What's the difference between 'cutlery', 'silverware' and 'crockery'? Are there any differences between them?
Cutlery has two definitions: 1. cutting/edged implements used for serving or eating food; 2. eating utensils in general. Without further context, an American is likely to assume the first definition (knives), while a Brit is more likely to go for the generic meaning. Silverware also means eating utensils, especially silver-colored ones, though nowadays, most silverware is not actually made of silver. An American synonym that does not imply anything about the silver content (or lack thereof) is flatware.
Crockery is completely different: in British English usage, it means the things on the dinner table that are usually made of china or porcelain -- plates, bowls, saucers, cups, serving bowls, etc. In American English, crockery is used for certain earthenware cooking pots, but given enough context, an American would probably understand crockery used according to the British definition.
I've always heard, and used, the terms thus: Cutlery only describes knives. Silverware (or simply "silver" here in the South), means eating utensils, regardless of their material (it's perfectly acceptable to refer to "plastic silverware," like what you would get with a to-go order from a restaurant). Crockery isn't really used in the US, to my knowledge. I know this word from my reading of books by British authors, but I don't know that I've ever heard it in the US. My understanding is that crockery would only mean plates, bowls and cups used at the table.
When confronted with an unfamiliar word or usage, I try to trace roots. The British use of "crockery" is vexing in this regard, because a crock is a large earthenware jug or jar, something which would not even appear on a table. Earthenware is thick, heavy, not particularly beautiful... So the Brits generalize the word to refer to ceramic, china or even porcelain individual table setting pieces?!?
Another distinction no one seems to be clarifying is that when you wrote "implements used to serve food, to me "serve" means to walk in to the dining room with a big dish. So an implement for that purpose would and could be entirely different from one used to eat one's own food. In England, "serving" the food means standing in the kitchen putting it on to individual plates and in bowls - like in a restaurant. I have had to explain that to people in the US over and over. We seem to have an entirely different notion of that process. To me, a common dish in the middle of the table could well be "crockery", as it might be made of a much heavier material than my individual plate.
These differences are best illustrated by my favorite example: In England, the Royal Mail organization delivers the Post (the letters) and in the US, the Postal Service delivers the Mail. Did we come from England or what?
protected by tchrist Nov 30 '14 at 17:54
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