"pebbledash" -- WOTY?

Jesse Sheidlower jester at PANIX.COM
Sun Apr 19 14:19:15 UTC 2009

On Apr 19, 2009, at 10:08, Damien Hall <djh514 at YORK.AC.UK> wrote:

>> "All the attention has been quite an upheaval, and she is quite
>> tired," Miss [Susan] Boyle's brother, John, told reporters Thursday
>> outside her tiny pebbledash cottage in tiny, previously unexciting
>> Blackburn, Scotland.
>> The New York Times, Saturday, April 18, page C1, col. 5.  Sarah
>> Lyall, from London, where the interesting words come easier to the
>> pen.
>> And postdates OED draft rev. Dec. 2009, adj.,  -1991.
> It's much older than that. I've known what it meant since at least
> the late
> 1970's, when we lived in a house that was, I think, pebbledashed. I
> remember my mother not liking that aspect of the house. (NB the
> variation
> in the orthographic form, the expected development from /St/ to [S], I
> suppose.) But of course I don't have a cite to back it up!

Just to clarify, the 1991 date is the _last_ cite in OED (though I've
put this one in the hopper to be added). The earliest is 1879 for the
noun, and 1911 for the adjective (with _pebbledashed_ being earlier

Jesse Sheidlower

> For anyone who's not familiar with the technique or its social
> implications
> - since I don't think I've seen it in the States, now I think about
> it, and
> my American wife's not familiar with it either, having seen a
> picture - it
> consists in covering every inch of the walls of a house in pebbles /
> gravel, which would be efficiently done by 'dashing' the pebbles
> against
> the walls, ie throwing them there, though I'm not sure that's how it's
> done.
> The social implications are that people who live in pebbledashed
> houses are
> (by reputation!) socially aspirational, probably (upper-)working-class
> attempting to become middle-class, but without enough money to
> decorate
> their house in an expensive(-looking) manner (and so not really
> middle-class). The reputation of the type of people who are supposed
> to
> live in pebbledashed houses chimes with the 'unexciting' description
> of the
> town where Susan Boyle lives: those places are quiet because their
> occupants wouldn't want to do anything which would shock the
> neighbours,
> the story goes. Of course, all this is unfortunate for you if you've
> bought
> a house which was already pebbledashed!
> --
> Damien Hall
> University of York
> Department of Language and Linguistic Science
> Heslington
> YO10 5DD
> UK
> Tel. (office) +44 (0)1904 432665
>    (mobile) +44 (0)771 853 5634
> Fax  +44 (0)1904 432673
> http://www.york.ac.uk/res/aiseb/
> http://www.york.ac.uk/depts/lang/people/pages/hall.htm
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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