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-   -   The bizarre secret of Londonís buried diggers (http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=96650)

Richard W 07 May 2018 05:49 PM

The bizarre secret of Londonís buried diggers
 
I was reading about a new study on basement conversions in London, and followed a couple of links.

Deep concerns: the trouble with basement conversions (Tim Dowling, Guardian 18th August 2014)

Quote:

The mega-basements of the super-rich have even spawned their own urban myth: that many of the JCBs employed in their digging could not practically be retrieved from the bottom of the giant hole, and were simply buried.
The text links to this article from The New Statesman:

The bizarre secret of London’s buried diggers (5th June 2014)

Quote:

I've made a discovery about what is buried under the swimming pools and basement conversions of wealthy west London. This booty is worth about £5m. More revealing, however, is another fact: this £5m was tossed away like small change tipped into a busker’s hat. It is not Nazi art, or plutonium that has been used to kill the enemies of Russian oligarchs. It is a fleet of diggers.
The idea being that the mini-diggers were cheap enough that trying to get them out of the hole at the end of the excavation wasn't worth the money, and so they were simply concreted over. The article goes into a lot more detail, including estimates that there may be between 500 and 1,000 diggers buried like this.

However, from Tim Dowling's article:

Quote:

It is said that newer, deeper excavations have begun to run across them on the way down.

"We've never buried one," says Stephen Merritt, managing director of London Basement, which has completed about 1200 basement conversions since 1994. "We don't actually use the mini-excavators that often. Most of our digging is done by hand."

Ian Hogarth, an architect whose own west London basement was featured in an episode of Grand Designs, also finds the story ridiculous, although he admits that an auger from one of the piling rigs that sank his foundations is still buried under the house. "It got stuck there," he says.
So it seems this is probably not true. I know the articles are a few years old now, but this seems to be an actual new urban myth that I'd not heard before! You don't see many of those these days. (I think it's no longer economically feasible to extract them from all the fake news, or something).

Brad from Georgia 07 May 2018 07:08 PM

I thought this would be about thousands of unfortunate Oompa Loompas.

WildaBeast 07 May 2018 07:23 PM

Yeah, it took me a moment to realize that "digger" was British English for an excavator or backhoe. I was picturing a Dickensian type of scenario of teams of workers with shovels employed to dig 19th century basements, and simply being left down there if they died on the job. Sort of like the myth that the bodies of workers who died in workplace accidents are buried within Hoover Dam.

Richard W 07 May 2018 07:24 PM

Well, if you believe urban crime novels these days, there are probably lots of inconvenient people, often undocumented immigrant workers, buried down there as well...

(eta) And that's something else I've learned today - despite just having read a book about the "conflict" between British and American English, I had no idea that "digger" meant something different over there. Something else to complain about on the writer's blog, as well as her inaccurate statements about real ale.

WildaBeast 07 May 2018 07:51 PM

Well I don't know if it means something different, exactly, but we don't use it to mean "digging machine". Like I said most Americans would call that machine an excavator or backhoe. But I assume you also have the definition "person who digs" over there as well -- grave digger, ditch digger, etc. We just don't have the other definition. Well now that I think about it there are machines that Americans might call "diggers", but it it would typically come with another word attached, like a post-hole digger. We typically wouldn't call the machine described in the article a digger.

overyonder 07 May 2018 08:25 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by WildaBeast (Post 1978299)
Well I don't know if it means something different, exactly, but we don't use it to mean "digging machine". Like I said most Americans would call that machine an excavator or backhoe. But I assume you also have the definition "person who digs" over there as well -- grave digger, ditch digger, etc. We just don't have the other definition. Well now that I think about it there are machines that Americans might call "diggers", but it it would typically come with another word attached, like a post-hole digger. We typically wouldn't call the machine described in the article a digger.

Excavator, trencher, steam shovel, posthole digger, etc etc etc. Many different ones out there.

I call a larger excavator as "trackhoe" (no pun intended here) but some people will occasionally raise an eyebrow. It's a southern expression I picked up in SC.

OY

ChasFink 07 May 2018 09:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by overyonder (Post 1978306)
Excavator, trencher, steam shovel, posthole digger, etc etc etc. Many different ones out there.

Which reminds me: does anyone else find it odd that we say steam shovel and steamroller when these things are no longer powered by steam?

