Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I occasionally use the phrase "Birmingham screwdriver" to mean "hammer", but this evening I heard a hammer referred to as a "Manchester screwdriver", by someone with no association with either city.

It set me to wonder which is most common/popular/historic, and if any other city is associated with this popular and convenient tool?

share|improve this question
2  
In America, a stick of dynamite is sometimes called a "redneck fishing pole"! –  Robusto Dec 15 '10 at 2:32
1  
I've only ever the phrase ascribed to the Irish. –  Colin Fine Dec 15 '10 at 12:25
1  
it's clearly going to depend on the prejudices of the people you are listening to –  jk. Feb 1 '11 at 16:06
2  
Irish screwdriver is the most common in BE –  mgb May 26 '11 at 18:20
    
@Martin, so it would seem, according to the comments here. But I'm a native British English speaker, and have only recently heard it called anything other than a Birmingham (the screwdriver part is often left out as "everyone" knows what is meant). –  Brian Hooper May 26 '11 at 22:22
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

On this side of the pond the phrase "Yankee Screwdriver" is not uncommon. I also understand that during WWII the Dutch used it (derogatorily I suppose) after seeing American GIs pounding screws with hammers.

As it turns out, you CAN drive a screw part way with a hammer (coarse tooth deck screw, Robertson head, in softwood only of course...), saving a lot of time with little detriment on its holding ability*. In this sense the term is not necessarily (or strongly) derogatory.

*But in this era of electric screw drivers this is "old technology".

share|improve this answer
    
"the Dutch used it (derogatorily I suppose)" - it's not like they haven't been targets of derogatory expressions themselves; witness "Dutch courage" and "Dutch uncle"... –  user730 Dec 15 '10 at 1:50
1  
@J.M.: "Dutch oven", "going Dutch"... –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Dec 15 '10 at 15:07
    
Thank you, mickeyf. I wondered if there was some regional variation, such as is said to be the case for frankfurter and Russian roulette. –  Brian Hooper Dec 16 '10 at 7:02
add comment

I have only heard the terms "Paisley Screwdriver" or "Glasgow Screwdriver" used in the same way by natives of the opposing places.

share|improve this answer
add comment

A yankee screwdriver is a screwdriver which works with a pump action, so that the blade turns when the handle is pushed toward the screw. It is reversible, but works better on the way in, as on the way out you are turning the screw out but forcing it in. I believe it is a proprietary name.

share|improve this answer
    
I don't believe this answers the question –  Matt Эллен Feb 1 '11 at 15:35
    
@Matt Ellen, perhaps it doesn't but is it germane, as "Yankee Screwdriver" has arisen in the comments, and @Joe doesn't have sufficient reputation to reply there. –  Brian Hooper Feb 1 '11 at 19:42
    
@Brian Hooper: I always forget about the comment thing. –  Matt Эллен Feb 1 '11 at 22:50
add comment

It's definitely a "Manchester Screwdriver". You can't tell a Manc how to use a screwdriver.

I was once told that you can always tell a Manc, you just can't tell them much, lol.

share|improve this answer
    
This doesn't really convince me. –  Matt Эллен Mar 4 at 11:05
    
We are really looking for answers based on verifiable facts. This looks more like a cute comment on the question and should be converted to a comment. –  MετάEd Mar 4 at 16:48
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.