Roller Board vs. Roll Aboard: The Definitive Answer

Posted in At the Terminal

You know that carry-on suitcase with an expanding handle and wheels? What do you call it? I’ve always called it a roller board, but apparently the topic is up for debate. I wrote a story last week called Amazon’s Huge Luggage Sale (btw, there are still great deals available if you click here) and mentioned that “you can grab a new rollerboard for cheap!” I had no idea I’d be stirring up controversy with the sentence but Joseph N. wrote a comment to set me straight: “One small correction: the luggage is a roll-aboard, not a roller-board, in your first paragraph.” Had I been calling something by the wrong name my whole life? Was this my very own travel version of the people who think Jimi Hendrix sang “Excuse me while I kiss this guy”??? I had to find out.

Travelpro Maxlite 3 Blue

Roller Board/Rollerboard/Roll Aboard/Rollaboard

The first step in any nomenclature investigation is a quick Google search. In this case, I Googled “rollerboard.” The very first result was a FlyerTalk forum from 2012 entitled “Roll Aboard vs. Roller Board.” The original poster showed two photos, one of a carry-on suitcase with wheels and the other a scooter for children to use in gym class. The first was said to be a roll aboard, the second was a roller board. Just like that, everyone on the thread accepted that this was gospel. The post continued with people sharing their own word and grammar pet peeves, but just because someone posts photos on a message board doesn’t make it true. I trudged on in search of more definitive answers.

The next major discovery came via a USA Today article from the halcyon days of 2003. In “Taking the ‘lug’ out of luggage changed everything,” writer Bruce Horovitz extols the virtues of the rolling suitcase, which he calls… a rollerboard. In fact, he even cites the original model and its’ trademarked name: the Rollaboard®, an invention of luggage giant Travelpro founder Robert Plath. Horovitz goes on to highlight how rollerboards completely changed both the airline and luggage industries by creating a new category of suitcase that needed to be accommodated by enlarged overhead bins. The article is definitely worth a read.

My takeaway from the story is that both roller board (or rollerboard) and roll aboard (or Rollaboard®) are acceptable in everyday use, with one being the generic term and the other being the trademarked version.This holds up with what fellow BoardingArea blogger Road Warriorette found when she conducted a poll about the two words. The results were split with 53% of people saying they preferred Rollaboard, 31% of responders going with Rollerboard, and 15% of votes going to “I have no idea.”

Travelpro Maxlite 3 Black roller board rollaboard

What Do the Luggage Folks Say?

Since word usage changes significantly over time, though, I wasn’t satisfied with the answer coming from an article that’s twelve years old. Frankly, I don’t trust twelve-year-olds for anything. So I went straight to the source. I contacted the top luggage companies in the world: Samsonite, Travelpro, and Tumi. Here’s what they had to say:

Samsonite

Stephanie Goldman (Director, Marketing Communications) for Samsonite was clear that her company doesn’t use the term at all because of the registered trademark.

“Rollaboard is a registered trademark of Travelpro so it’s not a term we use at all at Samsonite. We use Carry-On.”

Travelpro

Scott Applebee, VP of Marketing for Travelpro International provided more historical context:

“Travelpro company founder, Bob Plath, coined and trademarked the term Rollaboard® to describe his invention of upright wheeled luggage back in 1987.  Travelpro has used this word to describe their 2-wheel rolling luggage ever since.  The term, Rollaboard®, originally caught on with airline pilots and flight attendants who were the first users of this new invention.  Today, many travelers use the word generically to describe wheeled carry-on luggage.”

Tumi

Tumi was extremely polite in response to my request, but declined to participate.

The Bottom Line

A trademark search reveals that Rollaboard® was first officially trademarked in 1991 while Rollerboard® is actually owned by Rollerboard International, a skateboard company out of Wisconsin. That said, since Rollaboard® is trademarked, you can’t actually use it to refer to anything other than a Travelpro product. I think that makes “roller board” perfectly acceptable as the generic term for a wheeled carry-on suitcase. Personally, I’m fully comfortable with both terms being used interchangeably.

Where do you fall on the roller board vs. Rollaboard® debate? Tell me in the comments.

 

Photos courtesy of Travelpro.

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Comments

  1. The irony is the Travelpro rep said ‘Rollaboard’ is ‘used generically’ which is a no no to be saying if you want to keep your trademark.

  2. Hi, it’s me. I happened to be on twitter when this hit is why I saw this so fast.

    Wow, that was really some research. Very interesting, and good job for NOT accepting what is on the internet as gospel. From now on, I will refer back to this.

    IMHO, since the inventor calls it Rollaboard, that is good enough for me. Even though it is trademarked, that’s like the way we generically say ‘Coke’.

