Unusual names for cutlery

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Wed Jan 19 19:55:16 UTC 2005

No, I'm not talking about runcible spoons.

A friend who is working on a late-nineteenth century American
cutlery catalogue has e-mailed a question about certain
descriptive (?) words found with the names of each piece of

Her message is below. Note her observations that the words
are generally in the same alphabetical range (two different
ranges, the difference between which is unclear), and notably
that many of the words are not complimentary, which would seem
to argue against an adopted name for a particular kind of

Anyone have an idea what the purpose of these words is?


Jesse Sheidlower

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Catalogue no. 43 of the Meriden Britannia Company, published around
1890 in Meriden, CT (the date is uncertain), shows spoons, forks, and
knives from the product line known as "1847 Rogers Bros." The various
patterns are illustrated, with descriptive lists of the pieces in each
pattern. What fascinates and intrigues me are the words listed to the
left of each item. For instance, here are some examples from the
"Lotus" price list:

SPOONS                                                           Extra
plate, per dozen

Leper                   Mustard                                 $4.75
Leporine                Salt, Individual                         3.75
Letterbox               Vegetable                               36.00

FORKS                                                                   etc.

Levigated               Pickle, Long
Levitical               Fruit
Lewdly                  Child's
Lewdness                Fish


Lexicology              Fish
Lexigraphy              Pie


Libellous               Sugar


Magically               Sugar


Libertine               No. 192


Libidinous              Cream
Licentious              Medium
Licorice                Soup

Under the "Columbia" Pattern we find:


Daunted                 Egg
Dauphin                 Ice Cream
Dayspring               Orange
Limewater               Ice, Perforated Bowls
Deaconry                Bouillon


Deafness                Dessert
Deathbed                Oyster
Deathless               Fruit
Debauch                 Child's
Limitedly               Cake
Debility                Fish

and so on. The insertion of various words beginning with "L" breaks up
the alphabetical order, which is not in any case consistent in the
catalogue. I really can't figure out what's going on -- it would make
sense to me if positive words were attached to the pieces, but at least
half of them are decidedly negative. No key is provided.

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