Aug 22 '13 at 1:25
In common use the two terms are interchangeable (though we used to say "greenboard" when I was in school, just to tweak the teachers). The white magic-marker board is, however, a "whiteboard". – Hot Licks Jul 9 at 21:14
up vote 0 down vote accepted

A blackboard is:-

a sheet of smooth, hard material, especially dark slate, used in schools, lecture rooms, etc., for writing or drawing on with chalk.

whereas a chalkboard is:-

A smooth hard panel, usually green or black, for writing on with chalk; a blackboard.

A greenboard is:-

a green chalkboard or blackboard.

Note that the second reference also defines chalkboard as:-

(Social Science / Education) a US and Canadian word for blackboard

which leads us to the nub of the matter. I won't pussyfoot around the point here; greenboard and chalkboard were invented to avoid including the word black, which offends the political sensibilities of some people.

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The cheeseboard is different altogether. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 21 '13 at 21:21
I'm not sure I believe this political correctness bit at the end. Most of the increase in frequency of chalkboard happened between 1945 and 1960, which I think was before most people were worrying about offending black people. See Google Ngrams. – Peter Shor Aug 21 '13 at 23:41
And in fact, it seems likely that the term "chalkboard" had nothing to do with the color of people's skin. From this 1953 book: If this information had been written several years ago, the title of this topic would have been "Illustrate on the Blackboard." Chalkboards now are made of several materials and come in various colors. Because of this the term chalkboard seems more appropriate. – Peter Shor Aug 21 '13 at 23:51
The chalkboards/blackboards in the parochial school which I attended as a kid were not exactly smooth in texture. They had fine and even rasp texture to enable them to hold onto the chalk drawn on them. A board is considered for replacement when its surface loses its rasp texture and becomes too smooth to retain chalk. Also, it is the raspness (i.e. non-smoothness) that allows the annoying chalk rasping sound we used to annoy each other when the teacher was not around. Incidentally, most of the blackboards were dark green, because of the same coating as on a table-tennis table. – Blessed Geek Aug 22 '13 at 5:45
When we used blackboards about 30 years ago in the school where I taught, most of them were black because we painted them with blackboard paint every year. – Edwin Ashworth Aug 22 '13 at 7:02

When I was at school (in the 1960s, in the UK), our blackboards were neither black nor boards: they were green and were of a continuous sheet flexible material rotated on two rollers (top & bottom). But we still called them blackboards!

As far as I'm aware, the term chalkboard is not commonly used in the UK, but would, of course, be understood.

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Nowadays they tend to be white. And don't get me started on interactive (white) boards, I don't find them at all smart! – Mari-Lou A Aug 22 '13 at 0:51
+1 for actually answering the question. – Peter Shor Aug 22 '13 at 10:38

I would say the difference is more generational than anything else and the changeover from blackboard to chalkboard had nothing at all to do with racial sensibilities or political correctness. When I started school in 1955, they were all black and were called blackboards. In a new school I went to in 1957 the boards were green but since everyone was used to calling them blackboards, we kept the old name. (Just as we call the material in pencils "lead" even though it hasn't been lead but graphite for over a hundred years.)

I found that people who came along after the boards were different colors and no longer black tended to start calling them chalkboards. I'm not sure when this occurred, but probably sometime after 1960.

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Some excellent points! – Hot Licks Jul 9 at 21:15
Hi Warren, welcome to English Language & Usage. If you think you might use our site again (and I hope you do!), please make sure you take the tour. I think your generational explanation makes sense: in fact, boards requiring chalk are so rare nowadays that when I recently referred absentmindedly to a blackboard, the whiteboard-taught youth looked at me blankly, like I'd said "facsimile machine" or "tape recorder". – Chappo Jul 10 at 1:58

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