Revisited Myth #83: It’s called a toaster because you stirred it with your toe.


This myth is almost too embarrassing to post on my blog. Surely, no one could take this canard seriously! Alas . . . it keeps turning up on those e-mails that get passed around the Internet. 

Ron Cofield, Director of Interpretation at Historic London Town and Gardens, dealt with this myth so succinctly a couple years ago that I cannot do better than to quote his words.

“Find a dictionary, look up the definition for toaster, then toast, then the suffix -er. If you still feel that the above saying is correct, stop leading tours or talking about history.”

It shouldn’t be necessary to add that you don’t turn the toaster with your toe; the handle is meant to be moved with your hand.

Gregory Hubbard says:
March 18, 2012 at 3:49 am
Many years ago, I toured the Davenport House in Savannah with friends. The guide for our visit rattled off an impressive store of these, most of which were new to me, and all of them of mind numbing foolishness. Apparently our forbearers had no command of common sense or logic, and it only got worse. She informed us that one of the ground floor mantles was now in a nearby home, and a second floor mantle had been moved to replace it.

‘But aren’t they different in style and size?’ we asked.
“Oh yes,’ she answered, ‘but no one notices…’
‘Why don’t you buy back the original?’
‘Why? We have such a nice one from the second floor…’

It was at this point that Alice disappeared down the rabbit hole.

My friends could only swallow their outrage and laughter for so long… They looked like they might be sick as they fled the house. The very best part of this was the earnest look on the face of our host as she tossed these silly-isms out, and the sincere attention of our fellow guests as they slurped up every one.

It was fortunate that we toured the Davenport home first, sort of an inoculation against silliness, as the tours of the other homes, the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace notable among them, only got worse…

Sara says:
March 18, 2012 at 3:48 pm
I really have heard this on a LOT of house tours, so thanks for addressing this. I think that explanations of “why” just really appeal to people. Perhaps they appeal to people more than the concept that not all aspects of history are easily explained.



7 Responses to Revisited Myth #83: It’s called a toaster because you stirred it with your toe.

  1. Eric Wolff says:

    O…M…G…. This reminds me of the docent I once heard explaining that the embroidered decorations on the pillowcases was called “candlewicking” because “they used to melt down candles to get the wicks out to do this special needlework since they couldn’t get embroidery supplies during the (Revolutionary) War. It was all about bring thrifty and using what they had.” Seriously???

    That sound you hear is my head banging against the nearest wall….

    • Mary Miley says:

      Ha! That’s a new one for me! It defies all logic, but I’ll bet that docent heard it from another and is just repeating it without thinking.

  2. Connie says:

    I was reading the book by Linda Cambell. 300 years of kitchen accessories. She said in the book that she learned about “toaster” in 1986 when Reading Tainbow was at Genesee Village and they explained why it was called a toaster because it was turned with the toe. And this is how an urban legend is born. Connie Unangst

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Jill Crowther-Peters says:

    Comments by Mr Hubbard were hard to make sense of; “Rattled off an impressive store of these…” these what? The comments about the mantle which had nothing to do with the toaster, which in my historic house is so named as it toasted bread. I have also heard it referred to as a “Kick-toaster”. Whatever it is called, you can be sure the fire doesn’t turn off and the bread does not pop out and lack of attention causes burnt sides.

  4. Jamie Credle says:

    To: History Myths Debunked; Mary Miley

    From: Jamie Credle

    RE: Shame on you!

    Aren’t you supposed to be helping house museums improved their interpretation?

    I wonder why you would include reference to an event that happened years ago without checking with the museum site to see if this has anything to do with how the site is interpreted today.

    What do mantels at the Davenport House have to do with the insipid references to toes and toasters?

    [By the way, we did not have the money to buy the mantel back at the time. It returned as a gift in 1996. This was not a myth.]

    Who is this Gregory Hubbard? Why is the Davenport House and the house museums from years ago the butt of this conversation? He has not toured the DH lately and possibly not in two decades.

    Today we have an powerful story with an army of trained and caring docents.

    For your blog readers: Come to Savannah and see the Davenport House, Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace and all of our fine sites.

    Jamie Credle

    Jamie Credle


    Isaiah Davenport House Museum/HSF

    324 E. State Street

    Savannah, GA 31401


    Historic Savannah Foundation/Davenport House Museum

    Preserving Savannah’s Past Since 1955


    • Mary Miley says:

      Hello Jamie Credle. Please don’t blame me for the comments of one of the blog readers. You are welcome to refute them (as you did). The blog receives many comments that criticize me, other contributors, and various museums, and I post them all (unless they use inappropriate language). You might contact Gregory Hubbard with your questions.

  5. Elizabeth Bertheaud says:

    We actually toured a house in western PA several years ago – they even published a book with all sorts of this type of thing – and based on the tour – they believed every word that was written in that book. One of these days I hope to return to see if they are selling your book now.
    Another time at an undisclosed MD house museum a young college student led us on the tour, again consisting of every imaginable myth possible. As we struggled to retain our composure after about 1/2 hour he said, “Yeah, I’m just repeating what I was told to say.” Again some day we will return and see what’s happened since your book has made inroads to improving interpretation at small museums.

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