-ottles

From Michael Quinion in his World Wide Words #679 (February 27):

BOTTLED  I’d previously heard of the TOTTLE, a combination tube and bottle, a term of the packaging industry that’s been around since the early 1990s. But this week I learned of the NOTTLE. It appeared in a packaging supplement in my daily paper. Details are sparse and an online search is befuddled by all the references to Gussie Fink-Nottle, but it appears to be a bottle that has been turned upside down so it sits on its flat lid, to make squirting the last of its contents easier. My tomato ketchup has been sold me in a bottle like that for some years, but I never knew there was a name for it. Nor do I know where the term comes from. “Not a bottle”? “Negative bottle”?

I have now added HOTTLE (hot + bottle), defined in Dictionary.com’s 21st Century Lexicon as:

a thermal or glass carafe (often with black-banded neck and a lid) for holding a hot beverage, as coffee, with which one can refill one’s cup

There’s an illustration of a “Glass Hottle with Cover” here.

In e-mail today, Quinion writes about HOTTLE:

Another new word for me. So far as I can discover, this is a product that came on the market around 1950. The oldest I can find is a snippet (but with a pic) in Popular Mechanics for April 1950.

All three -ottle portmanteaus seem to be  “terms of trade”, used by people who manufacture or sell the items in question, or buy them for commercial use. They are, in effect, technical terms used by a relatively confined community, which has a real need for such terms: people who manufacture, sell, or buy such things need terminology — “in-house terminology”, if you will — that discriminates among the many sorts of thing that they deal in, and people outside this community rarely have such a need.

Going up one level: the usual technical term for such terminology is jargon, defined by NOAD2 as:

special words or expressions that are used by a particular profession or group and and are difficult for others to understand

Unfortunately, probably because of the difficulty jargon presents to outsiders, the word has picked up strong negative connotations. As NOAD2 puts it in a secondary definition:

a form of language regarded as barbarous, debased, or hybrid

The word has now been so poisoned by this sense development that I find it hard to use except in professional contexts having to do with language varieties.

6 Responses to “-ottles”

  1. John Lawler Says:

    Alternative spelling, of course, is hoddle, which I can attest from the menu of at least one coffee shop in the U district in the mid-1960s, while I was at U Washington.

  2. Stan Says:

    When my father was a young boy, he referred to his hot water bottle as a “hottle wattle bottle”, but I’m fairly sure this was toddler talk, and not inspired by industry terminology.

    The Urban Dictionary has entries for “hot nottle” (“Typically an apelike male. With a large beer gut and a balding head”), and “fuck nottle” (“hydrophobic in nature, regarding sexual fluids”). Google delivers no additional results. I wonder whether they’ve ever been used or imagined by more than one person.

    • Christine Says:

      Walter Hottle Bottle was a character in a children’s magazine in England. My hot water bottle was also called Hottle Wottle Bottle. I wonder if your father had English roots.

      • arnold zwicky Says:

        An interesting comment, but I didn’t say I had personal experience with the innovative -ottle words. Just reporting on other’s uses.

      • Stan Says:

        Christine: Possibly, but I would guess that my father’s hottle wottle bottle was an approximation of his infant rendering of the proper term. I didn’t know about that comic. Interesting.

  3. More on the -ottles « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Wide Words on -ottle words (TOTTLE and NOTTLE, based on BOTTLE) — reported on in this blog here — Michael Quinion added a posting today about further investigations. Three things: – he […]

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