Whatsit?

Mark Gwynn at Ozwords has a post that resonates with me, because a snooty salesperson at a Manhattan cookware store once said to my wife (about an object that we both thought was a spatula) “That’s not a spatula!” The folks at Ozwords showed an image of “a commonly used kitchen utensil” and asked “what do you call this implement?” and “which country do you come from?”

The following analysis of the feedback we received demonstrates a number of points:

• the word spatula is now the most common term for this utensil in Australia and North America
• there are regional differences in world English designations for this utensil
• hypernymic words such as lifter and turner are often applied to this utensil
• it frequently attracts a thingummy or whatsit type of response, implying its name is not known
• and it attracts names that suggest it has other uses, real or imaginary, such as bum warmer and fly swatter.

We received over 500 replies to our question on Twitter and Facebook. The pie chart below shows the most common terms from all replies. Spatula is the most common term, followed by egg flip and fish slice. The numbers for spatula are slightly inflated because of the larger number of responses we had from Australia and North America, where this term is more common. It is also important to note that egg flip is used only by Australians. The word spatula has historically been used to refer to an implement with a broad, flat, blunt blade, used for mixing and spreading things, especially in cooking and painting. The Oxford Dictionaries site includes a sense of spatula that encompasses our lifting/turning implement, but labels it US. Early US dictionaries and many current ones still do not include this sense of spatula.

[…] In the UK fish slice is the most common term. The Oxford English Dictionary records this sense of slice from the 15th century. It means ‘one or other of several flattish utensils (sometimes perforated) used for various purposes in cookery…’. The specific use of slice as an implement to turn fish in the pan, and later for lifting and turning other foods, appears much later.

It’s all much more complicated than I ever dreamed! I will, of course, be curious to hear of terms in other languages as well as varying usage in English.

Comments

  1. Do you know what the cookware salesperson thought it was called? I’m pancake turner, but I’m pretty sure my mother was spatula, so I must have learned a “correction” somewhere along the way.

    I also have a sense that it might matter whether or not there are slots.

  2. In my Ukian view that’s an egg-lifter. A spatula is more like a flat spoon and made of wood (or silicone nowadays) and used primarily for mixing/stirring.

  3. Growing up in Virginia in the ’70s I remember noticing that spatula was applied to three different kitchen tools: (1) the flipping implement described here, (2) the rubber scraper used, for example, to remove all the cake batter from a bowl, and (3) the long narrow straight metal blade (not sharp) used for spreading icing on a cake.

  4. Łopatka here. Its other meanings include ‘small spade’ (dim. of łopata), ‘paddle of a waterwheel’ and ‘scapula, shoulder blade’.

  5. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    That is definitely a fish slice, although I don’t know *why*, because you couldn’t slice fish with it.

    A spatula to me is a flat thing, originally made of wood but sometimes rubber, which gets even flatter at the tip for sliding under the edge of things. What would the people who call a fish slice a spatula call that?

  6. Keith, I grew up on the West Coast in the 60s and “spatula” covers all those three for me too. I think that’s borderline remarkable.

    “Spatula” has a lot of sisters and cousins in the SAE Sprachbund. There’s the group that basically means ‘sword’ – spada, epee, and so on. Then there’s the group that means ‘spade’. I wonder if “spit” – spjut, etc. is in with that group too. The semantic connection is obvious; the basic shape of these things.

    Come to think of it, the form “spatula” is obviously borrowed and it looks like it’s directly from Latin. Of course it may not be but if it is, that’s 1) a strange thing to take a loanword for and 2) a strange source and path.

  7. David Marjanović says:

    Schmarrnschaufel…! A shovel for this kind of dish. If more pointed and not used in a pan, Tortenschaufel or Tortenheber.

    Spatel and Spachtel refer to smaller, straighter instruments not used on food – more like for building a wall.

    Why “slice” and not “slicer”?

  8. I grew up on the West Coast in the 60s and “spatula” covers all those three for me too. I think that’s borderline remarkable.

    I grew up all over but spent a good deal of time on the West Coast in the 60s and it covers all three for me too. I agree that that’s fairly remarkable.

  9. Interesting. As a West-coast-ish American, “spatula” is certainly what I’d call the flipper-thingy. But, before I’d clicked on the link, I’d automatically assumed you were talking about the scraper-thingy. So, it seems “flipper-thingy” is only my secondary definition of the word.

  10. ə de vivre says:

    I grew up on the West Coast in the 90s and I’ve never encountered anyone who doesn’t use spatula for all 3 utensils (admittedly I don’t talk about spatulae very often).

    Incidentally, I worked in a francophone bakery/café/pâtisserie where ‘spatule’ covered all 3 utensils too, though the mixy/scrapy rubber spatulas were particularly likely to attract thingummy/whatsit terms like ‘la chose’ or ‘cette gogosse-là’. That’s also where I learned of the existence of another spatulesque utensil that I (almost?) never heard called by its proper name—the dough scraper or racloir à pâte. To complicate matters, Wikipedia says that the mixy/scrapy rubber spatulas are also a kind of dough scraper. Though the terminology there seems to be similarly confused, with dough cutters and dough scrapers sometimes being synonymous and sometimes not…

  11. Danish has rebelled against the SAE Sprachbund here, the object is called a paletkniv. Looking at the Wikipedia page for palette knives there is a certain similarity to a subclass of the culinary tools under discussion — but while I can easily imagine a painter in a garret using their palette knife to turn eggs, or pressing a pancake turner with a long metal blade into service to clean their palette, the word has now been extended even to the short wide wooden ones with slits which would be useless in an atelier.

    Tortenheber, on the other hand, are kagespader so there we align better.

  12. Russian wikipedia makes a link from German “Spatel” to culinary spade and from there to Japanese Shamoji
    Шпатель

  13. I remember having the multiple meanings of “spatula” explained to me my mother, who was from New England. If there was a need to distinguish between the two main types, we could call them a “scraper” or a “flipper.” (We didn’t use the cake decorating tool much. Its handle was broken off but the time I was in kindergarten, and my parents have still not bought a new one.)

    At least when I was a kid, the scraper meaning was my default one. However, Spatula City only sold the flipper type.
    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=2XbCWmY0eqY

  14. I remember (UK) that thing being called a fish slice, even though it was clearly used for non-piscine tasks such as flipping the edges of fried eggs or turning over sausages. If you were frying pieces of fish in a frying pan you could use it for moving them about and turning them over and possibly even slicing them, if you felt so inclined.

    I don’t think back then that I knew spatula as something you would find in the kitchen — more at home in the chemistry lab or possibly an artist’s studio (i.e. for palette knife).

    The thing my mother used for stirring cake dough etc was called a wooden spoon, that being what it was.

    I can’t remember when I first saw one of those flippers with a wooden handle and a bendy rubbery blade. I think I would only have been able to call it a rubbery blade thingy.

  15. I am in the UK, as you know, and I was seriously confused when I read this yesterday. In my family home, which I am now clearing out, we always had two: one like the pictures, with a metal slotted flat end, and another one, similar but much longer. The latter was a fish slice. Maybe I imagined the reason for this – that if you fried a longish piece of fish, you could turn it over in one piece. But the more common one, I can’t think what we called it. Nothing, I think. I have thrown the fish slice away, and I have a couple more of the other, both of which are intended not to damage non-stick pans. I tried to research it yesterday but found nothing that reminded me. We did not call it a spatula. Maybe I misunderstood and they were both fish slices. If I find anything in an old cookbook, I will report back.

  16. J.W. Brewer says:

    Do we have any middle-aged native speakers of AmEng who do *not* have all three meanings as agreed above by various and sundry commenters? I’m certainly not a counterexample. “Fish slice” is a totally new one on me. I somehow did not pick that up in childhood from the sort of books where one learned (sometimes only implicitly from context) that torch = flashlight, lorry = truck, dustbin = garbage can, etc.

  17. For me a fish-slice has to be solid metal, something like a pie slicer, but with slots. I have one but don’t use it much. The rubber scraper and the flat lifter/turner with slots are both spatulas.

