New Hampshire: Does a Cellar Grow Up to Become a Basement?

Pronounced “Sell-LAH” in New Hampshire, the cellar is becoming a rare find. Oh, it was different in the earliest days of our state.  Then a cellar was essential to any household. It was built to hold the barrels of beef and pork, salted shad, and even apple cider.  Before the days of refrigeration, it was a necessity, not a luxury. The art of building these storage places, sometimes called “root cellars,” may be coming back in vogue.   The term cellar today frequently brings to mind temperature-controlled projects containing fine bottles of wine.

Growing up in southern New Hampshire in the 1950s, the term “cellar” was used to describe a lower level storage area that had either earthen or stone walls. A “basement,” on the other hand, was the location of your school’s public toilets. (You’d ask the teacher if you could “go to the basement,” if you needed to use the facilities).

It’s truly a shame that the naming protocol has changed.  There is nothing poetic, or lovely about the word basement (it is “base,” after all).  The word cellar, on the other hand, actually “cellar door” reportedly is the favorite word in the English language. Or is it?

So, what do you call the whachamacallit–cellar or basement?  And will my cellar become a basement, when it grows up?


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