|DIY in da house!|
(photo by Kristin Brenemen)
DIY confuses Americans. I know, I know! You're thinking "Why on earth has this word made it into Lexicolatry?" Surely to earn a place on Lexi, a word has to be obscure, like celsitude or bromatology, or funny like a-poop or cementitious? And when an everyday word like, say, beach or anorak makes it, it's because it has an interesting etymology. But DIY? What could possibly be obscure, funny or interesting about that?
It's a fair point. Even The Shorter OED, from where I've taken the above definition, seems decidedly cursory about telling us what it is because, presumably, we all know already, so what's the point? But not to Americans. Bizarrely, inexplicably, DIY joins like the plethora of Britishisms that our chums across the pond find utterly befuddling (others, incidentally, include biscuit, chips and lorry).
A case study of this confusion is one of our highly-esteemed American contributors Katie Dwyer, author of the most excellent My College Advice and writer of many wonderful posts for Lexicolatry. During her stay in Ireland, Katie and I would spend many an evening discussing the differences between American, Irish and British English, and one word that repeatedly cropped up was DIY.
"So, just tell me again," she would say, "what exactly is it?"
"It's when you do stuff yourself, without hiring someone else to do it. Like repairs and stuff."
"Oh. So like if you repaired your car rather than take it to a mechanic?"
"Umm ... no .. not really. Well, that is technically doing-it-yourself, I suppose, But that's not really what DIY is. It's more to do with the house."
"Oh right. So, like, mowing your own lawn and doing yard work?"
"Umm ... no ... that's not ... well it is, I suppose, but it's not DIY."
"Umm ... no."
"Putting up shelves?"
"Yes! That's it! DIY is putting up shelves ... yourself!"
|Yes! This is DIY!|
(photo by Chris & Jenni)
If you have a better way of explaining DIY, do please do it yourself in the comment box below.
(I did my best, OK?)
If you're American, and are aghast at the very premise of this post, do please comment also.
Together, we can get to the bottom of this.