-WARE WORDS.

A post at separated by a common language (a blog focusing on differences between U.S. and U.K. English) points out that stemware, flatware, and silverware seem to be specifically American words, the cousins across the sea using wine glasses for the first and cutlery for the other two. To which my reaction was “I’ll be darned.” I presume silverware is at least occasionally used in the U.K. for items made of actual silver, but do non-Yanks find it odd that we refer to all the cheap metal stuff we cut our food with that way? (I must admit I myself have a hard time thinking of plastic knives and forks as “silverware,” so apparently the prefix does carry residual weight in my Sprachgefühl.)
Addendum. Reading the comments, I realize I should have mentioned that although silverware is a perfectly ordinary word used by everyone, stemware and flatware are specialized words used in the trade but not by most speakers.

Comments

  1. Yes, I think plastic knives, forks, and spoons (and sporks) are “utensils”.

  2. In NZ English, we still use cutlery and wineglasses, too. I was confused by flatware, since I’d never heard of it before. Onelook.com suggests that it may be used both for some cutlery and also for some crockery (plates and such). I had assumed the crockery definition, but had not guessed that it was another word for cutlery. We do use silverware for cutlery not actually made of silver, but the extension of meaning only stretches as far as very high-end stuff that might at least look like silver.

  3. Stuart, my (US) impression is that “flatware” is used by the businesses that sell the “silverware”, since they can’t call it silver when it’s not silver. And I wouldn’t expect it to be applied to plates.

  4. Thanks for the correction, KCinDC. On taking another look, I realised that the second defintion at onelook may well not have been referring to plates at all:
    ▸ noun: silverware eating utensils
    ▸ noun: tableware that is relatively flat and fashioned as a single piece

  5. In my family we usually called it just “silver.” Even if it was plastic.

  6. As a speaker of British English, I definitely think of silverware to mean cutlery, which may be made of silver, some sort of alloy, or plastic, as an Americanism.
    A quick google of .uk sites suggests that silverware is used in the trade as a general word to include anything made of silver, including silver photo frames, cuff links, pens, dishes, etc. etc. as well as cutlery.

  7. My feeling is that normal people don’t use “stemware” and “flatware”—as KCinDC said, those seem to be terms used by businesses making and selling the stuff.

  8. S. Weynard Sintil says:

    I use the term ‘plasticware’ for disposable utensils

  9. Hmm, I grew up using “flatware” for non-silver place-setting utensils, and “utensils” for non-place-setting items (e.g. serving spoons and forks that are not used at each place setting). No special term for plastic items — just “plastic forks and spoons”… #:^)

  10. GeneralBelly says:

    My American boyfriend is regularly confused by my Irish names for things, and the kitchen is probably the most confounding room of all.
    Being from a rural part of Ireland I grew up using the word “delph” for plates, cups, saucers, etc. We recently moved to the Netherlands and on a daytrip to Vermeer’s home in Delft I realised that my people got the name from the beautiful earthenware for which the town is famous!
    Other oddities that make my better half frown:
    Cookery book = cook book
    Press = cupboard
    Rubbish = trash
    Washing-up liquid = dish detergent
    Bono = King of Ireland… ok, that one’s a joke! :)

  11. “Rubbish = trash
    Washing-up liquid = dish detergent”
    These are both standard up here in Aotearoa, too.

  12. Canadian here, and I find “silverware” very funny for cheap steel knives and forks. Like some others here it’s cutlery (as in the cutlery drawer in the kitchen) or utensils, always much more fun if you’re speaking French and have to ask for ustensiles.

  13. A Sheffield man told me that forks and spoons are flatware, anything you cut with is cutlery…

  14. michael farris says:

    I grew up with silverware (if it’s metal) and wine glasses, stemware and flatware have a scent of retail jargon around them.
    Theoretically I suppose silverware could be extended to plastic but I think I’m more liable to say ‘plastic fork, spoon’ or _maybe_ ‘plastic silverware’.
    ‘Utensils’ seems too vague though I might say ‘eating utensils’ in the right context.
    I knew an Irish guy who used ‘press’ for wardrobe. I didn’t grow up with wardrobes and usually borrow the Polish term ‘szafa’ when I need to talk about them. Cupboards for me are only in the kitchen.
    Another weird British one (for me) is ‘saucepan’ with a schwa in the final syllable.

  15. I’m taking the 2nd edition of the Jèrriais-English Dictionary to the printers this morning (to be published in December). We’ve got “silverware” defined as “argent’tie” (things made of silver). For me, my first thought for “silverware” in English would be jugs, bowls and trophies and then anything else made of silver – or at least silver-plated.

  16. In my family we seem to eat with stickware almost as often as with flatware (although we live in a flat, and not in the sticks). Mostly we use Chinese-style roundware instead of Japanese-style pointyware, and almost never use Korean-style metalware. And we more often drink wine from rootware as from stemware, particularly if it is of a Mediterranean variety. Does retsina require a special wineglass?

  17. For me, cutlery is for eating with and utensils are for cooking with.

  18. A.J.P. Crow says:

    We had ‘table silver’ and ‘the drain service’, which was a (chipped) set of over-decorated Victorian serving plates with small slits around the edges.

  19. “Flatware, as opposed to hollow-ware, was the name given to spoons, forks and the like, bought from the silversmith, different from cutlery, which were knives and got from a cutler.”
    From http://www.mikesparrowsilver.co.uk/gallery6.htm

  20. A.J.P. Crow says:

    This has nothing to do with cutlery, but the other day my daughter (14) was able to explain to me the difference between a farrier and a blacksmith. It’s here:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farrier

  21. UK here, though I’ve lived in the US and my first wife was from the US, so doubtless my usages are not those of my forefathers.
    Anyway: “stemware” I would need to have explained, and if I heard it I’d probably say “what did you say?”; “flatware” I understand but I wouldn’t ever say; “silverware” I might say, but only for things actually made of silver.
    When I was a child we didn’t talk about “cutlery” but about “knives and forks”, and this term included spoons. On the whole I still say this.
    Wandering off the topic, a bit, my former wife took all the stainless steel when we separated, and I kept the silver (which had come from an aunt of mine). For a good many years thereafter we didn’t have any stainless steel, so we ate with the silver, which we kept in the kitchen. When our apartment was broken into in 1993 the thieves didn’t find any silver in the place they expected it to be, and didn’t think of looking in the kitchen, and we lost virtually nothing (a GameBoy, our Italian money, but not our British money, which was stored in the same place — I felt rather insulted by that –, a suitcase belonging to a Venezuelan couple who were using our apartment in our absence, and a French-English dictionary!!).
    Our neighbours were not so lucky. They were broken into at the same time, and as they had their apartment arranged as a French thief expects they lost a lot of stuff.

  22. Chris Booth says:

    I’m aware of US-American “silverware” meaning what I’d call cutlery, even if it’s not made of silver, and I find that quite amusing. “Flatware” and “stemware” I’d never heard of, and probably wouldn’t even have been able to guess at the meanings (why should a spoon, which by its nature has a bowl, be flatware?).
    Here is Scotland we also use “press” to mean a cupboard, though (at least in my idiolect) it would probably be a cupboard that it built in to an alcove in the wall rather than a free-standing construction. In a traditional Edinburgh tenement flat like mine, such an alcove wouldn’t really be deep enough to hang clothes, so you wouldn’t use it as a wardrobe (which as the word suggests is specifically a cupboard where you store clothes), but you might use it as a linen press to store sheets and pillowcases (which are quite unlikely these days to be made of linen).
    My partner used to live in Sheffield where, after dinner you would wash the pots – which meant all the objects you had used to cook and eat with. To me “pots” would mean only the pans, that is the vessels you actually cook the food in (which of course are not normally made of pottery).
    You might then put on the kettle to make a cup of tea, and a kettle is an enclosed vessel with a spout used only for boiling water (originally placed directly on the stove, nowadays more often with an electric element inside it to heat the water). Kettle to mean any large cooking vessel (as I believe is the usage in the US) would sound very archaic this side of the pond.
    What fun!

  23. Wow, I had never even though about that. For some reason I just always assumed that it came from German. In my head I always had assumed that it came from die silbertragen or something.
    I was born and raised in Ohio, and forks, butter knives, and spoons, as well as servers are silverware. Cutlery is only for knives. Stemware is obviously anything with a stem, with the exception of those squat water goblets. No one I know really used flatware.

  24. A.J.P. Crow says:

    Yes, I’d normally just say the knives and forks to cover everything. Interesting about the press. Isn’t there something that’s used in the Isles that include Britain called a fish.kettle? I know my uncle had one. I think it’s a long, fish-shaped pan with a lid.

  25. Being from a rural part of Ireland I grew up using the word “delph” for plates, cups, saucers, etc. We recently moved to the Netherlands and on a daytrip to Vermeer’s home in Delft I realised that my people got the name from the beautiful earthenware for which the town is famous!
    Fascinating—the OED has it only as a term (“delf, delft”) for “glazed earthenware made at Delf or Delft in Holland.” And from the entry I learn that Delf was the original name of the town, which was “named from the delf, delve ‘ditch’, by which name the chief canal of the town is still known… Since the paragogic t was added to the name of the town in mod.Du., it has been extended also to the English word, probably with the notion that delf was a corruption.” So your “delph” is a more historically accurate form than Delft!
    And I have learned a new word, which I probably learned and forgot decades ago: paragogic means “Of a sound or letter: added to a word by paragoge,” paragoge being “The addition of a letter or syllable to a word, either in the course of a word’s historical development, or (in certain languages, such as Hebrew) to add emphasis or modify the meaning.”

  26. A.J.P. Crow says:

    Perhaps if more people kept their British money in a kitchen drawer there wouldn’t be a bank crisis (just a suggestion).

  27. In Ireland you can “wash the ware”, = GB “do the washing-up”, = Athel’s Sheffield chum’s “wash the pots”

  28. I much prefer the American ‘dishwasher’ to the British ‘washing-up machine’, though maybe they don’t use that anymore.

  29. Would some people laugh if I say that the first “-ware” word that comes to my mind is “sanitaryware”? (But I always doubt whether this is a creation on my part, whether it should be written with a hyphen or in two separated words and all other kind of sh…) The second is Tūpperware.
    ———————–
    Your comment could not be submitted due to questionable content: Tūpperware
    Ben ça alors !

