Monday, May 18, 2009

Words have changed

Not here talking about meaning, but usage. Just reminiscing of some words we used to use around here, or used differently. I will give the word following by a dictionary definition.

Dinner - the main meal of the day, eaten in the evening or at midday. Around here older folks call the noon meal dinner and the night meal supper, while younger folks tend to call the noon meal lunch and the night meal supper. I guess the meaning hasn't changed, but which meal is the main meal of the day for most people?

Divan - a sofa or couch, often without arms or back. We always called the "couch" a "divan", but I seldom hear that anymore.

Gallery - a long porch or portico; veranda. This one was goning by the wayside by the time I came along, but the older folks still used it. I've always called a "porch" porch.

Galluses – a pair of suspenders for trousers. Another in process by the time I saw the light of day, probably because weren't many people wearing galluses anymore. When the made their comeback, slight as it was, they were suspenders.

Stoop - a small porch. Often not even much of a porch, but at least steps and a cover on them.

What words have you noticed change or gone out of common usage?


Jim1927 said...

I have great difficulty with words and the difference in meanings between the USA, Canada and England. I am still very English in language even though I have been in Canada since 1948.

Dinner was always he mainmeal (12: noon) teatime at 4:PM (tea with biscuits, or some small meal); supper was a moderate meal at 7 or 8 PM.

galluses is a purely American term. Canada is either braces or suspenders and the UK would be trouser braces.

Divan - a sofa or couch, often without arms or back. We always called the "couch" a "divan",

This one is quite similar, but chesterfield is the one that got me in trouble in Chicago....they offered me a package of cigarettes.

In England, people live in flats or houses on estates with a front and back garden, which may be all turf (grass) and no such garden at all. Our sidewalks are pavement and subways are pedestrian walkways under a motorway; the underground is a below grade railway also known as the tube.

It would be much worse if I included the language I grew up with known as Cockney Rhyme where we use rhyming slang to represent the intended word, such as apples and pairs for stairs, Uncle Ted for bed, teapot lids for kiddies.....and the one that really gets Americans...the word yank actually means stupid....He is a right fancy bloke, but a bit yank.

Oh the English language. When I first came over, I was understood best and understood others best, in Virginia.



Will Fitzgerald said...

Hi Robert,

You might enjoy the dialect maps at:

Including the distribution of the meanings of "dinner" and "supper"

These are 'points in time' maps that don't show how things change, but still cool. You might look up the Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE), too for more word fun.

Bess and I still have trouble when we talk about "dinner" and "supper," especially when the main meal is in the middle of the day, as on Sunday.

R. L. Vaughn said...

I enjoyed your comments on words, and Will, thanks for the links.

A friend who moved here from California made an appointment with a local to look at a job at his house. The local said for him to come at dinner. Well, the Californian and local were both surprised when he showed up around 6 pm instead of around noon!

Jim, sounds like maybe we old Southerners are maintaining the English tradition of noon/main meal/ dinner.

BTW, I suppose that Brits call all Americans yanks or yankees. We Suth'runs call the Northeners yankees and wouldn't admit to being such ourselves. I wonder what terms they reserve for us? ;-)

Jim1927 said...

Actually, we refer to all as Americans. Although, during the war we had this to say about the American troops in England: They are over paid, over sexed, and over here." During the Civil War, England had great affinity for the South, as did Canada. A lot of financing came from the UK, and the monies were picked up in Montreal, Quebec. The UK wanted the industrial products produced in the South, especially cotton.

One Island off the coast of Virginia has been maintained in the Welsh language to this day.



Anonymous said...

In our family in rural North-Central Indiana, Dinner was noon meal and Supper the evening meal. The only exception was going out for dinner, i.e. a big meal. The noon meal on the farm was the big meal, when you rang the dinner bell. My wife said no matter where grandpa was on his tractor, he came in at 12:00 sharp. This is no longer the case, as with modern farming you are as likely to eat fast food, or a sack in the combine.
I grew up thinking that for a Hoosier, dinner was the noon meal. When I worked for awhile in the city, I was made fun of for eating dinner at noon! So I decided it had more to do with rural/urban than with locale.

Will Fitzgerald said...

I should have put 'my' spin on dinner/supper. I tend to use these interchangeably for the main meal of the day *if they occur in the evening*. If it it occurs around noon, then I tend to only use 'dinner.' That is, a Sunday supper can only be at noon or afternoon. (But invite me to a church supper at noon, and I'll still show up!)

Since these mean 'the main meal of the day' to me, I don't think I could say that I had a dinner at noon, and then a supper in the evening. I don't have a handy term for a light meal in the evening, though, so I might call it supper anyway.

And I would probably drink 'pop' (not 'soda' or 'co-cola') at that meal, as I sat on the sofa or couch on the porch (but we call the thing in the back of our house a 'deck.'). We don't have a stoop, but I'd recognize one.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Guys, you all have added some very interesting comments. I have some more I would like to add, but don't have time right now. Maybe I'll get back to it tomorrow.

R. L. Vaughn said...

Jim, interesting about that island off Virginia. I have heard/read from those who are supposed to know that many expressions preserved in the Appalachian mountains hark back to their usage across the pond.

Brad, in my experience the dinner/supper things has also seemed to have more to do with rural/urban rather than with locale. Our small-town school our children first attended seemed to have a hang-up about teaching the children to call supper dinner. That always aggravated me. They seemed to emphasize a noon/evening aspect of the distinction rather than a main meal/light meal aspect.

Will, it is fairly common here to generically call sodas "Coke". I guess it's like calling an adjustable end wrench a "Crescent wrench" or an electric circular saw a "Skil saw". In this area a deck is a sort of specific kind of (back) porch, usually made from treated lumber or redwood.