5 Words from the Kitchen

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Words most people associate primarily with the kitchen have multiple nonculinary connotations as well. Here are five words you may find useful in other contexts.

1. Apron
This name for a garment worn to protect the wearer’s clothes from food stains (or one that is purely decorative) also applies to similar protective attire. From this usage stems meanings for structures with similar form and/or purpose, including a piece of wood under a windowsill, an extension of a bathroom fixture, the part of a pier or wharf along its edge, an erosion barrier, or the part of a stage that extends past the proscenium arch (the opening between the stage and the audience area).

2. Cook
This is not just a verb for the action of preparing food and a noun describing a preparer; it also refers to a process for producing a substance or a material, such as the act of cooking methamphetamines. It’s also a slang term used a as a synonym for happen or occur (“What’s cooking?”), for doing well (“That band is really cooking!”), or for falsifying documents, especially financial records (“He was caught cooking the books”).

3. Glass
The word for an often tall, narrow container for drinking liquids from, regardless of material, also applies to the mixture of materials used in making clear or tinted glass. Glass may also apply to another item made wholly or in part from glass or a similar substance, such as a mirror (or looking-glass), a basketball backboard, an hourglass, a telescope (or spyglass), or eyeglasses; a barometer is often called a glass. The word also denotes a container full of a liquid (“Have a glass of beer”).

4. Plate
A plate is a shallow, mostly flat dish for serving food, but it also refers to other usually flat, thin items such as a piece of armor or a body part that is similar to armor, any flat structural piece, a part of Earth’s crust, and precious metal, and has other meanings, including the figurative reference to matters and responsibilities “I have a lot on my plate right now.”

5. Table
In addition to the meaning of a piece of furniture with a flat surface, often used for dining, table refers to any such surface, such as a geographical feature (tableland). It also has figurative meanings for eating (“Sit down to table”) and assembling (“Sit at the bargaining table”). Table also refers to a list or an arrangement of data.

Table is used as a verb to describe entering data in a table. It also refers, in American English, to remove from consideration during a formal meeting or other procedure; in British English, curiously, its meaning is the opposite: It denotes placing an item on an agenda.

There’s also a small but rich list of idioms that include table, including “lay (one’s) cards on the table” (“to be candid”) and “under the table” (“intoxicated,” or “secretive”).

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3 thoughts on “5 Words from the Kitchen”

  1. It’s interesting to hear that in the US, ‘to table [an agenda item]’ means the exact opposite of what it does in ‘the commonwealth.’

    “Glass” has recently acquired a rather ugly usage here in Australia. “To glass [someone]” is “to break a (beer) glass and grind the broken butt into [someone’s] face.” This disgusting habit is practised by rowdy young men, who tend to do it to their male ‘mates.’ However, it achieves notoriety among drunken rugby players, who sometimes do it to their girlfriends – the latter often ‘forgive’ the player, either because they “really love him,” or more usually because they have been paid off by the player’s club!

  2. Mark,
    In Argentina we also refer to financial statements that have been ‘fit’ to someone’s needs rather than showing real figures as having been ‘cooked’ (i.e.: cocinar números/asientos/etc) in order not to reveal true losses of a company, etc.

    Message to Sally: Could you please explain (add) more data about what is used in “the commonwealth” with reference to “table [an agenda item] Thanks.

  3. In American legislatures, to table an issue means to “take it off the table” and deny it consideration. When a congressional committee tables an issue, that means it will not make the agenda, won’t get a vote, and is, for that session, dead. In the UK, etc., to table an issue means to “put it on the table”, or bring it forward for consideration and debate.

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