  30. Come on, tuepperware? It is pretty questionable.
    Sanitary ware, that’s toilet bowls isn’t it? Or is it Tampax?

  31. Another Canadian for cutlery here. When I was in the US and told my USian roommate that I could bring the cutlery, she had no idea what I meant and assumed I was bringing a nice set of knives.
    Utensils are for cooking with, I guess, but I don’t usually refer to them in the aggregate. I had no idea what flatware was until I read this post. I would say utensils for forks and spoons etc before silverware, if forced to.

  32. John Emerson says:

    So “ditchware” would be glazed pottery, if we chose to translate.

  33. John Emerson says:

    So “ditchware” would be glazed pottery, if we chose to translate.

  34. @Chris Booth
    In the U.S. Midwest and New England, a kettle is almost exclusively the enclosed pot for boiling water. I’ve seen fish kettle and washkettle too, but only in writing and never in person, so couldn’t swear to their ever having been in common use in this country.

  35. “Silverware” is the generic for me. I grew up saying “plastic silverware” and it’s no weirder than, say, “blueprint” for things that aren’t blue, or “dialing” the phone by pushing buttons.

  36. To His Nless Marsjesty, thanks for that farrier/blacksmith elucidation. I had no idea that there was a difference. As a token of my gratitude, I should warn you that some are encouraging a move on your realm

  37. Snow on Mars, yes, and now ice skating rinks.
    http://www.breitbart.com/article.php?id=080930172328.49u1qw9x&show_article=1
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20080929/sc_nm/us_mars_phoenix_1
    Can a Martian concession stand be far away? Oh, and next a microphone–will we hear the Martian language or the music of the spheres?

  38. Siganus Sutor says:

    A.J.P.C.: Sanitary ware, that’s toilet bowls isn’t it? Or is it Tampax?
    Never heard the second one being referred to as “sanitary ware”. Sanitary pad or sanitary-something-else-that-I-don’t-use, yes, but I am not aware that a -ware word could be used in this case. (However, being far from an expert on the subject, I may be wrong.) For me sanitaryware materialises in the form of bidets — not the one with hooves —, wash hand basins and the like.
     
     
    LH: but do non-Yanks find it odd that we refer to all the cheap metal stuff we cut our food with that way?
    Not that much, and all the less so when you live in a place where people give the pompous name “marble” to cheap ceramic tiles.

  39. people give the pompous name “marble” to cheap ceramic tiles
    Can you expand on this, please?
    I can see I’m soon going to have make Mars a registered trademark.

  40. Siganus Sutor says:

    Why do you want me to elaborate on marble-like ceramics? Do you want to start a flooring business in Kirkenes (which might be as cold as Uranus on a bad day)? It just happens that Martians, at least most of them, like these shiny floor finishes — li bizin glacé couma miroir — that look like polished marble. They also like to call canned pilchards “salmon”, which they would obviously eat using all the available argenterie, be it made of plastic.

  41. Fish kettles are not so exotic, they are in stock at any good kitchenware in London, at least. PONe can’t cook a fresh salmon without one….
    And we have a linen press, a tall free-standing mahogany cupboard (now used for booze and glasses), bought and imported from Scotland at vast expense and deliverd by the oldest delivery company in the world (claim), the Edninburgh Shore Porters, 510 years in business
    http://www.shoreporters.com/shore-porters-news-detail.php?story=6
    Now that might start another thread …

  42. One can’t cook a fresh salmon without one …

  43. There’s cutlery and there’s crockery and there’s glasses. Each, obviously, has various sub-genres. They all go on the table (which, incidentally, is *set* not *laid* because of the influence of the ranting prescriptivist stepmother).
    Utensils are divided – kitchen utensils are confined to the business end of the kitchen with the pots and pans (the two are never separated and should never appear on the table in polite company) while eating utensils = cutlery. My father, however, refers to them as “eating irons” but has never mentioned “cooking irons”, which may be because he does not cook. He is in charge of the “fire irons”. (And at this point I think I ought to mention, AJP, that the latter tools are often made by blacksmiths as, according to wikipeida, are kitchen utensils. But not by farriers.)
    Silverware is the name employed by department stores to indicate the area in the shop which peddles goods made of silver or silver-plated objects and includes picture frames, vanity sets and associated gewgaws.
    Tableware is the name employed by department stores to indicate the area in the shop which peddles goods which go on tables. If you search google UK there are 1 million + hits for the term (gUKhits =+1M) whereas “the web” returns 19.5 million. I’m not sure whether it is safe to assume from this that the term is a US import.
    A fish kettle is indeed a stovetop vessel of metal considerably longer than it is wide specifically designed for the poaching of fish, which may or may not have been poached. The results, whatever the legal origin of the creature, are delicious.
    I’ve never heard the term “washing-up machine” used for “dishwasher” anywhere, including Britain.

  44. @A.J.P Cow
    Are you sure that the term was “washing-up machine”? I’ve never heard this. We do use the term “washing machine” for a machine that washes clothes.

  45. You lot aren’t as old as I am, and this confirms my suspicion that the name has passed on. I’m 55 and haven’t lived in England since 1976. In those days it was called (I swear) a washing-up machine; but not very often, because nobody had one except people like Lady Penelope, who probably kept one in that pink Rolls Royce.

  46. I’m even older than A.J.P., if that’s possible, and I confirm his claim that “washing-up machine” was once the current term in the UK.

  47. I too am older than A.J.P., but never having lived in the U.K., I can neither confirm nor deny the use of the term. I do, however, implicitly trust the King of Mars.

  48. Siganus Sutor says:

    Never fully trust a Martian, whatever his or her age. However, His (relatively new) Majesty may be from a foreign, transneptunian dynasty.
    (It is probably worth pointing out that royal commentators have all been muzzled, God knows why.)
    It sounds weird to me too that the machine to wash dishes had the same name as the machine to wash clothes, the more so since the latter was invented before the former as far as I know.

  49. In my (US, b. 1964) experience, the machine that washes is a “dishwasher” (which can also refer to a person working at a restaurant), while a plain “washer” or “washing machine” is the one that washes clothes.

  50. Er, “the machine that washes *dishes*”, that is.

  51. My washer of dishes is called Lilian.

  52. Siganus, it’s “washing machine” vs “washing-up machine. A subtle difference there, you see. Besides, we never had one so there was no confusion. As students, we let the dirty dishes pile up and then we moved.
    There was a phrase, ‘as dull as dishwater’. I think it’s no longer used, nobody much sees dishwater any more.

  53. mollymooly says:

    “washing-up machine” is a delightful phrase. Next time I write a screenplay set in a well-to-do area of 1960s Blighty I will be sure to include it.

  54. Mark Etherton says:

    Press/cupboard: when I was in the Foreign Office (until 4 years ago) the lockable steel cupboards in which files and papers were kept were called presses. I also see a distinction between a linen cupboard (or airing cupboard), which is built in to the wall, and a linen press, which is a free-standing item of furniture.
    washing-up machine: still in use in my family in London
    Isn’t it “dull as ditchwater”, not “dishwater”? I’ve never been able to understand why, since ditchwater is presumably teeming with interesting microscopic life.

  55. Isn’t it “dull as ditchwater”, not “dishwater”?
    “Dull as dishwater” is the version most used here in Aotearoa, probably because “shwa” is our only vowel.

  56. I’ll be darned. I only knew the “dishwater” variant, but the OED has no record of it, whereas it has the other from 1844 (W. H. MAXWELL Sports & Adv. Scotl. 17 “The people.. are as ‘dull as ditch-water’”). I guess it got transformed on its way to America.

  57. Siganus Sutor says:

    I guess it got transformed on its way to America.
    Across the ditch? (Or is it a pond?)
     
     
    it’s “washing machine” vs “washing-up machine. A subtle difference there, you see.
    Yes, now I see. Sorry. Once a commentator said to me that, like a bull before a bull fight, I had Vaseline* on my eyes. She was probably right.
     
     
    * Always with a capital V- in English?

  58. A.J.P. Crow says:

    I knew both, but there wasn’t much point in putting ditchwater in this post, I thought. Anyway, neither of them makes any sense; water is shiny, so even though it’s the other meaning of dull it’s an analogy that bites itself in the arse or ass.
    The other -ware word I’m surprised to see unmentioned so far is sortware. WARNING: Anecdotal so-called evidence ahead: Until about 1980 this word didn’t exist except as a joke word. There was hardware, but software was as ‘day-life’ might be to night-life, or as ‘light-metal’ might be to heavy-metal — a weird phrase with no real meaning, in other words.

  59. A.J.P. Crown says:

    And obviously that should say software, not sortware.

  60. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Ah, there you are Siganus. I’m going try and find a reason why I haven’t responded to your Père Ubu now…

  61. Siganus Sutor says:

    PS — “As clear as dish- or ditch- water”
    Since Vaseline is said to come from German wasser (=water) + Greek έλαιον (=oil), since Vaseline is therefore water, I presume we could also have a third variant: “as dull as Vaseline”. No?
    Okay, okay, it’s no. No need to rub it in.

  62. And obviously that should say software, not sortware.
    Rats, I was looking forward to learning about sortware.

  63. Siganus Sutor says:

    I’m going try and find a reason why I haven’t responded to your Père Ubu now…
    Merdre…
    Merdre?

  64. Siganus Sutor says:

    Rats, I was looking forward to learning about sortware.
    I don’t know much (either) about sortware but just in case you want to see something about snortware, it’s there.
     
     
    A long time ago I think I was wondering why software was not supposed to be plural (if this has ever been true). Imagine you have both Photoshop and Autocad on a CD, won’t you be able to install these two softwares on your computer?

  65. Siganus Sutor says:

    Hem, by the way, is it considered cochon to show groins on Language Hat?

  66. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Imagine you have both Photoshop and Autocad on a CD
    Ha, ha, ha! I’m really trying to imagine this, but I can’t. You can’t even install Autocad on a Mac any more. I keep an enormous great dusty old pc just for playing with my Autocad files. Then I print them and scan them into Photoshop on the beautiful Mac. I’m almost ready to try Archicad, but not quite.
    As for softwares it’s like hardware, i.e. pieces of hardware. Don’t ask me why, I’m sure Language and Marie-Lucie can tell us. How about mouses, or ‘mice’ as they used to be called?

