Tuesday, 17 May 2016

The A, of course, stands for 'avoid thinking of envelopes'.

Like everyone else, I used to confuse the words 'stationery', meaning materials to do with writing; and 'stationary', meaning not in motion. And like many people, I now tell them apart with the mnemonic that the E in 'stationery' stands for 'envelopes'. 

But it only today occurred to me to wonder why two words with such different meanings should be so similar. So, I looked it up... and it turns out that the first stationers, in the Middle Ages, were scribes and paper merchants given licences, typically by universities or law courts, to ply their trade from permanent booths- or stations- as opposed to their competitors, who were itinerant peddlars.

So, pleasingly: stationers sell stationery because their stations were stationary. 

I thought you'd like to know. 


Eclectic Man said...

How interesting.

BTW I did enjoy your first outing on "Just a minute".

You may be interested to know that in the mid 19th century, 'Brandreth's Pills' were a popular emetic (well, according to my copy of Moby Dick they were).

Do let us know when you are next on the radio, please.

mash mish said...

Goodness! A confirmed sighting of the lesser spotted 'Just A Minute' virgin!

Kirsty said...

I am pleased to know this. Thank you.

Tealin said...

What an excellent fact. Thank you!

Lothiriel said...

That's brilliant! Thanks for letting us know.

Laura said...

I *did* want to know. And I didn't even know I wanted to know until I knowed it!

P.S. Just finished listening to Zurich again and broke into spontaneous applause at the end. It freaked out my guinea pigs

Verity said...

A stands for "on your Arse". Memorable and useful!

EnoWeb-News said...

My teacher Miss Giggs told us that we could remember it by E for Envelope and A for 'Alt.

Sarah said...

Hmmm ... I was told to remember it as stationary like the e in paper ... and have blindly followed this rule for 40 odd years without question but NOW I see paper has an a in it as well! It was a Catholic school as well ... we did believe EVERYTHING we were told. At least I have been writing it correctly - that's the main thing I suppose!

Unknown said...

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Tabitha said...

If this little nugget of information doesn't appear on a future JFSP sketch, I will be mildly disappointed. Not very disappointed or plainly disappointed. Just slightly bemused with an eyebrow raised 1/16th of an inch. To qualify for the 1/8th eyebrow lift, it would have to be news that you suddenly decided to rob a bank...and succeeded.

Phil Buxton said...

Speaking of words which sound the same, the one that always gets me is 'outstanding' because it has two utterly different meanings.

If my boss tells me that the report he asked for is 'outstanding', he means either it was brilliant or he hasn't received it yet.

Who ever thought that was a good idea?

Unknown said...

Bit late to the party (sorry), but I've always remembered it as stationery has an 'e' for 'ecrire' (to write); and stationary has an 'a' as in 'arreter' (to stop). Knowing this has also helped me to retain a very scant morsel of French from my schooldays.

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