French fries or chips? Jelly or Jell-O? Vacuum or Hoover? In case you didn’t know by now, if you’re planning to fly to England any time soon, you’re going to be needing some help when getting a vacuum cleaner. Simply because you may have to ask for a hoover instead. And no, we’re not talking about Hoover.
A vacuum or a hoover?
In order to be very clear, the electrical appliance that cleans various surfaces through suction, people in North America are using the term “vacuum cleaner” (or simply “vacuum”), whereas the Britons typically use the term “hoover”.
Both words may work as verbs so you’re perfectly right to say “I just vacuumed”, “I am vacuuming”, just as correct it would be in England to say “I hoovered” or “I was hoovering”.
Due to a metaphorical extension, “hoover” also refers to “consume completely”, but you may want to use the preposition “up” in most cases.
Let’s say you’re very hungry so you may very well “hoover up your lunch”. If you’re in North America, you can’t really say that, though.
The term “hoover” isn’t used only in the UK, but also in South Africa, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland too. Truth be told, it’s very common to use especially in England.
On the other hand, the term “vacuum cleaner” and its related verbs are also used outside North America so it’s quite typical to meet them. The situation isn’t the same for the “hoover” in the US and Canada, though most people are able to identify the term, in case they have some exposure to British media.
More useful tips for making the difference
So, if you’re living in the North America and meet a Brit that uses a hoover around the house, keep in mind that chances are that he may not be talking about something manufactured by Hoover.
Even though a Brit may have a Dyson vacuum cleaner, he/she is still going to tell about how he/she just pushed the hoover around”. “Doing the hoovering” may be also used when using the vacuum cleaner, so stay in put.
The little irony behind
The funny thing about all of this differences in terms that explains why British like to use a hoover and not a vacuum cleaner.
Hoover was an American brand of cleaner that came after the British invention of the vacuum. Edward Booth was the founder of the Goblin brand made in the UK (but not anymore at the moment). So, it’s funny why the Brits use the term “hoover”, when they ought to use the term “booth” instead. For the simple reason that the boots was already invented by the time hoover was born in US.
How about using the simple “vac” instead of both?