The Flow of Garbage: From Laurence to Phong

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Nicholas Osborne Pagan


The Oxford English Dictionary gives as its first definition of 'garbage,' 'the offal of an animal used for food, especially the entrails. Rarely the entrails of a man.' After being used to refer to 'discarded parts of butchered fowls' or 'food wastes as from a kitchen,' garbage later came to designate 'any matter that is no longer wanted or needed,' or 'anything that is completely worthless . . . or vile.' The word 'garbage' is preferred in this essay to 'trash' because 'garbage,' though sometimes used as an adjective ('the garbage chute'), is almost always employed as a noun and never a verb. You can lose your temper and 'trash' someone else's or even your own apartment, but you cannot 'garbage' an apartment. Thus the word 'garbage,' invariably a noun, is good at retaining its connection to 'thingness' as in the above definitions - whether it be the thingness of food waste, superfluous matter or items deemed useless or extremely unpleasant.


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PAGAN, Nicholas Osborne. The Flow of Garbage: From Laurence to Phong. SARE: Southeast Asian Review of English, [S.l.], v. 52, n. 1, p. 56-69, may 2017. ISSN 0127-046X. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 07 aug. 2020. doi: