attached to the past

Assorted types of paper fastener

While looking for a picture of a quill pen the other day, I came across several pictures I took to accompany an article on stationery written many years ago.This one particularly appealed, and though I’m not sure I’ve got anything very witty or insightful to write on the subject, I thought I’d include it here.

I suppose I could mention the confusion between the words ‘stationery’ and ‘stationary’.

Way back when I first did my TEFL training, one of the school directors had a box on his desk labelled ‘Stationary Box’. It contained assorted stationery, but the labelling was deliberate: it was not to be moved.

I learned to remember which was which by being told you bought stationery at the stationer’s. I don’t suppose such a mnemonic would be of any use today, though, as I can’t imagine anyone using the specific word for the shop. Do people still talk of stationer’s, newsagent’s, tobacconist’s, chemist’s, fishmonger’s, florist’s, greengrocer’s, ironmonger’s, draper’s and haberdasher’s? Or do we simply go to the supermarket, the department store, Boots and Smiths?

One of the pleasures of living in a small rural town is the fact we have all the little specialist shops. There are at least three papelerías, where you can buy such things as carbon paper, tracing paper or sticky labels by the single sheet. If I only knew how to say treasury tags or bifurcated paper fasteners in Spanish I have little doubt I’d find them still on sale, too. The shop assistant might even count them out from a large container and make up a tiny package from a scrap of paper. But I think I’ll leave Spanish shopkeepers’ packaging skills as a topic for another day.

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

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