Posted by Lewis on April 26, 2004
In Reply to: Damper posted by Old Shep on April 26, 2004
: : : : Over time some sayings go astray. ie. Sometimes actual words change, and thus, sometimes even their meaning can change.
: : : : One example that was discussed in an earlier thread - was "One fell swoop" vs "one foul swoop". I'm not opening that one up again, but another one that occurred to me today was - "he put a dampener on things". That's how I said it, but I was corrected and told it should have been "he put a damper on things".
: : : : So can anyone clarify for me which is correct. I struggle with the latter, considering that to me a damper is bread baked by our settlers, so I can't imagine why you'd put a damper on things.
: : : : But having said that, even if I'm right and it should be "dampener", precisely what does that mean anyway? How would this saying have evolved? Is it something to do with dampening out fires??? Or is it really 'damper'? Any thoughts?
: : : A damper is a device used on a wood or coal-burning stove to control the oxygen flow to the fire.
: : : Merriam-Webster online:
: : : Main Entry: damp·er
: : : Pronunciation: 'dam-p&r
: : : Function: noun
: : : 1 : a dulling or deadening influence. Put a damper on the celebration.
: : : 2 : a device that damps : as a : a valve or plate (as in the flue of a furnace) for regulating the draft b : a small felted block to stop the vibration of a piano string c chiefly British : SHOCK ABSORBER
: : Some fireplaces have dampers, too.
: All of this doesn't bode well for an early morning snack on settler's bread.
UK - a 'damper' is a restraint - something that muffles as in the piano pedal which restricts the vibration of the strings and makes the piano softer - the 'piano' as opposed to the 'forte'.
a 'dampener' is rarely used outside the expression - that "really put the dampener on things!" but there is the possibility that 'to dampen' - 'to make damp' is a metaphor from lighting/maintaining fires rather than some other restraint - in fact 'to damp' meaning 'to subdue/restrain' could well be a metaphor from managing fires.