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Churches and chapels
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When families get together – well, let’s just say that some people have enemies, and to even things up, God   gave many of the rest of us in-laws

An assertion was made that “church key” was an attack on Christianity, same as Xmas.   Not up to two battles at once, I explained that a   Crown cap opener was called that because it resembled a quoin wrench, used for locking up forms.   Only a journeyman printer would have one, stamped with the identity of the local church (or chapel) where he had served his apprenticeship, and possession allowed an itinerant printer to easily get work.   What’s more, many home canners used to put up ketchup in pop bottles sealed with Crown caps.

I thought it would be easy to back up this assertion, but I could find nothing indicating that local guilds of printers were called churches or chapels. Actually, I thought plumbers or other skilled crafts used the same terminology.

Anybody got a dictionary that defines chapel or church as a local guild?


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We are in-laws to them too aint we? In my case every Christmastime God sticks me to them good.

No, I don’t believe the word  ‘church’  was ever  close to  standing for institutions of crafts  and  mercantilism. And why would you even need that if you already link the  craftsmen to  their church?

Your in-laws might have been  meaning  something along this line:

“…the term “churchkey” was a way to “stick it to” the religious organizations who had effected Prohibition in the first place.”

There are so many interesting musings on the  origin of churchkey, all musings and nothing more.

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The OED provides some support:

chapel, n.
a. A printers’ workshop, a printing-office.
b. A meeting or association of the journeymen in a printing-office for promoting and enforcing order among themselves, settling disputes as to price of work, etc. It is presided over by a father of the chapel annually elected. Hence to hold a chapel .

    1688 R. Holme Acad. Armory iii. 120/1 Every Printing-House is termed a Chappel.
    1728 E. Chambers Cycl. (at cited word), In this Sense, we say, The Orders, or Laws of the Chapel; the Secrets of the Chapel, &c.
    a1790 B. Franklin Autobiogr. (1981) i. 47, I propos’d some reasonable Alterations in their Chapel Laws.
    1825 W. Hone Every-day Bk. (1826) I. 1135 It is to be noted, as a ‘custom of the chapel’.
    1854 H. Miller Schools & Schoolmasters (1858) xv. 341 The petty tricks by which Franklin was annoyed were said to be played him by the chapel ghost.
    1879 Women’s Suffrage Jrnl. 1 Nov. 183/2 A circular..to all ‘fathers of chapels’, i.e. trades officials in printing shops.

and note also:
11. slang or low colloq. House of ease, privy.

Fort Worth, TX
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deaconB said

An assertion was made that “church key” was an attack on Christianity, same as Xmas.  

I may be misunderstanding this this because you aren’t commenting about Xmas, but there are some who don’t like using Xmas because it omits the name of Christ and it looks like either you or your relatives are saying this.

Early Christians, and others, used an “X” as a shorthand for Christ because the first Greek letter in Christ is chi, represented by “X.”   “Xmas” was begun and has continued from the first century. It is not a statement for or against Christ.

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I’ve pretty well given up on the “keep Christ in Christmas” ting, although I sometimes I sometimes write “Keep the cross in Xmas.”

This “War on Christmas” thing, though still is new enough to annoy me.   When someone complains, I tell them that I celebrate Advent and don’t want towait until the firt day of Christmas – December 25 – to decorate.What’s more, I celebrate Chrismas Eve, New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day, Boxing Day, and Epiphany, and I’d hate to give up all those Christian holidays like some heathen. Besides, anyone who objects to pork and kraut deserves a year f bad luck.

I screwed up this year and forgot to start a batch of sauerkraut on Thanksgiving, so it looks like store-bought for me. In Lancaster,PA, where I lived for 15 years,the volunteer fire departments have pork and kraut dinners on January 1 as a big fundraiser and sell a lot of take-home kraut as well. Some of them make hundreds of gallons of kraut!   But that’s uncommon in Indiana. That’s a shame! Cabbages are SO easy to raise, and salt is cheap.   It’s a high-profit fund-raiser, mostly because people don’t know how easy it is to make, or because they’ve only ever had kraut canned in tin cans, and so they don’t realize that they’d like good kraut!

Bob Bridges
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Early in my life I assumed (it seemed so obvious!) that “Xmas” was an attempt to refer to a jolly time of year without actually saying “Christ”.   But later on I was told by several people, starting with my mom, the same thing Dick said; it’s been around for millennia and wasn’t invented out of hostility.   Too late now, though; “Xmas” isn’t part of my habits.

Boxing Day?   Which one is that?   I’ve heard of it, but I don’t think I ever got around to remembering its significance.   DeaconB, are you serious about it being a Christian holiday?

I’m looking curiously, as well, at your assertion about sauerkraut.   I grew up in Minnesota and consider it normal food; but although I ate it without comment in my childhood, I never really took to it and look for it now only on Reubens.   So maybe I was eating canned kraut all that time?

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