Etiquette Hell

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Title: Potter or Putter
Post by: scotcat60 on November 18, 2012, 08:47:41 AM
In her introduction to her collection of short stories "The Girl Who Heard Dragons" the writer Anne McCaffrey criticises an interviewer for describing her sister in law as "Pottering abnout in the kitchen" Ms McCaffrey says "Well, Sis has been a potter, but the correct term is putter."(I don't know why she claims this)

My New English Dictionary published 1936 defines potter as someone who makes pots, and to potter or pottering as moving about aimlessly doing small jobs. The only definition of putter is a type of golf club. I myself potter, and it is only recently that I have read the term " puttering" in books from the US. (I'm in the UK)

So, do you potter or putter on your side of the Herring Pond? Ms Mcaffrey lives in Ireland, so what term is used there?
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Knitterly on November 18, 2012, 09:07:03 AM
I am in Canada and have only ever heard "puttering" about.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Nibsey on November 18, 2012, 09:08:50 AM

So, do you potter or putter on your side of the Herring Pond? Ms Mcaffrey lives in Ireland, so what term is used there?

I've only heard the term putter in relation to golf clubs. It's always been potter about or footering about in relation to dilly dallying.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Yvaine on November 18, 2012, 09:17:39 AM
Midwestern US. People "putter" around here but I've seen "pottering" in books.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Thipu1 on November 18, 2012, 09:31:03 AM
'Pottering' or 'puttering' about in the kitchen would both be understood here.  However, we'd be more likely to use 'futzing'.  Any of these terms mean doing trivial tasks such as folding dish towels, rearranging the implement jar or sharpening knives that don't really need sharpening. 

It's the sort of nervous thing that people do when company is expected and all the important work is done. 

'Puttering' always reminds me of the sort of noise that a small engine that isn't yet working makes.  A lawn mower putters before it actually starts mowing.  A motorcycle putters before the ride begins. 

Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Rohanna on November 18, 2012, 09:34:50 AM
I have only heard "putter around".
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Yvaine on November 18, 2012, 09:39:08 AM
'Pottering' or 'puttering' about in the kitchen would both be understood here.  However, we'd be more likely to use 'futzing'.  Any of these terms mean doing trivial tasks such as folding dish towels, rearranging the implement jar or sharpening knives that don't really need sharpening. 

It's the sort of nervous thing that people do when company is expected and all the important work is done. 

'Puttering' always reminds me of the sort of noise that a small engine that isn't yet working makes.  A lawn mower putters before it actually starts mowing.  A motorcycle putters before the ride begins.

Yes, futzing happens here too!  ;D It can be the nervous trivial tasks, or it can be wasting your whole day doing things that really aren't important but make you feel accomplished!
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Lynnv on November 18, 2012, 09:51:04 AM
US, Colorado.  I have seen pottering about in books, but have only ever heard puttering (or futzing, as someone else mentioned). 
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: mechtilde on November 18, 2012, 09:53:35 AM
I've only ever known Brits to potter.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Luci on November 18, 2012, 09:58:53 AM
"to busy oneself in a busy or ineffective way" is the second definition of "putter" in Webster's Newworld Dictionary 1985. I'm too lazy to look in my 1962. This was published in the US, and have always lived in the central US.

I'm equally comfortable with both 'putter' and 'potter', among other words for the same sort of activity.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: WillyNilly on November 18, 2012, 11:43:54 AM
'Pottering' or 'puttering' about in the kitchen would both be understood here.  However, we'd be more likely to use 'futzing'.  Any of these terms mean doing trivial tasks such as folding dish towels, rearranging the implement jar or sharpening knives that don't really need sharpening. 

It's the sort of nervous thing that people do when company is expected and all the important work is done. 

'Puttering' always reminds me of the sort of noise that a small engine that isn't yet working makes.  A lawn mower putters before it actually starts mowing.  A motorcycle putters before the ride begins.