  18. I didn’t know that people called this thing a fish slice. I do know the term “fish slice”, but think of it as referring only to something like this. But I’ve never owned or used one, and I used to think it meant the same thing as a cake slice. I.e., it’s not part of my everyday vocabulary.

    The thing in the OP I probably would call a spatula, if anything, although it’s not my primary sense of the word. (It ranks below the wooden thing, the rubber/silicone thing, and the little metal thing you use in a chemistry lab to transfer a sample of powder.)

  19. I agree on the fish slice having to be metal — thin, springy metal — with slots. But perhaps that’s just because in olden times there were no plastics that were safe to use in high heat. And a thin wooden blade would probably not work either, because it would leave splinters in your fish.

  20. What JC said. I’m Br.E. The picture in the article is definitely a fish-slice because it’s metal and has slots. Although the canonical fish-slice would be longer.

    Growing up in the ’50’s/’60’s London suburbs both words/both things were familiar (so I’m surprised the O.D. lists spatula as U.S.): spatula for turning sausages/burgers/fish fingers; fish-slice for, um, fish.

    Spatulas were close-grained wood with no slots. (No problems with splinters.) My impression was they came from Italy. Later we got rubber/plastic ones, although the sharp/slicing edge would tend to melt and distort over time.

    I’m now in N.Z. and never heard egg flip. So the term hasn’t crossed the Tasman.

  21. All I can think of is this excerpt from “Portnoy’s Complaint “:

    The novelist, what’s his name, Markfield, has written in a story somewhere that until he was fourteen he believed “aggravation” to be a Jewish word. Well, this was what I thought about “tumult” and “bedlam,” two favorite nouns of my mother’s. Also “spatula.” I was already the darling of the first grade, and in every schoolroom competition, expected to win hands down, when I was asked by the teacher one day to identify a picture of what I knew perfectly well my mother referred to as a “spatula.” But for the life of me I could not think of the word in English. Stammering and flushing, I sank defeated into my seat, not nearly so stunned as my teacher but badly shaken up just the same … and that’s how far back my fate goes, how early in the game it was “normal” for me to be in a state resembling torment—in this particular instance over something as monumental as a kitchen utensil.

  22. Great quote! I really have to reread that book.

  23. CuConnacht says:

    I was thinking of Portnoy’s Complaint also.

    And of PG Wodehouse, who uses “silver fish slice” frequently to mean “wedding present”. But is this what he meant? Why would you make a spatula out of silver? They don’t leave the kitchen.

  24. “spatulesque utensil”

    Okay, this wins this thread.

    “Russian wikipedia makes a link from German “Spatel” to culinary spade and from there to Japanese Shamoji
    Шпатель

    I understand that Japanese gives English a run for its money when it comes to lifting other people’s lexical items, but this is perverse. Why would anyone touch rice with anything with a foreign name?

    Wait, the English Wikipedia gives a less revolting etymology:
    “It is said to have been first devised by a monk on Itsukushima, Hiroshima Prefecture. The word is an example of nyōbō kotoba, being derived from the first part of shakushi (杓子, “ladle”), plus the moji (文字, “character”) suffix.[1]”

    And as a bonus here was a tidbit that explained a little mystery to me:

    “The shamoji has also been a symbol of unity between the mother and wife in Japanese society. In one tradition, it was passed down from one generation to the next to symbolize the family duties that were handed down.[2]”

    That explains the very worn big temple event sized shamoji in a frame on the wall downstairs in the temple kitchen. Evidently it’s been passed down to the current generation of members cooking there.

  25. Since meeting my Dutch wife, I’ve come to know the slender implement for cleaning stuff out of bowls as a ‘pannelikker’, which is somehow both evocative and unambiguous. I recommend it.

    I call the other flat-ended thing a spatula — usually in the style of camp-horror ‘Dracula’, much to my family’s annoyance. If I were looking for one in the kitchenware shop here in Australia, I’d probably ask for an eggflip.

  26. I hadn’t realised that shamoji had made it into English. Since I am hopeless with the names of implements, I’m surprised that I know both shamoji and shakushi, which I think of as regional variants (shakushi for Kanto, shamoji for Kansai, but I could have it completely wrong).

    For spatula, Wikipedia is disappointing. Usually contributors from different countries scramble to insert their local name but the article on ‘spatula’ is brief and adopts a general definition covering two types of object:

    1. utensils ‘used to scrape within the contours of a mixing bowl or to level off the top of a dry mixing cup… with two flat edges on a flexible blade, usually short and about 8 inches long’.

    2. Also ‘a turner which is used to flip over pancakes and meat patties’.

    Rather confusingly, the section on U.S. English goes into more detail on no. 2 than no. 1 — even though the article has no picture corresponding to no. 2.

    The section on British English gives two meanings but is centred on no. 1. For no. 2, it links to an independent Wikipedia article on ‘fish slice’. The article on ‘fish slice’ actually gives an identifiable picture so there is no confusion.

    The article on ‘fish slice’ links to a limited number of foreign languages (I don’t count Esperanto):

    Pfannenwender (German, also Pfannenmesser, Schlitzwender, Backschaufel, Bratenwender, Bratschaufel or Küchenfreund), but this also shows photos of ‘spatula-like’ objects. (Comments, David Marjanović?)

    کف‌گیر (Persian), which I can’t read but has a picture of the object in question.

    Paletta da cucina (Italian), also with a clear picture.

    フライ返し furai-gaeshi (Japanese), which means ‘fry turner-over’. The picture shows our object.

    Bakspatel or bakspaan (Dutch), often abbreviated spatel or spaan. Sorry, no ‘pannelikker’. The picture shows our object.

    Stekspade (Swedish), with two types pictured, one metal and narrow.

    鑊鏟 (Cantonese). The Cantonese ones shown are big, metal (with wooden handles), and have no holes. To my unprofessional eye they look more suitable for a wok, and the name literally means something like ‘wok shovel’.

    I personally would probably use ‘egg-flip’ (‘spatula’ sounds wrong, no matter what many of my countrymen think), but if you look that up on Wikipedia you get redirected to ‘Flip (cocktail)’. I’m wondering if differences in Australian usage are regionally based.

  27. (shakushi for Kanto, shamoji for Kansai, but I could have it completely wrong).

    I’ve never heard that called a shakushi in Kanto, myself (Saitama, Tokyo, Kanagawa). Shakushi is reserved for utensils with at least some depth to them. As noted above, shamoji is originally derived from shakuji so you’d expect the Kanto/Kansai divide you propose, to the extent that “women’s/kitchen words” are better preserved in the west, but I think that maybe shamoji took on a life of its own and was able to survive the mojipocalypse.

  28. David Marjanović says:

    (2) the rubber scraper used, for example, to remove all the cake batter from a bowl

    Teigkarte. “Card” as in “credit card”.

    Pfannenwender (German, also Pfannenmesser, Schlitzwender, Backschaufel, Bratenwender, Bratschaufel or Küchenfreund), but this also shows photos of ‘spatula-like’ objects. (Comments, David Marjanović?)

    Küchenfreund “kitchen friend” surprises me; is that (from) a brand name? All the others I either know or am willing to believe (well, -messer “knife” is odd, but not too odd) – this is the kind of thing that must have a lot of regional variation in its names, but it’s less famous than such cases as “butcher”, so I don’t have a way of knowing much about this variation. Schlitzwender is probably a technical term not much used outside store catalogues, because it’s evidently derived from Pfannenwender by adding “slit”.

  29. Maybe it was Hokkaido, then. I do remember the object being called different things in different places, but that could have been the households I had contact with rather than any real regional differences. Can usage change in the span of 40 years?

    Curiously, there is a page at the 筑後市郷土資料館 (Chikugo City Local Museum, in Kyushu) showing an object called a 杓子差 shakushi-sashi, with the local name given as シャモジタテ shamoji-tate. Depicted is a hollow stand for putting what look like very large spatulas or ladles in — certainly much larger than the shamoji I’m familiar with.

  30. David Marjanović, does a Teigkarte have a handle? I suspect it doesn’t and is a different kind of scraper, which wouldn’t be a spatula. Spatula (of the scraping sort) versus other kind of scraper.