  67. I would say I had installed two dollops, or snorts, of software.

  68. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Ooh, I like the French Wiktionaire, they even have anagrammes. Did you see that French groin in Danish is øf, wouldn’t that sound like oeuf to you?

  69. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Yeah, we always say dollops of software, they don’t say snorts in Norway.
    That’s some pig, as E.B. White (eek!) would say. They make good pets.

  70. mouses and mice:
    In computer ads, they are still ‘mice’.
    Vaseline:
    Vaseline is a brand name, petroleum jelly is the generic name.
    I was wondering why software was not supposed to be plural
    Software is a non-count noun, like water, sand, rice, literature…
    If you want to count them you have to put them into something that is a count noun, glasses of water, buckets of sand, grains of rice, books of literature. You can count software if it is in the form of programs or CDs.
    BTW has anyone else noticed that back in the 70′s you used to have to put in a lot more apostrophes in words like ‘CD’s’, but in maybe the 90s or so they starting leaving them out?

  71. A.J.P. Crown says:

    It was something to do with the packaging.

  72. marie-lucie says:

    I think that Nijma put it very well.

  73. When I do this lesson in the classroom (count and non-count nouns) I first inform the students that Animalitos are very important to learning English and I pass out animal crackers. They exchange glances, but they say nothing. Then I hold up a little cookie and I ask if they can count the cookies. They say yes. We count the cookies together as I eat them. I explain how I am willing to make such sacrifices to help my students learn English. They giggle. (This is not just silliness–an emotional connection helps retention. Think of the languages you have studied and how easy it was to remember the food words.)
    Then I take a cup of coffee and tip it like I’m going to pour it on the floor. I ask if they can count the coffee and they say no. In the Middle East you can pour some of your bottled water on the floor through your fingers and it will evaporate before you can walk to the other side of the blackboard.
    After counting the cookies and not being able to count the beverages, they understand the concept of count and non-count nouns perfectly and can finish the rest of the lesson with complete confidence.

  74. Nijma, does that help them understand why “rice” and “corn” are mass nouns, while “oats” and “peas” are plural (though “pease” wasn’t)?

  75. LH: I guess it got transformed on its way to America.
    Siganus: Across the ditch? (Or is it a pond?)

    I wonder, then, how we ended up with the dishwater version. The pond it had to cross to get here is much bigger than that slightly oversized lake between America and Europe, after all. We do call The Tasman “the ditch”, though.

  76. “oats” and “peas” are plural
    Where I come from you can have one pea or one bean or one lentil, but not one oat.
    Also here you can have “a corn” but on your toe, not on your dinner plate.
    too much corn-
    too much rice-
    too much oats-
    too many peas-

  77. marie-lucie says:

    In crossword puzzles they sometimes have “oat”, usually cued as ‘bit of cereal’.
    “dishwater”: before the advent of modern dishwashing liquids and dishwashers, dirty dishes were placed in a washbasin with boiling water, then after the water had cooled a little they were scrubbed with an instrument resembling a long-handled brush or miniature mop. In my grandparents’ youth in a rural area, after the dishes were done the water left in the washbasin, now enriched with all the food scraps from the dishes (and yet unpolluted by strong chemicals), was not thrown away but used to prepare a kind of thick soup for the family dog or pig (the latter raised to be slaughtered in the fall). In time of food shortages the same food prepared with dishwater would probably have been served to the humans as well.

  78. A.J.P. Crown says:

    you can pour some of your bottled water on the floor through your fingers and it will evaporate before you can walk to the other side of the blackboard.
    In time of food shortages the same food prepared with dishwater would probably have been served to the humans as well.

    Unbelievable.
    ‘Unbelievable’ and ‘hard to believe’ have swapped meanings. ‘That’s unbelievable’ means at most that it’s hard to believe, while ‘I find that hard to believe’ is meant to imply that it’s unbelievable.

  79. Sorry, I messed up my italics.

  80. Siganus Sutor says:

    Strange to note that “mass” itself is not a mass noun, since it is very often said that “the masses of Uranus and Mars are nowhere close to each other”.

  81. In crossword puzzles they sometimes have “oat”, usually cued as ‘bit of cereal’.
    as an adjective? oat cereal, oat bran, oat straw?

  82. Unbelievable.
    Walk through the desert in 95 degree heat and you will need no deodorant. Your skin will be completely dry. But not because you aren’t losing water through perspiration. That’s why you carry a water bottle. That’s why when you arrive at your destination, your hostess will have one of her daughters immediately pour you one of those tiny glasses of tea with sugar. They’re supposed to wait three days before asking a guest their particulars, but in fact they only wait until after the first glass of tea.

  83. food prepared with dishwater would probably have been served to the humans
    I was well acquainted with two midwestern farms. In both they used soap to wash dishes. Soap has been used in this country since colonial times and can be made at home with animal fat and lye. I remember my mother judging homemade soap at a county fair in Minnesota. If you ask anyone who was in the service, they will tell you soap left on dishes will cause an unpleasant and rushed trip to the bathroom, so how can you eat something with soap in it?
    Both farms did have a slop pail for scraps that went to the cats and dog. There was one huge sink with a wash basin or two, and the small pail or bowl next to them inside the sink. All the plates got scraped into the container and the result mixed with bread crusts and heels and I think maybe milk too, and put outside in the yard but inside the fence that surrounded the house area. Someone would call the animals in a ritual call (was it a trilled kitikitikitikiti or soo-EE soo-EE sooey, sooey, SOOey)– I think the latter was for pigs at a different farm–pigs are hard to raise) in a voice loud enough to hear as far as ‘the crick’, but the animals were already there. One of the farms had milk cows and the cats all knew when it was milking time.

  84. marie-lucie says:

    I neglected to say that my recollection of the secondary use dishwater was not from the hygiene-conscious American midwest but from a rural area of Southern France (where I am sure modern hygiene is now practiced). Soap was definitely not used for dishes, hence the dishwater was still good as a base for pig food.

  85. The tradtional use of “soo-EE soo-EE sooey, sooey, SOOey” as a call for pigs extends even here to Aotearoa. When I started teaching myeslf Hindi I was amused by the coincidence that the Hindi word for “pig” is सूअर, which starts with the same initial syllable.

  86. How is that pronounced in English, Stuart?

  87. A.J.P. Crown says:

    the dishwater was still good as a base for pig food
    Yes, pigs will consume many things, but it was the bit about humans eating a dishwater-based soup that really stopped me in my tracks. I didn’t even know they had had food shortages in Southern France within living memory.

  88. e Hindi word for “pig” is सूअर, which starts with the same initial syllable.
    Posted by Stuart at October 3, 2008 04:45 PM
    How is that pronounced in English, Stuart?

    Sorry about that. I got mentally distracted by the fact that सूअर sounds more like “soo-ey” if it’s pronounced non-rhotically (as here in NZ), than if pronounced properly, and so I forgot to transliterate. If it’s said correctly, it is closely analogous to a rhotic pronunciation of sewer. That is, a repository for excrement, not a tailor or dressmaker. Perhaps “sue-er” in the sense of “one who initiates litigation” would be another facsimile. Or maybe I really do have to learn IPA.
    My mental meanderings got me wondering about the common complaint among older Punjabis here that Kiwi-born desi kids have atrocious Punjabi pronunciation. Apart from the Kiwi vowels, it occurred to me that the pervasive non-rhoticism could also be part of that problem. The Indic languages have several types of “r”, but the Punjabi kids are surrounded from kindergarten on by other kids who wouldn’t know an “r” if it bit them on the ahse.

  89. David Marjanović says:

    Wow, I had never even though about that. For some reason I just always assumed that it came from German. In my head I always had assumed that it came from die silbertragen or something.

    Uh… what?
    Geschirr: plates, bowls, pans, kettles, and so on.
    Besteck: spoons, forks, knives.
    Silberbesteck: Besteck made of silver and silver only.
    Incidentally, Sezierbesteck: set of scalpels, needles and whatnots used for dissecting.
    No special term for glasses in general or wine glasses.

    Across the ditch? (Or is it a pond?)

    Actually, ditch is the same word as German Teich, right? Because that means “pond”. =8-)

  90. David Marjanović says:

    Or maybe I really do have to learn IPA.

    Start here.

  91. Thanks for the IPA link, David. On my list of language-related links, there are probably half-a-dozen or so IPA links, which has often amused me, given my antipathy to the idea of learning it.

  92. A.J.P. Crown says:

    David Marjanović, where have you been? Go back to the late September post, Good Things From Down Under, where there are unresolved questions to be grappled with.

  93. Oops.

  94. marie-lucie says:

    I didn’t even know they had had food shortages in Southern France within living memory.
    There are still some very poor areas there. And under the German occupation most of the country had food shortages, especially in places where too little food could be grown locally.

  95. I was trying to explain the difference between an evening gown and a nightgown to my students tonight, and it occurred to me that we have evening wear but when was the last time you heard someone talk about night wear?

  96. Siganus Sutor says:

    Nijma: we have evening wear but when was the last time you heard someone talk about night wear?
    I think the last time was when the wife of some cousin mentioned her “kilot dormi” (litterally “culotte pour dormir”, i.e. sleeping panties). According to her, a kilot do:mi had to be (an?) old panties* with very loose elastics.
     
     
    * We mentioned the thingies that come in large quantities but can’t be plural. What about those singular objects that always take the mark of the plural? To me “the shorts I’m wearing” make no more sense than “the two software I have installed”. (No need to say that I never wear two shorts on top of each other. Or shall I say “four shorts”?)

  97. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    Again, Language uses dollop: ‘I’m wearing a dollop of shorts’.

  98. Sigan*s, that’s WAY too much information.
    I tried to explain the difference to the students as the same as between “good evening” which means “hello” and “good night”, which means “goodbye”. A nightgown is for sleep. An evening gown is for going out. Then I had to explain out.
    Yes, the words like glasses and pants (and the words for unmentionables) that sound like plurals are treated grammatically as plurals in English, but this is intuitive for my Hispanic students as they also use lentes and pantalones with plural forms of verbs.
    Maybe it was a bit off-topic trying to sneak in a comment about -wear words in a post about -ware words.
    But since I already mentioned evening wear and night wear, maybe I could also bring up underwear which you an say in polite company (sort of) and outerwear. Or sportswear and couch potato wear, which as far as I’m concerned is the same thing.