I agree with this, with the slight exception that I'd say "futzing" is busier - more aimless doing, while puttering is more idle.  Futzing about in the kitchen would be as described: doing trivial tasks such as folding dish towels, rearranging the implement jar or sharpening knives that don't really need sharpening.  Whereas puttering about in the kitchen is more like pacing, or rereading the grocery list on the fridge door, or opening cabinets and just looking, etc.  You can "futz" with something "stop futzing with your hair or it will come undone!" "quit futzing with the boxes before they fall", you can't really "putter" with something, its more standing about "please stop puttering by the door and help me put these away".

I have never heard or read "potter" as anything except a person who makes pots, or a "potter's field" which is what we call cemeteries for the homeless, helplessly poor or unclaimed bodies in NYC.  (So named though, after someone who makes pots, as they would traditionally have fields full of holes where they dug out the clay, just like a cemetery gets dug up.)  I would probably figure it out from context though and figure the person meant "putter".
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: ClaireC79 on November 18, 2012, 12:24:38 PM
South Wales here, we tend to 'potch' about in the kitchen etc rather than potter
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: cabbageweevil on November 18, 2012, 12:25:39 PM
In her introduction to her collection of short stories "The Girl Who Heard Dragons" the writer Anne McCaffrey criticises an interviewer for describing her sister in law as "Pottering abnout in the kitchen" Ms McCaffrey says "Well, Sis has been a potter, but the correct term is putter."(I don't know why she claims this)

My New English Dictionary published 1936 defines potter as someone who makes pots, and to potter or pottering as moving about aimlessly doing small jobs. The only definition of putter is a type of golf club. I myself potter, and it is only recently that I have read the term " puttering" in books from the US. (I'm in the UK)

So, do you potter or putter on your side of the Herring Pond? Ms Mcaffrey lives in Ireland, so what term is used there?

I chime in with fellow-Brit PPs on this thread: overwhelmingly, in Britain it's "potter around," in America, "putter around". "Futz" is strictly American-only, I'd think.

Anne McCaffrey is American by birth, if I'm right -- so in the light of that, she'll be likely to be in the "putter" camp. (I feel that it's a bit precious of her to pontificate about what's "correct", over a colloquialism like this; but her mileage no doubt varies.)

As for what they say in Ireland -- I'm not Irish, and have barely been to the island, so most likely should hold back; but in the memoirs of an Irishman, I once came across "puithernawling", meaning pottering / puttering around; in my view, a splendid word -- maybe taken from Irish Gaelic?

(Nibsey -- sorry, missed your post from the Irish viewpoint !)
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: RingTailedLemur on November 18, 2012, 12:50:37 PM
UK here, it's "potter".

(Unless you are messing about before going somewhere, then it's "faff").
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Thipu1 on November 18, 2012, 03:13:28 PM
If someone is really obsessing about things that don't mean much we say, 'Stop Davening over it'.

'Davening' is a Jewish term.  Many people won't recognize the term but most who have studied hard for a test have 'davened' whether they know it or not.   When you're studying hard you may start to rock slightly back and forth.  That's Davening. 

It's a very precise term for someone who is worrying about tiny little things that no one will notice. 
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: veryfluffy on November 18, 2012, 03:29:34 PM
UK here, it's "potter".

(Unless you are messing about before going somewhere, then it's "faff").

Yes, I would more or less agree with that. Pottering is doing little but generally quite useful things, and is a pleasant sort of way to pass the time. Faffing is doing useless things as a way to kill time or while procrastinating.

Puttering? Isn't that something in golf?
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: katycoo on November 18, 2012, 04:53:22 PM
Australians potter.  Another term I like which is more to imply time wasting or dallying rather than just moseying about is "faffing about".  Does anyone else use that?
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Pippen on November 19, 2012, 01:13:27 AM
or pootle. Pootling is something of a speciality of mine. 
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: oz diva on November 19, 2012, 01:33:03 AM
In Australia we potter.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: merryns on November 19, 2012, 02:00:07 AM
Aussie here - pottering. And faffing. And I agree with the distinction.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: LibraryLady on November 20, 2012, 01:48:34 PM
Here in Texas, I piddle around.

