"That's a great deal to make one word mean," Alice said in a thoughtful tone. "When I make a word do a lot of work like that," said Humpty Dumpty, "I always pay it extra."

Monday, 16 March 2009


There are all sorts of meaning for the word spill but one of the lesser known ones is a piece of paper or thin wood used to light a cigar or cigarette from a fire or candle. Spills for lighting cigars were usually made of cedar wood as this was supposed to help retain the flavour of the tobacco. Using candles, sulphur matches or lighter fluid all tainted the cigar.

We used to make spills of waste paper by folding a piece of paper about 6 to 8 inches long and an inch and half wide lengthwise in half and then over in half again and then once again. They were stored on the hearth in this wooden container which, I think, was made by Dad.

My grandmother also had spills in her fireplace and I think they were kept in this old brass cartridge case.


  1. Never used paper spills but of course no chemistry lesson was complete without using a spill to light the bunsen burner. The teacher would light one with a cigarette lighter then we would each light our own by dangerously carrying a lit spill across the classroom. Of course with them being cheep you had the danger of splinters as well as setting your hand on fire trying to protect the flame on the walk to your desk!

  2. Having a small crisis! I, of course, know this definition for the word spill, but used to call the ones in chemistry something different - but what was it?

    I clicked on the comments (before I read Mark's) just to mention that I love Grandpa's wooden container.