I was reading A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

The following paragraphs are this book:

They went up the path to the house, Meg reluctant, eager to get on into the town. "Let's hurry," she begged, "Please! Don't you want to find Father?"

"Yes," Charles Wallace said, "but not Blindly. How can we help him if we don't know what we're up against? And it's obvious we've been brought here to help him, not just to find him." He walked briskly up the steps and knocked at the door. They waited. Nothing happened. Then Charles Wallace saw a bell, and this he rang. They could hear the bell buzzing in the house, and the sound of it echoed down the street. After a moment the mother figure opened the door. All up and down the street other doors opened, but only a crack, and eyes peered toward the three children and the woman looking fearfully out the door at them.

"What do you want?" she asked. "It isn't paper time yet; we've had milk time; we've had this month's Puller Prush Person; and I've given my Decency Donations regularly. All my papers are in order."

"I think your little boy dropped his ball," Charles Wallace said, holding it out.

What does "Puller Prush Person" mean?

Thanks a lot!

  • 2
    This sounds a little like the more recent usages by Phillip Pullman i.e. using vaguely familiar words in a similar context to describe an alternate universe. Apr 5, 2019 at 23:05
  • 5
    it's just a play on "Fuller Brush Person". in the book brand names and the like get changed slightly, since it's an "alternate Earth". (Pepsi becomes Wepsi, etc etc)
    – Fattie
    Apr 6, 2019 at 15:09
  • @Cascabel , indeed but FWIW as far as I know this is not especially related to Phillip Pullman. You see this everywhere. Just another example is the recent Neal Stephenson novel, DoDo. It's now a very lame trope.
    – Fattie
    Apr 6, 2019 at 15:14
  • I frankly never heard "Fuller brush person". It was always "Fuller brush man", until they stopped knocking ca 1970.
    – Hot Licks
    Apr 8, 2019 at 2:17
  • 2
    I’m voting to close this question because it's not about a standard English usage, but inventive word play. I'd say Literature (with a 'meaning' tag) is the place to ask about inventive but non-standard expressions. Feb 19 at 14:11

2 Answers 2


A "Puller Prush Person" is in reality a Fuller Brush Person.

Years ago, employees (called distributors) of the Fuller Brush Company went door-to-door selling brushes and other useful household items to homemakers (aka housewives). I remember my mother buying such items as potato scrubbers and hair brushes from the Fuller Brush man (sorry, ladies, probably 99 percent of the salespeople were men back then, and, I might add, the term housewife was neither an epithet nor pejorative label).

Obviously, the woman in your excerpt who answered the door was mispronouncing Fuller Brush Person. For some reason, it came out Puller Prush Person. Perhaps the mispronunciation was the author's way of injecting some humor into the story.**

For more information about the Fuller Brush company, there is the following article taken from here.

Hartford’s Fuller Brush Company Goes Door-to-Door Across US

Founded in 1906 by Alfred C. Fuller, the Fuller Brush Company was one of Connecticut’s most notable corporations. Fuller developed both its original products and its iconic door-to-door sales force. In his first year, with an investment of $375, Fuller moved his one-man shop from his sister’s basement to Hartford. There, he set up shop as the Capitol Brush Company in a Park Street building that he rented for $8 a month. He renamed his enterprise the Fuller Brush Company in 1913.

From One-Man Shop to National Corporation

In its first year, the fledgling company offered 32 different types of brushes, mops, and brooms. By 1908, it also had a new employee. Fuller’s wife Evelyn became one of the first Fuller Brush representatives—and she outsold him her first day on the job and nearly every day thereafter for two years. In 1909 the business became a national corporation after an ad for sales distributors in the Syracuse Post-Standard yielded 260 dealers. These door-to-door salespeople received no base salary, walked an average of six miles per day, and sold to only one of every five homes. According to archival documents from the Fuller Brush Company, seven out of ten recruits failed in the first three months.