Hollis
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: RingTailedLemur on November 20, 2012, 02:45:13 PM
Here in Texas, I piddle around.

Hollis

Piddle means something quite different here - you gave me quite the mental image!
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: #borecore on November 20, 2012, 02:53:14 PM
Here in Texas, I piddle around.

Hollis

Piddle means something quite different here - you gave me quite the mental image!

I'm in Texas and it throws me off every time.

I fiddle around, mess around or waste time, but I never potter or putter or piddle, though I'd catch your drift in any case.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Iris on November 20, 2012, 02:58:02 PM
Aussie here - pottering. And faffing. And I agree with the distinction.

Me too.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: WillyNilly on November 20, 2012, 02:59:18 PM
Here in Texas, I piddle around.

Hollis

Piddle means something quite different here - you gave me quite the mental image!

To me "piddle" is a word the owner of a puppy or small dog would use to describe it urinating on the kitchen floor. "Aww did poopsie-whoopie do a piddle puddle?" or "Ralph get in the kitchen and clean up after this puppy!  He piddled on the floor again!"
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: hobish on November 20, 2012, 03:08:06 PM
Here in Texas, I piddle around.

Hollis

Piddle means something quite different here - you gave me quite the mental image!

To me "piddle" is a word the owner of a puppy or small dog would use to describe it urinating on the kitchen floor. "Aww did poopsie-whoopie do a piddle puddle?" or "Ralph get in the kitchen and clean up after this puppy!  He piddled on the floor again!"

Yes. Puppies piddle. It's a bit cutesy for my vocab; but that is the meaning i know. I have also seen piddling used to demean something or someone ... piddling peasants, or a piddling amount (tiny amount) comes to mind.

In NJ, USA it is putter. If you are pottering ... well, you wouldn't be, because it doesn't make sense.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Judah on November 20, 2012, 03:30:23 PM
I'm a Californian who is also a potter who used to putter in her studio a lot.  Not so much anymore, sadly.  I don't piddle, but I do piddle around. Faffing sounds like passing gas to me.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Jones on November 20, 2012, 03:35:51 PM
I had to pay attention as I've never thought about it before, but people here "fiddle" or "mess around." I'm familiar with the listed uses of potter/putter/piddle, but can't say the last time I heard a real person use them that way.

I have to say I think the author was rude to chide the use of "potter" in favor of "putter". Language evolves, it's likely that a word can have more than one meaning.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: baritone108 on November 20, 2012, 03:58:23 PM
My New English Dictionary published 1936 defines potter as someone who makes pots, and to potter or pottering as moving about aimlessly doing small jobs. The only definition of putter is a type of golf club. I myself potter, and it is only recently that I have read the term " puttering" in books from the US. (I'm in the UK)

Midwest US, here.  We use puttering about.  My 1981 Webster's Dictionary defines putter as, "to move or act aimlessly or idly" with the second definition being "to work at random".  They list TINKER as a synonym and I have heard tinkering about, though tinkering with is more common.  The only definition they give for potter is "one that makes pottery".
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Iris on November 20, 2012, 04:34:36 PM
I'm a Californian who is also a potter who used to putter in her studio a lot.  Not so much anymore, sadly.  I don't piddle, but I do piddle around. Faffing sounds like passing gas to me.

Well, I don't think that the filter would let me say the other, more vulgar, term for faffing about, but it is [pass wind][backside]-ing about so it is possible that there is a certain overlap  ;)
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Bluenomi on November 20, 2012, 05:31:21 PM
Aussie here - pottering. And faffing. And I agree with the distinction.

POD. There is also dithering which is sort of between the two  ;D
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: cabbageweevil on November 21, 2012, 02:11:58 AM
Here in Texas, I piddle around.

