_ash pit_

Paul Johnston paul.johnston at WMICH.EDU
Wed Jul 20 00:26:10 UTC 2011

I know clinkers from Scotland, where, when I lived there, everyone in the countryside had a coal fire, really old-fashioned or semi-modernized.  I  forget what they called the bucket you swept the ashes and put the clinkers in.  "Ass- (and "ess-") holes and pits are all over the Survey of English Dialects though, and usually designate real holes or at least middens.  I'm sure some of my older Border Area informants used a term like that (though I'd guess beginning with "esh-" or "aish-" .  Maybe Robin's around and can refresh my memory.

Paul Johnston
On Jul 19, 2011, at 8:12 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: _ash pit_
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Tue, Jul 19, 2011 at 5:30 PM, victor steinbok <aardvark66 at gmail.com> wrote:
>> I'm going by the definitions in the sources. Ass-hole and ass-pit are
>> defined to be holes in the ground where the fireplace and other domestic
>> ashes are carried to to dispose of them. This is specifically contrasted
>> with dump heaps in some areas, where no hole is dug in the ground for such
>> disposal. _I have no idea what an "ash pit" was in St. Louis when you were
>> growing up. For all I know, it was a giant dump heap. *This does not change
>> the meaning of what I wrote.* In fact, some of the aforementioned glossaries
>> list ass-hole, ass-pit and ass-midden all together with a single definition
>> (that includes both dump heap and ash pit)._
> "Cool it, baby! Don't get up tight!" to quote from (the film version
> of) The Pawnbroker.
> My only point is that it's difficult to explain what the StL so-called
> "ash pit" was when, among other things, it was not any form of pit,
> sensu stricto, though it was certainly used to hold the ashes and
> clinkers from coal-burning household furnaces. I was merely hoping
> against hope that, since you cite the term, you might be familiar with
> the StL usage.
> Youneverknow.
> The ash pit was an above-ground, rectangular container, perhaps 4'h by
> 6'w by 5'd, usually constructed of brick, occasionally of concrete,
> set at the back property-line of each dwelling, at the alley.
> My WAG is that this structure was called an "ash _pit_" because,
> historically, it was literally a pit or because it fulfilled the
> function of a pit. In addition to ashes and clinkers, all other
> non-garbage household detritus was tossed into the ash pit and, if
> such was combustible, it was set afire / set on fire.
> (There's a reggae album entitled, Catch A Fire. I'd bet that that
> title is a misunderstanding of "catch afire," once a non-standard
> variant, together with "catch on fire," of older standard "catch
> fire."  Nowadays, you hear "catch afire" / "catch on fire" falling
> trippingly from any random tongue, at even the highest levels of
> discourse. "Catch fire" interfered with by "set NP afire" / "set NP on
> fire"?)
> Uh, BTW, Victor, I probably shouldn't ask, then, whether you may be
> familiar with _clinker_, another object hard to describe to people
> when you can't point one out to them.
> --
> -Wilson
> -----
> All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
> to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
> -Mark Twain
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