  31. Hmm, I guess Amazon links weren’t the best choice for illustrating types of scrapers, at least if I wanted to avoid moderation.

  32. Portnoy probably heard spatula as a Yiddish diminutive, spatshele or something to that effect (there appears to be no root spatsh-).

  33. Can usage change in the span of 40 years?

    It would be kind of surprising to see this kind of change away from the standard in Kanto in the past 40 years. Less so somewhere like Osaka or Nagasaki where an existing regionalism might be revived as a cultural identity thing. But it’s totally possible that shakushi is still the Kanto-ism and I’m only familiar with the Tokyo-ism, or Standard Japanese-ism. (I lived in Saitama, but not rural Saitama.)

    Depicted is a hollow stand for putting what look like very large spatulas or ladles in — certainly much larger than the shamoji I’m familiar with.

    Huh–so you wouldn’t call that thing at the bottom (the round part is poking out) a shamoji? That’s pretty close to canonical for me. The saibashi (oversized chopsticks for cooking) sticking out the top do look bigger than I’m used to.

  34. January First-of-May says:

    We happen to have several kinds of spatulas at our kitchen – the version pictured at the link (plastic), the flat and rigid one (wooden), and the flat and slightly flexible one (plastic, duh).

    As far as English names go, I would’ve called the first two spatulas, and I don’t use the third one much at all, so I’m not sure what it could be named.
    I wasn’t able to immediately come up with Russian names for any of them, so I asked my mother.

    My mother immediately identified the first one as лопаточка (literally “small shovel”), and used the same term for the second one. (I agreed with her, incidentally.)
    But when shown the third one, she said а это силиконовый шкребок (“and this is a silicone scraper”, with a colloquial term for “scraper”).

    (Russian Wikipedia claims that скребок – the more traditional spelling – can refer to many different tools; then the entire rest of the article is about the prehistoric stone version, and the English interwiki goes to “Scraper (archaeology)”.
    It doesn’t have шкребок at all, but I didn’t expect it to; even my mom shifted to the normal version later in the conversation.)

    …I’ll have to check if we have the narrow version, like the ones pictured in Wikipedia; it just looks like a blunt butter knife to me, though, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to find an obvious example that isn’t just clearly a knife.
    That said, we do have one butter knife that looks so extremely broad that it’s probably useless as a knife (though it has an extremely thick handle). I’ll try to ask my mother about that one later.

    I recognize the word шпатель, but in my mind it refers to something used in construction (or possibly painting), not at a kitchen.
    I don’t have a good mental image of that tool, however; for all I know it looks exactly like the kitchen one and is just used in a different way.

    [EDIT: we do have a shamoji too – a giant wooden one we got at a market in Vilnius. It probably isn’t an actual shamoji, since it came from Lithuania and not Japan, and I don’t recall if we actually use it for anything, but it looks pretty much exactly like the Wikipedia picture.
    Well, a bit more uneven, and without any Japanese characters, obviously.]

    [EDIT 2: one very convenient use of either kind of spatula – though perhaps not the narrow one – is to mix up cooking food so that it doesn’t get burnt; scraping it off the sides, in particular, because being stuck to the sides makes it burn much faster.]

  35. In P.G. Wodehouse’s universe fish-slices are ubiquitous, but only for getting many of them as wedding gifts. No one ever uses them.

    I have no idea what you call them in Hebrew. I just looked up the standard translation and found מָרִית marit. I’ve never seen or heard this word before. I don’t know if it is common or just an Academy word.

    Added: the rubber tool for scraping bowls is called לַקְקָן lakǝkan, i.e. ‘licker’.

  36. کف‌گیر (Persian), which I can’t read but has a picture of the object in question.

    A TOOL CALLED KAF’GIR

    Kaf’gir literally means “foam-catcher” and it is a type of spatula (usually metal) with small round holes that is the traditional tool used when making Persian rice: to loosen grains and skim the foam when boiling the rice; to dole out the rice from colander to pot; to serve the rice when it is cooked; to help extradite the tadig from the pot; and as you will see for yourself in a future post, even its handle has a particular use! (“Kafgir” and “polo” are nouns intricately linked … the very name of “kafgir” evoking, for those of Irooni persuasion, a kitchen imbued with the fragrant steam of rice cooking on the stove top.)

    Now it’d be nice if you have a kafgir but it’s not the end of the world if you do not, so long as you have a similar-enough tool to stir the grains and skim the foam.

    https://figandquince.com/2013/06/18/persian-rice-tools-techniques-know-how-prelim/

    In Uzbek, the name is almost the same: kapkir.

  37. January First-of-May says:

    I have no idea what you call them in Hebrew.

    According to the linked Ozwords post, kaf tigun (I don’t know what the Hebrew spelling is).

    I’ll try to ask about it next time I have a Skype talk with my Israeli grandmother.

  38. Marja Erwin says:

    Mixed AmE.

    For me, the one for flipping, the other for flipping but without the slit, and the one for stirring are all spatulae, or semispathae. (although they’re not really small swords or half-swords)

    For me, a scraper is a type of stone tool with one sharp edge, and a slice isn’t a type of cookware.

  39. כַּף טִגּוּן kaf tigun, literally ‘frying spoon’. I have heard this one, now that I think about it.

  40. @Y In P.G. Wodehouse’s universe fish-slices are ubiquitous, but only for getting many of them as wedding gifts. No one ever uses them.

    I hasten to clarify the fish-slices of which I spoke were stainless steel, not silver, definitely not suitable as wedding gifts, and used every friday.

    @Keith I, oh yes your first picture of a scraper is also a spatula. But no good anywhere near a frying pan. (Does anybody bake cakes these days? I thought that was a grandmother’s privilege; being allowed to ‘lick out’ the bowl with a spatula like that makes for adoring grandchildren.)

  41. In P.G.’s time, I learn, fish-slices were serving utensils (silver, ornate), not cooking utensils.

  42. Stephen C. Carlson says:

    Do we have any middle-aged native speakers of AmEng who do *not* have all three meanings as agreed above by various and sundry commenters?
    I’m iffy on the icing spreader, mainly because it wasn’t an implement in the house growing up and I probably don’t have a name for it. But if someone called it a “spatula”, I wouldn’t have minded.

  43. so you wouldn’t call that thing at the bottom (the round part is poking out) a shamoji?

    I had a bit of trouble making it out. An embiggable picture would have been nice.

  44. There are individual-use (non-perforated) versions of Wodehouse-style fish slices used in the higher strata of Danish dining (and undoubtedly elsewhere), called fiskeknive.

    Useful with flatfish served whole, for instance, you can lift the meat off the bones in a less messy way than with a normal knife. Trickier with trout and similar, but practice probably helps.

    I imagine that the big ones were used (by butlers?) to slice up bigger fish (flounder, salmon, cod) for serving in non-messy ways.

    And yes, using a silver implement on a hot pan is a recipe for burnt fingers, but the similarity in shape to the cooking utensil would be enough to explain the name transfer.

  45. [aside]
    Using silver for utensils that come in frequent contact with fish is also not recommended. (The silver tarnishes rapidly, due to (I believe) the high sulphur content of fish.) Most fish knives have silver handle but stainless steel blade.

    I believe that P.G. Wodehouse was well aware of this, and assumed that his readers would get the joke.
    [/aside]

  46. My parents received a set of ornate silver fish-slices as a wedding present some 70 years ago and they have never once been used. The original gift tag is still in the case. Hence they have remained untarnished. (Actually I think Popup is correct and only the handles are silver.)

    I suppose the day will come when I have to figure out what to do with them.

    Meanwhile my parents went through several spatulas, or should I say spatulae.

  47. Stainless steel was relatively new between the wars, the first cutlery using it came to market in the UK in 1914; also I suspect that a wedding gift had to be solid silver in Wooster’s world, because tradition, but that a fish slice would be one of the things most unlikely to see actual use, because tarnish. In other words, the silver fish slice is a comical wedding gift because it’s a fish slice, not because it’s silver.

    The Georgian exemplars that Tim May linked to do seem to be solid silver, but in that period it was probably not seen as a problem if it took half an hour to get them presentable between uses.

