"serviette" vs "napkin"
Vocaboly.com Forum Index Vocaboly.com
Vocabulary builder software for SAT, TOEFL, GRE, GMAT and more
 
 FAQFAQ   MemberlistMemberlist 
 ProfileProfile   Log in to check your private messagesLog in to check your private messages   Log inLog in 
 
This forum is read-only. If you want to ask English questions, please visit Learn English Forum.
"serviette" vs "napkin"
Goto page Previous  1, 2
 
This forum is locked: you cannot post, reply to, or edit topics.   This topic is locked: you cannot edit posts or make replies.    Vocaboly.com Forum Index -> alt.english.usage
Author Message
Rudy Canoza
Guest





Posted: Fri Jul 22, 2005 7:05 am    Post subject: Re: "serviette" vs "napkin" Reply with quote

Nick Worley wrote:

Quote:
I've just read a book called "Watching the English: The Hidden Rules of
English Behaviour" by Kate Fox. It's sort of popular anthropology/social
science, looking at the peculiar tribe of people known as "the English", and
trying to identify specifically English characteristics. It's an interesting
& very funny read, with a lot of focus (unsurprisingly) on humour and class
(among many other things). (Her take on humour is a very interesting one.
Namely that the English are socially inept and that humour is our coping
mechanism for social interaction, which we find awkward/acutely
embarrassing. Humour is our default coping mode).

In one section, she lists certain words that if used by someone would
identify them as a member of a specific class. One of these words is
"serviette". She claims that using the word "serviette" would automatically
"flag" the user as working class to anyone listening who wasn't working
class. This took me completely aback, since I've always used the word
"serviette" to refer to the paper variety, and the word "napkin" to refer to
the cloth variety. (It would sound very pretentious IMO asking for more
"napkins" in Mackey D's if the serviettes had run out. Equally I wouldn't
ask for a "serviette" if eating in a restaurant that uses cloth napkins if
there wasn't one on the table).

Interesting difference the pond makes: I think if most
Americans were to use 'serviette' at all (they just
wouldn't), it would be for the cloth variety; paper
ones would be called 'napkins'.

Quote:

Does anyone else make this paper/cloth distinction and use "serviette" for
the former, and "napkin" for the latter or do you *always* use one term and
never the other?

For me "serviette" and "napkin" have always been two different terms for two
different things, not class-identifying synonyms (in England at least) for
the same thing.

What do people think about this?
I'm also interested to know if this class distinction between
serviette/napkin exists in other English-speaking countries.

I'm no expert, but I don't think three people out of
100 in the U.S. would know 'serviette'. I only know it
from knowing French, and living in a French speaking
country for a year.
Back to top
No Spam
Guest





Posted: Fri Jul 22, 2005 7:05 am    Post subject: Re: "serviette" vs "napkin" Reply with quote

"JPG" <me@privacy.net> wrote in message
news:t2lud1tg8u2egbmiarlnbe02plaqaq4k72@4ax.com...
Quote:
On Thu, 21 Jul 2005 07:24:54 +0100, "Nick Worley" <spam@cornedbeef.com
wrote:
It would indicate that Americans are less French-influenced, but 'CV vs
'resumé'
seems to show the opposite, and oddly, the Ottawans also use 'CV' rather
than
'resumé'.

In American usage, resume and CV mean very different
things. A CV is very uncommon. It is really only useful
for academics and scientists. It consists of a _complete_
listing of all positions held, all associations joined,
and all publications of any kind. It can be dozens, even
hundreds of pages long. A resume is a page or two; a
condensed lising of career hightlights, focussed on
landing a job. In most employment situations, if you
presented a CV, it would go straight to the trashcan.
Back to top
Matti Lamprhey
Guest





Posted: Fri Jul 22, 2005 6:51 pm    Post subject: Re: "serviette" vs "napkin" Reply with quote

"Alan Jones" <atj@blueyonder.co.uk> wrote...
Quote:
"Don Phillipson" <d.phillipson@ttrryytteell.com> wrote...
[...]
....this [discussion of the social implications of "serviette"
and "napkin"]
goes back to approx. 1960, when popular author Nancy
Mitford took up a scholarly work on language usage to
define English U-speak i.e. upper-class English.
[...]

