Q: What kind of tool is a Glasgow Screwdriver?

We got this question right in the pub quiz on Sunday. It’s a hammer.

A couple of websites suggests it’s army slang, whereas a thread on an English Language and Usage site mentions the alternatives Manchester, Birmingham, Yankee and Paisley screwdriver…insert your rival city here!

I like the image conjured up by the term, of practical work being carried out with no skill. As in, people in Glasgow/Manchester/Birmingham are either so stupid or useless that they use a hammer [brute force] to drive in a screw [delicate technique].

No similar terms to describe other things come to mind, but I’d bet there are heaps that use regional rivalries and stereotypes in this way. It’s a sneaky way of being rude, clever because of the irony and shows the playfulness of language.

Incidentally, the word tool is Old English in origin, from a Germanic base meaning ‘prepare’. Tool is also a slang term for an idiot or loser: someone who is being used but doesn’t realise it, according to Urban Dictionary‘s user-contributed definitions.