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Oops - pre-coffee befuddlement

Posted by Word Camel on March 13, 2003

In Reply to: On reflection posted by TheFallen on March 13, 2003

: : : : my Mum used to use the term to describe a child that looked like a parent or siblings that looked like each other. It woul make more sense if it was to describe a child or sibling that didn't look like a family member.

: : : : "they broke the mould when they made that one"

: : : : does anybody have any idea where this came from or what is the correct meaning?

: : : If that was the way that your mother used the phrase, then I'm afraid that she used it incorrectly. The expression comes from manufacturing, and probably from casting, where moulds are created to shape molten metal into repeated identical form. If something "breaks the mould" during its creation, then it is free to form itself into an unexpected or new shape, not similar in any way to its predecessors. This is not necessarily always a bad thing - eg "a method of scientific investigation that broke the mould and led to a new discovery".

: : : However the expression can also used with a post-creation intent, where you're worried, displeased or concerned about whatever it is that you've created, and so you claim you've "broken the mould", thus ensuring that another identical thing cannot be created.

: : This is from my previous life as a sculptor (sculptress?). You're right that the term comes from the manufacturing. I usually associate it with china. Breaking the mould is usually done deliberately (though it also happens accidentally too) to greatly increase the value of everything that was produced from that mould.

: : A good example is a tub in the window of the Aston Matthews bath fixtures shop in Islington in London (Essex Road). It is person-shaped and utterly unique because they broke the mould after making it. It is also horribly expensive.

: : If the mould breaks in the casting process, as opposed to after, the result is invariably a mess and seldom useful for anything.

: : I don't really see the problem then with the way Kerry's mother used the term.

: Granted that "breaking the mould" can indeed be deliberately done post-creation, either to increase the value of something, or more figuratively because you think you've achieved the pinnacle of your art and to ensure that what you've just created will be unique. You're right that it's not always pejorative - all that's happened is that there'll never be another one like whatever it is, good or bad.

: I still don't see how it can be applied specifically to the case of a child that looks just like one or both of its parents, unless that child then has a younger sibling that looks absolutely nothing like either of its parents.

You're quite right. I misread the original post. It's all so clear now in the milky mists of my morning caffeine...