A cane is a long, straight wooden stick, generally of bamboo, Malacca (rattan) or some similar plant, mainly used as a support, such as a walking stick, or as an instrument of punishment. Depending on the use, it is left in its natural state or improved (e.g., smoothened, varnished).
Around the 17th or 18th century, the cane took over for the sword
as an essential part of the European
, used primarily as a walking stick
. In addition to its value as a decorative accessory, the cane also continued to fulfill some of the function of the sword as a weapon. The standard cane was rattan
(especially Malacca) with a rounded metal grip. The clouded cane, as in the quotation below, was made of Malacca and showed the patina of age:
- Sir Plume, of amber snuff-box justly vain,
- And the nice conduct of a clouded cane.
- - Alexander Pope, The Rape of the Lock
Some canes had specially weighted metalwork. Other types of wood, such as hickory
, are equally suitable.
Walking sticks, started out as a necessary tool for the shepherd and traveler. A nice hefty stick was an excellent way to protect against thieves and to keep animals in line. Over time, the walking stick gradually began to be known as a symbol for power and strength, and eventually authority and social prestige. Rulers of many cultures, past and present, have carried some form of walking stick or staff. (See more at Ceremonial mace
In the United States, presidents have often carried canes and received them as gifts. The Smithsonian has a cane given to George Washington by Ben Franklin. It features a gold handle in the shape of a Phrygian cap. In our time, walking sticks are usually only seen with formal attire. Collectors of canes look for the old, the new and the novel (such as canes made from the penes of bison or bulls). Retractable canes that reveal such properties as hidden compartments, pool sticks, or blades are popular among collectors. Handles have been made from many substances, both natural and manmade. Carved and decorated canes have turned the functional into the fantastic.
Some canes, known as "Tippling Canes," or "Tipplers," have hollowed-out compartments near the top where flasks or vials of alcohol could be hidden and sprung out on demand.
When used as a mobility or stability aide, canes are generally used in the hand opposite the injury or weakness. This may appear counter-intuitive, but this allows the cane to be used for stability in a way that lets the user shift much of their weight onto the cane and away from their weaker side as they walk. Personal preference, or a need to hold the cane in their dominant hand, means some cane users choose to hold the cane on their injured side.
Fictional characters with canes
Uses as verb
The verb to cane
usually means to strike with a cane, but can also be a positive attribute applied to an action to imply enthusiasm e.g. "I caned it!" (both transitive) or be used intransitively in modern English slang
to express causing pain (e.g. "Ah, that canes!")
Cane is sometimes used to describe furniture made of wicker.
Sources, references, external links