Learn English – Why do we qualify “dish washer” or “car wash” but not “clothes washer”

american-englishgeneral-vs-specific

In theory, any mechanical device that is used to wash another object could be called a "washing machine". However, the term (at least in the US) is almost exclusively used for machines that wash clothes.

Machines that was dishes and silverware are "dish washers". A Machine that washes automobiles is a "car wash". But a machine that washes clothes is just a "washing machine".

How did that generic term come to be so completely identified with a specific type of washing machine?

Best Answer

I suppose because it was the first one.

We, in the UK, had washing machines (for clothes) long before dishwashers and car-washers. So that by the time those machines came along, the term 'washing machine' had already been claimed.

It is also the case (at least in Britain) that washing clothes has always been known as 'washing'. A question like: 'When do you do your washing?' almost certainly refers to washing clothes, not to washing dishes etc (that's called 'washing-up') nor the washing of oneself, or the baby (that's bathing, or showering).