Joel S. Berson Berson at ATT.NET
Mon Sep 7 12:54:31 UTC 2009

Here's what the OED says about "flatware":

flat-ware, (a) 'plates, dishes, saucers and the like, collectively,
as distinguished from hollow-ware' (Cent. Dict.); (b) (esp. U.S.)
domestic cutlery.

So by analogy from pottery to metal?

As an aside, this makes me wonder what "foreign cutlery" would
be.  (Purely rhetorical -- I do know they mean "home" as opposed to,
say, street switchblades or former prison spoons.)


At 9/6/2009 09:35 PM, Mark Mandel wrote:
>I wondered if the relevant law uses the word "cutlery" in an older sense,
>meaning something like "things that cut", and the supermarket software has a
>more modern sense, what I call "flatware". Here is OED's definition, in its
>entirety, supported by citations ranging from c1449 all the way up to 1846.
>a. The art or trade of the cutler[*]. b. collect. Articles made or sold by
>cutlers, as knives, scissors, etc. Also attrib.
>* [Cutler: "One who makes, deals in, or repairs knives and similar cutting
>Merriam Webster agrees, mostly:
>1 : the business of a cutler
>2 : edged or cutting tools; specifically : implements for cutting and eating
>I asked K and other U.K. participants: Does "cutlery" include spoons in your
>usual use of the word? Or is it an everyday word for you at all?
>The answers were affirmative, although the word itself doesn't seem to be
>part of the law (TM's comment, below). So the fault in the stores seems to
>lie with the program. But the dictionaries are lagging.
>Yes, in the usual sense of the word (and that used in shops as far as I've
>seen) it includes spoons and forks as wel as knives, it's a generic term for
>all eating utensils (but not usually things like ladles which come under the
>generic "kitchen utensils"). When I was a kid the generic was 'silverware'
>(and a lot of it did indeed have some silver, often as a plating, in its
>construction whereas ladles, carving knives, etc. were often steel or other
>materials), but even then we kept them all in a "cutlery drawer" in the
>kitchen. I've never understood 'flatware', since spoons and forks aren't
>very flat (nor are fishknives).
>I don't know what words are used in the actual law, I've only seen summaries
>of it, that's an interesting point.
>The most applicable acts are
>The Restriction of Offensive Weapons Act (1959)
>(specifically to ban flick knives and similar)
>The Criminal Justice Act (1988)
>The Offensive Weapons Act (1996)
>The Knives Act (1997)
>None of which seem to mention "cutlery".
>And yes, "cutlery" is what's in the cutlery drawer and includes knives
>(regular, butter, fish and steak knives to name but four), forks (regular,
>salad, fish and dessert (or cake)), spoons (tea, soup, dessert and table)
>and close relatives of same.
>In the purely colloquial sense, yes, I would include knife, fork & spoon as
>cutlery (as in "I'll get the plates if you set out the cutlery").
>I was in Ikea the other day - there, you have to be 21 or over to buy a set
>of kitchen knives. I could see this being very inconvenient for an 18yr old
>just setting out in his first place after leaving school, or setting up in a
>flat for uni etc...
>Mark A. Mandel
>The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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