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The Word on Sunday


Today's word is actually a pair of homonyms. They have come to share the same spelling: caddy.

There is the golf caddy, formerly a human being, formerly a "caddie." This word comes, via Scotland, from the French cadet, or young man. Specifically, a young man who would hang about, available for brief hire as a messenger. This meaning was set by the early eighteenth century. Printed references to golf caddies date from the 1850s.

Then there is the tea caddy, derived from a South Asian measure of weight used for tea, or catti. Eventually, the container took the name of the measure. A tea caddy is a small box made of wood or porcelain. Tea caddies became merely decorative vessels when people began brewing their own tea in their own kitchens, instead conducting the whole elaborate (and inconvenient) operation at a tea table in the drawing room.

All of this was brought to mind by a small porcelain cache-pot that I bought for Kathleen at Tiffany a thousand years ago. It's really much too small for anything but a minute pot of African violets, and for years it has held items that approach two dimensions: ticket stubs, business cards, and bookmarks. Going through its contents last night, it occurred to me to call it - the cache-pot - a caddy, and I wondered why. I think that it's some subterranean confusion of the two words, caddie and caddy. It's small, like a caddy, and it helps out by carrying things, as does a caddie.

The ex-cache-pot now holds (a) bookmarks, (b) a small magnifying glass in the brocade envelope it came in, at China Arts & Crafts in Guangzhou, (c) a map of Bermuda, together with a plan of the Dorado Beach/Cerromar campus that we'll be heading off to (in Puerto Rico, not Bermuda) on Thursday (didn't have to hunt for that!), and (d) a few miscellaneous items - who's perfect? The ticket stubs are in a box of their own, while the old credit cards, of which that for B Altman, above, is my favorite, not because of the color but because of the store itself, which was everything that a department store ought to be, are in a "souvenir" box that will probably fill up faster than I want it to. But everything looks neat.


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