“Cuttings” is the BrE equivalent of the AmE “clippings”–that which one clips, or cuts, out of the newspaper and puts into a scrapbook or whatever. It turned up in a New York Times article the other day about Herbert Warren Wind, the late golf writer for the New Yorker, whose papers at Yale University, Karen Crouse wrote, “contain seven boxes brimming with the cuttings of a well-sown life.”

I had been a longtime reader and admirer of Wind (who died in 2005) and, because of his name and literary style, always had a sense that he was British–which would make the “cuttings” rather appropriate. But no–Crouse’s article reveals that he was a native of Brockton, Mass.

[Update: The comment by “popegrutch,” below, convinces me that I made a mistake and Crouse wasn’t perpetrating a Britishism at all: the “cuttings” she referred to was a botanical metaphor, not a journalistic reference.]

7 thoughts on ““Cuttings”

  1. I (BrE) would expect “newspaper clippings” to be the term used for such things, although “cuttings” wouldn’t surprise me too much. Reading “cuttings” out of context though, my mind would go to those small parts of a plant which you cut off in order to propagate a new one.

    Knowing that Wind was a journalist, I would read the phrase “cuttings of a well-sown life” as cleverly incorporating both meanings (but plants certainly came to mind first!).

  2. I grew up in Worcester Massachusetts. Long before I was an Anglophile I used the word cuttings for clippings. This is the latest in a list of Britishisms that don’t seem all that British to me😃. Must be New England conservatism.

  3. “Cuttings of a well-sown life” sounds like a deliberate gardening reference to me, and in AmE things snipped from plants are often called “cuttings” (“stem cuttings,” “root cuttings,” etc.) Not that I think that he literally had plant cuttings in those boxes, but are we sure these are actual clippings and not collected documents of various kinds?

  4. In British English we would never use ‘cuttings’ to refer to ‘…collected documents of various kinds.’ It would mean press cuttings.

  5. From my experience of Brit newspapers and magazines cuttings is the normal term for bits cut from paper (and usually kept in a brown folder). An Editor might well say “Go and check the cuttings” or “Look at the cuts and write the story”.

  6. When I saw the word “cuttings” it was railways that sprang to mind and comedian Tony Hancock’s character Anthony Aloysius St John Hancock of 23 Railway Cuttings, East Cheam.

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