  99. marie-lucie says:

    Siganus, you would say “a pair” of pants, shorts, etc., just like “a pair of socks”. After all, you put them on one leg or foot at a time.
    This reminds me of an anecdote my father had learned secondhand but told us often. My father started his teaching career in a secondary school in a small town, replacing a man who had just retired after spending his entire career in the same school. My parents became good friends with the older couple, who were like grandparents to me when I was very small. The old teacher was quite a raconteur and regaled my parents with extremely funny anecdotes about the school and the unbelievable succession of crazy characters who had been teachers there. One of them always wore the same old overcoat, which he never took off, indoors and out, rain or shine, summer and winter, for years on end. Somehow it was eventually discovered that his pants consisted of two pant legs hanging from his belt with strings! A pair of pants indeed.

  100. John Emerson says:

    I presented :That was no lady, that was my wife” to my Chinese students in Taiwan. IIRC they picked up on it pretty well; that kind play is fairly universal, I think. The ambiguities of “lady” are fun.

  101. John Emerson says:

    I presented :That was no lady, that was my wife” to my Chinese students in Taiwan. IIRC they picked up on it pretty well; that kind play is fairly universal, I think. The ambiguities of “lady” are fun.

  102. Siganus Sutor says:

    Marie-Lucie: After all, you put them [pants] on one leg or foot at a time.
    Now I understand why I never wear any jackets. But I do wear shirts from time to time though.
    In French it used to be pantalons for the one piece of garment that men wore (never women, unless it was an underwear). But thanks to some “Cartesian” spirit, it became pantalon, in the singular, even when worn by ordinary two-legged simians. In (fashion) line with this, that “pantacourt” created in the sixties is singular as well. The braies (plural) are a bit out of fashion for the time being — but never know what might happen.
    Your separate pair of pants story is quite amusing. Wasn’t it said that some French TV newscasters didn’t wear any pants at all (or came to the broadcasting studio wearing charentaises) since only their torso would appear above the desk?

  103. Siganus Sutor says:

    Nijma, as far as I know, panties are not very big, not any more, and one must have a lot of imagination these days to see where the pair lies — especially with the sudden and malign apparition of indefinite articles called “strings”. So, why keep the plural?
    Underwear vs. outwear: I think things are getting pretty mixed nowadays. Whether for boys or girls, the underside is getting more and more outside, be it in the form of boxers (always plural, again!) or strings. A topological mind boggle for staunch conservatives like me.

  104. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    Lovely story, I don’t think teachers are anywhere near so eccentric in their appearance as they were 40 or more years ago.
    There is, or was, a usage by people who sell trousers in the New York fashion world: a pant, as in ‘Are you looking for a checked pant or a striped pant?’

  105. John Emerson says:

    Machado’s “Juan de Mairena”, which I highly recommend, is about an eccentric old schoolteacher. One of his eccentricities was to wear the some old overcoat winter and summer. Here’s an excerpt I have on my computer:

    Mairena was — notwithstanding his angelic appearance — basically rather ill-tempered. From time to time he would receive a visit from some paterfamilias complaining, not about the fact that his son had been flunked, but about the casualness of Mairena’s examination process. An angry scene, albeit a brief one, would inevitably occur:
    “Is it enough for you just to look at a boy in order to flunk him?” the visitor would ask, throwing his arms wide in feigned astonishment.
    Mairena would answer, red-faced and banging the floor with his cane, “I don’t even have to do that much. I just have to look at his father!”

  106. John Emerson says:

    Machado’s “Juan de Mairena”, which I highly recommend, is about an eccentric old schoolteacher. One of his eccentricities was to wear the some old overcoat winter and summer. Here’s an excerpt I have on my computer:

    Mairena was — notwithstanding his angelic appearance — basically rather ill-tempered. From time to time he would receive a visit from some paterfamilias complaining, not about the fact that his son had been flunked, but about the casualness of Mairena’s examination process. An angry scene, albeit a brief one, would inevitably occur:
    “Is it enough for you just to look at a boy in order to flunk him?” the visitor would ask, throwing his arms wide in feigned astonishment.
    Mairena would answer, red-faced and banging the floor with his cane, “I don’t even have to do that much. I just have to look at his father!”

  107. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I’ve now finally got it via Amazon. It’s quite hard to get hold of; they had a quite acceptable German edition, but the only English one is a paperback from ’63. Thanks, John.

  108. Siganus Sutor says:

    indefinite articles called “strings”
    I’ve learned something last night: in English that article of clothing isn’t called “string” (as I thought). That’s its name in French only. In English it’s called “G-string”. Okay, noted, but what’s that G- for?

  109. Siganus, the point I am trying to make is that “panties” is not a word you can use in polite company, especially with someone of the opposite sex, even if on the other side of the world. It’s just not okay.
    That said, I talk about anything and everything in the classroom. Swear words too, although I erase them quickly. It is better for a student to ask a question in class where no one will laugh at them than to be embarrassed on the street. Last week’s beginners’ lesson was about exactly that kind of unmentionables. After all, immigrants have to buy underwear too. The book already has the word ‘panties’ with a sketch, so I was off the hook with that one. But no underwear pictures for men, so I did a quick blackboard sketch, and explained that American men wear either boxers or briefs but not both.
    The words used as plurals are
    ~panties
    ~shorts
    ~boxers
    I don’t know what kind of underwear a “string” might be, but I’m afraid to find out. The last time I was in Victoria’s Secret they had something called a “thong”, but bikinis were the most plentiful. (This is a cold climate and CYA is good sartorial as well as political advice.) There is also something called “boyshorts” which seem to be fairly popular. So you can add
    ~boyshorts
    to the list of plurals. Bikini and thong would be singular.

  110. G-string
    Not a common article. This is a, ahem, costume for the um, er, stage.
    I forgot to mention “underpants”. This can be used for either male or female underwear and is not such a risqué word. You would have “a pair of underpants”.

  111. “G-string
    Not a common article. This is a, ahem, costume for the um, er, stage.”
    It’s not the most common form of underwear here, but is a long, long way from being uncommon, and here at least has long shed any of the connotations implied by your comment above. Then again, so has “panties”.

  112. marie-lucie says:

    I believe that the French “string” is the same as the English “thong” in its meaning of skimpy female underwear.

  113. Siganus, I wouldn’t use the word panties if I were you. Many people find it slightly creepy. I think the reason is that it was formerly a word used more in pornography than in a department store and although it is used there nowadays, that prior association lingers.

  114. “panties”=creepy
    Exactly.
    The word is used among women only. And only when you are talking about shopping or laundry. Men have no proper, legitimate reason to use the word around women. And I certainly don’t want my male students getting weird with me. The word “thong” only comes up in my all female classes with much giggling and fast Spanish that they refuse to translate.
    “G-string” is not used in proper conversation at all. You can look in wiki for the difference between thong and G-string, but the larger difference is in usage. You can say “thong” in front of my mother. You cannot say “G-string” to my mother. If you know too much about “G-string”, this labels you as someone who has been in a place that no decent male would go in, and therefore not a good person to have a conversation with.

  115. Siganus Sutor says:

    What Nijma and Crown are saying about the word “panties” is very surprising to me. For me it was a word little girls would use instead of the more serious “underwear”. Nowhere in the dictionary is it said that it is informal or derogatory or belongs to slang. Collins says “Plural noun. A pair women’s or children’s underpants.” Nothing else (while a “guy” and “Kiwi” for example are considered “informal”). Harrap’s translate “panties” by “(petite) culotte”, “a pair of panties” by “un slip, une culotte”. The only special mention for an expression containing this word is: “American Familiar Humorous. Don’t get your panties in a wad! (don’t panic) Ne t’affole pas!” I don’t see anything bad in it.
    That’s for the books. Except for a short while, I have never lived in an English-speaking country, but Mrs Sutor grew up in such a place. And she seemed very surprised too when I said to her that the word “panties” could have a bad connotation attached to it.
    So, together with Stuart and my wife would I be the only one to see nothing wrong whatsoever with the word “panties”?

  116. Siganus Sutor says:

    female underwear
    I think I’ll never get used to the English use of the word female, and every time it reminds me of that article written by an Australian journalist and titled “I’m not a female, hear me roar!”

  117. John Emerson says:

    Don’t get your panties in a wad! Not used by the older generation or by the most decent folk.
    “Panties” used straightforwardly would be overfamiliar if someone you didn’t know well was present, especially a woman, especially someone older, especially someone socially conservative.
    There may have been a change in the usage of the word since pornography became rife.

  118. John Emerson says:

    Don’t get your panties in a wad! Not used by the older generation or by the most decent folk.
    “Panties” used straightforwardly would be overfamiliar if someone you didn’t know well was present, especially a woman, especially someone older, especially someone socially conservative.
    There may have been a change in the usage of the word since pornography became rife.

  119. John Emerson:
    overfamiliar
    Spot on. This is an example of a “trigger word” or “flame bait” and is grossly insulting. It’s a rude way of dismissing someone’s opinion without offering a reason or explanation, basically an ad hominem attack.
    Hmmm, sudden interest in little girls’ undergarments….? Perhaps our Mr. Siganus is a troll.

  120. So, together with Stuart and my wife would I be the only one to see nothing wrong whatsoever with the word “panties”?
    Apparently: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004835.html
    I think John Emerson’s right in that it’s overfamiliar for being sexual — a dirty-talk word, really, probably because of all the porn. It makes sense if you think about it: compare how often a man has reason to say “panties” in a neutral sense with the ubiquity of unimaginative sex talk and it almost seems inevitable (especially when you consider which usages resonate more) for “panties” to connote not innocent catalogues but stuff that polite folk don’t discuss with strangers.

