Stainless Steel

So I had the idea of doing a kitchen-themed exploration of my language obsessions.

What gadgets or utensils or whatever were worthy of note, linguistically speaking?

Stick beater. I like that one.  A beater in the form of a stick.

Teardrop grater. This is a box grater with teardrop-shaped holes. Cool.

And then… bam! Stainless steel.

In Spanish we call it ‘inox’ i.e. acero inoxidable = unrustable steel.

Who had the brilliant idea of calling it ‘stainless’?

Over to Google and the history of stainless steel, which I won’t recount here (although you could definitely jazz it up for a screenplay: accidental discovery, early experiments and setbacks – edge-of-seat will it / won’t it rust? countdown…)

Suffice it to say that the new alloy was originally called rustless steel.

And then one manufacturer, Ernest Stuart, upon testing the material in vinegar, suggested a more marketable name of ‘stainless steel’.

It “sounds better” said another link, which has disappeared since I did this research, and, given that they were trying to market knives, “the concept of ‘stains’ was more familiar to housewives rather than rust, corrosion, tarnish, etc.”

Of course it sounds better.

It alliterates, that’s why.

stainless steel pots


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10 Responses

  1. Stick beater – haven’t heard that one since I was an exchange student to Australia. Definitely not an American English term – at least, not in the Northeast.

    1. I learnt that expression in the UK after living in Spain for many years. Had never had one in the UK then had to buy one for my mum. What do you call it?

  2. Would a stick beater be a carpet beater or an egg beater? I love the name though, stick beater. I always love your language posts.

  3. Not aware of stick beaters in Virginia, Utah or Illinois, but they may have been before my time. ? And as a lover of alliteration, I think stainless steel was a better choice for rustless steel. 😉

  4. I love your language explorations (language being one of my favorite things) and I’ve often wondered the same thing. Why “stainless” as I scrub a stain from my steel. It sounds so much more dashing as “inox.”

  5. If they had persisted in calling it rusteless steel, it would certainly have morphed into restless steel, no? LOL. Ever since I was a child, I always loved the way stainless steel sounded. I hear it and it immediately conjures up images of my parents’ seventies-era kitchen and “silverware” drawer.

  6. How fun. I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the invention of stainless steel after using my Grandmother’s silverware for a year, and finding out how much time it takes to keep it shining. But I never thought about how much fun it was to say. Love it.

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