  48. OED: fish-slice n. a fish-carving knife; also, an implement used by cooks for turning fish in the pan. [Earliest quotation: 1747.]

    David M. : Why “slice” and not “slicer”

    Presumably because the verb s(k)lice and the corresponding verbal noun were borrowed together from French (esclicer, esclice > modern éclisser, éclisse) about 1400. The meaning ‘kitchen utensil with a flat blade’ occurs already in the Paston Letters (mid-15th c.). It was originally called a slice not because it was used for slicing (in fact, it wasn’t) but because it was shaped like a slice of wood.

    The word has a complex history (Old High German –> Old French –> Late ME). It’s an indirect cognate of slit and (dated) German schleißen — cf. OE slītan ‘tear, rip up, cleave’, preserved in Modern Scots (slite, slate, slitten).

  49. It seems I cannot post again because Cyrillic. Here’s a link featuring kapkir:

    http://www.antho.net/library/fainberg/rubayat.html

  50. David Marjanović says:

    does a Teigkarte have a handle?

    Sometimes! Both of your examples qualify, at least if the ones with the handle aren’t hard enough to damage a plastic bowl.

    I guess Amazon links weren’t the best choice for illustrating types of scrapers, at least if I wanted to avoid moderation

    No, it’s that any comment with more than one link goes into moderation.

    Does anybody bake cakes these days?

    Fairly common in my family…

    because it was shaped like a slice of wood.

    Oh, so the use follows from the name rather than the other way around!

    German schleißen

    I didn’t even know that word. Clothes with enough damage are zerschlissen, though, and Verschleiß is “wear” ~ “destructive use, so you regularly need to buy spare parts”.

  51. Though I don’t possess one, I would call the metal thing for spreading icing a palette knife.

  52. J.W. Brewer says:

    On further reflection, I may not have read the three senses offered originally by Keith Ivey carefully enough, because like Kate B I don’t think I have (nor did my childhood home have) a metal object meeting the third sense. I am accustomed to using a sense-two spatula for both scraping stuff out of bowls and for spreading frosting/icing onto cakes (although sense-two spatulas come in a variety of shapes/sizes, only some of which — i.e. smaller ones with a particular length-to-width ratio) are useful for the frosting/icing application). If I were to use a metal thing for the frosting/icing application, which I think I have, it would just be a butter knife rather than a more specialized tool.

  53. I just asked a native Japanese speaker what they associated a “shakushi” with, and they said “oh, like a shamoji?”. So it seems to them, a shakushi doesn’t necessarily have depth. I regularly use a “shamoji” to scoop rice and an “otama” to serve soup. I don’t really use “shakushi” much, but I would classify it as a hypernym of the others if I had to. The ladle I use to wash my hands at the temple/shrine, I call a “hishaku”.

    > slite, slate, slitten

    Yep, Danish (slide, sled, slidt) is in common use (meaning “wear”). I couldn’t remember “paletkniv” until Lars mentioned it, but once he did, it seemed right. Danish has (at least) two words derived from “spatula”, “spatel”, which is a long spoon used to mix things in a laboratory, or a flat wooden stick for doctors to hold down your tongue while looking down your throat, and “spartel”, which is what I believe is called a “putty knife” in English. The dough scraper thingy is literally a “dejskraber”.

  54. Icelandic has spaði (“spade”) except for the flexible rubber/silicon thingie, that’s called sleikja (“licker”).

    My grandmother had one of those silver fish servers and actually used it. I had no idea half the English speaking world calls those things “slices”. http://www.silvercollection.it/FISHSLICE2bis.jpg

    In an English speaking situation I think I’d use the word spatula (for the implement that’s used to flip fish fillets, burgers etc over in a frying pan) but I’ve also heard the word turner.

  55. so you wouldn’t call that thing at the bottom (the round part is poking out) a shamoji?

    I’ve looked at it again and it is indeed a shamoji.

  56. Dublin Irish here – I recalled them being called ‘turners’, but wasn’t sure, so found these in Google, that would seem to support my recollection:

    http://www.arnotts.ie/shop-by-department/home-furniture/kitchen/utensils/

    (Arnotts is a well-known Dublin institution)

    and:
    http://www.debenhams.ie/home/kitchen-cookware/kitchen-utensils-accessories/turners

    Debenhams is British, of course, but they use the same names on their Irish website that Arnotts do.

  57. There is a traditional Scots tongue-twister which could be used a a sobriety test, like “The Leith Police”. Here slite has the meaning ‘rip up a seam’:

    I sewed a pair o’ sheets, and I slate them ;
    A pair o’ weel-sewed sheets slate I.

    (Slate and éclat also belong to the same etymological set.)

  58. “Kaf’gir literally means “foam-catcher” and it is a type of spatula (usually metal) with small round holes that is the traditional tool used when making Persian rice:”

    That sounds a lot like an écumoir/skimmer, which isn’t intended for use as a spatula, although I do use it that way for stir frying, but is instead supposed to be used to skim the scum off of broth.

  59. Ad dainichi: Note that Da spartelmasse is the material ‘spackling’, while ‘putty’ is kit and is pressed down with a kittekniv (a much more slender and less flexible tool). But with the glazier’s craft almost gone, it seems that ‘putty knife’ in English is now the larger tool used for spackling as well. (Both spartel and Spackle, originally a brand name, seem to be by way of G Spachtel by the way. DWDS blames Bavarian for the intrusive -ch-).

    Da slide also retains the older senses of tugging and pulling, as in slide med = ‘work hard at’ (or just slide = ‘work hard’) and slide sig fri = ‘wrench yourself away’. Swedish has this also (slita (med), slita loss sig, but the ‘wear’ sense is a false friend — slita kläderna means to rip your clothes (as in Scots), to wear (out) something is nöta.

  60. David Marjanović says:

    DWDS blames Bavarian for the intrusive -ch-

    That makes no sense that I can see.

  61. Giacomo Ponzetto says:

    I had no idea the object pictured was called a fish slice — I think I’d call it a slotted spatula. On the other hand, I recognize the Wodehousean silver implement as a fish slice, and I suspect it’s getting a bad rap.

    First, if you bring a whole fish to the table on a fish platter and plan to serve filets, a Wodehousean fish slice is helpful. I’m personally likely to fail to extract the whole filet even with it, but I have no chance with a mere knife and fork, or with the slotted spatula pictured.

    Second, I believe silver was not merely traditional and expensive, but superior to carbon steel precisely because it is less reactive. I expect some wedding gifts would have been silver-gilt fish slices, which may even be less reactive than stainless steel—though I admit I’m not sure.

  62. With help from the websites of the Hebrew Language Academy and of some kitchenware distributors, I present the following knotted tale:

    שְׁפַּכְטֶל špaxtel (from German Spachtel) is the common term for a putty knife. It is also used for a kitchen spatula made of metal, usually with a triangular blade, such as a grill spatula or some dough scrapers.

    מָרִית marit, mentioned above, comes from the Talmudic מָר mar, ‘gardening spade’. The word was coined as a substitute for špaxtel. Its intended meaning in the cooking domain is a rubber spatula for scraping and smoothing, but many use it for the frying tool or for a cake server.

    פְּלָטָה plata is used in the trade for any sort of metal spatula for cooking with more parallel edges, from burger flippers to dough scrapers to cake frosting spatulas.

    תַּרְוָד tarvad in Talmudic Hebrew was a large spoon. In my household we always used it to mean a ladle, though nowadays the word for ladle is מַצֶּקֶת matseket. It appears that tarvad is now used for the frying utensil, in competition with the other terms.

    כַּף טִגּוּן kaf tigun ‘frying spoon’ was mentioned before. Those tend to be slotted spatulas.

    רַחַת טִגּוּן raxat tigun is a coining by the academy for the frying tool, which never caught on. It comes from רַחַת raxat, a biblical word which probably meant a shovel for winnowing wheat. raxat is now the official word for a ping pong or tennis racket.

    הוֹפְכָן hofxan is a popular coining. It means ‘flipper’.

    לַקְקָן lakǝkan ‘licker’, i.e. rubber spatula, was mentioned before.

