Consider the poor, hardworking, Lazy Susan. There she sits on your table, meekly holding the sugar bowl and salt and pepper, and for some reason a pencil and 15 cents. Or she’s in the cupboard, dutifully turning ‘round and ‘round so you can flip through your spices again and again and still not find the goshdarn paprika.
It’s a weird name, and rather demeaning IF I DO SAY SO MYSELF AND I DO. Why is Susan lazy? Every Susan I’ve known is very hard working, probably in part to overcome the inherent stereotype this unkind name has created. And Lazy Susan is a hard worker because she’s there doing all the twirling, while you just spin her like a top to see how fast she’ll go.
Being suitably annoyed with the name, I decided to look up the origin for this poor, maligned invention. After Googling “Lazy Susan etymology” (because I went to Purdue and got a minor in English thankyouverymuch), I made these discoveries:
The real name of Lazy Susan is “Revolving Server.”
They’ve been around since 18th century England—and it’s believed that the name “Lazy Susan” has been around just as long.
The Lazy Susan was at one time grouped in with a variety of devices that fell under the category title of “dumbwaiter.” (Again with the hurtful names!)
An ad in the December 1917 Vanity Fair magazine refers to a it as “the cleverest waitress in the world” and that the price, $8.50, is “...an impossibly low wage for a good servant.”
So there’s no official story on how or why the name came about. And since this poor little device has fallen out of vogue since the 50s and 60s, I doubt anyone is going to start a trendy #hashtag campaign to re-name it something a little more PC.
But it’s okay. Susan doesn’t care what you call her while you spin her ‘round and round. She’ll just make it that much harder to find the paprika, though.