chifforobe » Shiffer robe

Classification: English – proper names

Spotted in the wild:

  • Inside the house, the only thing that remains is his mother’s dresser. He secures it to the floor with wrapping cord and leaves a note in each drawer that says, “this shiffer-robe belongs to Hazel Motes. Do not steal it or you will be hunted down and killed.” (link)
  • 1/23/2004 Here’s a panoramic picture of the baby’s room almost finished. I just have to get the door back on the Shiffer Robe. (link)
  • I am getting a dresser and a shiffer robe too and those are $400 each and the crib I like is $300 and it converts. (link)

Analyzed or reported by:

  • Arnold Zwicky (link)
  • Arnold Zwicky (link)

The two reports cited above are from the American Dialect Society mailing list. An edited version of the second:

I posted in 2000 about an experience I had when I was still driving back and forth across the country at least once a year, and looked in on antique shops in New Mexico, Arizona, and the California desert. Where objects labeled as S(c)ha(e)f(f)er Robes - there were many variant spellings - were on offer. Eventually, when I came across the variants S(c)hiffer Robe, the penny dropped and I realized that these things were chifforobes (”chifforobe” = “chiffonier” + “wardrobe”, itself an interesting formation).

In any case, since so very many things are named after people or places, this sort of reshaping is to be expected.

(The first occurrence is from a summary of Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood.)

The OED entry for chifforobe lists the following variant spellings: chiffarobe, chifferobe, chiffing robe, chifforobe, chiffrobe, chifrobe, shifferobe.

| link | entered by Arnold Zwicky, 2009/02/28 |

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