    סְפָּטוּלָה spatula is straight from the English. It’s used by the yuppie-inclined for what working-class cooks would call a špaxtel.

  63. That makes no sense that I can see.

    DWDS: entstanden aus frühnhd. Spat(e)l, Spatil (s. Spatel) durch Einfügen eines ch-Lautes zwischen Stammsilbenvokal und t (wie bei Schachtel, s. d.) in bair. Mundarten. — but I don’t know if that helps.

  64. David Marjanović says:

    raxat is now the official word for a ping pong or tennis racket.

    I love that.

    — but I don’t know if that helps.

    Well, that makes Spachtel and Schachtel the only two examples of a sound shift… I certainly don’t have a better explanation for Schachtel, though.

  65. Schmarrnschaufel I like that. The word screams “I’m Austrian”. 🙂

    Pfannenwender (German, also Pfannenmesser, Schlitzwender, Backschaufel, Bratenwender, Bratschaufel or Küchenfreund)
    So many synonyms and they still don’t list the one I’m used to; for me, it’s a Pfannenheber (lit. “pan-lifter”).

    German schleißen
    I didn’t even know that word. Clothes with enough damage are zerschlissen, though, and Verschleiß is “wear” ~ “destructive use, so you regularly need to buy spare parts”.

    I also don’t remember ever seeing the simple verb in the wild, but verschleißen is part of my idiolect.

  66. https://www.dwds.de/wb/schleißen

    It seems to have been used more in the 19th century. Note the collocation Holz schleißen (= fein spalten).

  67. All of Шпакла (Shpakla) (Gevgir) Гевгир and the third one ring a bell .And I think a third one. (Bulgarian here).

    “טִגּוּן kaf tigun, literally ‘frying spoon’ — in Bulgarian, “tigan” means ‘frying pan.’ And гевгир
    (gevgir) means ladle.

  68. David Marjanović says:

    The word screams “I’m Austrian”. 🙂

    It does!

    It seems to have been used more in the 19th century.

    Yeah, under verschleißen, schleißen is called heute kaum noch üblich “hardly usual today anymore”.

  69. @ Piotr: yes, that looks about right – if you look at the quotes, most of the newer ones are for prefixed forms of schleißen, while most of the quotes for the simple verb are early 20th century or earlier.

  70. I tried to guess what the utensil was from reading the excerpt, but it didn’t look as I expected! I expected more of a dough-scraper. In Swedish, I would consider the pictured utensil a type of “stekspade” (frying slice), just as Bathrobe suggested above. With the holes in it, it looks a little bit like a “fiskslev” (fish slice/scoop), but I usually see the “fiskslev” more rounded, not with the rectangular shape of a typical “stekspade”.
    For your information, a dough-scraper in Swedish would be a “slickepott”, and a cake slice would be a “tårtspade”.

    PS. After looking at retail websites, I realized I forget another name for the “fiskslev”: It is usually called “hålslev”, because of the small holes in it – literally a hole slice. I guess the picture could also be called that since it is a slice and has holes in it. 🙂

    PPS: The artist word spatula would be “spatel”, or more common, “palettkniv” in Swedish.

  71. Trond Engen says:

    Norwegian looks a lot like Swedish in the kitchen department. I would judge the utensil in the picture to be a steikespade. It does look somewhat like a fiskespade, but what makes it less like a fiskespade to me is the gradient of the handle.

    A doughscraper is a slikkepott (lit. “lickpot”), a word that is worth noting because it’s a rare cutthroat compound. The word is also a nursery word for “index finger”, for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, it looks borrowed to me, but probably not from Swedish. Swedish lost the infinitive ending -e as if it were an ordinary endocentric verb-noun compound, with the pot doing the licking, showing that this compound type isn’t really transparent to us Scandinavians.

    A hullsleiv is a different tool. Completely useless for any imaginable kitchen activity, it has its purpose in filling the innermost nook of the utensil drawer instead of something you might actually need again some day.

    (And why “utensils” in English? Where did that word come from? Why not just “kitchen tools” or something?)

  72. Latin ūtensilis ‘useful’, hence ūtensilia ‘things for use, accessories’. From ūtor ‘use’ (deponent verb), which is also the basis of ūsus ‘use’ (noun). Other Italic languages and the Duenos Inscription show that the long vowel reflects Proto-Italic *oi. Tentative cognates elsewhere (Greek, Luwian) suggest an IE root meaning approximately ‘fetch, carry with oneself’.

  73. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, sorry, I knew that. I wondered how English came to use such a fancy word for such a homely concept.

    No, actually, I didn’t. I didn’t know there were possible cognates outside Italic. What would the reconstructed form be?

  74. PIE *h₃(o)it-. Old French had utensile, which was first borrowed as a formal collective noun meaning ‘equipment, pots and pans, household goods’. Its earliest attestation in English is from a will dated 1411: Y be-qweythe to lucye my wyfe … alle þe vtensyl of myn hows…. The count plural utensils was already used by Caxton a few decades later. The pronunciation /ˈjuːtənsəl/ (with initial stress) was used until the early 19th century.

  75. French now has ustensile.

  76. Yes, but the s-less spellings utencile ~ utensile still existed as an acceptable variants until ca. 1700. I suppose the orthographic s was originally mute, and its task was to convey the writers’ vague awareness that the word was somehow related to user.

  77. The synonyms of native tool are almost all borrowings: utensil, implement, instrument, device, apparatus, appliance, contrivance, gadget < Fr gâchette ‘lock mechanism’, and the arbitrary coinage gizmo. English has about 600,000 words, per the OED, and less than 2000 native roots in current use.

  78. David Marjanović says:

    French does have utiliser; it’s much more common, at least in the meaning “use”, than user “wear down” nowadays.

  79. My mother, a former home economics teacher, has implements #1, #2, and #3 in her kitchen and volunteered the names “fish slice”, “spatula”, and “palette knife” respectively. I would have said “spatula”, “different kind of spatula”, and “palette knife”.

    I only know “palette knife” because she happened to use the term in my presence in the last few years and it stuck in my head; it is by no means evidence of culinary sophistication. Not, mind, that I would otherwise have called it “yet another kind of spatula”; more like “scrapey-slathery thingy”.

    My impression is that British uses “cutlery” for eating implements and “utensils” for preparation implements, whereas American reverses this.

  80. The AHD5 defines cutlery as ‘utensils such as knives, forks, and spoons used as tableware’, which agrees with my own usage: utensil is the broader term (and a count noun), whereas cutlery is restricted to what is used at the table (and is a mass noun). So I don’t think American reverses the above.

  81. I agree with JC, and personally I occasionally use cutlery but think of utensil as a book/official word, not part of ordinary speech.

  82. Eating implements are mainly silverware for me, if they’re metal, and utensil is a much more common word for me than cutlery, which I think of as mainly knives.

  83. My usage agrees with Kieth Ivey’s.

  84. Oh, silverware is my standard word, definitely; I’m just saying I can imagine myself saying cutlery, but not utensil, in an everyday context. I can’t say I actually remember saying it, though.

  85. Completely unrelated, but why the devil is the Spanish word for ‘skeleton’ esqueleto rather than esquéleto? The etymological e in -let- is short!

  86. Perhaps because it’s a late (16th century) learned loan?

  87. But you’d think the learned people who would borrow a learned loan would know how these things work.

  88. Spanish has a habit of moving the stress to the penult in some Greco-Latin words, like Pericles, Damocles and Urano – maybe influenced in this case by there being more -eto words than -V́Ceto ones.

    And weirdly, they moved the stress to the antepenult in atmósfera.

  89. Is Church Latin pronounced in Spain nowadays with Spanish or Latin stress rules?

  90. Hat: What do you call the drawer in the kitchen that holds miscellaneous utensils? For me it’s the utensil drawer.

  91. Also, Portuguese (esqueleto) and Catalan (esquelet) both stress the ancient penult despite lacking some of the other innovative stresses found in Spanish, and French squelette hints that they’d do the same if it were still contrastive – so I think it’s probably a case of Western Romance in general reanalyzing the word as ending in Latin -ettus. The Italians, for their part, added an r to make scheletro, so apparently there was something about that word that rubbed Latin ears the wrong way.

