An Irish woman's social, political and domestic commentary
Tuesday, June 03, 2003  

Tinkers Damn

Have you ever heard something being referred to as; "not being worth a tinkers damn"? This term has become the victim of PC censorship. Both words (tinker and damn) are deemed politically incorrect since tinker is seen as a pejorative term for Traveller and damn is a curse word. However, this is a classic case of ignorance on the part of the allegedly educated since the term has quite a legitimate history.

In his wanderings, a tinker (i.e. a wandering tradesman) would pick up a small bit of clay, using it as a "damn" (perhaps dam?) around a spot to be repaired in a pot.

The damn helped to contain the heat in the area to be repaired as the tinker applied his soldering copper and melted a lead patch to the damaged area. Something not worth a "tinkers damn was not worth the small piece of clay he had picked up for nothing. Most companies did not signature their product until well into the 19th Century and by this time tin shops were starting to mass-produce with the newer mechanized methods. We are left to generalize by considering methods of construction, type of material used, and local styling. Even at that, a piece can usually be placed with a reasonable degree of accuracy. The large mail order houses such as Sears and Wards put an end to the wandering peddler. He could still be seen in rural areas well into the 20th Century, but in very diminishing numbers and his lot by this time was a hard one trying to compete with mail order. (source)

posted by Sarah | 11:46 0 comments
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