[Tagging] surface=ground/dirt/earth

Steve Doerr doerr.stephen at gmail.com
Thu Mar 13 15:38:54 UTC 2014

On 13/03/2014 15:09, ael wrote:
>  From another English person, I would say that "dirt" in British English
> is understood to mean the substance which causes something to be "not
> clean". That is it is much wider in meaning than soil or earth.  But it
> is almost never used to mean soil or earth under your feet, although
> that might be described as "dirty" or even "dirt" if telling a child to
> avoid rolling in it.
> However, maybe there are places where this is not true given Jonathan's
> post, but whenever I hear it used that way, it has come from American
> English. Of course, some American English reflects some old British
> usage and dialects from a few centuries ago....
> I tend to tag with "ground" where there are sections of soil (which
> may be covered with vegetation for some parts of the year) and maybe be
> rocky with sections of sand and gravel. I have just been mapping some
> paths and tracks on Bodmin Moor which have all these characteristics
> and no one tag seems really descriptive.

For me (British English), 'ground' isn't a type of surface at all: it's 
usually preceded by the definite article ('the ground') and means 'the 
surface of the earth' (where 'earth' means the planet), but not 
necessarily in a natural state: a paved area can be 'the ground'. Inside 
a building, though, you talk of 'the floor'.

'Earth' as a substance is much the same as 'soil', except that soil 
makes one think specifically of earth as a growing medium for plants.

There may be a 'false friend' in some languages, as 'the ground' roughly 
corresponds to 'le sol' in French, which nevertheless sometimes has the 
narrower meaning of 'soil'.


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