Hollis

Piddle means something quite different here - you gave me quite the mental image!

To me "piddle" is a word the owner of a puppy or small dog would use to describe it urinating on the kitchen floor. "Aww did poopsie-whoopie do a piddle puddle?" or "Ralph get in the kitchen and clean up after this puppy!  He piddled on the floor again!"

Yes. Puppies piddle. It's a bit cutesy for my vocab; but that is the meaning i know. I have also seen piddling used to demean something or someone ... piddling peasants, or a piddling amount (tiny amount) comes to mind.

The pi... word as discussed above, is used in Britain also in both the senses cited here by hobish.

Trivia item -- (I admit, getting further off-topic re puttering / pottering) -- in the county of Dorset in the south of England, there is a smallish river called the river Piddle, or Trent (not to be confused with the big river Trent further north). Said river runs through the villages of Piddletrenthide and Piddlehinton.  Needless to say, all this provides much fodder for mildly off-colour humour, to kids of all ages...

The river also flows through a bunch of villages whose names feature not "Piddle," but "Puddle": Puddletown, Tolpuddle, Affpuddle, Briantspuddle, and Turners Puddle. Apparently there is a local tradition (suspected not to be true) that these places used to have "Piddle" names too, but were renamed to avoid embarrassment before a visit by Queen Victoria.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: RingTailedLemur on November 21, 2012, 03:15:49 AM
My New English Dictionary published 1936 defines potter as someone who makes pots, and to potter or pottering as moving about aimlessly doing small jobs. The only definition of putter is a type of golf club. I myself potter, and it is only recently that I have read the term " puttering" in books from the US. (I'm in the UK)

Midwest US, here.  We use puttering about.  My 1981 Webster's Dictionary defines putter as, "to move or act aimlessly or idly" with the second definition being "to work at random".  They list TINKER as a synonym and I have heard tinkering about, though tinkering with is more common.  The only definition they give for potter is "one that makes pottery".

In the UK I would not "tinker about" but I might "tinker with" something - that would involve pulling it apart or fiddling with the insides of it in a somewhat random or nonexpert way, usually to fix it.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: katycoo on November 21, 2012, 04:39:10 AM
My New English Dictionary published 1936 defines potter as someone who makes pots, and to potter or pottering as moving about aimlessly doing small jobs. The only definition of putter is a type of golf club. I myself potter, and it is only recently that I have read the term " puttering" in books from the US. (I'm in the UK)

Midwest US, here.  We use puttering about.  My 1981 Webster's Dictionary defines putter as, "to move or act aimlessly or idly" with the second definition being "to work at random".  They list TINKER as a synonym and I have heard tinkering about, though tinkering with is more common.  The only definition they give for potter is "one that makes pottery".

http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/potter_1?q=potter
"to move about without hurrying and in a relaxed and pleasant way." 
Notes mostly UK usage, US use 'putter'

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/potter?q=potter
"occupy oneself in a desultory but pleasant way"

Putter is only defined with respect to the golf club in the Oxford.

Interesting.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Thipu1 on November 21, 2012, 10:41:26 AM
Here in NYC, you 'tinker with' machinery and there is solution to be found.  The old saying was that if you tinker with hardware long enough, it breaks.  If you tinker with software long enough it works. 

'Dithering' refers to useless work that does no good.  A similar term is 'davening'. 

It's a Jewish term connected to the study of Torah but anyone who has tried hard to learn something from a book has done it.  You 'daven' when you start slightly rocking forward and backward while reading.  It's usually involuntary.

In ordinary parlance, davening refers to paying too much attention to something that doesn't need it. 

'Stop Davening over the salad dressing!  it's fine as it is'.

 
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: baritone108 on November 21, 2012, 12:25:32 PM
'Dithering' refers to useless work that does no good.  A similar term is 'davening'. 