    @Y: I’m not sure what you mean? Spanish still makes common use of penultimate and antepenultimate stress, so aside from perhaps a few anomalous words I’d guess that their Church Latin wouldn’t be stressed too differently from the Italians’.

  92. Hat: What do you call the drawer in the kitchen that holds miscellaneous utensils? For me it’s the utensil drawer.

    I don’t think I call it anything, other than “that other drawer,” but “utensil drawer” is a good name. Maybe I’ll start using it.

    Also, Portuguese (esqueleto) and Catalan (esquelet) both stress the ancient penult despite lacking some of the other innovative stresses found in Spanish, and French squelette hints that they’d do the same if it were still contrastive – so I think it’s probably a case of Western Romance in general reanalyzing the word as ending in Latin -ettus.

    Excellent point and convincing analysis.

  93. German (and hence Danish and Swedish at least) stress the (short) second syllable as well. But then they dropped the stressed syllable of σκελετóν, so what to do?

  94. Eli Nelson says:

    @Lars: I’d guess German “Skelett” is from French.

    Vaguely relately, I’ve wondered why “retina” in English and, if Wiktionary can be trusted, Italian(!) has antepenult stress, unlike vagina and Regina. Spanish “retina” apparently has the penult stress that I would expect.

    Then again, apparently the pronunciations of “patina” and “angina” that have penult stress are innovative relative to Latin, so it seems like words ending in -ina were subject as a class to a bit of confusion about stress placement that might have gone both ways.

  95. David Marjanović says:

    I’d guess German “Skelett” is from French.

    I’m sure it is. That explains not only the final stress, but also the tt, which has struck a few learned anatomists as so wrong they insisted on the innovative spelling Skelet (and who knows what pronunciation, if any).

  96. Vaguely relately, I’ve wondered why “retina” in English and, if Wiktionary can be trusted, Italian(!) has antepenult stress, unlike vagina and Regina. Spanish “retina” apparently has the penult stress that I would expect.

    The I is short in Latin patina and angina, long in regina and vagina. So the accent follows the normal Latin accentuation rules.

    Retina is apparently a medieval coinage.

  97. Eli Nelson says:

    What I was trying to say was that “angina” and “patina” have been pronounced with penult stress in English despite their antepenult stress in Latin, so perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that “retina” gets antepenult stress even though it would take penult using the Latin weight-based stress rule.

  98. m-w.com lists both an-GY-na and AN-gi-na and likewise both pa-TEEN-a and PAT-in-a as acceptable AmE pronunciations, but gives only va-GY-na and reh-JY-na (or re-GUY-na). Since Latin stress normally determines English stress, the first pronunciations given for the first two words must be by analogy.

  99. David Marjanović says:

    Interesting. In German, Angina (a pretty common word that means “strep throat”, not just angina pectoris) is stressed in the middle.

  100. FWIW, in Danish I’d stress the penult in all of these by default (and make it long), ‘angina and ‘patina are exceptions that I must’ve learnt at some point.

  101. Trond Engen says:

    John C.: Hat: What do you call the drawer in the kitchen that holds miscellaneous utensils? For me it’s the utensil drawer.

    Hat: I don’t think I call it anything, other than “that other drawer,” but “utensil drawer” is a good name. Maybe I’ll start using it.

    I called it that far upthread. Must have picked it up somewhere.

    German (and hence Danish and Swedish at least) stress the (short) second syllable as well.

    Also Western and Northern Norwegian plus Eastern Dano-Norwegian (= Urban Acrolect). Eastern and Trønder dialects traditionally have obligatory first syllable stress, but this is now a dying feature. I’ve lost it during my lifetime. Since it’s a good geographical match with low-pitch tonality, I imagine the two to be related, but I have no idea how. And I don’t know how far into Sweden the zone with obligatory first-syllable stress reaches, and how well it matches tonality there.

    Me in Norwegian: re’tina, ‘vagina (or va’gina), re’gina, ‘patina, an’gina, all tone 1. But kan’tine has tone 2. I think that may be because the e yields the plural kan’tiner rather than e.g. re’tinaer. Swedish instead seems to place these in the old weak feminine paradigm, vagina ~ vaginor, and at least the plural will be tone 2 (or grav, as the Swedish say).

  102. Flipper spatulas for frying seem like the kind of tool that is so obvious that it must have been ubiquitous for many hundreds or thousands of years. So I remember being surprised when I first saw Velazquez’s famous painting of an Old Woman Frying Eggs (can. 1618), which shows her cooking them sunny side up with an obviously inapt wooden spoon.

  103. Trond Engen says:

    That, or Velazquez wasn’t intimately familiar with cooking and mixed up the tools from different sketches.

    The etymology of Eng. spoon points to an origin as a flat piece of wood used as a tool. The same may be the case with Scand. sk(j)e(i)(d) < ON skeið f., but the ON senses “large battleship, longship; reed (in weaving)” might also suggest it was a tool for splitting, not the result of it. The homonym skeið n. has the meaning “road between fields; furlong” (as well as several other senses of Lat. stadium). It think the original meaning must have been “divide” and the semantic development -> “divide between fields” -> “the road in the divide beteen fields” -> “the length of the road in the divide between fields” -> “the length of a Lat. stadium” -> “all senses of Lat. stadium“.

  104. perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that “retina” gets antepenult stress even though it would take penult using the Latin weight-based stress rule

    But that isn’t the case: retina has all short vowels in Latin, and so takes antepenult stress. It’s a clipped form of retināculum ‘little net’. There’s a separate rētīna ‘resin’, an etymological spelling of rēsīna < ῥητῑ́νη that lacks the first (post-)Latin palatalization. All this per du Cange via Wiktionary.

  105. David Marjanović says:

    It think the original meaning must have been “divide”

    That’s suggested by literary German scheiden “separate; leave” and a few compounds with -scheide f. “divide”, notably Wasserscheide “watershed” in the meaning of “divide between two drainage basins” (never a drainage basin itself, as often happens in English). On its own, though, Scheide means “sheath”… and is therefore used to calque vagina. Achievement of full thread circularity unlocked!

  106. In the study of geography, there have been a number of coinages inspired by watershed. Watershed itself was a direct calque from German, and I believe that among German geographers it also has a technical definition equivalent to the English meaning. I can see how the everyday usages of the two words could tend to differ, since scheiden and shed have distinctly different suggestions in the two languages. The watershed is the region which drains/sheds its water into a given stream.

    The other kinds of -shed in geographers’ English lack this kind of etymologically false yet natural seeming meaning. The most prominent (at least in my mind, since it was the topic of my wife’s graduate thesis) is viewshed, which means region of space (or sometimes the boundary of that region) that can be seen from a given location. I wonder now if these new coinages are shared with German, where the the -scheide versions might seem more logical.

  107. Eli Nelson says:

    @John Cowan:

    I was basing my statement on the OED, which says the word retina in the anatomical sense is

    < post-classical Latin retina (13th cent. in British and continental sources) < classical Latin rēte net (see rete n.) + -īna -ine suffix

    Wiktionary says that the Latin word retina with short vowels has the meaning “a rein”, and it is supposed to be derived from the verb retineo; semantically, a word meaning “net” seems a more likely source than a word meaning “rein” for a term referring to a layer of the eye.

    The OED cites one early example where it is compared to a a tunica “secundina” (the choroid layer, apparently?), which seems to support the idea that “retina” was originally apprehended as an adjective ending in -ina:

     ?a1425   tr. Guy de Chauliac Grande Chirurgie (Hunterian) f. 50 (MED)

    Þe tunikel..secundina was made þat it myȝte defenden þe tunikel þat is cleped retina wiþ his mesurabel hardenes fro þe passinge hardenesse off þe tunica sclirotica.

    But perhaps the existence of the retina “rein” word contributed to the modern pronunciation of the anatomical term even if they did not originate from the same source.

  108. January First-of-May says:

    I wrote a fairly lengthy comment regarding the Russian forms of some of the Latinate words in -ina, but it apparently got nicked under the “no Cyrillic” problem when I tried to edit it to include more examples. I might try to post it later.