The Fuller Brush plant in East Hartford, 1960 – The Fuller Brush plant in East Hartford, 1960 – Hartford Public Library, Hartford History Center, Hartford Times

The “Fuller Brush Man” Becomes an Icon

During the next 20 years, company sales grew from $87,000 in 1916 to $15 million in 1923; the number of distributors increased to more than 1,000. World War I created a demand for specialized brushes that Fuller supplied to the military, and, on the home front, the Fuller “Handy Brush” was developed as a door-opening gift. By the mid-1920s, the Fuller Brush Company had an established national identity. Fuller products were sold to President Franklin D. Roosevelt at his home in Hyde Park and to John D. Rockefeller at Pocantico Hills. In 1922 The Saturday Evening Post coined the phrase “Fuller Brush Man,” and in following years, this iconic character of American life appeared in such comic strips as Blondie, Mutt and Jeff, and Mickey Mouse. Even the Walt Disney film The Three Little Pigs included a scene in which the wolf poses as a Fuller Brush Man.

Fuller’s oldest son, Howard, joined the company in 1942 and became its president in 1943. He modernized its manufacturing operations, expanded the product line to include household cleaners, vitamins, and cosmetics. He also introduced a female sales force known as the Fullerettes. By 1956 the company had 7,000 full-time distributors who visited 90% of American homes and a company catalog that reached approximately 5 million people. In 1959, the company, which had expanded and consolidated a few times within the city of Hartford, moved to a new factory in East Hartford. In 1960 sales reached $109 million, and in 1968 the company was sold to Consolidated Foods Corporation, later called The Sara Lee Corporation. In 1972 Sara Lee constructed a 600,000-square-foot facility near Great Bend, Kansas, and the Fuller Brush Company left Connecticut. The Kansas plant remains its manufacturing, distribution, and operating center.

**Thanks to user888379, Cascabel, and Fattie (see their comments below my answer), I now know that L'Engle wrote the work--from which "Puller Prush Person" comes--from an other-worldly perspective--an alternate reality.

  • 16
    Given that the scene isn't taking place on Earth, I'd say that L'Engle is showing us yet another thing that's a little off from the familiar.
    – user888379
    Apr 5, 2019 at 17:08
  • 1
    @user888379: Not being familiar with L'Engle's "A Wrinkle In Time" I wasn't aware of its other-worldly content. Thanks for the information. Don Apr 5, 2019 at 17:34
  • 1
    Even if you do not have access to the book, the film treatment is currently available on HBO I think. For my generation, it was a "must read" cult classic in the 60's, even if one was not a sci-fi nerd. Apr 5, 2019 at 23:24
  • 3
    "the term housewife was neither an epithet nor pejorative label." I would suggest that it still isn't among the general population. Though it is used with hesitation because some very loud radicals are offended by the notion. (Ironically, these offended people claim to be for empowering women to follow their desires.) By the way: another possibility is that they altered the name to avoid some kind of trademark issue; the slight change could be construed as a parody, which might make legal challenges to the usage less likely to succeed.
    – jpmc26
    Apr 6, 2019 at 7:28
  • indeed @rhetorician you're correct but this is "half the answer". it's one of those lame "alternate reality/whatever" books - you know, the pentagon becomes the triagon, etc.
    – Fattie
    Apr 6, 2019 at 15:11

I'm not an American, so "Fuller Brush Person" means nothing to me.

From the context you can see its capitalised, so its a Proper Noun - three words means its a compound name but the idea's the same.

And from the leading phrase "we've had this month's..." you can surmise that its a regular monthly event or occurrence, which has already happened for this month just gone.

The stated paper and milk events are at other times of the day, and "decency donation" is some kind of mandatory-collection disguised as a voluntary payment, which is also regular and predictable.

Answer its a long-winded way of the householder saying:

"you're not expected here right now - who are you and what do you want?"

Reaching a bit further "All my papers are in order" implies that this is some kind of heavily-regulated society where people need to have and carry paper documents to prove they are allowed to be somewhere or do something. There's a vague blurry implication of a wartime state or a militarised society, and that unexpected things are bad.

  • 4
    It didn't mean anything to me until I read rhetorician's answer but now I believe that the nearest equivalent in the UK would be the Betterwearor Kleeneze person. Betterwear (or Betterware, the name was changed in the 70s) seems to be no longer trading and Kleeneze went into administration a year ago but in the 1950s and 60s they were institutions. My mother's Betterwear man visited like clockwork and most of our houshold brushes, polishes and so on came from Betterware. It's interesting that Kleeneze's founder had been a Fuller Brush man.
    – BoldBen
    Apr 6, 2019 at 0:38

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