I'm not familiar with Davening but Dithering, here, always refers to a verbal action.  Generally it's when someone is trying to say something but stumbling over themselves to get it right and so making no sense.  The frustrated/confused listener would ask, "What are you dithering on about?"
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: katycoo on November 21, 2012, 07:09:57 PM
'Dithering' refers to useless work that does no good.  A similar term is 'davening'. 

I'm not familiar with Davening but Dithering, here, always refers to a verbal action.  Generally it's when someone is trying to say something but stumbling over themselves to get it right and so making no sense.  The frustrated/confused listener would ask, "What are you dithering on about?"

It can be both in Australia but physical is more common here.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: kglory on November 25, 2012, 10:58:51 PM
To me, davening means praying.  It is a Yiddish word meaning "to pray".

I'm American and Jewish and have never heard it used to mean puttering/pottering about.  So the usage may be regional.  I wouldn't advise someone to use "davening" for this definition this unless they were sure their audience shared the same slang meaning -- otherwise, it could be seen as disrespectful.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Thipu1 on November 26, 2012, 09:03:24 AM
Agreed.  Davening in the sense of praying deserves respect.

In the sense of paying too much attention to something that doesn't need it the term is only used among family and very close friends.  In NYC, some terms are just too good to ignore. 

Some years ago, a couple we know were flying on EL AL.  They were asked if they wanted to be seated in the Davening or non-Davening section.  That was a first. 
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Sharnita on November 28, 2012, 05:02:13 PM
I'm a Californian who is also a potter who used to putter in her studio a lot.  Not so much anymore, sadly.  I don't piddle, but I do piddle around. Faffing sounds like passing gas to me.

So does pootling.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: LibraryLady on November 29, 2012, 01:45:13 PM
piddle [ˈpɪdəl]
vb
1. (intr) Informal to urinate
2. (when tr, often foll by away) to spend (one's time) aimlessly; fritter
[origin unknown]
piddler  n

Collins English Dictionary Complete and Unabridged HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003


I rest my case   ;)   It can be used in both ways.  I also found it used like this in the Merriam Webster Dictionary online; it said the first
use was in 1545 (how do they know so precisely  ??? ).   :)
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: shadowfox79 on November 30, 2012, 04:58:14 AM
'Dithering' refers to useless work that does no good.  A similar term is 'davening'. 

I'm not familiar with Davening but Dithering, here, always refers to a verbal action.  Generally it's when someone is trying to say something but stumbling over themselves to get it right and so making no sense.  The frustrated/confused listener would ask, "What are you dithering on about?"

It can be both in Australia but physical is more common here.

I've never asked someone what they were "dithering on about" but I do tend to associate it with some speech, at least. Such as two lecturers I've worked with who come into the office and take half an hour to ask a question. That's dithering.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Hmmmmm on November 30, 2012, 08:55:39 AM
'Pottering' or 'puttering' about in the kitchen would both be understood here.  However, we'd be more likely to use 'futzing'.  Any of these terms mean doing trivial tasks such as folding dish towels, rearranging the implement jar or sharpening knives that don't really need sharpening. 

It's the sort of nervous thing that people do when company is expected and all the important work is done. 

'Puttering' always reminds me of the sort of noise that a small engine that isn't yet working makes.  A lawn mower putters before it actually starts mowing.  A motorcycle putters before the ride begins.

This.  If I heard or read pottering I'd think some one was making pottery.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: amandaelizabeth on December 05, 2012, 03:15:13 PM
There is also  puttering about, which means using a vehicle of low horse power.  Dithering usually means that you are unable to make a decision about what to do next.  And then of course there is 'blithering' which usually precedes 'idiot'.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: squeakers on December 06, 2012, 08:04:20 AM
There is also  puttering about, which means using a vehicle of low horse power.  Dithering usually means that you are unable to make a decision about what to do next.  And then of course there is 'blithering' which usually precedes 'idiot'.

Another word: Blathering.. to babble on and on foolishly.  http://www.thefreedictionary.com/blathering has a ton of synonyms like ramble, yap, drivel.