    TL/DR: patina has initial stress (or, at least, I’ve never heard it differently – dictionaries list it as either initial or penultimate), all the other examples I could think of have penultimate stress (and native Russian words with the same ending can be stressed on any of the three syllables).

  109. David Marjanović says:

    I calqued viewshed as Sichtscheide and fed it into the Google machine. 39 hits spanning 1837 through 2016; the one from 1837 clearly has the geographic meaning, while some younger ones seem to refer to a kind of small sliding door (and I think I’ve even encountered that before) and some are wholly mysterious.

    semantically, a word meaning “net” seems a more likely source than a word meaning “rein” for a term referring to a layer of the eye

    And indeed, it’s calqued into German as Netzhaut “net skin”.

  110. Trond Engen says:

    No. netthinne, and equivalent forms in the other Scandinavian languages. Also e.g hornhinne for German Hornhaut. Sort of strange that German uses Haut for thise thin layers. We Scandinavians used to calque German accurately,

  111. Sichtscheide is a much nicer word that viewshed.

  112. Trond Engen says:

    Yes, I knew German Scheide but I didn’t dare to go there. The forms with -e are probably feminine singulars back-formed from feminine plurals with collectiive meaning. Or something like that. At least that seems to be the case in Norwegian. ON skeiðir f. pl. meant “sheath”. Modern Da,-No. skjede m./f. pl. has the meaning “vagina” as well as “sheath”.

  113. Küchenkabinett says:

    I’ve found out about a case where mother and daughter used different terms (I know, right?): Küchenfreund by mother, and I think Bratenwender by daughter. I guess it’s possible that each of them started using her name for it after exposure to whatever her home economics class teacher(s) used in the 1930s and 1960s, respectively.

    Teigkarte is new to me, I like it. For me, it’s a Teigschaber, handled or unhandled.

  114. > Scand. sk(j)e(i)(d)

    My father used to jokingly call a spoon (usually “ske” in Danish) “sked”, imitating Swedish “sked” (also spoon). But “sked” coincides with the past tense of “skide” (da), to shit. Nice humor for the dinner table, eh? Anyway, reading this thread, I learn that these, including “skede” all have shared roots, so it’s an aha moment for me. Coincidentally, it’s (skide, sked, skidt), same pattern as “slide”, which I mentioned further up 🙂

  115. Trond Engen says:

    Me: skjede m./f. pl.

    I meant m./f. sg. That was the whole point. Or much of it.

    dainichi: skide, sked skidt

    ENo. skite – skeit – skiti

    We keep more of the strong paradigm. But the past participles are changing, one verb at a time.

    E.g. slite – sleit – slitt is more common than – sliti

  116. > the past participles are changing, one verb at a time.

    Different versions of Norwegian confuse me quite a bit, but if I’m not mistaken, Bokmål past participles are all in -t, but not all Nynorsk past participles are. So since you write ENo, and (again AFAIK) Bokmål is the written standard in the East, I assume it’s happening because of influence from the written language?

    Tangentially related, I recently went to Ålesund and was shocked at how little I understood people (although I’d studied a bit in advance). People seemed to understand my Danish-with-unlenited-consonants, though.

  117. Trond Engen says:

    When I say ENo., I mean contemporary colloquial Eastern Norwegian, which is more different from the written quasi-standard than most speakers recognize. What I mean by changing past participles, is that they change from “strong” to “weak” forms. Present forms have mostly added the “weak” ending already. These are overlapping, but not identical, with the written t-s from Danish. The process is conditioned by a mess of factors: phonology, analogy, sociolinguistics, hypercorrection. Writing it up paradigm for paradigm, with exceptions and conditioning factors, is something for another day.

    Impressionistically speaking, the Ålesund dialect is one of the fastest-changing in Norway. From being an urban amalgam of the conservative dialects of Sunnmøre, the home region of Ivar Aasen himself, it’s quickly becoming conservative, almost Dano-Norwegian, Bokmål with WNo phonology, something that’s often parodied for comic effect.

  118. That ENo. pptc looks like what the Swedes call the supine, which only occurs in the composite tenses, but with the last -t elided in ENo:

    Sw: att slita, jag sliter, jag slet, jag har slitit — but the pptc as predicate (also attributively) has a less reduced form: jag är sliten, tyget är slitet, däcken är slitna.

    Danish doesn’t have that distinction, using the unreduced neuter in the composite tenses, but the ‘free’ declension of the strong participle is in the process of being reshaped after the weak one (without losing its ablauted stem), interpreting the neuter -t as identical to the reduced weak ending. Compare: stjæler, stjal, stjålet / hugger, huggede, hugget, both = ‘steal’.

    En stjålen cykel is old-fashioned, en stjålet cykel (like en hugget cykel) is normal. The next logical step is stjålede cykler (like huggede cykler) instead of stjålne cykler, but that still brings me up short; it is a newer change, starting to appear in newspapers though not part of the standard yet. Give it twenty years…

  119. Trond Engen says:

    Yes, the participle/supine distinction is in Norwegian too, but the supine is somewhat remodeled and reduced in currency. The n-forms are used for animates, more or less. And we don’t use the term much, maybe because it’s less obviously a conjugated form of the verb and more a derived adjective.

    å slite – sliter – sleit – har sliti/slitt
    jeg er sliten, han/hu er sliten, hunden/bikkja er sliten, det er slitent, dyret er slitent, vi/dere/de/dyra er slitne.
    genseren er slitt, buksa er slitt, tøyet er slitt, klærne er slitte

    (I can use sliten also for inanimates, but that’s poetic personification, seeing it from the view of an inanimate experiencer. But this is not e\xactly the same for all verbs.)

  120. Slitent is a specific Norwegian remodelling, I think, or is it a retention? As far as I can make out, PGmc had neuter *slitana or *slitanat(a), but ON only had slitit. (Swedish has -ent > -et even in (the neuter of) later loans, like ett kristet folk where Da/No has kristent, either by sound law or analogy).

    I avoided both slide and skide as Danish examples because strong verb stems in -de had their neuter participle reduced from slidet to slidt so long ago that the first one is not even in the most archaizing register. (And the -d- is only retained in spelling to show the relation to the other tenses). — which is probably why plural slidte won out over slidne a few generations ago.

  121. David Marjanović says:

    Teigschaber

    That sounds like it would damage things…

    hugger, huggede, hugget […] = ‘steal’

    I knew something was odd about English hug!

  122. E hug is related to the infamous Danish hygge. The steal word is either cognate to E hew, used figuratively, or a loan from E hook, or maybe it’s best to say that they are indistinguishable in the ‘steal’ sense. (The literal sense of setting a hook in something is not current, while that of striking with a sharp implement is).

  123. Trond Engen says:

    Lars: Slitent is a specific Norwegian remodelling, I think, or is it a retention?

    It’s been my impression that it’s a remodeling, but now that you ask, I’m not sure. But I think the n-forms were increasingly felt like adjectives derived from the bare-stem-noun. sliten is “formed by slit (hard work, wear and tear)”, skitten is “covered in dirt”. This happened partly under influence of the (related, I think) inchoative n-verbs, e.g. skitne til “make dirty”, råtne “rot”, mugne “become moldy”, bleikne “become pale”, stivne “become stiff”, partly after other n-adjectives with the meaning “characterized by”, e.g. fysen “hungry for a snack” to fyse “have an appetite”, vassen “full of water” to vatn “water”,.

    David M.: I knew something was odd about English hug!

    In Norwegian hogge (Dano-Norwegian hugge) is what you do with an axe.

  124. David Marjanović says:

    Oh, hack.

  125. No, hack belongs to the same PIE root as hook. Da hugge, ON hǫggva is cognate to E hew, G hauen, PG *hawwaną through the regular fortition *-ww- > *-gv- (but the Norse word may have influenced the sense of hack).

  126. I checked Ringe 2006 for the derivation of the ‘weak class IV fientives’ like stivne— there is indeed an old theory (Feist 1939) that it’s the same morpheme as in the strong past participle, but Ringe prefers to derive them from a reanalysis of nasal-infixed present stems to roots ending in laryngeals, though he admits that the fientive sense doesn’t follow from that. (His point about Feist’s theory is that the participial morpheme ‘should’ create verb stems with factitive sense (like stive) but those are formed differently; so one unexplained sense stands against another).