  121. I think that a clarification is in order. I stand by my statement that “panties” has no particular scoial stigma here in Zild, but that doesn’t mean it would be the first word I’d use if I was needing a noun for female underwear. If I heard it used it would not raise an eyebrow, but then the reality is that topic is most unlikely to come up with strangers anyway, except in a store. If I were talking to a lingerie salesperson, I would not feel uncomfortable using or hearing the word.

  122. I agree with both John and Stuart: I find the word overfamiliar for general use with strangers, but I would have no hesitation in using it with a lingerie salesperson and would not feel I was using a naughty word. But I may not have been sufficiently exposed to modern porn. (I don’t think there was much talk of “panties” in My Life and Loves…)
    Incidentally, this is one of the odder derails I’ve seen lately.

  123. John Emerson says:

    Siganus is wonderful and a regular here, lest there be any doubt, and I don’t think that “panties” is inappropriate here.

  124. John Emerson says:

    Siganus is wonderful and a regular here, lest there be any doubt, and I don’t think that “panties” is inappropriate here.

  125. Siganus Sutor says:

    Perhaps our Mr. Siganus is a troll.
    My giddy aunt! I thought Language Hat was a place were we could discuss language questions, including connotations and meanings associated with words, and on all subjects. (I remember a post about menstruations on another language blog. Maybe it was somehow enticing, but everybody (mostly French) was having great fun discussing the matter, and we all learned a lot of things.)
    Well, do I need to say that underwear is not something I would discuss with the first person I met on the street? But if one of my daughters ever said that she was looking for the p… (you’re making me shy all of a sudden), looking for the underwear she has hanged on the washing line, not a split second would I be tempted to tell her not to use this word. For me it was even more appropriate than using “underwear”, which I would tend to regard as a bit too formal inside the family, too “as per the books”, too technical if you will, like you wouldn’t use the exact definition of the dictionary to talk of certain parts of the body but would use “little words” instead. I don’t see the least atom of pornography, or even eroticism, in this p-word. I mean, no more than mentioning a bra (or boxers by women) if the subject arises in the conversation — obviously with someone you know because you would simply not be discussing that with a perfect stranger. (Except if you were a French President who thought it would do your image some good if you allowed young people to ask you questions in front of cameras and if one of them asked you if you preferred boxers or underpants.)
    I’m quite surprised by some reactions here. I was just asking questions about something I didn’t understand. It seems therefore that this word shouldn’t be used, even among acquaintances. (I still don’t understand how my wife doesn’t see/feel what you are saying. Maybe she was out of touch with some aspects of the world. She wasn’t raised in a convent though.) Well, okay, a certain number of people have given their thoughts, and I should watch my tongue now.
    Thanks for you last comment John. (Ouf…)

  126. If Mr. Signatus was a native English speaker the conversation would have been over a looooooong time ago.
    I am only too well aware of the miscommunication possible between cultures. I don’t want to attribute prurient undertones or suggestiveness where none was intended. But we all know what happened when a certain Monica had a ‘perfectly innocent’ conversation about her thong where she was working as an intern.
    I’m not going to pretend something is appropriate when it’s not. If I said something in another language that could be taken in the wrong way or interpreted as slutty, I would certainly want to know about it.
    I don’t know Mr. Siganus and I have no idea whether he was trying to be suggestive. I will wait to see what he says.

  127. Siganus Sutor says:

    It’s a rude way of dismissing someone’s opinion without offering a reason or explanation, basically an ad hominem attack.
    Nijma, I really don’t understand this part. Am I supposed to have attacked somebody? If yes, who?

  128. Ah, there is our Mr. Siganus now. And what do you know, he’s not a troll after all and we’re all vindicated.

  129. an ad hominem attack
    “panties-in-a-twist” is a crude blogging insult, not an emotionally neutral slang expression. You see it on political blogs.

  130. Jesus. For the record, before I go to bed, I was just musing about panties earlier — purely in the abstract. I didn’t imagine Siganus had actually offended anyone.
    Siganus is wonderful and a regular here, lest there be any doubt
    Certainly not as far as I’m concerned. The doubt, that is.

  131. I was thoroughly bewildered by the “troll” label being applied to Siganus, but I will confine my reply to a point of language:
    If Mr. Signatus was a native English speaker the conversation would have been over a looooooong time ago
    Not necessarily. The vehemence of your posts and the absence of any acknowledgement that what may be true for your idiolect and social environment may not be universally true among all English speakers make it easy to see a situation in which a native English speaker could likewise upset you and be labelled a troll. If the native English speaker’s variant was sufficiently different from yours, they could easily trigger a similar reaction by asking a question about a word or usage that you find offensive. Indian English springs to mind as a good example. Its vocabulary and usage are quite different from US English in many ways, and having experienced for myself the confusion that can arise between Indian English and other variants, I can easily imagine a native English speaker still managing to incur your ire the way Siganus did. So too could native speakers of Aus/NZ English if they used words that are not considered vulgar or profane in those variants, but which are shibboleths in US English.

  132. the conversation would have been over
    Yes, it would have.
    Unless I was here for some reason other than language.
    Let me ask you this, Stuart. If you were in a room full of gay men and one of them wanted to discuss male undergarments in all their variations of skimpiness at length, wouldn’t you be just a teeny bit creeped out? Unless maybe you already knew them really well? Unless it’s really true what the Ozzies and Kiwis say about each other…
    I notice the other female posters are curiously silent on this post all of a sudden like. Maybe they are busy checking their investments today.
    Anyhow it was good of everyone to vouch for Mr. Siganus so strongly. I was 90% sure he was okay–if I really thought he was indecent, I certainly wouldn’t have engaged for so long.
    BTW, a better word for the sleepwear Mr. Siganus was trying to describe would be “bottoms”–as in “pajama bottoms”. It’s nicely generic and gender neutral. In which case you would be putting on a “pair of” pajamas and also a “pair of” pajama bottoms. The pajama top would be singular. The stretch material around the top is “elastic” not “elastics”, it’s another non-count noun.

  133. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma, I am not sure what you meant by “a troll” except that it seems to be a particularly negative term. if you want to indicate that you prefer to keep a certain social distance from the so-called “troll” you should at least call him Mr. Sutor, not Mr. Siganus. I personally don’t see anything unnerving in what Mr. Sutor, or our esteemed friend Siganus, or any of the other male contributors (as far as I can tell) has written.
    For the record, I was taking time off from checking my investments (a nice new euphemism to remember) to think of what word(s) I would use in English if I did need to mention the items in question, e.g. in order to replenish my wardrobe – I could not even remember what is written on the packages they are sold in, but none of the words mentioned in the previous discussion seem taboo to me (living in English Canada).

  134. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Nijma, if you feel that strongly about panties you really oughtn’t to throw the word troll about. Luckily (?) it was about someone whose reputation as a scholar and a gentleman goes back way beyond yours and mine, if we have one at all, so it is a laughable accusation. However, I was (elsewhere) once called that, and I can tell you it’s very wounding to be so described, out of the blue, when your intentions are honorable.
    I’d no idea what I was starting with my panty advice. I will clarify what I meant. I agree with John and Jamessal that it is overfamiliar, but I personally would not even use it with my wife because of its former life in clichéd porn of low quality. Similarly, I wouldn’t use (except here) a phrase like, ‘slowly, he moved his gentle hand over her firm proud unyielding pert Toyota Celica’, because although it is innocent in its own right it carries a strong whiff of boring, unintelligent, narrow-minded, lower-middle class cliché.

  135. Nijma, if you feel that strongly about panties you really oughtn’t to throw the word troll about.
    Yes, can we please try to avoid accusations like that? Conversation works best if we assume the good faith and intentions of everyone involved. If someone uses a word you don’t like, mention that you don’t like it and leave it at that. And for what it’s worth, Nijma, you seem to have an extreme reaction to the word; I’m not saying you shouldn’t feel the way you do, just that you shouldn’t judge others by your own feelings.

  136. John Emerson says:

    Incidentally, I’m 62, and when I say “the older generation”, I mean people 75 and and older. it’s by no means ridiculous for me to do so: I live in my old home town, and many of the people I know here are my mother’s friends.

  137. John Emerson says:

    Incidentally, I’m 62, and when I say “the older generation”, I mean people 75 and and older. it’s by no means ridiculous for me to do so: I live in my old home town, and many of the people I know here are my mother’s friends.

  138. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    Although I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t like the word panties (see Jamessal’s link, above, to that discussion at Language Log, where there are other people who don’t like the word ‘moist’, for some odd, probably similar reason), I’m certainly not offended by it in any context.
    Judging from most of the reactions here Siganus would do well to ignore me and should feel guilt-free in using the word. In fact I’ll probably start using it now, myself. Panties, panties, panties. There.
    It just shows, Paul (where are you?), what a pickle you can get in by offering prescriptivist advice, however benignly intended.

  139. “I’m certainly not offended…”
    Ditto, ditto. I even don’t mind the word myself, and certainly don’t consider “polite folk” (who presumably wouldn’t say panties to strangers**) the only desirable folk.
    **This really is a bizarre derail. Maybe Hat can rename the post “The Panty Contretemps.” (Or not.)

  140. A. J. P. Anties says:

    And another thing: who would have thought, twenty years ago, that a whole community of relatively sophisticated, well-educated, etc, etc, could get so freaked out by the word…troll!

  141. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/03/magazine/03trolls-t.html
    Not really the kind of trolls we’re talking about here, but I found the piece surprisingly well written.

  142. Just like the importance of real estate being location, location, location, the importance of language usage is not so much what you say as how you say it.
    In Mr. Sutor’s hemisphere I can quite properly be called Sitt Nijma, but I think I’ll take marie-lucie’s advice for social distancing by adopting the Western use of surnames, at least until everyone regains their composure.

  143. I just remembered I have to go check my investments.

  144. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    I remember reading that NY Times troll piece and finding their activities interesting, painful and depressing to read about (but I’m easily pained and depressed).

