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    #1

    stationery or what

    I was shocked by a colleague today. As you know, we usually use pens, rulers, rubbers at school and we often call them 'stationey' in China. Then suddenly today a colleague (a native American) came up to me and told me that they seldom think stationery includes these items. Instead, when they think of stationery, they think of 'paper for writing letters on, usually with matching envelop', i.e., the second entry meaning in the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English. He said Americans use 'school supplies' to refer to the things such as pens, rulers, rubbers, etc. Stationery is seldom used in this sense nowadays.
    I wonder whether this is true. As we can see from the dictionaries we have (LDCE and OALD) at hand, the first entry meaning both refers to 'materials you use for writing, such as paper, pens, pencils, etc.' (Quoted from LDCE). Are the dictionaries behind the development of the English language regarding the meaning of 'stationery'? Or only Amercians use the second entry meaning of 'stationery' more often?
    So please help me about this. I would like to know what you will call things that students usually take, such as pens, pencils, rulers, rubbers, etc. Are they 'stationery' or 'school supplies'? Or you use other terms for these?
    Thanks a lot.

  1. Casiopea's Avatar

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    #2

    Re: stationery or what

    In Canada, and in business, pens, pencils, rulers, staplers, and other non-paper products are called office supplies (in schools, they are called school supplies), whereas paper products are stationery. Now, that's not to say that pens, pencils, and so on can't be considered stationery. They are, as you know, listed as such in modern English dictionaries:

    Two online dictionaries (Click here) define stationery as follows:

    1. writing paper.
    2. writing materials, as pens, pencils, paper, and envelopes.

    1. Writing paper and envelopes.
    2. Writing materials and office supplies.

    Moreover, the stores where North Americans buy paper and non-paper products are called either stationery stores or office supply stores. So, those non-paper products are indeed stationery, but... The term stationery store these days tends to refer to mostly paper, cards, and envelopes, but they do sell non-paper products too.

    In short, who's right here, the dictionaries or the native speakers? Well, if you take a closer look at the dictionary entries provided above, you'll notice that the first entry refers to paper products; the second entry refers to non-paper products. In other words, the more prominent meaning is listed first. Which is why your American colleague feels that stationery applies more to paper products than it does to pens, pencils, etc.

    Hope that helps.

  2. Ouisch's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: stationery or what

    In the US, we tend to think of stationery as decorative writing paper with matching envelopes, or business letterhead with corresponding envelopes.

    Pens, pencils, staplers, paper clips, file folders, etc., are usually referred to as "office supplies."

    If you're referring to pens, pencils, erasers (what Americans call "rubbers"), rulers, three-ring binders, and things that students use at school, then we collectively call them "school supplies."

    Back in the 1950s, early 1960s, it was common to buy such items at a "stationery store," but that phrase is somewhat archaic today. We buy office supplies at an office supply store (there are several "big box" chains, such as Office Max, Office Depot, and Staples). These same stores also sell school supplies, as do department stores such as Wal-Mart.

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    #4

    Re: stationery or what

    Very interesting I thought stationery applies in addition to paper, pens and pencils also to strapler, punch and sharpener. But maybe stationery is becoming outdated because it usually refers to samller shops and cannot be applied to big stores. Samll shops are on the decline any way. In this regard may I ask if the word stationary meaning "not portable or moveable" is any way related to stationery. Students here in Germany are often even not aware of the existence of the two words. In addition the word stationer is confused with station.
    Last edited by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim; 26-Jul-2007 at 22:10.

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    #5

    Re: stationery or what

    As a BrE speaker, I take "stationery" in an abstract sense to mean "writing materials". I would go to a stationer's to buy pens, pencils, staplers, etc. as well as notebooks and reams of A4; a "stationery order" might also include both kinds of item.

    On the other hand, "stationery" is often used in BrE simply for the paper-based items.

    MrP

  3. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: stationery or what

    Quote Originally Posted by Dr. Jamshid Ibrahim View Post
    In this regard may I ask if the word stationary meaning "not portable or moveable" is any way related to stationery. Students here in Germany are often even not aware of the existence of the two words. In addition the word stationer is confused with station.
    The mneumonic I use is stationAry means stAnd and use stationEry to write a lEtter. I know YOU know the difference, but it might help someone else.

    (Likewise: complementary and complete, complimentary and be kind.)

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    #7

    Re: stationery or what

    Please be careful to not call erasers rubbers when speaking to an American. In American English rubbers usually means condoms. This could create some very comical moments in a classroom.

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    #8

    Re: stationery or what

    Thanks Barb_D for memory aid ideas. I think they are useful. This might deserve a thread of its own If you know more of the kind.

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    #9

    Re: stationery or what

    Quote Originally Posted by Barb_D View Post
    The mneumonic I use is stationAry means stAnd and use stationEry to write a lEtter. I know YOU know the difference, but it might help someone else.

    (Likewise: complementary and complete, complimentary and be kind.)
    I was taught that stationery has e for envelope.

  4. Barb_D's Avatar
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    #10

    Re: stationery or what

    Oh - that works too!

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