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In Australia where I'm from solid soap has practically been replaced by shower gel except for the older generations. I expected that this type of stuff and its name came from Euro-English but now I'm in Japan where English isn't anyone's first language and the liquid soap in the shower is labeled "body soap" which I assumed was a translation by someone unaware of our "shower gel" idiom.

To my surprise everybody else here thought "body soap" was the normal name for this stuff and didn't know the term "shower gel".

So my question is are the two regional synonyms? Is "shower gel" only used in Australia? Or are they slightly different products neither of which is as popular in all English-speaking markets?

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Add body wash to the list. – Callithumpian Jun 3 '11 at 16:21
@Callithumpian: Consider it (implicitly) added (-: – hippietrail Jun 3 '11 at 16:24
Yes, "body wash" appears to be the AmEng standard name for the stuff... Has bar soap really disappeared from Australia? I can't stand most supermarket brands - Dove, Dial, Irish Spring, etc. - but I'm hooked on lemon-verbena French-milled soap. Smells good, excellent lather (before I let my beard grow out I was using it as shaving cream); I even use it in my hair when we're out of shampoo. I would be very sad if my local Trader Joe's stopped carrying it and I had to switch to body wash instead. – MT_Head Jun 3 '11 at 16:47
@MT: There's still plenty of bar soap on the supermarket shelves, I just don't know anybody who uses it anymore and I'm not exactly a spring chicken... – hippietrail Jun 3 '11 at 16:54
I still use bar soap. All the shower gels I've met have either been way too perfumy, or full of moisturizer-this and lotion-that, the mere thought of which makes my skin break out something fierce. – Marthaª Jun 9 '11 at 15:47
up vote 1 down vote accepted

In America (at least, on the East Coast), it's referred to as body wash or, less commonly, shower gel, so I think in English-speaking countries, those two are regional synonyms. I can only assume that body soap is just a difference in translation from body wash in English.

Ultimately, I think they are synonyms, but the Japanese simply decided to use the American phrase and translate from that.

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It's called "shower gel" in the UK.

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In the UK I think the advertisers call it body wash "new zplot body wash with active blah" but everybody calls it shower gel.

ps. To the surprise of the Australians we do have bar soap in the UK - and don't just use it to hide our money under!

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