  145. Mr. Crown,
    The trolls are quite real. On political sites where I hang out they are a daily occurrence but are quickly moderated to the dungeon. Every once in a while we are treated to a sample of their writing, usually a combination of political talking points and cringeworthy hate speech. There are said to be some 400 paid political trolls, and certain websites have actually been taken down because of them. Google’s Blogger in particular will take down a website on any complaint and only put it up days later after the blog owner jumps through hoops. My own website is not political at all, at least not much, but was scrutinized heavily on one political thread during that week.
    This week alone I have been accused of being a troll on two different threads. One time I think was genuine, the accuser simply not understanding a political point I was trying to make. The other time was more sinister, the accuser using speech I considered racially unacceptable. While I think accusations of racial improperness are over-used in this campaign cycle, this was truly offensive speech and would have reflected badly on the group if an impartial outsider believed it was representative. A discussion of race ensued the next day and my attackers did not show up to defend their point of view. They were probably paid trolls from someone else’s political group. Bloggers on that group’s campaign website have been known to brag about going into our group’s website and posing as members.
    It did not distress me at all to be called a troll over there, but this thread distresses me very much, especially the way my thought process is being characterized. I don’t want to comment about it further though, until I can do so without anger.
    Nijma

  146. There are no trolls here, though. Anger is pointless. I’d have to be paid quite a lot of money to converse with a troll.

  147. Anger is pointless.
    All emotions are pointless, but they are there nonetheless.
    If you are sure someone is a troll, you do not converse with them. The conventional wisdom is “Do not feed the trolls.” Their purpose is to disrupt, and any attention you pay them will be turned against you. If someone is accused of trollery and is not really a troll, they will realize they were not understood and proceed to make their viewpoint clearer. A real troll will continue on the same path.

  148. Nijma, nobody here is a troll. Please don’t make such assumptions, even provisionally. I don’t want people having to defend themselves against that kind of thing.

  149. Mr. Hat, you said that before and I did read your comment. Please refer to my comment at October 6, 2008 11:22 PM.
    That’s all I will say right now, as I am still angry.

  150. From the fury of the northmen, O Lord, deliver us says:

    I am reminded of my effort to make myself understood in Arabic years ago about some subject or another I was unhappy about. Finally, in frustration, I just said ﻛﻠب which I had heard used as a general expression of disapproval. Bad idea. Forty minutes later, after much “Ahna mish kelp” (I know, I know, Arabic doesn’t have a letter for “P” but I keep hearing one.) the discussion finally ended. Sort of. Every hour or so the conversation would turn back to “Ana mish kelp”, finally tapering off to a muttered “mish kelp”.
    There was never any question that our friendship was in jeopardy. Fortunately we already knew each other and could joke about cultural misunderstandings, unlike here where I am basically a noob.
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=n00b
    It was just a byplay of cultures, and I appreciated the honesty of the reaction. I learned more about usage of “dog” in Arabic from this than I could have from several hours of class instruction and dictionaries.

  151. From the fury of the northmen, O Lord, deliver us says:

    Oops, forgot to sign the comment. That was me.
    Nijma

  152. I figured! Thanks for the anecdote, I always wonder about just how insulting “dog” is in Arabic. I guess the answer is: very.

  153. Well there’s one thing I’ve leant from this thread: there are two different spellings of panties, there is also pantys.

  154. There are no trolls here.
    Then we shall have to get some. The nisse are too cutesy, how about Kittelsen’s “troll thinking about how old it is”? I used to keep this print in my bathroom:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Trollet_som_grunner_p%C3%A5_hvor_gammelt_det_er.jpg
    I had intended to give a closer reading to this thread to figure out why it was such a trigger and why I was so angry at the gracious Mr. Hat, but I fell asleep over my laptop.

  155. how insulting “dog” is in Arabic
    I never relied on just one person to interpret a language for me. That particular example was from a Palestinian born in Jordan whose family was from the West Bank and came over in the ’67 war, not the one in ’48. Who knows what someone from the Bene Hassan tribe or a fellaheen from Irbid or an Armenian or heaven forbid a Circassian would say.
    When you have a variety of opinions from different types of people, as in the above thread, then you get a better understanding of the language.
    But yes, I will approach the Arabic dog with great caution in the future.

  156. Sheesh! I get back from a 35-day tour of southern China (where streetside internet turned out to be an irksome thing to cope with, this time around) to find everyone’s knickers in a knot. And my good friend Signor Soot impugned for trollery as opposed to his wonted drollery. “Standards!” I mutter darkly to myself. I’m obviously going to have to keep an eye on things around here.
    The Chinese love to distinguish countables from non-countables, for English at least. Why isn’t this salient distinction as simply and clearly marked in our native lexicography, I find myself asking.

  157. The context of panties?
    The native English speakers pretty much agree on a few things. 1) The word panties is not bad in itself 2) the word can be used in a department store when purchasing underwear 3) using the word with strangers is too familiar.
    -No one is here to purchase underwear.
    -Everyone here is a stranger.
    Continuing…
    There is less agreement on the following: 4) the word can be used by prostitutes or johns (in pornography) 5) the word can be used in talking about language (like here) 6) the word is more comfortable in same-sex discussions.
    So it looks to me like the problem is one of framing. If I teach the word “panties” in my class–and I do–I surround it with a framework of how the students will need the word to go shopping. We talk in a more serious attitude as we are speaking about a potentially personal subject. If there are both male and female students present, we are even more serious, so no one will misunderstand. In context, it’s not titillating or disrespectful–we are just adults talking about adult subjects. (My students are Hispanic, and I think more socially conservative than we are in the U.S., as the U.S. is more conservative than Europe.)
    What was missing on this thread was the context.
    If you don’t want people to think you are a prostitute, you have to get the context back.
    There is also supposed to be a ritual here, which was missing. When someone expresses discomfort, like “That’s too much information” or “panties is not the right word to use”, the correct answer is some kind of reassurance about intentions, like “I don’t have a good idea about what is TMI” or “I didn’t mean anything bad by it.” Then you know you are talking about language again and can just continue.
    The same ritual exists in Arabic–a discussion about what is haram. The stakes there are higher, since a woman who 1)is not Arab 2)lives alone 3)has been previously married 4) talks to a man or 5)is unaccompanied by a male at any time can find her safety jeopardized in a heartbeat.
    Mr. Siganus Sutor has belatedly jumped in and offered the reassurance I was looking for and also an even better explanation for the context. On October 6, 2008 11:16 PM he says,
    underwear is not something I would discuss with the first person I met on the street
    Well, that’s a relief. I wanted to think so, but I needed to hear it. Then he says the word “underwear” is
    a bit too formal inside the family
    It sounds like His Marsjesty considers me to be family as well. And here I was feeling like a newbie. I like that explanation very much and thank you for the welcome.

  158. As far as why I was angry with Mr Hat:
    I was called a prescriptionist on this website and did anyone defend my honor? No.
    I was called ignorant on this website and did anyone defend my honor? No.
    A good number of people have been called either bourgeois or boogywazzies on this website. I have not. What’s up with THAT?
    So why is Mr. Hat suddenly a troll prescriptionist?

  159. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    As a teacher you would fit any rough profile of bourgeois (in English, anyway), Nijma — actually nearly everybody in the blogosphere fits the profile, that was my point.

  160. Nijma: Though I don’t *entirely* agree with your reasoning above (and am too busy this morning to take it up point by point), I think you deserve a lot of credit for thinking and writing it out; i.e., treating LH like what it is, a place where people really do spend a lot of time thinking and sharing opinions and socializing, as opposed to “just a blog” — something not worth getting angry or upset about. Obviously a lot of people spend a lot of time here — they care — and for me at least it’s nice to see someone be so direct and open about it.

  161. Also, if it make you feel any better, I was not called boogywazzie either. And I really wanted to be.

  162. Strange to note that “mass” itself is not a mass noun, since it is very often said that “the masses of Uranus and Mars are nowhere close to each other”.
    Ah, but here Suggestus nods. Mass is a mass noun in certain of its uses:
    How much mass the ball has can be calculated if we know its velocity and its momentum.
    In the Siganal example, the mass (non-mass noun) of Ur*n*s is strictly a measure of mass (mass noun) associated with the planet in question, distinct from and countable along with the mass (non-mass noun) of Mars, and those of all other planets with more or less mass (mass noun) than **a*u*.
    We may observe something similarly obvious but germane about velocity and momentum using the noetic example, annotated like this:
    How much mass (mass noun) the ball has can be calculated if we know its velocity (non-mass noun) and its momentum (non-mass noun).

  163. I’ve been finding both of you totally boogiewazzie for some time now. Noetica, too.

  164. Yes!

  165. I was called a prescriptionist on this website and did anyone defend my honor? No

    Now that I’m thinking about it I can’t help myself. There is a world of difference between being called prescriptivist and being called a troll. A troll is wholly loathsome — not even human. A prescriptivist is merely someone who holds mistaken views about language — views which, I have to say, you do occasionally evince.

  166. Noetica, good point. It’s “how much mass does Mars have”, not “how many mass…”
    But if you were to calculate the masses of several planets and put them on a very small page, you might find there were “too many masses” to fit on the page and not “too much masses”.
    In the second example the “masses” are individual numbers that represent volumes, in the second example “mass” is the volume itself. [And for any chemistry purists that want to point out that mass and volume are not the same, I will pointit out first--but they are close enough to make a point about language.]

  167. Jamessal, thank you. I believe language is much more than words and dictionaries; it’s heavily tied into culture and the nonverbal ways of communicating. Living with Arabs taught me the importance of taking the time to understand people and also made me more sensitive to recognizing ritual. Their rituals are more obvious but we do have them–many are geared to making people feel that they are valued.
    If you don’t entirely agree with me, perhaps there are some gender differences going on. For instance male and female interpretation of pornography in the workplace can be perceived differently depending on gender. [Although I'm sure the guys here aren't like that.] Hence our laws against “hostile work environment”.
    This thread has taken more of my personal time than I intended, but necessary to avoid misunderstandings.