  127. Lars and Trond, thanks so much for the elaboration.

    Wikipedia says about the supine:

    > normally merged with the past participle, or the preterite, and this was formerly the case in Swedish, too (the choice of -it or -et being dialectal rather than grammatical); however, in modern Swedish, they are separate, since the distinction of -it being supine and -et being participial was standardised.

    So it seems it’s a Scandinavian innovation which (part of?) Norwegian is losing again, but which Danish never had. Interesting!

    > plural slidte won out over slidne

    “Skiden” still exists as a fossil, though. And apropos toilet-talk at the dinner table, “skidne æg” (lit. shat eggs) is a traditional Easter dish.

    Tangentially, in at least my idiolect, “beskidt” (lit. shitted-on) has lost all of its vulgarity and just means dirty (although it also has some of the same figurative meanings as dirty). I believe Norwegian “skitten” is the most common word with this meaning, too.

  128. David Marjanović says:

    has lost all of its vulgarity and just means dirty

    A tragic loss.

    Wir protestieren
    auf allen Vieren,
    denn wir wissen: Die
    Schule ist beschissen!

    Eastern and Trønder dialects traditionally have obligatory first syllable stress […]. Since it’s a good geographical match with low-pitch tonality, I imagine the two to be related, but I have no idea how.

    Swiss German, too, combines unusually strict first-syllable stress (even in abbreviations like EU and USA) with low pitch on the stressed syllable.

  129. As the Wikipedia article hints the Swedish supine was grammaticalized from a variation between the past participle as part of a periphrastic perfect (less stressed) and in attributive/predicative position, but it wasn’t so in most dialects (if any). In so far as Norwegian dialects / regional variants have done the same it must be convergent, not shared.

    And yes, there are a number of adjectives in Danish that used to be participles but have been stranded by changes in the conjugation of the verb and now have specialized uses. (E.g., opstanden = ‘risen’ in the apostolic creed against opstået in the perfect of opstå = ‘arise’ (of problems and the like); and skidne as you mention).

  130. English is full of such relic strong participles now used only as adjectives: wrought, stricken, proven, cloven, clad, molten, rotten, shrunken, shorn, sunken. All of these are now weak verbs except struck, shrunk, sunk.

    It is said that a mathematical paper by a non-English-native author arrived at the journal editor’s desk with a number of instances of stricken mass distribution, a hitherto unknown term. Puzzled, the editor contacted the author, who drew his attention to a sentence in one of the referee’s reports: “The term ‘generalized mass distribution’ is no longer used; the word ‘generalized’ should be stricken.”

    Alas, the story is not quite true, for Dr. Google reveals that the paper was published with five instances of stricken still in it.

  131. Good lord. I’d seen that story but assumed it was a joke. I’m baffled: if the editor contacted the author and got that amusing but absurd response, why the devil didn’t he or she change it back before publication? How can you knowingly publish a paper that uses incorrect terminology that is likely to cause your journal to be mocked?

  132. I’m baffled: if the editor contacted the author and got that amusing but absurd response, why the devil didn’t he or she change it back before publication?
    There are some cases where there is “mass distribution” and some where there is “stricken mass distribution”, so perhaps the editor was just sloppy and didn’t catch all instances.

  133. [Insert rant about decline in editing standards here.]

  134. If I understand correctly, that paper was published in 1967, so at least one can’t blame text editing software…

  135. David Marjanović says:

    I know a paper where accidentally the first instead of the second revision was published. (I was a reviewer on it.)

  136. I think we can blame the lack of text editing software, which however feeble at least allows a global search-and-replace.

  137. Good point.

  138. Trond Engen says:

    dainichi: Tangentially, in at least my idiolect, “beskidt” (lit. shitted-on) has lost all of its vulgarity and just means dirty (although it also has some of the same figurative meanings as dirty). I believe Norwegian “skitten” is the most common word with this meaning, too.

    In this case, at least, I think the euphemism threadmill is more of a seesaw, In Norwegian, as a first approximation,skit(t) means “dirt” while drit(t) means “shit”, unlike their English cognates. However, the verbs skite and drite both mean “defecate”, and the adjectives skitten and dritten both “dirty”. But the latter is ruder than the former for both the verb and the adjective. People use skit(t) as a less (but not prudishly less) rude alternative for drit(t), and conversely, drit(t) is a more expressive way to say skit(t). But I could see them switching places through eu- and dysphemism. For another example of, er, diaphemism, consider Da. and No. lort “turd”, which is neutral but bookish, almost technical, in Norwegian, and a word I’ve seen written l*** in Danish.

    David M.: Swiss German, too, combines unusually strict first-syllable stress (even in abbreviations like EU and USA) with low pitch on the stressed syllable.

    !

  139. @David Marjanović: For one of my own papers, they mistakenly published the wrong revision. However, the “published” version was posted online well before the paper version was to be printed, and I caught it and had them correct it before it was set in ink.

  140. David Marjanović says:

    Ah… I’m talking about a paper in an online-only journal which, uniquely, does not make page proofs.

  141. On investigation, the first three instances of stricken are actually stricken positive mass distribution (or nonnegative), but the last two I can’t account for: perhaps in the original MS stricken appeared at the end of a line with mass distribution at the beginning of the next line. All of these would make the occurrence easier to overlook. There are another five instances of mass distribution simpliciter.

  142. Küchenkabinett says:

    DM:
    I was going to ask you if Tunnel is an exception to this Swiss stress-on-first-syllable business, but first I had a look at the Duden online, and the Tunnel entry (“entry” as in article, not as in entering a tunnel entrance) only shows stress on the first syllable, but it does list das (!) Tunell (!) among the synonyms, marked “southern German, Austrian, Swiss”, but then the Tunell entry itself, which says stress is on the last syllable, doesn’t says “Swiss”, only “southern German, Austrian”. So, is “der Tunnel” uncommon in Switzerland? If not, where is it stressed? Merci [ˈ–] in advance.

  143. David Marjanović says:

    I have no idea.

    While I’ve never seen it spelled Tunell, I have on rare occasions encountered the corresponding end-stressed pronunciation plus neuter gender in Austria (always in combination, sometimes with etymological nativization into dialect: /ɛl/ > /œ/). It may well be extinct now.

    This is one of the first English loanwords in German; it came in at a time when the default source for loans was still French, so all loans that weren’t obviously Classical were assumed to be French until proven otherwise. Another example is Schrapnell, really so spelled. Another, now likely extinct, is a forgotten piece of ladies’ underwear pronounced as if *combinège, really a combination of undershirt and petticoat.

  144. the word earlier existed in Russian too – Russified to very Russian-sounding комбинашка

  145. “Kaiser Bill went up the hill
    To conquer all the nations;
    Kaiser Bill came down the hill
    And split his combinations.”

  146. strong verb stems in -de had their neuter participle reduced

    I just happened on a reference to Poul Egede Saabye’s Brudstykker af en Dagbog holden i Grønland i Aarene 1770-1778 (published 1816) — so two centuries ago the free participle still had its full form at least for this verb.

  147. While I’ve never seen it spelled Tunell, I have on rare occasions encountered the corresponding end-stressed pronunciation plus neuter gender in Austria (always in combination, sometimes with etymological nativization into dialect: /ɛl/ > /œ/). It may well be extinct now.
    Final stress doesn’t necessarily go with neutral gender; I remember hearing der Tunnél occasionally. But this is non-standard.

  148. The name Shrapnel is apparently a metathesis of Carbonel, the little coal(-colored one).

  149. I may be dense this morning, but I don’t understand how the metathesis is supposed to work.

  150. Charbonel?

  151. David Marjanović says:

    Ah. /ʃarb/- > /ʃrap/-?

  152. Ah, that must be right.

  153. Yes, I meant Charbonel.

  154. Küchenkabinett says:

    Hans, DM: Thank you.
    Have a comic.

  155. David Marjanović says:

    🙂

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