THUMBING THROUGH THE PAGES OF THE ANTIQUARIANS’ THESAURUS
Hello everyone. Have you noticed how pretty much every trade has its own lexicon of words and phrases which are understood only by those who are ‘on the inside’ and fully versed with the lingo (or so we like to think). Much The same can be said of local dialects, of course, and you’d be amazed at the divergence of understanding even down at The Pantiles Arcade between myself – of noble Lancastrian stock – and two of my colleagues who pledge allegiance to the other (darker) side of the Pennines, but I digress.
As new items pass in to our hands for onward sale, they are scrutinised and catalogued in detail, using our own peculiar brand of terminology. Within the last few weeks, for instance, we’ve listed a modest glass – selling for just over one hundred pounds – which luxuriates in the full title of a ‘Georgian, rib moulded, helmet foot, pan-top dram glass’.
I must admit to being not overly fond of the use of such arcane terms to describe things, especially once they have been made available to members of the public. It smacks of elitism, and you’ll always find me – as a result – making an effort to explain our items in plain language for the sake of clarity.
There is, of course, a value to there being a prescribed dictionary of recognised terms within the trade, so ‘insiders’ can communicate amongst themselves with as little ambiguity as possible, but for the bulk of our customers, there’s no need to expend too much energy learning such things by rote.
Take our unassuming glass, for instance. As with most things, it basically has a top, a middle and a bottom – and these elements are what our extended title essentially describes. The ‘pan top’ is quite obvious – the broad rim that narrows quickly, something like a frying pan in profile. Rib moulding refers to the main body of the glass, specifically the fact that it has the pressed, vertical sections rather than a completely even surface.
The fact that this glass has a ‘helmet foot’ is – again – fairly obvious; the bottom section simply has the same profile as a soldier’s helmet, in this case the basic ‘eisenhut’ or ‘Brodie’ style broad-brimmed metal hats worn from the middle ages right up to the present day (with apologies for diving off in to the impenetrable world of terms for military headgear, but at least that proves my point that it’s not just us antiquarians who like to give things special names !
Finally, we have the overall name of the piece – a dram glass. Once again this is self-explanatory as it’s a small vessel, just enough for a dram which is officially one eighth of a fluid ounce (if you adhere strictly to the weights and measures terminology), but which is generally taken to mean any small’ish nip of whatever may take your fancy.
Anyway, please do come down and take a look at the many splendid things we have available down at The Pantiles Arcade - and if the descriptive sales labels do look a bit daunting, we’ll be very pleased to take time out to demystify things for you…