Commercial categories

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An e-mail ad from (purveyors of goods to the gay community) appeared on my screen a few days ago. Well, the top part, offering 20% off on PERSONAL PLEASURES, appeared there. 

So: an ad for a photo book? A DVD? A music CD? Gay fiction? An advice book on gay sex? All of these were possible, and more (but not everything; 10 Per Cent doesn't offer escort services or massage, for instance). But it turned out to be an ad for a category of products roughly characterizable as '(gay) sex accessories'.

Scrolling down, I got the list of subcategories for the category PERSONAL PLEASURES:

anal beads, bondage gear, buttplugs, cockrings, condoms, dildos and vibrators, lubrication

(I then discovered a website,, offering similar products, but only in the UK and Ireland. Googling on "personal pleasures" will also net you lots of references to Rose Macaulay's Personal Pleasures, a set of essays about things that made her happy, sweaty sex not being one of these.)

The point is that for a significant part of 10 Per Cent's readership, the items listed above make a kind of natural — well, actually, cultural — category, of items that can be used in sexual encounters (in particular, gay sexual encounters), especially to enhance the sexual experience. The problem is that ordinary English doesn't have an expression devoted to covering this territory. So people proposing to sell these items create one — an expression that will serve as a kind of "semi-technical term", not as rigidly tied to its referents as scientific and legal and other sorts of specialized vocabulary, but also not just everyday language.

[Just to get this out of the way: the metonymy in which pleasure is used to convey 'something that gives or accompanies (sexual) pleasure' is striking and, it seems to me, unusual. Offhand, I can't think of parallel examples.]

"Unlabeled" categories — those that have no relatively brief, conventionalized, everyday, widely used labels that are not just descriptions or enumerations of the things within the categories — are incredibly common, much more common than most people imagine. They are all over the place in domains of meaning that have to do with social groups and relationships and with cultural artefacts of all sorts. But there are contexts in which people want to tap into those unlabeled categories. So they label them.

One such context is commerce: in reference to these categories in advertisements, catalogues, directories of goods and services, department designations in stores, and the like. This is what has brought us flatware (or, for some people [note: some people], silverware, regardless of actual silver content, and excluding many items made of silver) for knives, forks, spoons, and serving implements; dinnerware (or, for some people, china, regardless of the constituent material) for plates, bowls, cups, etc. (attempts to describe the referents of such terms tend to trail off into "etc."); glassware (or drinkware) for glasses of all sorts (glass itself referring usually only to the central members of the category, with wine glasses, martini glasses, champagne flutes, shot glasses, etc. all treated as special cases; glass on its own normally refers to a specific range of types of drinking glasses); tableware for a category that embraces flatware, dinnerware, glassware, and some other items; cookware for, very roughly, pots and pans; bed and bath for yet another category; and housewares for tableware, cookware, kitchen accessories, small appliances, bed and bath, and more, all taken together.

Some observations.

One, like entirely ordinary terms with social or cultural content, these semi-technical terms are subject to considerable fuzziness around the edges — it's as absurd to spend time trying to decide what REALLY counts as cookware as it is to decide what REALLY counts as a cup (on cups, see Labov's "The boundaries of words and their meanings", in Bailey & Shuy, New Ways of Analyzing Variation in English (1973)) — and to considerable variation: different people have somewhat different semi-technical terms, even for the same referents, and even when they have the same terms, they don't use them in quite the same ways (what counts as cookware for you might not be quite the same as what counts as cookware for me).

[Digression: often the categories different people work with, and the terms they use, overlap, and sometimes there is contestation over the categories (and the associated terms). For a brief amusement, check out the Wikipedia entries for the (obviously related) terms condiment and seasoning. It's something of a morass, with Wikipedia reporting overlapping and opposed groupings of referents into categories. The fact is, there's no such thing as a Platonic condiment or a Platonic seasoning. Lord Shiva did not hand down the categories (to which we then assign labels). Instead, by implicit agreement and by accommodation, we devise these categories, according to their usefulness in our lives. And then, sometimes, give them labels.

Please, please, do not write here about what a condiment REALLY (truly, correctly) is and what a seasoning REALLY (etc.) is. Different people have different groupings (and different labels), and each of these can be studied as a system on its own, but no system is intrinsically "right". (Of course, a particular system can gain cultural ascendance, become the majority (or sole) arrangement in some context. That's a fact about cultural history, not really about categories and labels.]

