AskDefine | Define backscratcher

Dictionary Definition

backscratcher

Noun

1 someone who is willing to trade favors or services for mutual advantage
2 a long-handled scratcher for scratching your back

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Noun

  1. a long slender rod with a rake-like device on one end, sometimes in the form of a human hand, designed to let a person scratch his own back.

Extensive Definition

A backscratcher (occasionally known as a scratch-back or magonote) is a tool used, as the name would suggest, for relieving itches for areas that cannot easily be reached just by one's own hands, typically the back.

Composition and variation

They are generally long slender rod-shaped tools, with a knob on one end for holding and a rake-like device, sometimes in the form of a human hand, on the other end to perform the actual scratching. Though a backscratcher could feasibly be fashioned from most materials, most modern backscratchers are made of plastic, though examples can be found made of wood, whalebone, tortoiseshell, horn, cane, bamboo or occasionally ivory. Backscratchers vary in length between 12 and 24 ins. (30-60 cm.).

Backscratchers through history

The first backscratchers were used by the Inuit and were carved from whale bones. However, in recent history it was unquestionably also employed as a kind of rake to keep in order the huge "heads" of powdered hair worn by ladies in the 18th and 19th centuries.
In the past, backscratchers were often highly decorated, and hung from the waist as accessories, with the more elaborate examples being silver-mounted, or in rare instances with an ivory carved hand bearing rings on its fingers. The scratching hand was sometimes replaced by a rake or a bird's claw. Generally, the hand could represent either a left or right hand, but the Chinese variety usually bore a right hand.

References

backscratcher in German: Rückenkratzer
backscratcher in Spanish: Rascaespalda
backscratcher in Dutch: Ruggenkrabber
backscratcher in Japanese: 孫の手
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