Full Chisel Blog

November 2, 2012

I don’t fix furniture.

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,Restoration,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 4:20 pm

Years ago when I first started out as an apprentice cabinetmaker, I was talking to a librarian whom I use to work for at a local library.  I was an AV assistant when I worked there but did learn the Dewey Decimal system.

During the course of the conversation I said that ‘I fix furniture.’  She paused and then asked ‘do you attach it to the wall?’.

No, I replied.  ‘Do you arrange the outcome of the game?’  Again I said ‘no’.

She then inquired if I spayed or neutered it?  The answer was no.

She finally asked ‘do you give it a narcotic injection?’.

Again the answer was ‘no’.

Then she said ‘well then you ‘repair’ furniture you do not ‘fix’ it.’

Ever since that time I pass this along to anyone who asks me if I fix furniture.



  1. Brilliant! If I may, I think I would like to use this as well. I am often amazed how well chosen diction can influence the dignity of a situation. It is unfortunate that many today have forgotten this.

    Comment by Dave — November 2, 2012 @ 5:01 pm

  2. If a librarian said that to me, I’d pull the Collegiate out to the page with the definition, and leave it some place excessively inconvenient.

    It amazes me the lengths that people will go to just to get one syllable more than one.

    Comment by Brian — November 2, 2012 @ 6:00 pm

  3. Well, that shows librarians should perhaps stick to books and their whereabouts, cataloging systems, etc., and not venture into lexicology. I must presume that the librarian was British? There’s some difference in the usage of ‘fix’ in the two languages.

    Websters Unabridged:

    Fix. verb, transitive. 1. to repair, mend.

    Plenty of other definitions for that word, but that is the primary one in American English.

    I was thinking it was curious that the librarian chose to ignore that one in preference to lesser meanings, until I looked in a British English dictionary (Chambers), where the definition of fix as “to put to right or to mend” comes in 7th position. It remains a definition nonetheless.

    Don’t believe everything a librarian says, I guess that’s the bottom line.

    Comment by Chris Hall — November 2, 2012 @ 6:18 pm

  4. Yeah, I’d call that a pedantic howler on the librarian’s part. Oxford Dictionary of English puts “to mend or repair” at #3. That’s without getting into the fact that many of the usages the librarian mentions are centuries more recent. For instance the drug, neutering, or cheating at sport, usages could in that frame of mind be considered vulgar slang, and in fact were derived from the sense of mend or repair and not the sense of fastening something securely.

    Comment by Brian Anderson — November 2, 2012 @ 8:28 pm

  5. I’m with the librarian on this one, though with a little less pedantry. “Repair” is more precise. If you are a precise person and wish to be seen as one, “repair” is the word. On the other hand, if you want to convey down-home folksiness, use “fix.”

    Of course if you want to show off, how about: resuscitate, revivify, rejuvenate.

    Comment by Joe Cottonwood — November 2, 2012 @ 10:00 pm

  6. Stephen,

    I had to read this twice before I understood what I was reading, then had a good laugh. Thanks for sharing.


    Comment by Chris Wong — November 3, 2012 @ 2:46 am

  7. I saw a mistake once in a newspaper in the state where the US textile industry was born, so the reporter should have known better: a man’s trade was given as “loom repairman” and I knew he must have said “loom fixer,” an honorable old profession, of which your librarian also seems to have been unaware.

    Comment by Tim H — November 3, 2012 @ 9:10 am

  8. And that is why us Librarians can be deadly upon first Hello.

    Comment by Gary Roberts — November 3, 2012 @ 4:56 pm

  9. @ Gary

    Surely that must be “we librarians”. 😉

    Comment by Jerome Weijers — November 5, 2012 @ 6:26 am

  10. I’m a New Yorker. It’s Us Librarians. My cat we’s

    Comment by Gary Roberts — November 5, 2012 @ 5:01 pm

  11. I really enjoyed your story. I have come to appreciate people who have made the effort to expand their vocabulary and use of our english vocabulary / language. I know authors that have revealed to me that to write a sucessful book, it must be written with a sixth grade vocabulary for it to sell or get through the editor. thanks again for sharing.

    Comment by David — November 15, 2012 @ 8:44 am

  12. I’m going to open up a new window for some fresh air on the matter. Aside from semantics, I think the term “fix” allows too many amateur approaches to the thing that is broken. Even “repair” can allow prosthetics such as nails, wire and other inappropriate bandaids. I prefer “restore”, which conveys a sense of getting the piece back to it’s original form using appropriate methods.

    Comment by David B — November 24, 2012 @ 8:20 pm

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