A Civil World. Off-topic discussions on a variety of topics. > Trans-Atlantic Knowledge Exchange

Potter or Putter

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scotcat60:
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?

Knitterly:
I am in Canada and have only ever heard "puttering" about.

Nibsey:

--- Quote from: scotcat60 on November 18, 2012, 09:47:41 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?

--- End quote ---

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.

Yvaine:
Midwestern US. People "putter" around here but I've seen "pottering" in books.

Thipu1:
'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. 

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