Blogs Mar 17, 2011 at 2:47 pm


Slivers 4 lyfe
Splinter is a verb, it's what wood does. When a bit of that wood gets into you, it's a sliver.
Either is acceptable. However, splinter is more appropriate to wood, where sliver carries, metal, glass, etc.
Both? I've used both at different times. It's like "soda" versus "pop".... I guess you can call me the linguistic equivalent to the Swiss.
For me, it depends on the size. A tiny, thin piece of wood that you'd hardly notice is a sliver. A chunkier piece is a splinter. Splinters are more painful than slivers.
What @2 said.
A splinter is big! A sliver is small.
But you're not asking for where people are from! I'm from Boston and to me this is a splinter.
@8 I'm from Cali, and I also say it is a splinter. So, maybe this isn't an east/west thing?
Linguistic precision must rule here. Ingopixel is correct. Wood splinters into slivers.
New England; splinter.
I'm with Brendan on this one.
Grew up in Portland. A tiny thing is a sliver; a big thing is a splinter.
If a gun was in fact pulled, than the person with gun was right, a language after all being simply a dialect with a military.
Chicago votes for splinter.
I'm from New England and have always said splinter. I never thought saying sliver instead was very common. Also, it sort of reminds me of people saying "on accident" instead of "by accident". Anyway, Merriam-Webster says:…

Main Entry: splin·ter
Pronunciation: \ˈsplint-ər\
Function: noun
: a thin piece (as of wood) split or broken off lengthwise ; especially : such a piece embedded in the skin
—splinter transitive verb, splin·tered; splin·ter·ing \ˈsplint-ə-riŋ, ˈsplin-triŋ\
Also from New England, also for 'splinter'.
When I was a kid (in Ohio), I never asked mom to pull a sliver out of my finger. No matter the size, it was a splinter, and she dug it out with a straight pin.
Washington, and they're all splinters. Size is irrelevant.

Sliver is just a really bad movie from the early 90's.
Northern England: spelk. It's from the Old English, spelc, related to Old Norse, spelkur.
Boston: splinter, Alberta: sliver. Given that Canadians also call silverware "cutlery" and napkins "serviettes," I'm going to have to say they are linguistically bonkers, and go with splinter.
Both slivers and splinters can be made out of non-wood substances like glass or metal.

We tend to call those shards, mind you.

Either way, don't splint it until you've pulled it out with tweezers or tongs.
20 FTW
@22 um, guys, there are about five major linguistic variants in Canada, just in English Canadian. Calling what Ontario does "Canadian" doesn't make it so, just as calling what Quebec does "French Canadian" doesn't make it so, especially for the Bretons or the Winnipegers.
From Seattle here, and I agree with Brendan @5.
I get slivers. Splinter is a cartoon character from my childhood.
Sliver. Grew up in MN, MI, & IL.
@25 Will, you are perhaps forgetting (what?! not possible!) that I'm originally from Cambridge, Mass., which bills itself as "the most opinionated zip code in the universe," so it is entirely predictable that I would generalize about Canada. After living here for 23 years, I can assure you that they are, in fact, bonkers, every last one of them, as well as sartorially inspired, and culturally enlightened. All of them. And they ALL say cutlery, too.
Texas; splinter.

Sliver refers to a small slice of pie.
@17 FTW, it's splinter. For reference I grew up in the mid-atlantic region.
This New Yawker has ONLY ever heard/used "splinter" to refer to this.

Oh, and you folk that insist "splinter" is only a verb -- I must respectfully disagree. And so does Webster.…
Splinter. I have never heard the word sliver used to refer to a splinter in my entire life.
From PA, WA & VA, which negates the east/west divide, but I agree with Brendan: a sliver is small, a splinter is big. "Splinter wounds" used to happen in the Navy when boats were still made of wood; they're what occurred when a cannon ball breaks off leg-sized splinters of wood and drive those splinters into people with a lot of force.
Maybe people who've never had a real injury call slivers "splinters" in an effort to get more sympathy?
To the self appointed usage experts @2 and @6: show me a dictionary that doesn't have splinter as a noun as well as a verb.
file under Cutesy Hipster Diarrhea
Born and raised in Seattle, WA. Slivers are little, splinters are big.
Seattle, the piece of wood may be a splinter, but when it's in your finger, you have a sliver.
In my world slivers are smaller than splinters. Bark is notorious sliver source (super fine piece of wood that really only hurts when you run you finger across it). A splinter is a chunkier piece of wood.
For me, too, size matters....
Seattle native. Sliver. Splinter is a verb. My mom's family came from the Midwest, so that might be a factor.
@41 Splinter is both a noun and a verb, as is sliver, so your argument does not hold. Reference:

As such they interchangeable.
Puget Sound native, for good measure.
I'm from NE, KS and CO - and say sliver. Also, if you can't get at it with tweezers, wrap some bacon fat on it with a Band-Aid and that'll pull it out by morning.
Iowa. Splinter
Missouri & Southern California: any small bit of anything that gets stuck in your finger is a a splinter. Excepting glass that - is always a shard.
Weird all the east coasters here who say splinter. I grew up in CT and always heard and used sliver. That said I would know exactly what someone was talking about if they said splinter.
Once it's in your finger, it's a sliver.

