There may be minuscule distinctions, but the terms ‘automatic knife’ and ‘switchblade’ refer to the same kinds of knives. Knife aficionados tend to avoid the word ‘switchblade’ because it creates confusion about assisted openers, and because just like ‘silencers’ and ‘Saturday night specials,’ the term ‘switchblade’ has been used to manipulate public opinion in order to restrict the possession of scary-sounding things the public doesn’t understand. I dislike the term myself, but I still find myself using it sometimes. Here’s why . . .
We call these silly laws ‘switchblade bans’ (instead of ‘automatic knife bans’) because the laws themselves (all passed in the 1950s, after West Side Story and Rebel Without A Cause) use the word ‘switchblade.’ When we talk about the knives themselves, the favored term is ‘automatic knives.’
Just like the terms ‘silencer’ and ‘Saturday night special’, I’d be perfectly happy to see the day when ‘switchblade’ is an archaic and obsolete word. As more people are allowed to own and carry automatic knives (and as we encourage them to use the correct terminology) I think this day will come.