  168. A troll is wholly loathsome — not even human.
    What’s with the troll bashing? Trolls are completely welcome on my own website, although cursing is not. A bit of an oxymoron, I know.
    At Christmas we always have trolls in little red hats. And when my grandfather was a child in Denmark, they always left milk out in the barn on Christmas Eve for the Nisse so they wouldn’t play tricks on people the rest of the year.
    More seriously, internet safety is pretty basic.
    http://englishforpc.wordpress.com/2008/03/17/week-1-safety/
    How do you think children and even adults get lured and kidnapped on the internet? Do you think the creepy predator strangers tell the children they are going to do something bad? Of course not, they talk about going to Disneyland. And not to brag about what a sweet young thing I am or anything, but I have had 45 some years of dealing with male predators and my spider sense is pretty finely tuned. A predator does not start out by being inappropriate, they start by being ambiguous, using double entendre, dropping in words with secondary resonances, by pushing the cultural boundaries in a seemingly reasonable manner. Much as someone who didn’t speak English as a first language might do by accident.
    The antidote for me is to set healthy personal boundaries. Mr. Hat wanted to sweep everything under the rug and keep things superficially pleasant. There are no trolls here, he says. Trust me, he says. I don’t agree with that. Think of all the children abused by religious leaders who were afraid to make waves. Were they told to let those in authority set their personal boundaries? While I do trust Mr. Hat implicitly, and for no rational reason I can think of, I am not willing to let someone else make those choices for me.
    What happens if I think someone’s speech is ambiguous and don’t say anything? If they are a predator, they win and they are drooling “mwa-ha-ha” all over their keyboards. If they are not a predator, a wall of silent suspicion goes up that prevents communication. They probably will sense a distancing, but they will not know the reason. Look what has happened on this thread…I spoke out about my misgivings and instead of being the end of the world, it led to greater trust.
    And now I am spending too much time here.

  169. marie-lucie says:

    I thought that after reading a few comments I had clarified in my mind the modern meaning of “troll”, but after reading Nijma’s latest post I am still wondering what a troll is exactly.
    Anyway, I think I can see Nijma’s drift, but this blog is not a social one, the purpose of which is to get people to advertise themselves and enter into personal communication with each other, and therefore where predators might be joining in just in order to meet unsuspecting sweet young things. All of us who post here enjoy the company and the wide-ranging discussions with unpredictable twists and turns. I thinK of this blog as a kind of salon, not a nightclub. If anyone were to stumble in here with “ulterior motives”, they would soon realize their mistake.

  170. I *think* she was joking, Marie-Lucie, A troll in the relevant sense is someone who enters online forums purely to push an agenda (for a political party, e.g.) or just to harass people for fun.

  171. A troll can be different things. In my Scandinavian tradition they are cute but mischievous creatures. I meant it in the sense of posting inflammatory comments.
    I had already used the phrase “too much information” and someone else had used the word “creepy” but there was no acknowledgment and the remarks got even more inflammatory. Intentionally? Or was it a language barrier? “Troll” seemed like a semi-humorous word and more gentle than some others I could think of.
    Also perhaps it’s possible that some comment of mine could be taken as a come-on. I mean, where is it okay for women to discuss undergarments with strangers? Was I crossing into forbidden territory and sending some unknown message? If so, I don’t want to leave that impression at all.
    It seems like everyone here knows each other already, but as a newbie I don’t *know* if anyone is a predator and I don’t know how my remarks will be taken. I do like the sense of focus and the digressions and the pure enjoyment that most of the people here seem to feel for language.

  172. AJP Crown says:

    I agree with Marie-Lucie’s argument, it’s just a not problem. If I had to dodge cunning sex maniacs to trying to pounce on me every time I wanted to read about War & Peace in Russian… actually, this is beginning to sound like a rather successful computer game.
    Marie-Lucie according to Wiki a troll is someone who posts controversial and irrelevant or off-topic messages…with the intention of provoking other users into an emotional response or to generally disrupt normal on-topic discussion.
    There’s no tradition in Scandinavia of trolls being considered cute except perhaps for the purpose of selling stuff in souvenir shops. You must be thinking of nisser, Nijma. Trolls are frightening giants who often live under bridges. I know this for a fact, because I sometimes bump into them when I go for walks with our dog.
    Wiki says that the internet term may derive from ‘trolling’ (what I would call trawling) ‘for suckers’. It says, the verb “troll” originates from Old French “troller”, a hunting term. Maybe Siganus and Marie-Lucie can confirm that.

  173. Trolls are frightening giants who often live under bridges.
    In America the trolls are all cute. If you don’t believe me you can look on my mother’s fireplace.
    You must live in a very remote part of Norway. I have heard that trolls cannot bear the sound of church bells and all left the inhabited areas of Scandinavia with the advent of Christianity some 1000 years ago.

  174. This troll guards one of my bookshelves. As you can see, it it quite complacent.
    http://camelsnose.files.wordpress.com/2008/10/troll-on-bookshelf.png

  175. Crown, AJP says:

    Bookshelf trolls is very bourgeois.

  176. Is a bourgeois troll a pinko commie, an oppressive landowner, or just studious? I was never worried about this particular troll since it seemed to gravitate towards the books. Perhaps I should worry.

  177. marie-lucie says:

    Wiki says that the internet term may derive from ‘trolling’ (what I would call trawling) ‘for suckers’. It says, the verb “troll” originates from Old French “troller”, a hunting term.
    I did not know this Old French verb, which presumably is no longer used even in deer-hunting circles, with which I am not familiar.
    The Petit Robert dictionary does show a related noun la trolle which is still in use in the relevant circles, referring to “a way of hunting by uncoupling the dogs and letting them go where they want when it has not been possible to force the deer into the desired direction using the head dog (the best one at following a scent)” (at least I think that is what the definition says – in other words, letting all the dogs try to find a scent). I can’t remember the English term for hunting with horses and a pack of hounds, but this must be when the term could be used.

  178. Crown, AJP says:

    Thanks. The only noun I can think of is chase. I don’t know much about hunting.

  179. One of the political blogs I read (I scan about 1500-2000 comments every day from stuff with various political viewpoints) has the word “troll” filtered. The regulars have to type “tr0ll” to get past the filters. I tried it myself and it put me in moderation.
    I tried to get some kind of feedback about whether anyone thinks the word troll is in itself a trigger word or inflammatory, but no one seems to have any good insight about it.

  180. Siganus Sutor says:

    It says, the verb “troll” originates from Old French “troller”, a hunting term.
    You could try the “Trésor de la langue française”, a fairly extensive online dictionary (Language Hat has the URL in the sidebar). They have an entry for “trôler” or “troller”, which could be compared to the verb “to stalk” I believe (“to follow or approach (game, prey, etc.) stealthily and quietly” — Collins).
    http://www.cnrtl.fr/definition/troler
    In the same entry, a related noun is “trôlée” or “trâlée”, which is used regionally according this dictionary (Western France and Canada) to mean “a group of”. I didn’t know the word “trôlée”, but “trâlée” is frequently used in Mauritian French, and even more frequently in Creole, e.g. “enn tralé dimounn” (a lot of people). But “trôleur” is unknown here, the TLF saying that this (rare) word could mean tramp, vagabond.
    However, I have my doubts about the internet expression “troll” coming from the French word, as almost no French speaker would have even heard about “trôler” as a hunting expression, not to mention knowing about its meaning. But never know…

  181. Crown, AJP says:

    Ah, that’s great. No, I think what they meant was that the American verb to troll (the English say to trawl), which is what professional fishermen do when they drag a big net in the sea between two boats, might come from the old French hunting term. It doesn’t look very likely though, if troller/trôler is to stalk, but what do I know.

  182. marie-lucie says:

    I grew up in Western France but never heard or read any of the words mentioned by Siganus. I agree that the English verb “to troll” (on the internet) is more likely to come from “to act like a troll” – a disruptive figure – than from an ancient, extremely specialized French word unknown to the vast majority of speakers.
    I also spent some time in a fishing village on the West Coast of Canada and there “trolling” and “trawling” (different vowels) are not the same thing. I think that one of them refers to dragging a net as AJP mentions, and the other one to dragging long lines each equipped with a series of hooks, but I am not sure which one is which.

  183. That would be interesting if the Canadians had taken both forms for themselves. I’m pretty sure trawling is in Br. English as I described, The fishing boats are called trawlers, too. ‘Trolling’ in Britain could only mean the wicked internet activity.

  184. marie-lucie says:

    Siganus, the word “trôlée” or “trâlée” then may refer originally to the pack of hounds let loose to engage in the undirected stalking of the deer – and the hunting attendants trying to follow the dogs (this is a type of hunting with dozens of people and dogs – the upper class on horseback and the lowlies on foot).

  185. Siganus Sutor says:

    Maybe, especially since the hound is a hound, i.e. a group of animals that stick together.
    So you have never heard the word trâlée? Every now and then I end up hesitating when having to decide whether a word or a construction is specific to Mars or more widely used in the French-speaking solar system. On the other hand, sometimes I think it is purely local before discovering it is used elsewhere too. (The most recent example that comes to my mind is charrier, to carry.)
    Have you noticed in the TLF that trôler applies to fishing as well in French-speaking Canada? “b) Région. (Canada), PÊCHE. [Surtout sous la forme trôler] Pêcher à la cuillère.” No trawling there if I’m not mistaken, since a trawler uses a net.

  186. I remember my father talking about a “trolling motor” on a small fishing boat. This type of motor was low horsepower, presumably to go slowly while dragging a line across the bottom. If the bait moves, it looks alive. Some fish, like trout, will only strike at bait that moves (but trout feeds at the surface.) I was always taught the fish will leave if there is any noise, so I suspect the motor was just so they didn’t have to row to the fishing spot.

  187. Siganus Sutor says:

    Pêcher à la cuillère.
    It looks as if we are finally back to cutlery.

  188. The Ouroboros thread!

  189. marie-lucie says:

    …the hound is a hound, i.e. a group of animals that stick together.
    ????? is there a typo here, or what????

  190. Siganus Sutor says:

    Marie-Lucie, you are right to use all these “rogs”. In my mind “une meute” was “a hound”, but it is “a pack” instead. A hound is more a breed of dog.
    Ah, hunting…

  191. marie-lucie says:

    Siganus, I don’t suppose this type of spectacular but wasteful hunting – la chasse à courre – is practiced on Mars! “une meute” suggests a group of apparently undisciplined, wild animals such as dogs or wolves. Before the hunt the hounds are kept hungry so they will want to go after the deer or more dangerously the wild boar. In England the fox (an animal not eaten by people) is or was the favourite object of such a hunt.