Has anyone ever seen a copy of the "scholarly work" to which Nancy
Mitford refers? Does it exist, or is the whole thing a joke by her and
her friends?

It does seem a bit mysterious. The most precise reference I've found is
buried in this list, which I hope is retrievable. Search for "An Essay
in Sociological Linguistics" and you should find it near the top of p 6.

"Ross, ???, “U and Non-U: An Essay in Sociological Linguistics”,
in: NM 1954: 11-36"

http://216.239.59.104/search?q=cache:3O4kzcbetcEJ:www.uni-potsdam.de/u/lingtri/studbib.pdf+%22an+essay+in+sociological+linguistics%22&hl=en

Matti
Back to top
Harvey Van Sickle
Guest





Posted: Sun Jul 24, 2005 10:48 pm    Post subject: Re: "serviette" vs "napkin" Reply with quote

On 21 Jul 2005, Robert Lieblich wrote
Quote:
Harvey Van Sickle wrote:

re: happenstance

Quote:
It's rather fun to use it here, especially by dropping it into a
conversation with those who are convinced that those dreadful
Americans butcher the language. Such types tend to be quite
dismayed to discover that such a charming and useful term is in
common use there but not here.

Sorta like when they hear "gotten"?

Ummm...nope. (I've never encountered dismay over the abandonment of
"gotten".)

--
Cheers, Harvey

Canada for 30 years; S England since 1982.
(for e-mail, change harvey.news to harvey.van)
Back to top
Robert Lieblich
Guest





Posted: Mon Jul 25, 2005 12:49 am    Post subject: Re: "serviette" vs "napkin" Reply with quote

Harvey Van Sickle wrote:
Quote:

On 21 Jul 2005, Robert Lieblich wrote
Harvey Van Sickle wrote:

re: happenstance

It's rather fun to use it here, especially by dropping it into a
conversation with those who are convinced that those dreadful
Americans butcher the language. Such types tend to be quite
dismayed to discover that such a charming and useful term is in
common use there but not here.

Sorta like when they hear "gotten"?

Ummm...nope. (I've never encountered dismay over the abandonment of
"gotten".)

It was dismay at the *use* of "gotten" to which I was alluding.

Oh, well, old bidness.

--
Bob Lieblich
Old bidnessman
Back to top
Harvey Van Sickle
Guest





Posted: Mon Jul 25, 2005 1:55 am    Post subject: Re: "serviette" vs "napkin" Reply with quote

On 24 Jul 2005, Robert Lieblich wrote

Quote:
Harvey Van Sickle wrote:

On 21 Jul 2005, Robert Lieblich wrote
Harvey Van Sickle wrote:

re: happenstance

It's rather fun to use it here, especially by dropping it into a
conversation with those who are convinced that those dreadful
Americans butcher the language. Such types tend to be quite
dismayed to discover that such a charming and useful term is in
common use there but not here.

Sorta like when they hear "gotten"?

Ummm...nope. (I've never encountered dismay over the abandonment of
"gotten".)

It was dismay at the *use* of "gotten" to which I was alluding.

Oh, well, old bidness.

I should'a seen that...bit of a "whoosh" moment for me, there.

--
Cheers, Harvey

Canada for 30 years; S England since 1982.
(for e-mail, change harvey.news to harvey.van)
Back to top
Odysseus
Guest





Posted: Mon Jul 25, 2005 2:49 pm    Post subject: Re: "serviette" vs "napkin" Reply with quote

JPG wrote:
Quote:

snip

For me "serviette" and "napkin" have always been two different terms for two
different things, not class-identifying synonyms (in England at least) for
the same thing.

What do people think about this?
I'm also interested to know if this class distinction between
serviette/napkin exists in other English-speaking countries.


'Serviette' seems to be unknown in the US, but it is used in Canada (Ottawa)
possibly because of the French influence.


It was always "napkin" for me, growing up in Ottawa; I heard
"serviette" from others but I don't recall noticing any difference in
scope between the two terms. I do have a vague sense that the
latter's a notch less educated than the former. I rather doubt the
presence of Canadian French is significant: I'm more inclined to
attribute "serviette" to the influence of middle-class (?) BrE.

