Rag and bone

Origin of: Rag and bone

Rag and bone

Rag-and-bone collectors date from the early 19th century and may have been the first recyclers of waste material. Rags were sold to manufacturers of shoddy, which was a form of cheap cloth, while bones and left over food were sold to glue manufacturers. Their cry used to be an almost unintelligible ‘rag ‘n bone’ to which ‘any old iron’ was frequently added. Rag-and-bone collectors were also known as ‘totters’ which derives from old British slang ‘tot’ meaning bone, which in turn may have derived from the German tot meaning dead. Nowadays rag-and-bone collectors are virtually extinct having been replaced by scrap merchants.