When I was a child in the 1950s I remember my mother calling the domestic hot water tank 'the cubalow', sounding like 'queuebelow'. Has anyone else heard this word being used?
I found several instances of this word being used, but always as a small structure that is part of a building, not a hot water tank. Do you think that's possible?
The Yorkshire Post has an article about a Yorkshire dialect dictionary, and the author of the dictionary says this: " "In terms of accent, Tykes may all share some similarities, but the words are often peculiar to specific area. I had one woman write to me suggesting the word 'cubalow', it's a lovely word for a low cupboard in the kitchen and she thought it might have had it roots in cubby hole. I couldn't find anyone else who used it, and she did admit that it may have been specific to her own house. I love the thought of families making up their own language." He retells the same story for the BBC.
On Facebook, a US company that makes metal buildings shows a picture of a barn they made with a "3x3 [foot] cubalow".
A website that gathers information important to Ontario, Canada, tells a story about fire towers that have cubalows: "After the big fires the government contracted wooden fire towers to be built on the higher areas." " The first lookout on Green’s Mountain was a one storey shack with a 7’ square windowed cubalow (i.e., cupola) for a 2nd storey.
In 1821, a town in northeastern United States added a porch to their meeting-house instead of a cubalow.
You can find these articles by googling "cubalow" -cuba (that is, your word inside double-quote marks, and then a minus sign next to the word 'cuba').
The Scholar’s Companion has a lovely list of ‘Improprieties Heard in Conversation’, which includes
Cupelo, for cupola
Cupelo – cupola, a furnace
and This French book about… stuff, seems to back up the ‘furnace’ association and also gives a spelling of ‘cubilot’ which I can imagine giving rise to the ‘cubilow/cubalow’ spelling of the OP.
My speculation therefore is this:
- It is not many generations ago that Hot Water cylinders were an unknown thing in UK houses. My Grandparents in Lancashire certainly didn't have them in their youth.
- Smaller Cupola furnaces look quite a lot like hot water cylinders
- People who were familiar with cupola furnaces in their industry transferred the name to hot water cylinders.
So the next question is: what foundry industries in Yorkshire (or Shetland) might have been using the French word for cupola furnace?
la lessiveuse à bouillir sur son cubilot
The washing machine to boil on its cupola
The website this comes from appears to be about the history of a laundry.
So the real questions appears to be, how did Yorkshire women come to be using French laundry terms?
Researching the term threw up the same answers as previous. One other reference not yet alluded to is to be found at Page 3 Advertisements Column 4,Auckland Star, Volume XXXVIII, Issue 196 August 17th 1907. The advertisement is aimed at Blacksmiths and is selling sundry items including 'cabalow'. No description is given more than this. https://beta.paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/AS19070822.214.171.124