I am guessing which usage one uses depends on where you grew up.  As in what ethnicity was most abundant so their typical word gets into the language the most.  Sometimes in the original language and sometimes in the translated. And then there would be words from your FoO that get passed down (sometimes the words get mispronounced over the years making it difficult to trace what the original word was but knowing the meaning and maybe the native tongue can usually get the correct word.)
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Margo on March 04, 2013, 02:03:49 PM
Fascinating thread!

Ditherering to me has a definite connotation of indecisiveness and/or time wasting - I think of it at physical more than verbal
I potter rather than putter.

I might also do a bit of faffing about (I'd see faffing as having a flavour of wasting time /aimlessness, whereas pottering would be unhurried but not necessarily aimless)

Blithering I have only come across as a emphasis to idiot "The man's a blithering idiot" - blather is, as amandaelizabeth says, rambling on - foolishly or repetitively.

Piddle to me is what puppies and very small children do (although more robustly (if I can use it without upsetting the filters) 'pissing about' means wasting time, messing around - If I heard someone talk about someone 'piddling about' I'd think they were using it as a euphemism for 'pissing about'.

I drive over the river Piddle fairly regularly.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Stormtreader on March 05, 2013, 04:10:09 AM
Dithering to me is when youve been stressed over something like a party and cant make some teeny decision, like dithering over which flavour of cupcakes to buy - either would be fine but you just cant decide.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: scotcat60 on July 19, 2013, 04:03:59 AM
Have just come across the word "QUIDDLE" in my old 1936 dictionary, to do a series of pointless, time-wasting jobs. Different then form pottering, when the jobs need to be done.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: cwm on July 19, 2013, 10:26:21 AM
I'm in the midwest, I putter about the house completely aimlessly. Cars putter along the road.

Dithering to me is a mental thing. You dither about whether to wear the red shirt with the black pumps or the black dress with the ballet flats when you go out at night.

Futzing, to me, is unnecessarily messing with. For example, if I'm puttering about, I might fold a few towels, go to wash a few dishes, just basically wander around aimlessly doing random things for a tiny bit before moving on to something else. If I was futzing about the towels, I'd unfold all of the towels in the house just to get them right.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Shea on August 19, 2013, 07:11:42 AM
Grew up in the US Pacific Northwest, now live in Quebec. I'd use "putter" and "potter" interchangeably, but I can't recollect anyone ever using the terms around me where I live now, so I'm not sure what the more common term is here.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: jaxsue on October 26, 2013, 06:48:35 PM
If someone is really obsessing about things that don't mean much we say, 'Stop Davening over it'.

'Davening' is a Jewish term.  Many people won't recognize the term but most who have studied hard for a test have 'davened' whether they know it or not.   When you're studying hard you may start to rock slightly back and forth.  That's Davening. 

It's a very precise term for someone who is worrying about tiny little things that no one will notice.

I live near NYC and have a large number of Jewish friends. They use that word a lot. I like it.  :)

ETA: some of my friends are observant, some are not. Either way, rest assured that I don't use any words disrespectfully.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Eeep! on October 27, 2013, 12:37:35 AM
I'm in the midwest, I putter about the house completely aimlessly. Cars putter along the road.

Dithering to me is a mental thing. You dither about whether to wear the red shirt with the black pumps or the black dress with the ballet flats when you go out at night.

Futzing, to me, is unnecessarily messing with. For example, if I'm puttering about, I might fold a few towels, go to wash a few dishes, just basically wander around aimlessly doing random things for a tiny bit before moving on to something else. If I was futzing about the towels, I'd unfold all of the towels in the house just to get them right.

I am in CA but these are pretty much my definitions too so thanks!

Myself, however, I am prone to frittering. I fritter my day away frequently.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: baglady on October 28, 2013, 04:18:03 AM
Northeastern U.S. here. If I'm puttering, I'm doing little minor tasks around the house, like tidying up, disposing of the junk mail, etc.