Similar pieces of wood (or glass et al) are splinters or shards, so long as they're not under your skin.
Raised by upper midwesterners. A splinter is wood. A sliver can be other things, like metal. (don't walk around my workshop barefoot.)
Maryland= splinter. sliver is for pie.
Southwest Virginia: Splinter. Never heard sliver used in this way.
Spokane. Sliver. But the 'rents are from New Jersey and Nebraska if that matters....
Splinter = wood stuck in your skin. Shard = glass stuck in your skin. Neither is preferable.
I grew up in New England, also, and it was a sliver. Also, thorns are prickers, water fountains are bubblers (or bubblahs), sprinkles on ice cream are jimmies and you go have a seat on your sofa after finishing supper at night.
I feel like splinter is more suited to wood, and sliver is more suited to other materials. I do like @2's rule, though... Now I'm torn!
I'm in with the splinter:big/sliver:small crowd.
Up and down the West Coast. Splinters in two states. And to whoever referenced glass, it's a shard. A motherfucking traumatizing shard of glass.
Northern Wisconsin: I voted for "sliver," but I understand the language of "splinters" and "shards." Also grew up with "pop," "prickers," "davenports" and "bubblers."
Sliver? You must be kidding. In my six decades on this planet, I've never heard that word used when referring to a splinter. I'd use "sliver" for more than just a very thin piece of pie, but none of those usages would involve tiny pieces of wood stuck in fingers.

I'm from South Jersey, where no two of "merry", "marry", and "Mary" rhyme.
Colorado: Sliver.
Batman or Superman? Who rates higher as a superhero?
have we all forgotten the Scooby Doo theme song?!

"Come on Scooby-Doo, I see you... pretending you got a sliver
But you're not fooling me, cause I can see, the way you shake and shiver."
Philadelphia: splinter. And also what the south jersey dude said @59.

"Sliver," if referring to a splinter, sounds very old-timey, literary, or small-towny, to me. Like something outta Huck Finn or something.
Sliver? ...Like in Magic the Gathering? That is definitely the only context I have ever heard for that word...

Born in New Jersey to a Pennsylvanian and Virginian family; moved at a young age to Arizona; moved after middle school to Las Vegas. Currently going to college (soon to be grad school) in Oregon. Never once have I heard such a thing called anything but a splinter.
so it seems more like a south/ north argument and not an east/ west one as previously suspected.
Australia: splinter.

If someone said to me "I got a sliver in my foot" I'd say "a sliver of what?" when you say "sliver" you have to qualify it with a material. It's like saying, "I just bought a kilogram" (a kilogram of what?"

If it's glass, I say "I got a sliver of glass in my foot" and if it's wood, it's always a "splinter"
Tennessee. Never heard sliver used in this context at all. Fascinating.
now is it called soda, pop, or coke?
I've heard splinter about 95% of the time, and sliver occasionally. East Coast, both sides of the Mason-Dixon. When I hear someone call it a "sliver," I know what they mean, but it still sounds kind of weird, since I hear it so rarely.

According to Oxford American Dictionaries, the Random House Dictionary, and every online definition I could find in the five minutes I devoted to this, both "splinter" and "sliver" can be either a noun OR a verb. I couldn't find any definition that designated either one only noun or verb, and all the noun-form definitions referred to wood as an example. They're both right. So, I have to disagree with Ingopixel and Geni: doesn't matter, neither one has a denotation that privileges one over the other as a noun, and the connotation of "splinter" being a verb and "sliver" being a noun, specifically in relation to wood and it getting stuck in fingers, is purely a question of dialect or preference.
Maui, HI/Seattle, WA

Baltimore, hon. Always splinter. I never heard this sliver business until I traveled west.

Those saying 'splinter is a verb' as if that somehow means it can't also be a noun are weird. It can be two things.
Slivers are invisible, splinters are the larger shards of sharp wood.
Originally from Texas.....and this is the first time in my life that I've EVER heard anyone refer to it as a "sliver."

They're splinters.

"Slivers" are small servings of delicious desserts that really shouldn't be eating, but can't help taking just a teensy piece of anyways.
Gotta go with what @66 said: sliver needs to be qualified with the type of material.

Also, sliver connotes that the object is curved and smooth, as pieces of glass, obsidian or flint would be if knapped from a larger piece. When you whittle a piece of wood, the wood comes off in slivers, not splinters. A splinter is jagged and broken.
Maybe it's a social-class thing rather than a regional thing?
Sliver is east coast? That's what I was raised to say in Upstate New York. We also said crick instead of creek, so there's that.
It's obviously not an East Coast/West Coast battle. It seems like a lot of families in the Pacific Northwest and Colorado areas originally came from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Upstate New York etc. so I think it came from Great Lakes/Canadian/Northern New England lingo (with Chicago as the exception.) I grew up in West Virginia and had never heard sliver used in that context until I moved to Oregon. There it is extremely prevalent and no one knows what the heck you're talking about when you say splinter.

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