I just learned the real term for a suitcase on wheels and my mind exploded

I like to present myself as a seasoned traveler, so imagine my surprise when I found out that I might be using the wrong term for a common type of luggage.

As a child, my parents always said “rollerboard” in reference to a suitcase on wheels, and I followed suit. But in a recent text thread, I noticed that a friend wrote “rollerboard”, which prompted me to question everything I ever believed.

But luckily I’m not the only one confused. Very unscientific online voting since 2010 found that 53% of respondents say “rollerboard”, 32% choose “rollerboard” and 15% “have no idea”.

However, officially speaking, what is it? Rollboard? Rollerboard? Roller on board? Roll on board? Something completely different? I turned to some experts – and the vast archives of the Internet – to find out.

“The original term was ‘roll aboard’,” says the linguist and lexicographer. Ben Zimmer HuffPost reported. Rollboard was trademark of Robert Plath for his Travelpro company in 1991, although luggage has been branded Roll-Aboard since 1985.”

Certainly, 1985 advertisement the New Jersey newspaper Daily Record features a collection of bags with the descriptor US Luggage Roll-Aboard Group available from M. Epstein’s department store in Morristown.

“[The ad] claims a trademark, but does not look like luggage on wheels, ”said the etymologist Barry Popikwho also shared the advertisement with HuffPost along with many other clippings.

Poh Kim Yeoh/EyeEm via Getty Images

From trademarks to egg grains, we’ve gone many steps along the way with our various terms for the wheeled suitcase.

Early 1990s Travelpro “Rollabord” suitcase appeared in some newspapers. Links to non-specific “roll-board” luggage arose in 1994and since 1993 ads behind “rollerboard” suitcases also. A 1999 Canadian newspaper clipping contained a link to Roller suitcases.

Rollerboard came into use as a more general term in the 1990s, Zimmer explained. “It may have started as a misinterpretation of the word ‘roll-board’, but it also avoided using the trademark because it 2003 USA Today article offers.”

More recently, Jonathan Franzen used the word “rollerboard” in his 2018 book of essays, The End of the End of the Earth, much to the dismay of the pilot and blogger. Patrick Smith. Writer Gary Steingart also used this version of the term in his novel Success on the Lake, which was published the same year.

Interestingly, the “rollerboard” appears to have been trademark of a skateboard company called Rollerboard International, so the term has a completely different meaning outside of the context of travel.

Referring to the suitcase, Zimmer noted that “rollerboard” is a great example of eggcorn – a change in a word or phrase as a result of a misinterpretation or misunderstanding of one or more of its elements. The term “egg corn” egg corn itself for the “acorn”, and, unlike malapropism, such a change in the form of the original word or phrase still makes sense and seems logical in the same context, only in a different way.

Like a lexicographer Jessie Shadelower told HuffPost: “It’s ‘rolling on board’ — which can be spelled with a hyphen, a space, or as a closed connection — because it’s rolling on board an aircraft.”

However, scrambled eggs on a skateboard also has some logic because the term brings to mind an object with wheels, such as a skateboard or piece of luggage.

“The reanalysis of word elements or compound words is known as ‘folk etymology’ among other names,” Shadelower noted. “Often this happens when less common words or elements are replaced with more common ones.”

He shared an example of the word “groom”, which in the past was more like “groom-bride” since “gum” in Middle English meant “man” (derived from “gum” and “bridgum” in Old English). goom” fell into disuse, the second half of the word was replaced by “groom” – a more common word that meant “boy” or “male child”.

“Another example is ‘wheelbarrow’, a common variant of the word ‘wheelbarrow’ because the word ‘wheelbarrow’ is relatively rare, and a wheelbarrow really looks like something that can be made from half a barrel,” added Shadelower. “In your example, neither ‘roll’ nor ‘board’ are particularly unusual, but ‘roller’ is very common, and ‘rollerboard’ is at least a plausible-sounding pairing.”

So while the “rollerboard” may have been the first, the bottom line is that both the “rollaboard” and “rollerboard” work great. And I no longer need to question the nature of my reality—at least in that respect.

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