Two, like indubitably technical terms, semi-technical terms have a way of insinuating themselves, on occasion, into ordinary language. Even though it would be absurd to say something like "Great sodomy last night, honey!" (using the legal, very technical, term sodomy), there are some encroachments of the term into ordinary language. (I have a long posting in preparation — for five years now, alas — on the term sodomy, and I'll get to it; it's in the top 50 of my queue on postings in preparation. But that's not the topic for today; it's just an example in passing. However, in there are references to uses of sodomy in more-or-less ordinary language.)

Commercial categories, and their associated labels, can also slip over the line. Normally, you might say, "I bought some beautiful flatware at Crate and Barrel" (evoking the specifically commercial context) and would not say, to a family member, "Sandy, it's time to set the table; please put out the flatware" (instead, you'd say, "knives, forks, and spoons"), but there are situations where you might use the semi-technical term: "We have 500 people coming to the reception; Terry, would you take care of the flatware?".

Three, commercial categories seem to be pretty clearly aligned to "folk categories", groupings that ordinary people in a culture make in their dealings with the world, even if these people have no everyday labels for the categories. The categories might appear to be inventions of agents of commerce, but they usually fit well to (often covert) folk categorizations.

Four, like other semi-technical categorizations, commercial categories are not definable solely on the basis of the objective properties of referents, but are crucially associated with particular FUNCTIONS within a culture. What counts as 'something to drink' (labeled beverage) does not depend merely on the substance's being drinkable (without harm), but also depends on its being customarily drunk for pleasure in social situations. Tea and gin are beverages, Pepto-Bismol and urine are not.

(For a longer discussion of some of these points in a horticultural, rather than commercial, context, see the material on mass/count assignment in plant names here.)

[A side note: I spent some time on ADS-L a while back on the category structure of the Yellow Pages (a topic I more or less fell into by accident). This is a particular instance — well, actually, hundreds of instances, since these days Yellow Pages in different cities have different practices — of commercial categorization, but it turns out to be an especially complex case, because the categories seem to be less closely tied to folk categorizations than most commercial categorizations are; there's a lot of improvisation. I'll put the Yellow Pages off for a future posting.]

Finally, though there's a pretty good fit between commercial categories and folk categories, that doesn't mean that ordinary people can use catalogues, directories, and the like easily. You might have the categories (implicitly), but you don't necessarily have the labels, and to find your way in ads or around a department store, a grocery store, or a drug store, you have to learn the terminology. You have to learn that plates, bowls, cups, and saucers all count as dinnerware (a term very few of us use in daily life). You have to learn that paper towels, facial tissues (another semi-technical term, the everyday English term in the U.S. being the trademarked Kleenex), and toilet paper all count as paper products, while printer paper and notepads do not.

Here, for example, is Ennis Del Mar, in the film Brokeback Mountain, trying to find his wife Alma in the grocery store where she works:

ENNIS: Is Alma here?

MONROE [the store manager]: Yeah, she's in the condiments aisle.

ENNIS: The what?

MONROE: Uh, ketchup.

ENNIS: Thanks.

(from the screenplay, in Proulx et al., Story to Screenplay (2005), p. 41).

When I've talked about these ontologies of everyday life, and the vocabulary that accompanies them, lots of people have remarked what a burden these ontologies and the associated vocabulary are for those who didn't grow up in the relevant culture and language. Cultural knowledge and its linguistic concomitants aren't easy to come by.

Now I guess it's time to get on-line and shop for some personal pleasures.



  1. Josh Millard said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 2:38 pm

    [Just to get this out of the way: the metonymy in which pleasure is used to convey 'something that gives or accompanies (sexual) pleasure' is striking and, it seems to me, unusual. Offhand, I can't think of parallel examples.]

    This might be too closely related to make for an interesting parallel, but the description of lowbrow media content (trashy novels, soap operas, sugary pop music, whatever) as a "guilty pleasure" seems functionally similar. Perhaps it's just a generalized "pleasure" principle with a specific usefulness in sextoys?