Dithering has an anxiety component. If I'm faced with a bunch of tasks but not sure which one to tackle, I'm dithering. It is possible to dither and get nothing done.

Futzing I think of as a euphemism for another word that starts with f-u and ends in -ing and is synonymous with goofing off. "I spent the evening futzing around on the computer."

Never heard "potter" as a verb. It's someone who works with clay. Or Harry's last name.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: jedikaiti on October 28, 2013, 03:40:22 PM
US, Colorado.  I have seen pottering about in books, but have only ever heard puttering (or futzing, as someone else mentioned).

Likewise. I prefer futzing, may have seen pottering in a book or two, but puttering is more common IME.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Another Sarah on October 29, 2013, 12:45:17 PM
Do any other brits know the term putter about as driving in a tiny car? (the type where the engine goes putputput instead of vroom)

That's how I heard the term - maybe thats a lancashire thing
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Eeep! on October 29, 2013, 02:35:11 PM
Do any other brits know the term putter about as driving in a tiny car? (the type where the engine goes putputput instead of vroom)

That's how I heard the term - maybe thats a lancashire thing

I am in California, but I know it that way too.  You can also putter around in a golf cart or something similar. :)
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Blondie on October 30, 2013, 07:36:39 AM
Do any other brits know the term putter about as driving in a tiny car? (the type where the engine goes putputput instead of vroom)

That's how I heard the term - maybe thats a lancashire thing

I am in California, but I know it that way too.  You can also putter around in a golf cart or something similar. :)

That's interesting- NY born and bred here and I have always heard it in reference to cars of any size, but mainly in terms of speed- One would putter around town, but not on a highway. It has some element of laziness, perhaps taking ones time running errands. Then again, I have also really only heard it used by an older generation- my 94 year old grandmother talks about puttering her way around the town on the way to the grocery store.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: nolechica on November 14, 2013, 03:46:16 PM
Putter, also futzing doesn't exist here, the term used won't pass censors.  Dithering is personal and davening would be obsessing. All of these though are terms mothers and grandmothers use to scold/chide so I seldom use them.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: jedikaiti on November 14, 2013, 09:27:17 PM
Putter, also futzing doesn't exist here, the term used won't pass censors.  Dithering is personal and davening would be obsessing. All of these though are terms mothers and grandmothers use to scold/chide so I seldom use them.

I always took "dithering" to imply a bit of agitation and confusion.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: Thipu1 on November 15, 2013, 10:44:21 AM
Puttering implies that small chores are actually being accomplished.  I've also heard it used for driving around on errands. Again, small tasks are being accomplished without a sense of urgency.     

Dithering implies indecision.  It's like the proverbial donkey caught between two bales of hay and unable to decide which to eat first.  My Aunt Loretta described the family on the day of her DD's Wedding as 'Running around like chickens with their hats off'. 

That's dithering. 

A perfect musical example of dithering is the overture to 'The Marriage of Figaro'. 



 
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: TootsNYC on November 17, 2013, 06:01:00 PM
"to busy oneself in a busy or ineffective way" is the second definition of "putter" in Webster's Newworld Dictionary 1985. I'm too lazy to look in my 1962. This was published in the US, and have always lived in the central US.

I'm equally comfortable with both 'putter' and 'potter', among other words for the same sort of activity.

My experience as well. I've always thought "potter" came first, and "putter" came from an alternate pronunciation. And bother are fine.


   And in fact (, Anne!), M-W.com says taht this "putter" was na alteration of "potter" that first appeared in print in 1858.

Potter comes from "pote" --to poke--and has been around since 1829.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: GreenEyedHawk on February 15, 2014, 08:16:24 PM
I'm in western Canada and here we either putter or putz, though I've heard of pottering as well.
Title: Re: Potter or Putter
Post by: ClaireC79 on February 16, 2014, 07:11:52 AM
South Wales we potch