The keeper of the dishes

Ploughing on with editing Winterdyke, my next book, despite the annoying of losing two hours worth of editing because of some blip yesterday, and I’m feeling fairly positive. Here is a very small extract from early on when the main character Thomas is investigating the Robespierre (new clients) family tree and as so often he becomes distracted…

With the new programme,  transferring information onto the tree was a cinch…
Now cinch… where did that word come from? I allowed myself a little deviation to check it out and to sort of settle the peculiar nervous feeling I had.
Cinch is quite a recent word; it would have been unknown to the 1861 Robespierres as it only appeared in the USA in the 1860’s. I never learned Spanish, but if I had I might have been able to deduce the origin because cowboys picked up the word from the Spanish-speaking people they met. It means belt, and originally sword belt. Maybe it was cinchar, as one website said, or maybe it was cinturón or cinto, or maybe it was from the verb ceñir. Whatever its origins, it was a useful word meaning saddle girth. It is also the root of other seemingly disconnected words – precinct, shingles and surcingle… now what does surcingle mean… no stop… this is all irrelevant!

He brings himself back to the task in hand, but it’s not long before he strays again:

Scullery, my wife laughs when I call it that; the word’s been used for over five hundred years, and what else would you call ‘the household department concerned with the care of kitchen utensils’?  It comes, as with so many domestic and household words, from the French, escuelerie. It was the office of the servant in charge of plates etc – I guess office as in a room where it happens, and office as in position or job. The Old French job title was escuelier, and he was the keeper of the dishes! The Keeper of the Dishes! Imagine that! It sounds like something from a fantasy film, doesn’t it! It even became a surname.
Bonjour, je suis Monsiur Escuelier!” … oh and the word scuttle as in cold scuttle comes from the same root… does anyone have coal scuttles these days?
I headed straight back to the library (library – from the French librarie) and got to work.

Here is a link to the Radwinter series, just in case you haven’t yet caught up with them:


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