  2. Gordon P. Hemsley said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 2:40 pm

    I would just like to point out that not everyone in the U.S. uses Kleenex as an "everyday English term". I call them tissues, as do most of the people that I've heard talk about them, at least in the New York metro area. When I do hear it (usually in the context that brings people from many areas together, like while in school), I comment on it and the fact that it sounds queer to my ear. I also say copy rather than Xerox, though I do say Band-Aid. But I suppose that's a bit off of the topic of this article.

  3. David said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 3:01 pm

    Normally, you might say, "I bought some beautiful flatware at Crate and Barrel" (evoking the specifically commercial context) and would not say, to a family member, "Sandy, it's time to set the table; please put out the flatware" (instead, you'd say, "knives, forks, and spoons")

    Maybe it's regional (new jersey/southern/midwest? — military kid), but I grew up hearing my parents and my friends' parents say, "Put the silverware out on the table for dinner," or some variation on that every day of my childhood.

  4. Michael Israel said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 3:05 pm

    [Just to get this out of the way: the metonymy in which pleasure is used to convey 'something that gives or accompanies (sexual) pleasure' is striking and, it seems to me, unusual. Offhand, I can't think of parallel examples.]

    The metonymy here is both similar to and different from one that attaches conventionally to *pleasure*s antonym, *pain*. Both can also index the source or cause of an experience(pleasant for *pleasure*, painful for *pain*), but *pain* only works if the source is a person and not a thing.

    Compare "That guy is a real pain" with "This cattle prod is a real pain."

  5. John Cowan said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 3:08 pm

    I remember fondly (but haven't been able to find) an article by a philosopher who wished to buy a Yellow Pages listing under "Philosophers". His local telephone company rejected his request because they had no such category; when he protested "Does this mean that if there are no philosophers, there can never be any philosophers?", they took the coward's way out and said that at least five other cities would have to have such a listing before they would implement it. (I bet that didn't stop them when they needed to create a category like "Telephones – Cellular – Dlrs.")

  6. dr pepper said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

    Well there was a servicable category: "marital aids". But since we no longer pretend that that everyone who would buy one is married, it's pretty much passe.

  7. red said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 3:25 pm

    "…flatware (or, for some people [note: some people], silverware, regardless of actual silver content, and excluding many items made of silver) for knives, forks, spoons, and serving implements"

    Wow – BrE has 'cutlery': that's not used in the US at all?

    'Sundries' is a wonderful product-group category ('bits and pieces', 'stuff that doesn't fit in any of our other categories', I think), but I haven't seen it for years.

  8. John Laviolette said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 3:47 pm

    I'm thinking about the commercial category of "genre" for books, music or film. I've seen the same kind of the arguments about genre definitions as you see about condiments; I've also seen genre labels change over time as old genres fade in popularity or new genres are created. But what's being enumerated?

    In one sense, it's individual titles by different artists. You can't have a genre with only one example; you just call the book, film, or song by its title. You also can't have a genre with only one artist, because again you'd just say "books by Stephen King" or "movies by Alfred Hitchcock".

    But in another sense, what's being enumerated are elements typically found in that genre. These lists are large and vague, and there's no hard rule about how many elements a title needs to qualify as an example of a genre, nor are there any elements that always guarantee a title belongs to a given genre. Also, unlike glassware versus dinnerware, you can potentially create new genres by mixing two old ones (and getting enough people to write in the new genre to justify the label.)

  9. Tim Silverman said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 4:25 pm

    I'm not sure this is simply the case of a missing name for a category. My dialect, at least, has a perfectly good everyday name for these items: "sex toys". I kind of get the impression (though it may be quite wrong) that the advertiser or vendor thought this term would be wrong (too vulgar? too direct? too matter-of-fact?) for their target market segment, and so they wanted to use something more up-market and coy (and, to my ear, rather twee). That might account, too, for the unusual use of the word "pleasures" that Arnold noted—that is, it is not a metonymy, but an indirection, used as a sort of euphemism: waving generally in the direction where sex is thought to abide, without actually coming straight out and mentioning the thing itself. Of course, not being familiar with the context, I may be talking nonsense here.

    @red: not only "cutlery" but also "crockery". Is this word unknown in the US too?