  192. Rogs, S-man? The only rog I know is the Slavic one, meaning “horn” – of the hunted, if not also of the hunter. As in Serbian jednorog (“unicorn”). So is yours a standard colloquial term for point d’interrogation, or are the venereal associations proliferating in an altogether paranoiac fashion for me, seeded by this talk of meutes and hounds? A coney-confusion?

  193. Crown, AJP says:

    Siganus, does anyone know Occitan down there on Mars?
    (…Now he’s gone back to work. He won’t answer until next Saturday).

  194. Before the hunt the hounds are kept hungry so they will want to go after the deer or more dangerously the wild boar.
    Interesting. I’m reading Turgenev’s “Notes of a Hunter,” and I just got to a passage describing a semi-wild guy the author goes hunting with who doesn’t bother feeding his hound because he’s cheap and figures the dog can fend for himself, which he does; he’s lean but loyal, and very avid when they go hunting (though he tends to eat the smaller birds before his master can get there).

  195. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica, your mind is wandering in strange directions. The chasse à courre with its pack of hounds and expensively dressed horse riders is not thrown away on mere rabbits.

  196. Ah, but Marie-Lucie: the rabbits in question may not be mere rabbits. Hence the cornfusion that I munch on. Nevertheless, I agree that my mind was wandering. It generally does go along with my body, and now that I am returned to my usual hemisphere, I expect the two to be better synchronised – especially important for a non-dualist ontologist like myself.
    But let us return to the topic. That was silver- and sundry otherware, ugye?

  197. I don’t get jetlagged going from west to east but the other way around is a bearcat. Unfortunately my last trip several years ago was from east to west, and I have been jetlagged ever since. I’m sure everything would be all right if I were to be restored to my proper time zone.

  198. Siganus Sutor says:

    AJP, it’s not Saturn’s day yet, nor Uranus’s, but I managed to find some time to shoot something. (Someone like you must be aware that time is money — but what wouldn’t I do for your eyes only.)
    So, as Noé(e)-dit-kaa* guessed after returning to the right hemisphere (or maybe the left?), “rog” is the question mark, whereas the exclamation mark is “clam”. I’ve heard this is the jargon used by typographers/correctors. Someone would read the copy aloud while another one would check it on the original. Since saying “point d’interrogation” and “point d’exclamation” can be fairly long, “rog” and “clam” were used instead. But, please, don’t ask me where these two words were taken from.
     
     
    * “kaa”: “yes” in some funny Asian language

  199. Siganus Sutor says:

    Oh, sorry AJP, I didn’t answer the question: no, there is no Occitan spoken around, but there are still bits of Orientan left, as well as excitants like horse racing.
    Why this question?

  200. Uranus has it’s own day? I should have guessed. You can even get a card for it.

  201. its, not it’s
    Always proofread.

  202. Crown, A.J.P. says:

    @ Sig:
    Well Wiki says there are 650.000 speakers, Marie-Lucie says not — I just wondered if it had spread at all, if an occasional Martian might be reading Occitan poetry, for example.
    Now I will look up Orientan. Talking of horse racing I saw that you have a fantastic race course… the Champ de Mars. Too bad it’s just for thoroughbreds. Why not start an Icelandic horse race? My daughter is looking for a nice warm place to move.

  203. Re: Delf(delph)/dishes and press/cupboard
    I’m Irish and am familiar with the words above. I have been informed by an EFL teacher that the words used in Ireland originate from the time the first English speakers came here from Britain. The words are now archaic in Britain but still remain in common usage in Ireland.

  204. I see I didn’t weigh in here before. For me the neutral term is underpants. There are four (perhaps five) people whose underpants can be found in my house, and all of them are distinctive in size (the underpants, I mean, but the persons too), so the male/female distinction doesn’t seem worth making. When I ask “Are these underpants clean or dirty?” the appropriate person will answer anyway, with no need to be more specific.

    That said, I wouldn’t call thongs underpants, whether of the underwear or the beachwear variety. And I do appreciate Nijma’s concerns above, though I also do not think the LH regulars can be called strangers to each other, not after all this time. We are here to talk language (with occasional extensions into Wörter und Sachen), but we are also here because we enjoy each other’s company, as m-l says.

  205. I remember a poster with a City Talk for the Texans glossary explaining, among other computer things, that software ~~ ‘em darn plastic forks and knives

  206. marie-lucie says:

    silverware, etc

    In France, any household objects made of silver (l’argent) are called collectively l’argenterie, but spoons, forks and knives in general (whatever they are made of) are called collectively les couverts. This comes from earlier times when tables were set up ‘”covered” with spoons and knives (and later forks) but not with plates or glasses, which were brought to the guests already filled. ‘To set the table’ is called mettre le couvert (which now includes plates, glasses and everything needed except the food). If an extra person is to be included after the table is already set, someone will mettre un couvert de plus, an additional place setting.

    English “cutlery” is from French la coutellerie (from Old French coutel, modern couteau ‘knife’) which now only refers to the knife-making industry. Un ustensile (de cuisine) is an object used in the preparation and serving of food but not in the eating of it. For instance, a set of a large fork and spoon used to serve salad would be part of les ustensiles but so would be cooking pots.

    La vaisselle originally meant ‘vessels’ and refers mostly to bowls, plates and other temporary food containers, but the phrase faire la vaisselle is equivalent to ‘to do the dishes’. In both languages the meaning of the collective word covers far more items than what the literal meaning suggests. A dishwasher (the machine) is un lave-vaisselle, while a human dishwasher in a restaurant is called un plongeur (who plunges the dishes in water).

  207. Dmitry: ‘Em only alternates with the personal pronoun them, not with the non-standard demonstrative determiner them ‘those’. So it has to be them darn plastic forks and knives. (‘Em < OE hem, whereas them < Old Norse, so the apostrophe is unhistorical.)

  208. Oh. Thanks! I

  209. Stefan Holm says:

    Even in Swedish a set of fork, knife and spoon is called a kuvert, a word otherwise mainly used for ‘envelope’. As with many other things concerning social life it was introduced through the court of rococo king Gustav III, who reigned 1771-1792 (when he was assassinated). Like many other European courts they actually spoke French in their everyday life. Mettre le couvert is however duka from duk (table cloth).

  210. Breffni says:

    John Cowan:

    ‘There are four (perhaps five) people whose underpants can be found in my house’

    Wonderful. That little sentence, with its innocuous-looking parenthesis, has triggered about half a dozen short-story scenarios in my mind.

  211. couvert | kuvert

    I’m not sure if it’s ultimately the same term, but dance halls and the like often levy a “cover charge” that patrons must pay whether or not they buy drinks.

    Related: My father had a restaurant and two catering halls. Ontario liquor laws of the day (I presume they’ve changed) did not permit him to buy and later sell the liquor served in the catering halls. The event convenor, i.e., family of the bride, company sponsoring the Christmas party, etc., for a nominal sum acquired a one-time permit from the Liquor Licence Board of Ontario (that’s right, licence) allowing the convenor to purchase so many bottles of wine, beer and spirits to be served at the event. My father charged a per-bottle fee called corkage that ‘covered’ the cost of associated staff time plus ice, glass breakage and so forth.

    We had two types of hand-held eating utensils: stainless steel in the restaurant and silver-plated in the catering halls. I think the term cutlery was used for both types, but it’s possible that silverware was also used in the catering halls. Flatware was never used, but I’ve long known the term and it probably appeared in trade publications and the like. Ditto stemware.

    We also had silver-plated trays, and it may be that a request to “polish the silver” applied to silver-plated cutlery and trays alike. I don’t recall a request to “polish the copper and brass,” though most of the serving vessels used in buffet-type settings were in the main made of those materials. “Polish the serving pieces” was more likely.

    Some of those serving pieces were chafing dishes, whose name I’ve never sorted out, and an oddly-named ‘bain-marie’ in the restaurant kitchen. The latter device, pronounced ‘bay-marie’ and made entirely of stainless steel, was about a meter square, stood counter height, and was essentially a self-heating bathtub. It was right beside the steamtables, whose hinged lids could completely cover their fitted pans.

  212. Trond Engen says:

    l’argenterie
    Sølvtøy “silverware”

    les couverts
    Dekketøy “coverware”

    mettre le couvert
    Dekke bordet/dekke på “cover the table/cover on”

    mettre un couvert de plus
    Dekke på til en til “cover on to one more”

  213. David Marjanović says:

    A dishwasher (the machine) is un lave-vaisselle

    More recently une lave-vaisselle. All work is done by real or metaphorical women, including printing (une imprimante) and copying (recently une photocopieuse) – the only exception is thinking (un ordinateur).

  214. David Marjanović says:

    (…Of course analogy from une machine may have helped.)

  215. The four are the people who live here: myself, my wife, our daughter, her son. The fifth is my daughter’s boyfriend, who doesn’t live here but whose clothes occasionally wind up in our laundry.

    Of course, in a trivial sense there are other people’s underpants in our house from time to time, namely when they are wearing them.

  216. marie-lucie says:

    PO: an oddly-named ‘bain-marie’ in the restaurant kitchen. The latter device, pronounced ‘bay-marie’ and made entirely of stainless steel, was about a meter square, stood counter height, and was essentially a self-heating bathtub.

    Un bain-marie can be the hot water in which a cooking pot is placed in order to maintain its contents at the proper degree of heat (without overheating), or more commonly a double-boiler, in which the inner pot is used for foods or beverages that should be hot but without a risk of reaching boiling temperature. According to the TlFI, the name marie here (never capitalized) refers to a legendary female alchemist known as Marie-la-Juive ‘Mary the Jewess” who invented the double boiler.

  217. Hmmm, that one was a dangerous thread, full of unspeakable things. I ought to stay away from it. Ou alors sortons couverts.

  218. bain-marie . . . bay-marie

    Now that I think about it, there was barely a soul in that kitchen whose first language was English (never mind having studied French), so the mispronunciation may have been utterly local. Of the ten or so cooks I recall working there (over several years): three were from Italy, two from China, one from Greece, one from Germany, one from Yugoslavia (Macedonia), one, I think, from Hungary, and two from ‘Canada,’ both from Nova Scotia. The advantage for me, of course, was that I learned to cuss in several languages real early!

    m-l: Interesting story about Marie-la-Juive. I see that Wiki has an entry on her in several languages. Thanks!

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