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Re: Naff devices

Posted by Barney on January 02, 2002 at

In Reply to: Re: Naff devices posted by Marian on January 01, 2002

: : : : : : : : The recent spate of holiday dining leads naturally to a curiousity of why a circular, pivoting relish tray is called a lazy susan. My dictionary only provides a definition. Any sources available?

: : : : : : : I couldn't find a definitive answer. LAZY SUSAN - "The British call our 'lazy Susan' a dumbwaiter, which the revolving servitor was called in America until relatively recently. It is said that the first use of the term dates back to about 75 years ago when the device was named after some servant it replaced, Susan being a common name for servants at the time. But the earliest quotation that has been found for lazy Susan is in 1934, and it could be the creation of some unheralded advertising copywriter. Therefore, 'lazy' may not mean a lazy servant at all, referring instead to a hostess too lazy to pass the snacks around, or to the ease with which guests can rotate the device on the spindle and bring the sections containing different foods directly in front of them." From the "Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins" by Robert Hendrickson (Facts on File, New York, 1997).

: : : : : : : I thought a "dumbwaiter" was a little elevator that was used to bring trays of food from the basement kitchen up to the main floor.

: : : : : The only DumbWaiter I'm aware of who served at table and had a level of notoriety was a fellow called Hector MacAdam who served, sullenly but with consummate efficiency, at the Savoy Grill in London in the 1920's and 30's - my grandfather told endless tales of his dark silences. Otherwise dumbwaiters are food elevators. The Lazy Susan is not common in England: it is, not to put too fine a point on it, a naff device and would condemn the host to ridicule.

: : : : I don't own a lazy susan and my mother, who treasured hers, has passed, so I accept the insult of low manners in good humor. However, you used the phrase "naff device", which is uncommon in the former colonies. I understand the usage in context, but I wonder if you could put a finer point on the definition.

: : : I just love using my many Lazy Susans, especially on July 4th. All of us are off from work that day and we congregate in backyards, beaches, parks etc. and we place our ketchup, relishes and mustards on our "naff devices" as we celebrate how a small bunch of rag-tag Colonists kicked the major butt of a country that ruled the seas.

: : Apparently, then, a naff device is a hot dog? Or something that looks like one?

: Or perhaps any spinnable platform that, through centrifugal force, might be made to send aloft semi-solids such as the colorful condiments mentioned? How festive.

As a point of interest the British didn't get round to ruling the seas until about 1805 when they sorted out the French. As for having "big butts" I fear these pale into insignificance when compared with the mountains of lard packed round the posteriors of a good 35% of our American cousins. But I digress, it was plainly the case that we, the British, were right pleased that our feisty young colony came of age and struck out on its own, albeit we acted a bit peeved at the time.

As to 'Naff'. it is customary to politely advise a fellow who is annoying you to 'naff off' and, in the case of 'naff devices', these are collectively seen as having limited utility and, in particular, seem best represented by those tools of complexity which replace a simple device that does a simple job - an electrically powered bread knife or a Lazy Susan are both good examples of a 'naff devices'.