  10. Brett said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 5:05 pm

    On "flatware" vs. "silverware": It was always my impression that the former was an almost exclusively commercial category, but the latter was not. As David notes, saying something like, "Get out the silverware," is probably unremarkable, while, "Get out the flatware," sounds odd. My guess as to how this occurred was that "silverware" was adapted through natural usage patterns to cover all (and only) cutlery, whether made of silver or not. However, this may have been unacceptable for cutlery retailers to use, because some people might still associate "silverware" only with silver items–leading to confusion or anger. (My grandmother and great-grandmother had some inter-generational confusion about what precisely constituted "silverware," which lead to my grandmother paying to have her stainless steel forks and spoons polished.) Hence the term "flatware" was coined (or dredged up out of obscurity).

    This scenario does not explain, however, why the word "cutlery" wasn't used instead. It's a perfectly valid word in American English, common enough that (I think) essentially everyone knows what it means. Yet for whatever reason, it's not used very frequently. ("Crockery," on the other hand, would probably be viewed by many Americans as a Britishism, although we still know what it means.)

  11. rootlesscosmo said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 5:40 pm

    @John Cowan: the New York Yellow Pages used to have (maybe still does, I'm in California) a category of "Mohels," and I'll bet there weren't five other cities with the same listing.


    Come live with me and be my love
    And we will all the pleasures prove

    the same metonymic usage of "pleasures"?

  12. KindKit said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 5:53 pm

    @Tim Silverman:

    But does the category "sex toys" in your usage include everything from the list? As I would use the term, it would not include things like lubricant or bondage gear. So the term "personal pleasures" may have been coined out of a need for a broader category, not out of a desire to avoid supposed vulgarity.

  13. Juliette said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 7:48 pm

    In New Jersey, "cutlery" has the feel of a technical term. I have been frustrated by this for a while, given that French has a very good term, "couverts" for "silverware" without the confusion (or the retronym/shortening "silver" for silver heirloom silverware). Of course, the word "couvert" does have its idiosyncracies, as "mettre le couvert" it "to set the table".

    On the word "genre," I find the most fascinating aspect is not the distinction between genres, but the distinction between "genre writing" (generally thought inferior) and the unnamed remainder of fiction. That there is such a category as "genre writing" is strange and fascinating.

  14. D Jagannathan said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 8:53 pm

    "Genre writing" is akin to the coinage "area studies" in the academic sphere. Only certain areas are meant, of course, and these phrases both have a bland, euphemistic flavor.

  15. Larry said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 9:14 pm


    At Gay Community News (in Boston, around 1981 or 1982) we devoted a staff meeting to a discussion of whether a leather jacket was a "sex toy." The decision was important because our advertising policy prohibited the use of sexual images to sell things–unless, of course, the product *was* sex (well, an accessory to sex–prostitution ads weren't legal). In the end we called the jacket a sex toy and ran the ad (which, as I recall, wasn't anything racier than someone wearing the jacket without a shirt). Along the way I seem to remember reaching consensus that lubricants and bondage gear were also "sex toys," along with various fetish items. That part of the discussion inevitably had to confront the fact that virtually anything can be fetishized, raising the possibility that everything is at least potentially a sex toy. (These were long meetings.)

    By the way, I notice there is no flatware in the "Gifts & Housewares" section of A serious slight to those of us who get personal pleasures in the kitchen.

  16. Craig Russell said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 9:30 pm

    "Genre" is a very interesting category that much could be said about. It seems like I have seen bookstores whose main section for non-genre fictional writing is something like "fiction/literature"–the implication being, of course, that certain books in this section count as "literature" and some don't–a conversation that has been had many times, and involves much subjective judgment.

    Akin to "genre", somewhat, is the label "ethnic". Not only is it used to mean "non-white" (thus carrying the implication that a collective label for all ethnicities that are not white is needed, and that white is somehow ethnically neutral), but it is used to describe non-white things that white people normally don't have much interest in–from movies with all black/hispanic/asian/etc. casts to black hair care products.

  17. dr pepper said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 9:46 pm

    Hmm, i've always thought of "genre fiction" as meaning "not dull, not bland".

  18. Mateo Crawford said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 9:48 pm

    This scenario does not explain, however, why the word "cutlery" wasn't used instead. It's a perfectly valid word in American English, common enough that (I think) essentially everyone knows what it means. Yet for whatever reason, it's not used very frequently.

    I have the impression that US English 'cutlery' tends to refer only to knives — so an assortment of butter, table, steak and carving knives is 'cutlery' but an assortment of forks, spoons and steak knives is not — and especially in a commercial context, though the word is not as commercial as 'flatware'.

