I have a pet peeve that we need to have a serious discussion about.
When you walk into a garden store and you need to find bags of lush, rich earthy substance in which to plant your garden, what do you ask for? Do you ask, "Where is the soil?" or, "Where is the dirt?"
SOIL. You are looking for soil! Call it soil! I cringe to hear people referring to active, deep, nutrient-rich earth as "dirt". Soil is alive, whereas dirt is unwanted dusty dry dirty dirt. Dirt is extra stuff that's on top of the soil sometimes, but more often it's the stuff you wash away and sweep off. Things grow in soil. And because I'm totally serious about this, here are some definitions:
From The New Oxford American Dictionary, Second Edition
a substance, such as mud or dust, that soils someone or something : his face was covered in dirt.
- loose soil or earth; the ground : the soldier sagged to the dirt.
- [usu. as adj. ] earth used to make a surface for a road, floor, or other area of ground : a dirt road.
- short for dirt track .
- informal excrement : a lawn covered in dog dirt.
- a state or quality of uncleanliness : Pittsburgh used to be renowned for the sweat and dirt of industry.
- informal gossip, esp. information about someone's activities or private life that could prove damaging if revealed : is there any dirt on Desmond?
- obscene or sordid material : we object to the dirt that television projects into homes.
- informal a worthless or contemptible person or thing : she treats him like dirt.
soil 1 |soil|
the upper layer of earth in which plants grow, a black or dark brown material typically consisting of a mixture of organic remains, clay, and rock particles : blueberries need very acid soil | figurative the Garden State has provided fertile soil for the specialty beer market.
the territory of a particular nation : the stationing of U.S. troops on Japanese soil.
ORIGIN late Middle English : from Anglo-Norman French, perhaps representing Latin solium ‘seat,’ by association with solum ‘ground.’