poetry and prose about place

from the pages of an old diary – words and phrases

with 12 comments

My great-aunt’s diaries are very easy to read.  Her handwriting is neat and her words, though brief, clearly convey her meaning.  Occasionally, she uses unfamiliar words.  What do you think these words mean?  My answers, assisted by the Internet, are given below…



‘silence cloth’




‘snow pudding’



April 18, 1957                She washed the curtains and ‘tidies’ from the upstairs rooms.

The Free Online Dictionary defines a ‘tidy’ as ‘a decorative protective covering for the arms or headrest of a chair.’  ‘Tidies’ could also have been her name for the hold-backs on curtains, or the small linen cloths used to cover dressers and other surfaces.

March 12, 1957             She bought a ‘silence cloth’ for the table ($2.00)

The Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines a ‘silence cloth’ as ‘a pad (as of flannel or felt) used under a tablecloth.’  This cloth would have protected the table from scratches and marks from dishes.

July 31, 1956                She and her husband sat out on the ‘pizza’

This was a frequent entry.  I think it was her word for ‘piazza’ and referred to the front porch or a small sitting area in their side-yard.

Feb. 1, 1957                   Her Red Cross group made a ‘layette’ for a local woman and her baby.

Wikipedia says this is a collection of clothing for a newborn and can include many items, including sleepwear, cloth diapers, wash cloths and receiving blankets.

June 29, 1967               She received ‘snaps’ of their anniversary party.

I know this one, but some in the digital generation may not.  It is short for ‘snapshot’ and refers to processed photographs.

December 18, 1967    She made a ‘snow pudding’ and took it to a neighbour who had a sore tongue.

I am not a cook, so many recipe names are not familiar to me.  I looked at the Internet for a modern recipe and found the following:

Snow Pudding

2 T. unflavored gelatin
1/4 C. cold water
1 C. boiling water
1/2 C. lemon juice
1 C. sugar
3 egg whites

soften the gelatin in cold water;

dissolve the gelatin in boiling water;

add lemon juice and sugar and stir until the mixture thickens;

add stiffly beaten egg whites;

beat until the mixture ‘stacks’ (holds firm peaks).

The finished dessert looks like snow, hence the name.  I don’t know if using raw egg whites is OK today, but the equivalent from a carton of egg whites would be safe to use.


©  Jane Tims  2012


two of the six diaries my great-aunt wrote from 1944 to 1972 ... the quilt is one she made during the last years of her life

Written by jane tims

March 16, 2012 at 6:54 am

12 Responses

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  1. It’s interesting how, as time moves along, so does language, and even our ways of living. Those diaries are priceless!


    Watching Seasons

    March 25, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    • Hi Tracy. I am very grateful to have the diaries. I used them to write a history paper for my History course this spring… my last class before I graduate. I am glad the diaries were part of my last essay towards my B.A. Jane


      jane tims

      March 26, 2012 at 7:16 am

  2. The only one I knew the meaning of was “layette.” Interesting group of words, and how labels change.

    Love your drawing, Jane. 🙂



    March 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    • Hi. I wonder which words we use will not be around in 50 years? I’m glad you like the drawing. Jane


      jane tims

      March 20, 2012 at 6:05 pm

  3. How lovely and charming. Old words offer us a window into the way things were. I’m so glad you are doing this!



    March 16, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    • Hi. So much is lost of how things were, and yet, something certainly survives. The need to bring ideas forward from the past reaffirms the important role of writers and storytellers. Jane


      jane tims

      March 17, 2012 at 7:56 am

  4. what a cool idea for a post. old diaries are pretty fascinating. i still think i take snaps sometimes… nice work, a pleasant morning read



    March 16, 2012 at 12:12 pm

    • Hi. I’m glad you like the diary post. There are more if you work your way back through older posts under the category ‘family history’. Jane


      jane tims

      March 16, 2012 at 10:34 pm

  5. The only word I was familiar with is “layette.” Interesting – we used “shots” to refer to snapshots, I never heard “snaps” before. I wonder if it is a regional difference…


    Barbara Rodgers

    March 16, 2012 at 10:32 am

    • Hi. ‘Snaps’ may be a regional expression. Once we visited a woman my Mom knew and she said she’d just “get some snaps” for us. She went into the kitchen and, child that I was, I looked foward to the ginger snaps I was sure she’d bring to us. In a few moments she emerged, with a photo album full of ‘snaps’ !!!! I was so disappointed. Jane


      jane tims

      March 16, 2012 at 10:32 pm

  6. You know Jane,,,I am going to miss you sharing inserts from your Great aunts diaries,,some hit home for sure bringing back good memories. Love it.! I knew the meaning of the last 3 words,,I am sure I made Snow Pudding for a church function. Diaries are great to have “I think” but I think I want mine to be “burnt” with me.!
    You don’t cook Jane.! Nor do you iron Jane.! Ha.! I love it.! Have a great weekend.



    March 16, 2012 at 8:13 am

    • Hi Patsi. I don’t vacuume either!!! This will be the last of the ‘diary’ entries for a while, but when I start my project on ‘edible wild’, I’ll have a few entries about berry picking and food preserving from the diaries! Jane


      jane tims

      March 16, 2012 at 10:26 pm

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