My partner, an anglophone (but bilingual) from Montreal, would
restrict "serviette" specifically to small, flimsy paper napkins from
dispensers such as are found in cafeterias and truck-stops (unless
she were speaking Québecois, of course).

--
Odysseus
Back to top
Will
Guest





Posted: Mon Jul 25, 2005 7:34 pm    Post subject: Re: "serviette" vs "napkin" Reply with quote

Nick Worley wrote:
[...]
Quote:
To repeat myself, what I'm mainly interested in is the following:
Does anyone else make this paper/cloth distinction and use "serviette" for
the former, and "napkin" for the latter, or do you *always* use one term and
never the other?

Since you ask. I *never* say 'serviette' - always 'napkin' - when
speaking of the linen variety. In my mind 'serviette' is a naff word.
When speaking of a paper or non-linen napkin, our family calls it a
"moppit", for obvious reasons.

I never speak the word 'toilet' to describe a lavatory - it's so ugly
to my ears, especially when glottally stopped to become 'toiluh'. Most
of this is a result of early training - you called things what your
parents called them. My mother was a big fan of Nancy Mitford.

My children, who are at a very good state primary school, are told to
speak of 'toilet', and, when requesting someone to repeat something, to
say 'pardon?' These are absolute torture to my ears - I say 'what?' or
'what did you say?' 'Pardon' is as ineffably naff as 'toilet' or
'serviette'.

But this is a matter of simple euphony, and NOT snobbishness. I would
never think badly of someone who used these words - they would just
sound in my ears like nails down a blackboard, or biting an aluminium
saucepan.

Will.
Back to top
Don Phillipson
Guest





Posted: Tue Jul 26, 2005 7:54 pm    Post subject: Re: "serviette" vs "napkin" Reply with quote

"Will" <billrigby@hotmail.com> wrote in message
news:1122298451.524437.82260@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...

Quote:
I never speak the word 'toilet' to describe a lavatory - it's so ugly
to my ears, especially when glottally stopped to become 'toiluh'

The French have a solution viz. WC, from the English
water closet. This has the merit of identifying the equipment
as well as avoiding euphemism (toilet and lavatory being
cognate, both euphemisms for excretion.)

Quote:
My children, who are at a very good state primary school, are told to
speak of 'toilet', and, when requesting someone to repeat something, to
say 'pardon?' These are absolute torture to my ears - I say 'what?' or
'what did you say?' 'Pardon' is as ineffably naff as 'toilet' or
'serviette'.

But this is a matter of simple euphony, and NOT snobbishness.

Is there any practical test between valuation by euphony and
valuation by parental approval?

--
Don Phillipson
Carlsbad Springs
(Ottawa, Canada)
Back to top
Daniel James
Guest





Posted: Wed Jul 27, 2005 8:32 pm    Post subject: Re: "serviette" vs "napkin" Reply with quote

In article news:<xirFe.9475$EP2.40902@newscontent-01.sprint.ca>, Don
Phillipson wrote:
Quote:
The French have a solution viz. WC, from the English
water closet.

WC is hardly peculiar to the French! This 'solution' is widely used
in English, as well as many other languaages (of which French is only
one).

Quote:
This has the merit of identifying the equipment
as well as avoiding euphemism

"Water closet" sounds pretty euphemistic to me. It could, as easily,
refer to an enclosure for washing or for obtaining fresh water for
drinking as to a place for excretion.

Quote:
(toilet and lavatory being cognate, both euphemisms for excretion.)

Toilet and lavatory have both become euphemisms for an excretorium,
but I would hardly call them cognate.

"Toilet" comes from the French word for a small towel, apparently
because such a towel was used to cover the shoulders (to protect
clothing) during hairdressing. It came to refer to any items used in
the process of personal grooming and so to the process itself, and
thence to other activities (such as excretion) that would naturally
be performed at the same time.