    But does the category "sex toys" in your usage include everything from the list? As I would use the term, it would not include things like lubricant or bondage gear.

    I wouldn't refer to lubricant or condoms in isolation as 'sex toys', but I do consider them to belong to a category that happens to have the confusing name 'sex toys', if that makes sense. If I asked you for a bag of randomly selected sex toys and the bag turned out to contain some condoms, I wouldn't bat an eyelash, but if I asked you for a bag of randomly selected silverware and the bag turned out to contain a bowl I might think you were some kind of pervert.

  19. Garrett Wollman said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

    I agree with Mateo Crawford that AmE "cutlery" suggests knives rather than other kinds of eating implements, but I wouldn't go so far as to say exclusively so. I wouldn't be surprised to find forks and spoons in a box labeled "plastic cutlery", although other collocations such as "plastic silverware" are more likely.

    Since we're on the subject of commercial categories, how productive is "-ware" these days, relative to other suffixes. It seems that it was commonly used up to a century ago to form names for kinds of (specifically) pottery, but I suspect most native speakers would understand 'fooware' for pretty much any reasonably descriptive 'foo'. (I wonder, too, how frequently "-ware" is confused with "-wear".) In my /usr/share/dict/words, there are 71 words matching "ware$", although not all are instances of "-ware".

  20. Ran Ari-Gur said,

    July 25, 2008 @ 11:05 pm

    @Garrett Wollman: If "-ware" has indeed become less productive for forming such terms, I'd guess that it's because it's come to be associated with the set of terms {"software", "hardware", "firmware", "wetware", …}, and more specifically with software in the set of terms {"freeware", "shareware", "spyware", "malware", "adware", …}.

  21. Nicole Wyatt said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 12:31 am

    My peculiar blend of Canadian-British-NZ English not only allows cutlery to cover forks, knives, spoons, etc, but also I find 'put out the cutlery' to be a perfectly fine sentence. So not a technical term in AZ's sense.

  22. Elizabeth Zwicky said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 12:36 am

    If you are in a restaurant in the US, and you ask in an Australian accent for cutlery, the odds are strongly against your getting anything at all. Occasionally if you use accompanying gestures, the server will say "Oh! You need silverware!" But, in our experimental setup, usually an AmE speaker will intervene and explain before the server figures it out, unless actual forks are being waved around.

    Some of this is the terminology and some is accent issues. I frequently have to repeat requests for water uttered by r-less speakers, but for water just repeating the request in AmE accent works — if you need a fork, my asking for cutlery does not help nearly as often.

  23. Chas said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 4:18 am

    First, I want to thank you for a fascinating post.

    I grew up in eastern and western Pennsylvania. Like David's parents, mine would also tell me to put the silverware out. I understand cutlery to include knives, forks, and spoons but would be unlikely to use that term.

  24. Graham said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 5:44 am

    In my background, the Potteries of England, I always thought of "flatware" as a technical term for pottery (earthenware, china, crockery – whatever) that was more-or-less flat, e.g. plates, saucers. This was contrasted with "holloware" (note the single -w-) for dishes, bowls, jugs. I see from the Oxford Reference Dictionary that these are not technical terms, although "hollowware" is there spelt with double -ww-, and that "flatware" has the added "N.Am. cutlery".

  25. Ray Girvan said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 7:18 am

    A couple more semi-technical categories: whiteware (glossy white ceramics) and white goods (in the UK, at least, domestic appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves).

  26. hjaelmer said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 8:54 am

    Missing an English term, my wife and I, who had lived in German speaking countries for several years, referred to knives, forks, and spoons as "Besteck." Our son, who's in his twenties now, still says things like, "I'll put the Besteck on the table."

  27. Flooey said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 11:26 am

    Regarding "white goods", that's a new one to me. In the US, we would say "kitchen appliances" for refrigerators and microwaves, which is a subset of "appliances" (also includes air conditioners and washing machines, but not television sets). I don't know which of those groups "white goods" is equivalent to. (Wikipedia says it's equivalent to "appliances".)

    Electronics are actually another interesting commercial category. In the US, one can speak of "home entertainment" or "home electronics" (televisions, stereos, DVD players), which is sometimes a subset of and sometimes a separate group from "consumer electronics" (computers, portable audio devices, camcorders, etc). (Wikipedia says this would be the equivalent of the British "brown goods".) Nobody would ever use these terms except in a very specialized context, though. One might hear

    "What do they sell?"
    "Consumer electronics."