WildaBeast 07 May 2018 10:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard W (Post 1978295)
despite just having read a book about the "conflict" between British and American English...

And just to be clear, the Hoover Dam has nothing to do with vacuum cleaners. ;)

Richard W 07 May 2018 11:25 PM

Are you sure? Then why did my hoover stop working last year? It was an Electrolux hoover, I think, and it must have been dammed (or damned, perhaps?) in some way. I felt less stupid when even my dad couldn't get it to work, and we had to buy a replacement.

The replacement works very well, and I was slightly surprised when I checked just now to find that it's a Hoover hoover.

Don Enrico 08 May 2018 06:41 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Richard W (Post 1978281)
The idea being that the mini-diggers were cheap enough that trying to get them out of the hole at the end of the excavation wasn't worth the money, and so they were simply concreted over.

But to do that, wouldn't you have to digg an additional whole of about two meters or more to hide the digger in? And, given what can be down there, from bedrock to the tunnels of the tube, wouldn't that be more difficult and more expensive than trying to get the digger out again?

Quote:

...despite just having read a book about the "conflict" between British and American English, ...
The Prodigal Tongue by Lynne Murphy? That's what I am reading at the moment - very interesting! I wish there were a similar book about the different kinds of German (mainly that of Germany and that of Austria).

SatansHobbit 08 May 2018 08:54 AM

If you consider what the word "digger" means to an Australian, the story takes a rather morbid turn. :eek:

Richard W 08 May 2018 10:31 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Don Enrico (Post 1978349)
The Prodigal Tongue by Lynne Murphy? That's what I am reading at the moment - very interesting! I wish there were a similar book about the different kinds of German (mainly that of Germany and that of Austria).

Yes, that one - I put it in the books thread. I really liked it too. But don't believe what she says about beer - real ale is not the same thing as craft beer, and CAMRA had succeeded in reviving real ales long before the current US-influenced craft beer boom! And indeed, I suspect many CAMRA members have mixed feelings about craft beer...

RichardM 08 May 2018 02:40 PM

I thought I remembered a book I read when I was 3 or 4. It was about a steam shovel that dug out a basement but then couldn't get out. So the steam shovel was converted to be the boiler for the building. I looked it up and sure enough there it was - Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_M...s_Steam_Shovel

Seaboe Muffinchucker 08 May 2018 03:22 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ChasFink (Post 1978312)
Which reminds me: does anyone else find it odd that we say steam shovel and steamroller when these things are no longer powered by steam?

I don't know about you, but I don't say steam shovel. I say backhoe or front loader.

I do still think of the rollers as steamrollers, though.

Seaboe

Lainie 08 May 2018 03:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RichardM (Post 1978376)
I thought I remembered a book I read when I was 3 or 4. It was about a steam shovel that dug out a basement but then couldn't get out. So the steam shovel was converted to be the boiler for the building. I looked it up and sure enough there it was - Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_M...s_Steam_Shovel

I loved that book as a kid.

UEL 08 May 2018 04:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by RichardM (Post 1978376)
I thought I remembered a book I read when I was 3 or 4. It was about a steam shovel that dug out a basement but then couldn't get out. So the steam shovel was converted to be the boiler for the building. I looked it up and sure enough there it was - Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_M...s_Steam_Shovel

Quote:

Originally Posted by Lainie (Post 1978392)
I loved that book as a kid.

I too loved that book. It was the first thing I thought of when I read the initial posts in this thread.

Seaboe Muffinchucker 08 May 2018 07:30 PM

It's one of the books Captain Kangaroo read on his show. I loved they way they did those readings.

Seaboe

Brad from Georgia 08 May 2018 08:36 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Seaboe Muffinchucker (Post 1978389)
I don't know about you, but I don't say steam shovel. I say backhoe or front loader.

I do still think of the rollers as steamrollers, though.

Seaboe

We call them "chuzzwuzzlers."

Ariadne 09 May 2018 04:39 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by UEL (Post 1978405)
I too loved that book. It was the first thing I thought of when I read the initial posts in this thread.

Me, too! I read the thread just to see if anyone mentioned it.

Crius of CoH 09 May 2018 05:47 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Brad from Georgia (Post 1978449)
We call them "chuzzwuzzlers."

That's an odd name. I'd have called them chazzwazzers.


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