    I’m happy to give Travelpro their due. I know Travelpro is rightfully popular with the frequent flyers, although personally I’m a bit of a Delsey fan.

    BTW, I hope you take my comments as intended, with a lot of winking, not hard criticism. If I didn’t like what you wrote, I simply wouldn’t come here to begin with.

    • Wait, what? Did you mean that you call all soft drinks “Coke”? You must be from Texas. I’ve always said pop but when I went to school in San Antonio I heard people ask “What kind of Coke do you want?” That irritated me to no end. A Coke is a Coke.

      • I am from Atlanta, Georgia, and when I say “Coke” I mean a “Coca-Cola”. All others, unless called by their specific name, such as Sprite, are “soft drinks”. Call ’em a “pop” or a soda”, but unless it is a Coca-Cola, do not call it a Coke. Now, as a flight attendant, I have to figure out what to call my suitcase with wheels…

  3. “Rollerboard” is (and always has been) a mispronunciation or misspelling of Rollaboard. It’s as if someone misheard “Coke” and started calling it “Cork” and thought that somehow calling colas generically “Cork” somehow became correct. No matter how many times it’s incorrectly used, it’s still wrong. As you suggest, English is very forgiving of errors and overtime common errors can turn into correct usage. But that time is measured in many decades and not the merely 20 years or so that rolling luggage has existed. Irregardless is still wrong even though it’s used often too.

    Think about it. Roll aboard as an activity makes sense. You roll the suitcase aboard the plane. Roller board is a skateboard. If you want a generic name, call it rolling luggage or a carry on; calling it a rollerboard is just wrong.

  4. How many of you say you are going “xerox” something instead of photocopy?
    Do you say “postit” to apply to any small note stuck to a surface?

    Exactly.

    Use “rollaboard” as the generic IMO, without the capitalization.

  5. Sounds similar to a debate I have with my Southern friends here in JAX – what do you call the tool often used on a building/construction site that’s an open container supported by a wheel at the front and two legs and two handles at the back? It’s properly called a wheelbarrow: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/wheelbarrow – but here in the South they call it a wheelbarrel, not being aware of the older English word ‘barrow’. You can even google wheelbarrel and get images of wheelbarrows, so common is this misconception.

    http://blog.dictionary.com/mondegreen/ has more examples of misheard/misprounounced words and phrases…

  6. “Rollerboard” makes no sense whatsoever. You “roll” the bag on it’s wheels “aboard” the plane. It’s a roll-aboard.

  7. Because I’ve occasionally misused a word or two, I try not to prejudge those who say or write any version of “rollerboard” as lazy or ignorant. Especially when their roll-aboard luggage (which is clearly nothing like a board) isn’t overstuffed and doesn’t take two men and a small boy (or one FA) to get it installed in the overhead.

    But it’s difficult…

  8. Hey ya’ll let’s rollerboard that luggage into the back so I can find all ya’ll’s seat. I know I’m not up front with those folks in the fancy cowhide seats. Heck they even get warmed up towels to wersh them hands off before vittles.

    Too funny. It’s “Rollaboard” to generically describe, well…. roll-a-board luggage, just like it’s “Jetski” or “Waverunner” to describe personal watercraft.

    Fun blog post 🙂

  9. Seriously Tumi just give a statement. It’s a nonsense blog post that we like to read and it should’t be too much to ask that one of the manufacturers of some very nice luggage just give a comment. Could have been funny, could have been PR nonsense. Just say something if you still remember how to from that high horse.

  10. Sorry, but “roller board” (or “rollerboard”) doesn’t make sense as a suitcase. A suitcase isn’t a board. It’s a roll-aboard, meaning, roll it aboard the plane.

  11. Rollerboard is what I’ve called them for years and never read of a “roll aboard” until today on a Quora site (Why-do-people-queue-up-to-board-flights). I’m a ramp worker for a major airline plus I commute to work from LAS to PHX every week since after a major furlough and I’ve always heard rollerboard referring to my carryon. Maybe I’m going deaf but it seems like I’d know if other folks, i.e., flight attendants, pilots, luggage office were calling them rollaboards or such. It’ll still be rollerboard for me though.

  12. Excellent post that takes care of the answer once and for all.

    Surprisingly though, I’ve almost EXCLUSIVELY heard “roller board” when talking about luggage, and I have been finding time to travel the world for decades. Surprisingly, there are ENTIRE WEBSITES that make this mistake like http://rollerboardexpert.con, but as others have mentioned along with the author, the real term is “rollaboard”. Makes my blood boil! It’s like confusing “alot” with “a lot”, and yet people still do it.

    A big thank you to the author. I’ll be sending this to a few of my friends who constantly talk about their “roller boards”, LOL.

    – Ty

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