‘On the Shelf’

Flicking through my copy of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (a reprint of an early edition), I came across the definition of ‘On the Shelf’:

On the Shelf.Passé, no longer popular, one of the “has-beens.” The reference is not to pawns laid on the shelf, but to books no longer read, and clothes no longer worn, laid by on the shelf.

Keeping stuff past its personal use by date is not a new phenomenon, but has been going on since at least the Victorians. Or longer…






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