refectory (was Re: Mister Monday)

minnow at minnow at
Wed Sep 17 08:07:36 EDT 2003

Nat Case wrote:

>>To mean "kitchen", or to mean "dining-room"?  Please?
>Don;t recall, but I expect it means the dining area (why would I have
>seen signs or directions to the kitchen?...)
>I did a quick google on "refectory school": the first four pages were
>pretty  much all UK and Australia, except:
>- Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts
>- Yale Divinity School
>The latter is on our map of the area (the former is labeled as
>"Dining", which we will fix next edition...), so I suspect that's
>what my vague memory was. Not a prep school but a divinity school.
>The Refectory at Yale is the dining room. Likewise at EDS.

Thank you!

>>  >Oh, and the take-out stands by Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet here in
>>>Minneapolis are called refectories. Don't know the history on that ...
>>Probably somebody trying to sound more up-market than the establishment
>>actually merited.  But those, presumably, are kitchen and dining-room in
>>one, so it still doesn't help with my worry.
>Actually, they are purely take-out windows -- kitchen and serving
>counter. You go eat on the park benches or walking around the lakes.
>And you;re right it does pretty clearly say "up-market," which is
>appropriate to the lakes area.


Just think of me as an earnest foreign language student making notes about
American in my small black notebook with the pencil that fits into the
spiral binding.

Seriously, I find the slippage of language fascinating, always have, and
that between American and English is sometimes particularly baffling and
interesting.  I'm not in the least inclined to the "one is better than the
other" value judgement business, given that quite often the
unfamiliar-to-me American makes better sense (as for example the boot/trunk
of a car: *why* the boot?  It doesn't look like a boot, and one doesn't
pack things into a boot much, trunk is far more reasonable), or the English
has drifted away whilst the American has stayed with an earlier usage; I
just enjoy working out what is going on or has gone on to make two
languages that started out from the same place go in such different
directions at times.

At Sussex University the entire four-storey mistake slapped down lumpenly
in the midst of architectural attempts at subtlety, the one in which there
were the bank outlet and the bookshop and the newsagents and the
convenience store and the launderette and the eating facilities, was called
"The Refectory Building" in the 1970s and for all I know to the contrary
may still be so called.  This is Really Unhelpful of them, leaving one
wondering (as it might) whether perhaps any of the other things in the
building than the eating-area might be called a refectory!

"And now I must just go to the Refectory to get some money and buy a
*Private Eye* whilst I do the washing...."


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