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Is there an equivalent word to "side" when speaking of the front or rear of something (e.g. a car)?

So, a mechanic might say:

You damaged your wing-mirror? Ok, which side?

... or...

You damaged your bumper? Ok, which [insert word here]?

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Technically, side can include front, back, top, bottom, and more depending on how many sides an object has. –  Kris Oct 17 '12 at 11:32
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"You damaged your bumper? Ok, which one?" is usually how I would say it. –  Mathew Foscarini Oct 17 '12 at 16:01
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@MathewFoscarini: That would be the forebumper or the afterbumper of course. –  Ben Jackson Oct 19 '12 at 1:26
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7 Answers

up vote 65 down vote accepted

End

Like "two ends of a stick"?

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"Top end" and "bottom end" often refer ranges, or qualities. Also, the "top end" of Australia in the northern Northern Territory. I don't think end is exclusive to, or even implies, front/back, except in limited circumstances. Also, which end of a stick is the front? –  naught101 Oct 17 '12 at 13:18
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Exactly, end is not to front/rear as side is to left/right. It just happens to be in the particular instance provided as an example. The front and rear of the wall are not "ends". –  naught101 Oct 17 '12 at 13:27
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I think this is a good answer. People routinely talk about the "front end" and the "rear end" of a car. I've never heard someone say "the front side" of a car. Yes, a flat object like a painting or a sheet of paper is typically said to have a "front side" and a "rear side". So what? In the other dimensions we talk about the "edges" of a small flat object. But if you have a long piece of a flat object, e.g. a roll of paper or cloth, we talk about the "ends" of the roll as a dimension perpendicular to "sides" along the long axis. –  Jay Oct 17 '12 at 14:03
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@Kris: As others correctly noted, neither "end" nor "side" is bound to either "left" or "front". But whenever you're talking about an edge which is not a side, you're talking about an end. So if it has left and right side, it will have front and rear end, and vice versa. Unless it's all sides. –  SF. Oct 17 '12 at 14:59
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People routinely talk about their "front end bumper" or "back end bumper". Google it. End is obviously the right answer. –  Christoffer Hammarström Oct 17 '12 at 16:29
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In terms of anatomical locations, front (anterior) and rear (posterior) are on the anteroposterior axis.

So you could say "Which end of the Anteroposterior axis?" This is obviously ludicrous, but might be OK if your customer was an MD or biologist. enter image description here

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lol. Why is there a fish on my screen? –  Urbycoz Oct 17 '12 at 14:04
    
-1 Sorry, here end refers to a pointed termination with respect to the body, considering the AP-axis. Note that we are not using end in a generic sense for an unknown facet -- Dorsal side, Ventral side. Check out the question one more time: "which [insert word here]". –  Kris Oct 17 '12 at 14:19
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@Kris Thanks for explaining your down-vote. Not sure I follow you. Wing mirrors are lateral (left, right) and bumpers are at the ends of the AP-axis, at least on every car I've seen. Cars and fish have a front (as opposed to trees). –  Fuhrmanator Oct 17 '12 at 14:28
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This only works with certain fish, however. Flounders present a problem. –  John Lawler Oct 17 '12 at 14:55
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@Kris: Actually, I think it's you who needs to read the question again. The OP specifically does want a word which refers to front/back but precludes left/right. –  John Y Oct 17 '12 at 20:17
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I don't think so. You'd probably get 'front or back' again from some people, or just 'one' as in context, you've only got two bumpers, front and back.

You damaged your bumper? Ok, which one?

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+1 wing mirrors are implicitly on left-rigth sides, whereas bumpers are implicitly on front-back sides. –  Fuhrmanator Oct 17 '12 at 13:39
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Unless you're driving a dodgem! –  Kaz Dragon Oct 18 '12 at 9:19
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Technically, side can include front, back, top, bottom, and more depending on how many sides an object has.

side noun
1. one of the surfaces forming the outside of or bounding a thing, or one of the lines bounding a geometric figure.

side
3 b : a line or surface forming a border or face of an object


[EDIT]
The import of this answer is that side is not incorrect, and as such we need look no further in the first place. I do not necessarily disagree with other answers, other than that they are oblivious to this fact.

The question is based on the presumption that side excludes front and rear, which I contradict here.

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I'm not an expert in the English language other than having been brought up with it. Add salt for taste.

That said one term I have seen used frequently in terms of front and rear is facing. "What is the object's front facing? What is the object's rear facing?" It sets up a nice set of useful mathematical concepts where a transverse line across the front facing of an object demarks all the things in front of the object. Same with the rear. It is also possible to describe what is in front on smaller arcs if the object has some depth. This leads to understanding what is to the sides of an object as well. Slice it up as many ways as you want for the utility you need in describing the object in relation to other things.

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+1 Beat me to, by a long shot. –  user14070 Oct 18 '12 at 17:04
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Front-side, back-side, left-side, right-side, top-side and bottom-side are all perfectly acceptable English terms. I agree that the question "Which side, front or back?" does sound a little strange, though.

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+1 Not always strange though - e.g. side of an album cover (front/back) –  UpTheCreek Oct 17 '12 at 15:50
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It all depends on what you're talking about. Anything with a left and a right side requires either an object with a front and back, or an orientation derived from an observer.

Trees, for instance, have no front or back and therefore no left or right, except as oriented by where the speaker and/or listener are standing with respect to the tree.

  • ??Find the lone pine tree and dig on the right side.
  • Walk north to the lone pine tree and dig on the right side.

For more, see the Space lecture, from Fillmore's 1971 Deixis Lectures.

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protected by RegDwigнt Oct 17 '12 at 18:47

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