-ery (was: cutlery)

Damien Hall djh514 at YORK.AC.UK
Mon Sep 7 10:59:22 UTC 2009

Thanks, Mark, for the research! I found that post very interesting. I've
just two points to make on cutlery itself:

- K. said she'd never understood 'flatware' as a term for eating utensils,
since most of them aren't very flat. I once visited Sheffield (still a UK
centre of steel manufacture and the place whence the best cutlery is
reputed to come) with some friends, and one of them visited a cutlery
factory and afterwards brought up this very point. This clearly isn't even
a direct anecdote, so its value as evidence is shaky at best, but I believe
that friend said that the factory had said flatware was so called because
it was made out of flat pieces of metal which were then shaped (once cool).
This would presumably be to distinguish it from other metal products, in
whose manufacture the molten metal is poured directly into a non-flat

- I bet Tesco banned the purchase of spoons by minors for exactly the
reason proposed by another correspondent: that, in their computerised stock
system, all cutlery was grouped together for accounting purposes, so there
isn't a separate category for each different utensil; and, thanks to this,
in order for it to be clear that nothing illegal has been sold, some
innocuous products are also banned.

This thread also reminded me that the _-ery_ suffix comes up quite a lot in
linguistic discussions with American colleagues and my wife (also
American), because my impression is that it's not common in AmE, whereas it
_is_ common and even productive in BrE, with the meaning 'actions / a place
or thing connected with the root meaning'. For the second meaning, _cf_
_nunnery, _rookery_ and of course _cutlery_; for the first, _cf_ at least
BrE _cookery_ (AmE _cooking_?), and doubtless many more that don't spring
to mind at present. It's in this sense that the suffix is at least
jocularly productive: a friend of mine who's active in the UK political
party the Liberal Democrats (popularly known as the Lib Dems) used to refer
to his political activity as _LibDemmery_.


Damien Hall

University of York
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
YO10 5DD

Tel. (office) +44 (0)1904 432665
     (mobile) +44 (0)771 853 5634
Fax  +44 (0)1904 432673



The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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