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Stuffing v. dressing

Posted by Pdianek on November 27, 2003

In Reply to: Modest furniture posted by ESC on November 27, 2003

: : : The question was asked, in another forum: what do you call the seasoned bread crumb mixture served with (and sometimes baked in) the Thanksgiving turkey?

: : : Doing a little research I looked for "dressing" in the definitive, every-slang-word-in-the-U.S. "Dictionary of American Regional English," (Volume II) by Frederic G. Cassidy , chief editor, (1991, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., and London, England). Guess what? It didn't have "dressing" as in stuffing. It had dressing as a sweet sauce, frosting, sugar and cream in one's coffee, gravy, manure used as fertilizer, and, in hoodoo, something applied to an object to give it magical power. I couldn't look up "stuffing" because the St- volume is a work in progress.

: : : However, in another reference it says: "Although American cookbooks gave recipes for 'forcemeat' (a 17th century word, from French 'farcir,' to stuff) most Americans called it 'stuffing' until the 1880s; then 'dressing' somehow seemed more refined and slowly became our most common word for it." From Listening to America: An Illustrated History of Words and Phrases from Our Lively and Splendid Past by Stuart Berg Flexner (Simon and Schuster, New York, 1982).
: : :

: : I well remember in the 70s we had reports (spoof ones I suspect) in the British Media that polite society in the US were covering up the legs of chairs and tables so as not to offend their sensibilities. Here in the UK we prefer naked legs and stuffing.

: I am afraid, at least according to the history books and Mr. Flexner, we did cover up table and chair legs.

I prefer "stuffing", as no one seems to say they "dress" a turkey -- they "stuff" it, even if their genteelness forces them to name what they dredge hours later from the cooked bird "dressing".

Sadly, yes, once upon a time Americans did "dress" piano legs (sorry, piano *limbs* -- "legs" was considered too daring a word, even for musical instruments), but that wasn't 1970s, more like 1870s. We took Victorian sensibilities a bit far, considering the queen herself lived a whole ocean away. Is it any wonder, then, that a *mere* 130 years later, some audience members are walking out of "Love Actually", offended by its prurience?