Coffee percolator?

Hi everybody, could anyone of this distinguished group of language experts please answer the following question. How popular is the word coffee percolator? I colleague of mine said that this was the common term to describe a coffeemaker but I looked it up on Wikipedia and it turned out that a percolator is a special machine to brew a particular type of coffee. So my question is would the average person on the streets of London, Manchester of L.A. know what a percolator is?
Thanks for your comments and happy coffee break,

Hi Nicole,

Perhaps it’s a bit old fashioned to use the word nowadays in place of coffee maker but then I imagine that everyone would know about the process of percolating. It certainly refers to any type of ground coffee.


[color=darkblue]Hello Jamie (K),

It’s so nice to have you back, and full of renewed energy, at that!

The word ‘percolator’ always conjures up for me an old song by Joni Mitchell from a tape I used to listen to in the late seventies. Back then, I could barely make out half the lyrics in English (there was no Internet, for good or for worse!) but I would never miss the bit with ‘and a coffee percolator’.

The names of most household appliances are in the feminine gender in Spanish (hopefully it’s only due to the fact that the word for machine is feminine: m?quina…). By the way, I say coffee machine instead of coffee maker. Percolator is similar to ‘colador’ (Spanish for sieve, colander).

The Last Time I Saw Richard (Joni Mitchell)

The last time I saw Richard was Detroit in '68,
And he told me all romantics meet the same fate someday
Cynical and drunk and boring someone in some dark cafe
You laugh, he said you think you’re immune, go look at your eyes
They’re full of moon
You like roses and kisses and pretty men to tell you
All those pretty lies, pretty lies
When you gonna realise they’re only pretty lies
Only pretty lies, just pretty lies

He put a quarter in the Wurlitzer, and he pushed
Three buttons and the thing began to whirr
And a bar maid came by in fishnet stockings and a bow tie
And she said “Drink up now it’s gettin’ on time to close.”
“Richard, you haven’t really changed,” I said
It’s just that now you’re romanticizing some pain that’s in your head
You got tombs in your eyes, but the songs
You punched are dreaming
Listen, they sing of love so sweet, love so sweet
When you gonna get yourself back on your feet?
Oh and love can be so sweet, love so sweet

Richard got married to a figure skater
And he bought her a dishwasher and a Coffee percolator
And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on
And all the house lights left up bright
I’m gonna blow this damn candle out
I don’t want Nobody comin’ over to my table
I got nothing to talk to anybody about
All good dreamers pass this way some day
Hidin’ behind bottles in dark cafes
Dark cafes
Only a dark cocoon before I get my gorgeous wings
And fly away
Only a phase, these dark cafe days

Conchita, please don’t bring up Joni Mitchell! Some of my catechism teachers in high school were too lazy to teach us theology, so they made us find “deep, hidden symbolism” in songs by Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins and Simon & Garfunkel. It was complete deadly, especially when the symbolism was not even there!

Here’s an interesting thing for you, maybe. When I was in graduate school, I had a class on American dialects, and we had to go out into the field and do a dialect study. We’d ask questions like, “What do you call drinks like Coca-Cola, 7 Up or Fanta?” or, “What do you call the appliance you cook on?” or, “What do you call the container you pour milk or orange juice from?” We were trying to get both their vocabulary and pronunciation.

In our class, one Miss Valdez did her interviews with Detroit Hispanics who had left the barrio, and some who still lived in the barrio. The people who had left the barrio usually referred to appliances by their normal English names. The ones who still lived in the barrio usually called the appliances by some trademark.

So, when she asked, “What do you call the appliance you cook on?” The person outside the barrio usually said, “Stove.” The person living in the barrio – even if he was a native English speaker – would probably say something like “Westinghouse” or “Tappan”.