1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded education professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

Why did barrows become trolleys?

Discussion in 'Personal' started by Duke of York, Feb 2, 2016.

  1. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    It occurred to me today in the supermarket that the vehicle we push our goods around in there would probably have been called a barrow if such a thing had existed when I was a kid. We certainly had broadly similar things back then, but we didn't have supermarkets. In fact when we did start supermarkets, we had neither barrows nor trolleys to push around in them. Shopping baskets were the norm and were it not for the absurd amounts of packaging that supermarkets now force us to take home, might well suffice for a weekly shop today, as they did in the early 60s.

    When supermarkets were kind enough to provide us with barrows though, they called them trolleys. I'm at a loss to understand why. We always had trolleys, but they served a different purpose, such as those in hospitals and laboratories which are used as movable tables and sometimes have integral drawers, shelves and cupboards. They are clearly different beasts to the barrow.

    I have been pondering whether this bastardisation of our language was imported from the States along with supermarkets, but I'm not so sure it did. From what Wikipedia tells me, the Yanks can't make up their minds whether the shopping barrow ought to be called a truck, cart or buggy and in the case of the child-friendly ones, “Car-Carts” or "Beans”. Goodness knows where the last term comes from but here is a picture of what they are claimed to be:

    As a by the by, Wikipedia kindly informs us that some 24,000 children per annum are injured in the USA in shopping carts, as they sometimes call them. It doesn't say how and we might speculate how many of these injuries occur as a result of poor “cart” design, how many occur through parental negligence and how many just happen as a consequence of random gunshot wounds as the Yanks vie against each other for Black Friday bargains. Maybe they are accustomed to drawing their guns at folk who block supermarket aisles so they can yak with their kinfolk about the price of fish on the fish counter. I know I would probably be doing that if I lived there. “Hey you! GTF out of this lane or the kid is going to put on a lot of weight quick if I need to fill him with lead just to get by!”, I can imagine myself saying.

    Maybe the use of the word trolley rather than barrow was introduced so it would appeal more to the middle class, who wouldn't be seen dead pushing a barrow they hadn't bought from John Lewis to carry their trug and begonia plants around the garden. Trolleys were used in middle class occupations like medicine and science, so is that how the barrow became a trolley?

    Why weren't they called shopping prams though? I mean, apart from the slimline ones, they have been designed so they can cart babies and toddlers around, along with the shopping, at the perfect height that enables the brats to fiddle with and suck other customers' shopping once it's on the conveyor belt. The perfect height to clout them at when their parents are inattentive, incidentally, so it's swings and roundabouts for all when fortune prevails.

    Incidentally, I was delighted to see that Wikipedia has this picture on it's website, to explain to the rest of the world how we do things in Britain once we've “done with”, are “through with” or have finished with the use of the shopping barrow.
    Regrettably, the caption under the picture says “Shopping cart bay in a UK supermarket parking lot” Who in the UK has ever used a shopping cart? Who has ever parked in a UK parking lot?

    Is it too late to get back to basics and define a list of words that everyone understands the precise meaning of, if they intend to speak or write in English?
  2. Spiritwalkerness

    Spiritwalkerness Star commenter

    You might have already said it - but I'm afraid I skim read the above (stuff to do) I would have said that a barrow has one wheel and a trolley/cart, 4.
    xena-warrior likes this.
  3. Eureka!

    Eureka! Lead commenter

    I am in two minds about whether it is a Good Thing for customers to return their trolleys to the designated area. When I was in the US I observed that most trollies were abandoned on the spot. But the car parks were so vast I think that worked for them.
  4. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    No. A barrow can have as many wheels as it needs, as can a trolley.
  5. rosievoice

    rosievoice Star commenter

    Barrow, cart, trolley, buggy, it makes no bloomin difference how many wheels it has, you can bet good money on one of them having a mind of its own...
    Didactylos4 and Lascarina like this.
  6. xena-warrior

    xena-warrior Star commenter

    I only associate "barrow" with "wheel" I.e. one wheel.
    They've always been called shopping trolleys in my lifetime, and it isn't even an Americanism.
    On a tangent, when did we stop filling in forms and start filling them out instead?
  7. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    In France they're called chariots - shades of Ben-Hur.
  8. Spiritwalkerness

    Spiritwalkerness Star commenter

    Well, I'll be. Shall store that nugget when I'm mucking out using my wheeltrolley.
  9. foxtail3

    foxtail3 Star commenter

    I don't mind shopping cart. Or wheel cart, or trolley barrow. As long as it does the job eh?
    Lascarina likes this.
  10. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    This is an unstocked market barrow. How many wheels do you see? Have you ever heard of a market trolley?

    Here's a different one with fewer wheels, but more than one.


    This one is a bit closer to the one a kind gentleman made for me when I had the enterprise to flog firewood at the age of ten for a shilling a bag around the streets of Mitcham. It didn't have a cover on top, the wheels came off an old pram and the handles were just 1" x 2/12" strips of wood, but it served its purpose. Again you'll see it isn't limited to a solitary wheel.

  11. Jude Fawley

    Jude Fawley Star commenter

    You're off your barrow.
  12. xena-warrior

    xena-warrior Star commenter

    Can I barrow your trolley?
  13. FritzGrade

    FritzGrade Senior commenter

    TBH They did exist and they were never called barrows.
  14. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    Much as I might wish to be at this time of night, Jude, I need to be up early tomorrow to attend a course which hopes to inform me what well-maintained buildings require. I'm obliged to attend the course as I work for a housing association where rents are half the cost of those in the private sector and I would doubt that provision is ever made for staff training.

    Nevertheless, let's not get distracted from why barrows are now called trolleys to satisfy the middle class dislike of the term. I'm pretty sure that the middle class introduced us to perambulators rather put up with using kid barrows which would be so common a term, even if the poor could afford such things when they were first thought up.
  15. FritzGrade

    FritzGrade Senior commenter

    I expect it was all Thatcher's fault
  16. Duke of York

    Duke of York Star commenter

    It's rare that we can find occasions to agree, Madge, so maybe we can share this opportunity in toasting the occasion with a glass of red before our beds beckon us.

    To tell the truth though, Thatcher loved the "barrow boys" who went on to wreck the economy, so I wouldn't say it was her fault our language became abused. More likely another oversight she missed on the inept way she went about attempting to establish what British values are supposed to be.

    She wouldn't have wanted her captains of the New World Order to have been called Trolley Boys though, would she? How camp would that have been?
  17. Didactylos4

    Didactylos4 Star commenter

    They are trolleys if they have steerable (allegedly) wheels and barrows if they don't.
    For the purposes of definition your first illustration Duke is a flat bed cart as the front wheels are part of a steerable bogey
  18. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    Or sometimes 2.
  19. wanet

    wanet Star commenter

    I often call shopping trollies rulleys -
    Definition of rulley in English:
    A flat four-wheeled wagon used for conveying goods.
  20. racroesus

    racroesus Star commenter

    Could the trolley wheels be named for their similarity to the poles and connections of trolley buses?

Share This Page