Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Dry gleaning

The Indian film The Lunchbox has a recurring scene in which a young housewife takes clothing from a hamper prior to doing the laundry, smelling each item as she does so. It is when she detects another woman's perfume on her husband's clothing that she realizes he is having an affair.

That scene generated some unexpected comment in the movie discussion group I sometimes lead. Some women wondered why she would smell the clothing before washing it. Such behavior seemed less odd to me, for I have been known to give my own clothing a sniff before deciding whether it was time for it to be laundered.

This came to mind as I was reading in Barbara Wallraff's book Word Fugitives about the need for a word for the practice of "going through the dirty-clothes hamper to find something clean enough to wear." College students and tourists probably are not the only ones who do this. But what should it be called?

The suggestions offered by Wallraff's readers are interesting. These include skivvy-dipping, snifferentiating, laundry composting, snifting  (I like this one), windventory, desperspirationalizing (much too long) and dry gleaning (perhaps the best of all).

I wonder if there is a word for this in India.

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