    But one would never hear

    "What did you buy?"
    "Some consumer electronics."

  28. Ryan Denzer-King said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 12:46 pm

    I'd like to second your rejection of Platonic condiments and the like. It annoyed me to no end that many philosophers I worked with in college insisted that everything had an ideal form. I patiently tried to explain that that was not how the world works, how we define things culturally and linguistically and first and foremost by function (which varies from context to context), but I was never successful.

  29. Frank said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 2:54 pm

    Looking for an item in a Wal-Mart once, I was told that it was "in HBA".

    Unsure that I had heard the lady clearly, I asked her to repeat her answer.


    "It's over in HBA", she repeated, somewhat annoyed at having to deal with me.

    I left without asking for further elucidation, as it was not likely. Only much later did I find out from my brother, who worked at that same store, that the department was "Health and Beauty Aids". I would have just called it "The Pharmacy", but then what do I know?

    Also, any of those "Personal Pleasures" listed could just as easily be used for heterosexual sex. You needn't specify gay sex.

  30. John Baker said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 3:46 pm

    I think of "cutlery" as meaning knives and similarly edged items – things that can cut. I see that Merriam-Webster agrees with me, but American Heritage and Wikipedia think the term is (Wikipedia), or can be (American Heritage), equivalent to "flatware." "Tableware" is any of the items that can go on a dinner table, so is not equivalent. My wife uses "utensils" (or "eating utensils," where disambiguation is required), and I sometimes do so as well.

    I've heard that "white goods," when used to mean refrigerators, kitchen ranges (or "stoves," when I say it), washers, dryers, and similar large appliances, is principally British, but I see it in the American trade press.

  31. Tim Silverman said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 5:27 pm

    "White goods" means washing machines, tumble driers, dishwashers, refridgerators, freezers and cookers. There may be other things, but I can't think of any. I wouldn't use it of microwaves, toasters, food processors, etc (too small), nor vacuum cleaners, sewing machines, etc (too small, too portable, not associated closely enough with the kitchen).

    @Ryan Denzer-King, the counterpart of the alleged Platonic ideals among philosophers is the astonishing amount of time people spend arguing over, or discussing, what words "really" mean. Occasionally, these reveal interesting differences in how people conceptualise things, but more often they are bizarre and pointless exercises in competitive lexicography, arguing over whether this or that arbitary attribute is essential or merely correlative to the definition. Once it's been established that the different participants are using different definitions of the word, I always feel it's time to move on and discuss something substantial, but no, often I have to listen to yet more pointless insistence that this or that (quite arbitrary) definition is the one that's really right …. I recall from my childhood that the old BBC Radio 4 discussion program Stop the Week used to be particularly prone to this.

  32. Anonymous said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 5:30 pm

    > That part of the discussion inevitably had to confront the fact that virtually anything can be fetishized, raising the possibility that everything is at least potentially a sex toy. (These were long meetings.)

    That's Rule 36 of the Internet. It goes hand-in-hand with Rules 34 & 35.

  33. dr pepper said,

    July 26, 2008 @ 6:20 pm

    I've always thought of cutlery as referring to knives and things that go with them in expensive sets, the kind that are sold in specialty stores that also sell swords. At the bare minimum it includes sharpening tools.

  34. Stephen Jones said,

    July 28, 2008 @ 3:16 am

    One partially related topic has to do with primary color words. Most languages have a set of words to describe color which combined with the modifiers 'light' and 'dark' describe the whole spectrum. However these words don't coincide over languages. In Spanish beige and brown are both primary color words but in English light brown can be used as a description for beige. And then for Catalans 'granate' is a primary color word, and I've had long arguments with Spanish students when I said something was 'purple' and they claimed I was suffering from an optical illusion.

    Now we do see the colors exactly the same, since there is no disagreement over the terminology for secondary color words (ebony, turqoise, burnt ocre for example). It's simply that we disagree over the labels.

    And does anybody remember the discussion we had about "White Goods".

  35. Stephen Jones said,

    July 28, 2008 @ 3:20 am

    Should read all comments before posting. We are talking about white goods here! I think of the phrase as being predominantly Spanish.

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