Post by Peter T. Daniels Post by Katy Jennison
You wrote (I quote) 'a surprising thread here a while ago tried to
convince us [transom] refers to the lintel above the doorway/below the
window, while normal people use it for the window itself.'
BrE speakers, you imply, are not 'normal', since in BrE a transom is not
a window (although it's many other things including part of a boat).
I'm sure you don't really mean that, when you come to think about it.
I don't recall it being claimed to be Pondial at that time -- if it had,
I'd have simply chalked it up to British eccentricity (cf. E. B. White's
"There'll always be an England," the heading of the imponderable quotes
they'd fill out columns on the New Yorker pages with).
It seems we discussed it in 2010 and in 2005 (were you here then,
Peter?). In May 2005, initiating a thread with the title 'British word
for "transom" (window over a door?)', Daniel P B Smith asks, with
reference to novels by Elizabeth George set in England:
"In her latest novel, she uses the word "transom" in the sense of a
small, hinged window over a door.
"I have a vague idea that "transom" in this sense is an Americanism, and
that in England a different word is used to refer to such a window. Am I
correct or have I merely experienced a random synaptic firing? And, of
course, if I'm correct, what's the word?"
Various people reply; Tony refers to a fanlight; Mike Lyle writes:
"Fanlight" is the usual BrE word, too; but I suspect that "transom
light" may be the technical expression -- Harvey will reveal if he
shows up. A transom is a cross-member: the top of the door-frame in a
house, but the stern-piece in a small boat. Not just decorative, of
course: they let in extra light. The hall, or whatever it's called,
in this flat has no windows, but is lit by "borrowed lights" (I think
that's the expression) over the doors opening off it: I suppose these
too are fanlights, unless it's only used for exterior ones."
Harvey (who, you will recall, is the actual expert here) writes:
"Fanlight, I'm pretty certain. (I can't recall hearing anyone in
architecture and building over here who uses "transom" to mean other
than the horizontal bar in a window or in wall panelling.)"
Daniel Smith (the OP) then replies;
"Thanks to all who answered. "Fanlight" is the word I was trying to
remember. And... do I take it that the consensus is... I really did
catch Elizabeth George in a mistake?"
And it seems he did; that is, no-one (on either side of the pond) was in
any doubt that in BrE the word 'fanlight' is the correct word for a
window over a door, not 'transom' which is AmE.
(Ah, those were the days! Contributors included Valentine, Lyle, Riggs,
Couperus, the Omrud, John Dean, Skitt, Robin Bignall, Robert Lieblich,
Roland Hutchinson, Frances Kemmish and Chris Malcolm, as well as those
few of us who are still here.)