Reverse Dictionary?
May 4, 2007 3:39 PM   Subscribe

Seinfeld and re-gifting aside, does a word exist that describes a gift that is meant to be continuously passed on?

I have it in my head that it might be Native American, but no proof.
posted by Unioncat to Writing & Language (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by muddylemon at 3:41 PM on May 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

We call it a "perma-gift" in my circle of friends. I've never heard a coined term for it outside of us though.
posted by blackkar at 3:44 PM on May 4, 2007

You mean like a family heirloom?
posted by mr_roboto at 3:46 PM on May 4, 2007


posted by YoBananaBoy at 3:46 PM on May 4, 2007 [3 favorites]

White elephant?
posted by 517 at 3:52 PM on May 4, 2007

Best answer: I would say you might be thinking of a 'kula [ring]'.

"Kula valuables never remain for long in the hands of the recipients; rather, they must be passed on to other partners within a certain amount of time, thus constantly circling around the ring. However, even temporary possession brings prestige and status." (Wikipedia Cite)

It's South Pacific and often taught in intro anthropology contexts as part of the cultural importance of gift-exchange.
posted by cobaltnine at 3:53 PM on May 4, 2007

I'd say heirloom.
posted by pompomtom at 4:05 PM on May 4, 2007

Mathom? From The Hobbit.

Similar, but not exact.
posted by Solomon at 4:05 PM on May 4, 2007

Y'all. An heirloom is not a "gift" that it is passed on around a circle of friends, it is a particular item that is passed down through the generations.

517's answer is the closest I can think of, white elephants are commonly accepted with a groan and a laugh and saved until the next occasion when a risible gift would suit. However, I'm unsure if the OP's question really refers to these, either, as she or he seems to possibly asking about a gift that someone might actually want.

In which case, to be honest, I'm not sure.
posted by kavasa at 4:13 PM on May 4, 2007

colbaltnine is dead-on.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 4:58 PM on May 4, 2007

posted by Dizzy at 5:02 PM on May 4, 2007

posted by idb at 6:15 PM on May 4, 2007

golden toilet seat? Years ago my parents and their friends would throw housewarming parties upon the purchase of a new house. The gold painted toilet seat would then be passed from the last person who happened to have such a party. That sort of stuff seems less common these days. Nevertheless, I sat on the golden throne.
posted by caddis at 6:27 PM on May 4, 2007

travelin' pants
posted by ND¢ at 7:22 PM on May 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

colbaltnine has it, I think. In my family, we had The Finger, a life-sized plaster sculpture of a hand giving the world-famous one-finger salute. Whenever anyone accomplished anything momentous, a college graduation or 20-year wedding anniversary or 50th birthday or birth of a child, you could be sure it'd show up, usually painted to suit the occasion and elaborately packaged. I love that there's a word for such a tradition.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:31 PM on May 4, 2007 [1 favorite]

Since the question seems to have been answered pretty well already... a brief aside about the Kula Ring:

Oh lord, Cobaltnine's kula ring reference really, really takes me back. I took several classes with the man heavily cited in that article, Frederick Damon. I'm not sure if he originated the concept of the Kula ring or not, but he did his doctoral work there in the South Pacific and boy did he looove to talk about it.

I'll never forget him... an academic with astonishing insight, yet one who also managed to make me understand why the social sciences are so looked down upon by so many. His perennialy stoned demeanor and verbal tics suggested that that they must have had some pretty good drugs on those kula ring islands, and that "participant observation" must have included their routine ingestion...

posted by killdevil at 11:22 PM on May 4, 2007

Cobaltnine may have nailed it, but muddylemon's response made my day.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 4:42 AM on May 5, 2007

« Older How do I make a lifestyle change on little cash...   |   Gnome sweet gnome Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.