The phrase originates from car windows which used to have manual handles, which need to be turned to lower the window, hence to 'wind' a window down.

I heard the phrase the other day, but the car in question had electric windows. Is it OK to say we 'wind down' electric windows, or is there a newer phrase?

  • Anything is okay if it gets the message across! :) But, yeah, to say "wind" when there is no crank seems out of place. So, I agree with @user3169 about using some alternative verbs in this situation. Or even: Could you put my window up--the wind is blowing in too much and messing up my hair? – user6951 Mar 16 '15 at 18:55
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    And here I thought you were going to ask about "an electric car's window" vs "an electric car window" vs "the window of an electric car" vs "power windows" – Jim Mar 16 '15 at 22:25
  • i've managed to come up with 'slide' – JMP Mar 17 '15 at 6:48
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    Don't you still hang up the phone? These things are fairly common in most languages - perhaps you can think of an example in your native tongue! – Sanchises Mar 17 '15 at 9:38

There's nothing wrong with "wind" in this case. There are plenty of situations where we use a word that refers to an obsolete technology:

  • we dial a phone number, which makes the other person's phone ring; we hang up at the end of the call;
  • we listen to internet radio stations (though I suppose that's almost correct, if you're using wifi);
  • we carbon copy emails;
  • diesel-powered ships sail around the world.
  • not sure if this is the same thing, but aeroplanes still 'take off'? – JMP Mar 17 '15 at 10:28
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    @JonMarkPerry That doesn't seem to be the same thing: what obsolete technology does that refer to? (E.g., "dial a phone number" refers to telephones using a rotary dial before they had keypads.) – David Richerby Mar 17 '15 at 10:43
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    @JonMarkPerry "Is it OK to say we 'wind down' electric windows, or is there a newer phrase?" Yes, it is OK to say we 'wind down' electric windows. – David Richerby Mar 17 '15 at 13:11
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    We do still "wind down" car windows, even when they're electric - we just use a (hidden) motor to help with the winding :-) – psmears Mar 17 '15 at 13:38
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    For another example of obsolete usage persisting, we turn lights on and off, or shut them off: from the gas light era where there was a valve controlling the flow of gas. IIRC other languages also talk about opening and closing lights in their own idioms. – Random832 Mar 17 '15 at 16:51

Personally, I still say, "Roll down your window," even though I have never owned a car with manual windows. That is the phrase I always used growing up, so I still use it now. (I am 28). Everyone knows what I mean, and I don't think it sounds strange. Technically, there is a motor inside the car that is spinning and rolling the windows down, even if you are just pushing a button, right?

I live in the Midwest, but people in other parts of America may say "wind down", instead of "roll down".

If you wanted to use another phrase, I would go with "open" and "close".

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    My impression is that roll down is the usual phrase in American English and wind down is British. – Nate Eldredge Mar 16 '15 at 21:07
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    I've lived from California to Maine. AFAIK, "roll up/down" is standard in the US. – Zimul8r Mar 16 '15 at 22:03
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    +1: "Roll down" is the idiomatic way (AmE) to talk about lowering a car's window, and it simply doesn't matter that it's no longer literal. See also: "rewind" to go back to an earlier point in a movie on DVD, "hang up" the phone, anything that you "turn on", "turn down" the volume... – WinnieNicklaus Mar 17 '15 at 1:29
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    ... "write" an email, type or even worse dictate a "manuscript", perhaps arguably "drive" a car (literally-speaking you drive the horses, and they pull the carriage, but it's called driving a carriage by an obvious figurative connection). On my stereo I can still literally "turn down" the volume, it's a rotating analogue control, but I can also push a button on the remote and a motor turns it for me, much like the window :-) – Steve Jessop Mar 17 '15 at 2:19
  • @BrianHitchcock I was responding to a now-deleted comment that seemed to be suggesting that English is only spoken in the USA. – David Richerby Mar 18 '15 at 9:18

I would use:

Would you raise/lower your window?

or simply:

Would you close/open your window?

Since you can't see how the mechanism operates, you should just use visual observation terms.

  • I should use whatever I want to use, as long as my listener or reader will understand. :| – Jim Reynolds Mar 17 '15 at 2:09

You can also say:

Would you put your window down/up?

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    That gets the message across but it doesn't sound very natural to me (British native speaker). – David Richerby Mar 17 '15 at 9:27
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    Definitely a US thing. – Zimul8r Mar 17 '15 at 19:52
  • @Zimul8r not at all a US thing! No one I know says that, nor do I hear it in the popular media. Americans mostly say "roll up/down" or "open/close". – Rob K Jul 5 '17 at 20:58

I think to say " turn the window down or up" as of turning your signal on or off would go with electric windows as you are in a same way turning a switch on or off. Both winding or Rolling do refer to windows with manual cranking handles.

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