Thursday, April 05, 2012

E is for Elevenses


{"My Newfoundland" photo series - O'Donnell's}

Not so fast with the definitions there, oh ye of Irish and British isles origin!

Gosh, I remember the days in Ireland when I was in a total doss of a job (one of a few of the first female accountants hired by a national company) when my Elevenses were rolled in on a cart by a maid in a black and white uniform, the tea served in real bone china cups, and a selection of cakes, buns and rolls were on offer. Free. As part of the job. We all took a break while we slurped. And Threeses came in the afternoons (after a 1-1/2 hour dinner break) with more luxurious pastries on carted offer. I'm amazed we weren't all rolled home every day.

But be that as it may.

Elevenses in Newfoundland are a different matter entirely.

From the Dictionary Of Newfoundland English:

'Oh, poor man, his elevenses are up.' This means a person is fading and not long for this world, because the two muscles in the back of the neck stick out like two bones (resembling 11).
There. And hands up those who haven't immediately felt the back of their necks? Or looked at another's?

Today, brought to you by the letter E, in the ongoing April A-Z challenge.

23 comments:

  1. I think I have a year left in me yet! ;)

    Gosh, those elevenses were classy. Nowadays you would have to declare them for tax purposes. or pay for a mug to be slopped down on your desk on top of your work if you were not careful.

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  2. Well, I'd certainly prefer to be told "It's time for elevenses" and not "Your elevenses are up". And like Grannymar, I remember similar luxurious spreads in my early days at work.

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  3. I worked for two British companies who were still Indianising when I did. For many years, elevenses was tea and biscuits with strict hierarchical distinctions in the crockery used.

    This use of the word is strange and quaint!

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  4. How interesting, WWW! I think I'm safe, for today at least, (and my hand is up) having done the feely test.

    Funny thing - re the other kind of elevenses - I've never bothered to have mid-morning/afternoon cups of tea/coffee for years - its a habit that has somehow slipped by the wayside after retirement.

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  5. Threeses sounds veddy good ,don't care about the crockery just pour the tea in an ol mason jar,chugga-lug chugga-lug

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  6. Anyone's elevenses would be up if they at their way through Irish or English Elevenses or Threeses like you described.

    They didn't exist anymore when I was working. You had a cuppa, if you made it yourself, that was it.

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  7. GM:
    It was a shock when I came to Canada first and the "girls" in the office had to make the coffee and wash the cups. Some of the girls were 60.
    XO
    WWW

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  9. Nick:
    How times have changed. And I also remember in school when the principal and vice principal had tea delivered on a cart.
    XO
    WWW

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  10. Oh LOL Ramana - class differences in the crockery, you had me choking into my coffee!
    XO
    WWW

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  11. T:
    You're a bit younger than me (I think) so maybe you missed the time of the tea trolley? :)
    I imagine the closest we get to it now is on trains?
    Oh I do love my threeses still but the maid is highly unreliable.
    XO
    WWW

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  12. Watch out for that scorching cuppa, GFB, we don't want a plaster cast on your throat! :)
    XO
    WWW

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  13. Friko:
    And looking back none of us in that office was overweight, I think we all walked a lot. Living in a city encouraged that.
    XO
    WWW

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  14. It's still the same in Northern Ireland, the "girls" in the offices make the coffee and wash the cups. I work in a big office building and it's always the "girls" who're scrubbing away in the communal kitchen. And yes, some of these "girls" are well over 60. Will the managers ever tell the "boys" to take their turn? And will pigs fly?

    (Oh, btw, I work in a one-person office so I do all my own tea-making and washing-up!)

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  15. In 1986 Ireland they had elevenses going on at that big ole mansion in Cork I worked at while programming for an accounting empire. Even the female accountant was involved in the distribution of the biscuits. What a flashback! (and this was the same company that told me that my dress pants were not quite suitable for work and could I not wear skirts.....) xo

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  16. I do remember on my first job the women in wjite coats coming with the trolley twice a day to bring coffee in the morning and tea in the afternoon. They wore white coats to show how hygienic they were. They weren't very friendly because they didn't like us office workers. They thought we had surperior attitudes and looked down on them which wasn't at all the case.

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  17. An hour and a half for lunch was not uncommon when I started work. Start at nine, fifteen minute break for elevenses, lunch at twelve-thirty till two, coffee/tea break at three- fifteen till half past, and finish work at five.
    Americans nearly fall off their seats when I tell them that. It was back in 1966, when I was twenty.
    Times have changed for the better - haven't they?

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  18. "The elevens [sic] are up" was recorded by the New Yorker writer John McNulty in the 1950's as a barroom diagnosis, never spoken in the presence of the person referred to. Another--much less fraught--was "the snake is out of his hole," meaning that the vein in the temple was swollen, usually with anger or excitement. The crime novelist Donald Westlake mentions "the elevens" in a barroom scene, possibly in one of his Dortmunder tales.

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  19. Nick:
    I'm so glad I lived to see the day when the 'boys' in offices in Canada were ordered to take their turns at the coffee stuff. I deliberately making awful coffee in my time (grounds included) to make the point that vagina possession did not equal good housekeeping skills.
    XO
    WWW

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  20. Orla:
    Hard to believe in your generation that it still continued then and possibly now too.
    Equality is still a dream.
    XO
    WWW

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  21. RJA:
    Yes when I talk about it too, people are stunned. But it was awfully civilized and employed a few extras who did a really, really good job. I remember telling one I liked "white coffee" and she heated the milk in a little jug especially for me. I remember her being so tickled I had a "man's job".
    XO
    WWW

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  22. Welcome John!
    Very interesting take on that. The ties between Newfoundland and Boston and New York were quite strong in the past, so possibly a visiting Newfoundlander brought the phrase? Who's to tell? I find it a creepy expression.
    Thanks for the other one too.
    XO
    WWW

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  23. Nice to be here--I wandered over from Language Log.
    "The elevens are up" (according to McNulty, who was hanging around Irish-American bars in Manhattan) amounted to saying someone was approaching death--not something you'd say to the poor man's face. The snake, on the other hand, was regarded as a bit comical.

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