Philobiblon: Emails and cupboards

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Emails and cupboards

Have you noticed how "e-mail" has now almost universally become "email"?

It's nice to know the more the English language changes, the more it stays the same.

I was reading in Liza Picard's Elizabethan London that a "cupboard" was once a "cup board", i.e. a shelf or a shelves on the wall on which you placed your cups - or rather your silver (or pewter) plate, sometimes with closed doors around them for security.

"The cupboard took a prominent position in any room - so much so that when a member of Gray's Inn misbehaved himself, he was summoned to 'come and appear at the cupboard in the hall' to hear what punishment the Benchers had inflicted on him. The hall was where the Inn's impressive collection of silver symbolised its power over its members." (p.60)

A buffet then also had a different meaning:
"The drinking habits of the time involved the guest calling for a drink every time he felt dry. He was brought wine or beer in a clean - at least rinsed - glass or drinking vessel, from this buffet. When he had swallowed his drink the glass went back to the buffet."

I'm slightly surprised by this; have certainly never read anything like it, in fiction or non-fiction. Aside from anything else, given the quality of the water supplies, this was surely a bad idea on health grounds. Any thoughts?

, a Technorati tag


Blogger melinama said...

When I visited Moscow in the 1970s, there were machines on all the streets that dispensed drinks into a plastic cup. When you'd had your drink, you put the plastic cup back in the machine for the next person. True.

8/17/2005 12:52:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Was it washed in some way??

8/17/2005 12:58:00 pm  
Blogger Bill Tozier said...

You pick up a lot of these shifts when you proofread random 19th-C (and earlier) pages at the Distributed Proofreading project.*

For example, New-York (City) was a hyphenated name for many writers and publishers, well into the 1860s. And of course there's "to-day", which I've seen used as late as the 1910s. Also, apostrophization for a long, long time did n't imply running together, so in many works of the 1850s and earlier we often see sentences that look like this 'n'.

8/17/2005 02:07:00 pm  
Blogger Bill Tozier said...

* If you [the arbitrary reader] don't know about DP, and appreciate obscure and entertaining books, you might consider giving it a look. It's an all-volunteer effort to proofread, correct, and submit electronic copies of public-domain books to Project Gutenberg. And it's a lot of fun.

8/17/2005 02:09:00 pm  
Blogger Susoz said...

The style guide for the publication I work for, devised in 1997, has e-mail. We have to change about 95% of emails into e-mail. Tedious.

8/18/2005 01:09:00 am  
Blogger AYDIN ÖRSTAN said...

Back in the 1970s while I still lived in Istanbul, Turkey, my friends & I used to go a restaurant where our favorite drink was a mixture of mostly beer with a bit of vodka. After we would finish one round, we would order a second one & the waiter would collect all the glasses, take them to the bar, fill them up (without washing them), bring them back & distribute them at random. That this was done openly & routinely was a source of joke among us.

Along the same lines, before drinking bottled water became popular, street vendors that sold water from a large jug & that had only one drinking glass was a common sight in Turkey. They would rinse the glass once between customers.

8/18/2005 04:49:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

You do sometimes have to wonder how the human race ever survived.

8/18/2005 06:19:00 pm  

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