This is from Michael O’Connor Clarke who recalls trying to explain why pipe cleaners are called “pipe cleaners” to a six year old who had never seen anyone smoking. He wonders if there are “other examples of things still in everyday use whose names refer back to functions long since rendered obsolete.” (A quibble: Pipe cleaners are still used to clean pipes, just not as often as twenty years ago.)
Keep in mind that even though this is supposedly an open-ended puzzle, I’m not looking for words whose etymology refers to something obsolete, but words that have current plain-text meanings unrelated to their current use. So the fact that I picked up from my parents the habit of occasionally referring to a refrigerator as an “icebox” doesn’t count because that does not refer to its use, and neither does the quasi-fact that “testify” comes from the Roman practice of men holding their testicles when giving evidence in court. A telephone “dial” is also not a great example because it doesn’t refer to what it’s used for but to how it’s used.
A perfect example would be … ? [Tags: puzzle]
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