Saturday, December 30, 2006

Apple #213: Spackle

As 2006 draws to a close, I know you're all thinking about something Very Important, the exact same Very Important thing I'm thinking about:

The wonderful substance called Spackle.

Like me (and my dad), you are burning with curiosity to know, where the heck did such a funny word (which is also a lot of fun to say, as in, Better get some Spackle on that or simply, Spackle Spackle Spackle) come from? Is it the inventor's name, perhaps?

  • For those of you who don't know all the various ways to fix up your house, or if you're just not hip to every detail of American slang, Spackle compound is a paste you can use to patch scratches or small holes in drywall or plaster surfaces inside your house.
  • If you're British, your Trademark-turned-generic term for the stuff is Polyfilla.
  • Specifically, it is a combination of gypsum powder and glue. It is usually sold in plastic containers in which it is kept moist with water so that it stays in a ready-to-use paste form.

A pretty typical-looking tub of Spackle
(You can buy this at the ePaintStore)


  • To use it, scoop up a fair amount of it onto your putty knife and spread it onto the offending, non-smooth surface (a wall where you've run a chair into it while moving furniture in or out of the room, for example). Use the putty knife to smooth out the paste and scrape away the excess. Wait for it to dry, sand it down to make the patch still smoother, and then you can paint over it and the wall looks like new again -- if you've done a good job of smoothing it out and matching the existing paint, that is.

Someone is Spackling over a pretty nasty-looking gouge in the wall
(For more info on how to Spackle, see Black & Decker's page on the subject)


  • Now, for what we really want to know: where did that word "Spackle" come from?
    • First off, the word itself is a Trademarked term that did not exist before it became a product.
    • However, the Online Etymology Dictionary says the term is probably derived from the German word spachtel, which means "putty knife," or "filler." This is sort of an odd combination of definitions for one term, but seems to match exactly with our good friend Spackle.
    • Other, possibly related words include:
      • shpaklevat (Russian): to fill holes with putty or caulk
      • szpachla (Polish): spatula or putty knife
      • spaklieven (Yiddish): to fill in small holes in plaster
    • Interestingly, Spackle as a word has been around at least since 1927, which is when Spackle was first patented -- older than I would have guessed. Use of the term as a verb (Better Spackle that up quick) appeared on the scene around 1940.
Now, don't you feel better about starting the New Year? If you accidentally make any dings or dents, you can Spackle those right up!


Sources
Online Etymology Dictionary, spackle
Word Web Dictionary, spackle
Mendele's Yiddish literature and language Q&A, spakleiven and Spackle
Mike Todd's American slang for British English speakers
Street Terms: Drugs and the Drug Trade, S
For those of you interested in the serious American slang of the drug trade, Spackle is a street term for methamphetamine. Don't ask me why.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you're a spammer, there's no point posting a comment. It will automatically get filtered out or deleted. Comments from real people, however, are always very welcome!