The Verbal Graveyard

I’ve made a list of a few words for things that we no longer have. They’re all domestic, and so far I have:

scullery (now the utility room)
front room (special room for guests and coffins)
cruet (pair of pepper and salt containers)
companion set (brush, shovel, tongs and poker for managing open fires)
bureau (a desk, often with a roll top)
copper (for boiling clothes)
starch (for stiffening linen)
blacking (for cleaning fireplaces)
scrubbing  board (corrugated piece of wood on which to scour clothes to annihilation, also used as a musical instrument favoured by skiffle groups, of which we also hear no more)

Any others?



Filed under English Language, Language, Vocabulary

11 responses to “The Verbal Graveyard

  1. Terry Dawson

    A mangle.
    Pit pony.


  2. Wireless, of course, has been given a new lease of life in a different guise. Someone has just suggested on Facebook antimacassar and eiderdown. Does anyone still use a filofax?

    And three more from the same source: radiogram, gramophone, cocktail cabinet.


  3. ‘Bureau’ is still used frequently here to mean any sort of furniture made up of drawers (the wooden variety), usually used to contain clothing; bureaus may or may not have attached mirrors. Spray starch is available for purchase here as a supply for ironing.
    Coal ‘scuttles’ are absent here (as far as I know) though crabs are frequently described as ‘scuttling’ across the ocean floor—the word is still in use though the meaning is completely different.


  4. I don’t think bureau has ever been used in the UK, Anne, for a piece of furniture to contain clothing, but I see that the OED acknowledges this use in the US. Their disappearance from general use in the UK is coincident with the rise in the use of computers, which they cannot very well accommodate.

    Starch can no doubt still be found in the UK, but I’m not sure there’s any longer a need for it.

    Fewer people have open fires in the UK, so there is a reduced demand both for companion sets and coal scuttles. Scuttle is used in the UK to describe running ‘with quick, hurried steps, but its etymology is different from that of the coal container.


  5. I think starch is still very much in use as are cruet sets, which usually consist of salt and pepper shakers and a mustard pot and spoon.


    • Thanks to you, Diana, as to Anne, for pointing out my apparent misapprehensions.

      I should have known I was asking for trouble in posting this. It’s based only on my own experience. But, equally, ‘very much in use’ is also, presumably, a subjective judgement.

      I had assumed that salt was now banished from many people’s tables for health reasons, and that the pepper grinder had replaced the shaker.

      I own no clothes that would benefit from treatment by starch.


    • M. E dwards

      Sorry, Diana, but cruet sets surely didn’t have mustard pots with them.


  6. dw

    Cassette. CD is on its way out, too.


  7. We used a “copper” to heat water for washing clothes or bathing; that’s been replaced by “boiler” nowadays, and is (thankfully) plumbed-in to the mains.


    • The water in the copper in my parents’ house was heated by a gas ring, I recall. At least that was better than a boiler I subsequently had in a house in Lebanon, which was heated by bags of oil-soaked wood shavings.


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