Monday, February 08, 2010


From the OED, 2nd ed. (1989):
bread and butter

(Often written with hyphens, esp. when used attrib.)

1. a. Bread spread with butter; also attrib. Also attrib. and comb., as bread-and-butter pudding; bread-and-butterless adj.
1630 WADSWORTH Sp. Pilgr. iii. 15 Euery one hath..a peece of bread and butter. 1711 ADDISON Spect. No. 323 {page}6 Eat a slice of Bread and butter, drank a dish of Bohea. 1729 E. SMITH Compl. Housewife (ed. 3) 81 A Bread and Butter Pudding... Take a two-penny Loaf..spread it in very thin slices [etc.]. 1817 BYRON Beppo xxxix, The Nursery still lisps out in all they utter{em}Besides, they always smell of bread and butter. 1822 W. KITCHINER Cook's Orac. 449 Bread and Butter Pudding. 1849 [see TEALESS a.]. 1853 MRS. GASKELL Cranford i. 14 He..lessened the pretty maid-servant's labour by waiting on empty cups, and bread-and-butterless ladies. 1883 ROE in Harper's Mag. Dec. 50/2 She likes bread and butter and..realities.

b. dial. A slice of bread and butter.
1853 W. D. COOPER Gloss. of Provincialisms in Sussex, Bread and butters, slices of bread buttered. 1927 W. E. COLLINSON Contemp. Eng. 54, I well remember the disgust we children felt at a lady..who always said a bread and butter, where we used a piece of bread and butter.

2. Taken as a type of every day food; the means of living; hence attrib. in many elliptical and allusive expressions. See also QUARREL v. 1a.
1732 SWIFT Let. 12 Aug. (1965) IV. 60 Your quarrelling with each other upon the subject of bread and butter is the most usual thing in the world. 1738 {emem} Polite Conv. I. 17, I won't quarrel with my Bread and Butter for all that: I know when I'm well. 1836-7 SIR W. HAMILTON Metaph. (1859) I. i. 6 By the Germans, the latter [i.e. the professional or lucrative sciences] are usually distinguished as the Brodwissenschaften, which we may translate, ‘The Bread and Butter Sciences’. 1844 H. TWISS Life Ld. Eldon I. vi. 119 Young man, your bread and butter is cut for life. 1870 LOWELL Among my Bks. Ser. I. (1873) 222 Life lifted above the plane of bread-and-butter associations. 1884 Harper's Mag. Dec. 92/2 Industries were not so plenty..that men could quarrel with their bread and butter. 1886 Contemp. Rev. May 663 Journalists who frankly avow what is called the bread-and-butter theory of their craft. 1929 Publishers' Weekly 30 Nov. 2588/1 The old stand-bys, the bread-and-butter books in every department. 1939 A. CHRISTIE Murder is Easy xii. 128 One musn't quarrel with one's bread and butter. 1955 Times 11 May 6/1 Providing furniture for new houses was the bread and butter of the industry.

3. no bread and butter of mine: no matter affecting my material interests, no business of mine.
1764 FOOTE Mayor of G. I. i, However, it is no bread and butter of mine.

4. a. attrib.; spec. Of or pertaining to the age when bread-and-butter is extensively consumed; boyish, girlish; esp. (cf. quot. 1817 in 1) school-girlish.
a1625 BEAUM. & FL. Hum. Lieut. III. vi, Ye bread-and-butter rogues, do ye run from me? 1807 W. IRVING Salmag. (1824) 180 These little, beardless, bread and butter politicians. 1861 TROLLOPE Barchester T. xli. (D.) A lady at any rate past the wishy-washy bread-and-butter period of life. 1865 Pall Mall G. 13 May 4 Would feel that they were tittered at as bread-and-butter Misses.

b. bread-and-butter letter orig. U.S., a letter of thanks for hospitality; cf. COLLINS. Also ellipt.
1901 HOWELLS Pair of Patient Lovers 82 His prompt bread-and-butter letter. 1933 N. STREATFEILD Tops & Bottoms xxiv. 308 Please never write me bread-and-butter letters. 1964 E. BOWEN Little Girls III. i. 164 Rude? Should have written a bread-and-butter?

Hence (with reference to sense 4) bread-and-butterhood, -butterishness, bread-and-buttery a.
1884 LADY MAJENDIE Out of Element III. xxiv. 321, I think the ties of bread-and-butterhood are stronger than any later ones after all. 1843 Blackw. Mag. LIII. 80 They..emerge..into the full and perfect imago of little..gentlemen, and little ladies, without any of those intermediate conditions of laddism, hobble-de-hoyism, or bread-and-butterishness. 1859 G. MEREDITH R. Feverel xiii. (1885) 90 His future bride is now pinafored and bread-and-buttery. 1882 MRS. J. H. RIDDELL Struggle for Fame xxvi, You [an authoress] are rather bread-and-buttery still.

1 comment:

  1. This is great--thanks! I love "butterhood" and "butterishness"!