"Lavatory" comes from a Latin word for a vessel or place intended for
washing or (ritual) purification. It's common meaning as a place for
excretion stems from the fact that the plumbing necessary to support
ablutory activities tends to be provided in the same place as the
plumbing required to carry away body waste (for obvious practical
reasons). This is no different from the leftpondian use of "bathroom"
to mean something other than a room with a bath in it.

Really: the only sense in which they are cognate terms is that they
have become, by different routes, euphemisms for the same thing.

Cheers,
Daniel.
Back to top
Peter Duncanson
Guest





Posted: Wed Jul 27, 2005 9:23 pm    Post subject: Re: "serviette" vs "napkin" Reply with quote

On Wed, 27 Jul 2005 15:32:09 +0100, Daniel James
<wastebasket@nospam.aaisp.org> wrote:

Quote:

"Water closet" sounds pretty euphemistic to me. It could, as easily,
refer to an enclosure for washing or for obtaining fresh water for
drinking as to a place for excretion.

I've always speculated that "water closet" (1755) postdated "earth closet",
but I haven't a date for the latter.


--
Peter Duncanson
UK (posting from a.e.u)
Back to top
grandmasterbirch



Joined: 16 Apr 2008
Posts: 1

Posted: Wed Apr 16, 2008 3:33 pm    Post subject: Napkin/Serviette -the [nearly] definitive account Reply with quote

I live in South England and personally, I almost always use 'serviette'. I think i would perhaps use 'napkin' sometimes to refer to the sort that are made of cloth, that you can tuck in to your clothes to prevent staining them with food at a restaurant. Serviette i would usually use for the more disposable variety but i'm pretty sure i've used them inconsistently in the past. As for 'paper towel', i would use this to refer to the lowest 'grade' of serviette, perhaps for kitchen roll.

The argument for saying that 'serviette' is more french than 'napkin' however is not totally accurate. The 'nap-' in 'napkin' is from the Middle French 'nappe' meaning tablecloth and the suffix '-kin' is diminutive and from Middle Dutch. So it litterally means 'small tablecloth', which perhaps explain why i use it more for the cloth variety of serviettes.

'Serviette' does originally come from the French 'servir' meaning to serve but was orginally used in the scottish language which i've found goes as far back as C14th (as 'serviet' 'servit' 'servet' 'servyet' etc.) before coming into English. '-ette' is the feminine form of the diminutive suffix 'et' (from Old French).

'Handkerchief' (or the shortened 'hanky') i would suppose are the least french near-synonym as it comes from Scottish meaning a 'kerchief' for your hand. This is a one-word contradiction, however, as 'kerchief' means a woman's headscarf (so 'handkerchief' litterally means hand-headscarf!). Once again though it eventually relates back to old french in that 'kerchief' is dervived from the Old French words 'couvrir' meaning 'to cover' and 'chef' meaning head. 'Hand', on the other hand, is from Old Norse roots, from the gothic language.

It is possible that the reason Americans don't use 'serviette' is that it had perhaps not become popular enough by the time the English Pilgrim Fathers had gone to colonise America so the word they took was 'napkin'. As they set sail from Plymouth in the South-West of England and 'serviette' was making its way all the way down from Scotland, it may not have reached the south by that time. Perhaps if they had set sail from, say, Liverpool in the North West, it would be a very different story and all you Yanks would be saying 'serviette' like me!
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
slobone



Joined: 03 May 2008
Posts: 3

Posted: Tue May 13, 2008 3:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Pilgrims may have set sail from Plymouth, but they came from all over England, and anyway at least half of them had been living in Leiden for several years. And American English wasn't exactly set in stone the day they landed on Plymouth Rock!

I don't have an OED, but somebody else can look it up. I suspect "serviette" only really became popular in 20C, and with the lower orders at first. I don't recall ever seeing it in a novel, and I've read a lot of English novels...
Back to top
View user's profile Send private message
 
This forum is locked: you cannot post, reply to, or edit topics.   This topic is locked: you cannot edit posts or make replies.    Vocaboly.com Forum Index -> alt.english.usage All times are GMT + 1 Hour
Goto page Previous  1, 2
Page 2 of 2

 
You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot vote in polls in this forum




Powered by phpBB