Bed Skirts, Dust Ruffles, ValancesI've now remembered what I meant to cover and forgot in my last post. That post is already too, too long, so here's another post about bedding.
Years ago, my former colleague Max sent a list of presumably AmE terms that were new to him when he read Jane Smiley's Ten days in the hills. It included the following [emphasis added in the Smiley quotation]:
"She leaned over the side of the bed and reached under the bedskirt. She pulled out a large-ish box wrapped in blue paper."
= BrE "valance"?My response at the time was that I wouldn't have called it a bedskirt--I'd have called it a (AmE) dust ruffle, which for me was a new fancy thing that I came with my first (AmE) comforter set (see last post). Nowadays, I think I would say bed skirt (though I would make it two words) when referring to one that hangs down straight (maybe with a neat pleat or two), as one finds in hotels. The pink gingham one that I had in my youth had more of a 'ruffle' to it. But US retailers call them both bed skirts, it seems. The Pioneer Linens site is indecisive about whether to put a space in bedskirt and treats bed skirt and dust ruffle as synonyms:
A bed skirt or dust ruffle slides in between your mattress and box spring, making your bed appear more together and complete. The Corpus of Contemporary American English indicates that bed()skirt and dust ruffle are equally common, with 30 dust ruffle, 26 bed skirt, and 4 bedskirt.
Max's suggestion of valance in BrE surprised me, as I only knew this as something that covers a curtain rail. (It has other meanings too, covering altars and such.) Clearly, it's not something I've ever shopped for in the UK. The OED gives us this definition:
2 spec. a. A border of drapery hanging round the canopy of a bed; in later use, a short curtain around the frame of a bedstead, etc., serving to screen the space underneath.It's hard to tell from the quotes when the 'later use' begins, but at the latest it's mid-19th century. One can get around the ambiguity of valance by label(l)ing them valance bed sheets, as amazon.co.uk does, but in the British National Corpus all the instances of bed-related valances are just called valance--the rest of the context serves to let you know which kind.
Two blog posts within 24 hours? Don't get used to it!