Doesa silversmith "steal" or "pilfer" or "spare" silver?

Hettyy

Senior Member
Chinese - Mandarin
Hi, can any native speaker kindly tell me what is the right word for this context:

Craftsmen in the past were known to "steal" little bit of material from their work. For example, a silversmith may spare little bit of silver from every item he made, by perhaps asking for more materials than needed from the one who hires him, or by putting in inadequate than expected materials into the item.

Am I right in using "spare"? Or should I use any other words, e.g. pilfer here? Can I say "The silversmith was found guilty of 'pilfering' silver from his work" when I intend to express the meaning above?

Many, many thanks.
 
  • Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    "Pilfer" is the appropriate word. If you said "spare" I'd have no idea that you meant he was stealing silver.
     

    Hettyy

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    Actually, one reason I wanted to avoid using "pilfer" or "steal" was that the "silversmith" in question was a "good" character (in my story), who had never pilfered silver in work before, but now for some good reason, "... he managed to pilfer a tiny bit of silver from each item he worked on" -- the word pilfer seems to inevitably carry some negative feeling. So I was hoping to find an alternative, which has similar meaning, but somehow avoids the negative connotation.

    Is this possible?
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    When my mother made dresses for people, they would often provide her with more material than was necessary. So she made a saving on some dresses, she had spare material that she could save and set aside, and sometimes it was even enough to make me a shirt. Neither she nor her customers would ever call this pilfering. (But then, she got their permission.)
     
    Last edited:

    owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Actually, one reason I wanted to avoid using "pilfer" or "steal" was that the "silversmith" in question was a "good" character (in my story), who had never pilfered silver in work before, but now for some good reason, "... he managed to pilfer a tiny bit of silver from each item he worked on" -- the word pilfer seems to inevitably carry some negative feeling. So I was hoping to find an alternative, which has similar meaning, but somehow avoids the negative connotation.

    Is this possible?
    You could say that he "took a tiny bit of silver from each item he worked on". "Take" is more neutral than "pilfer" although it still means that he is stealing silver. Once your character steals, Hettyy, readers will understand that action to be a crime even though he is a good character.

    PS Cross-posted with Keith
     

    Hettyy

    Senior Member
    Chinese - Mandarin
    You could say that he "took a tiny bit of silver from each item he worked on". "Take" is more neutral than "pilfer" although it still means that he is stealing silver. Once your character steals, Hettyy, readers will understand that action to be a crime even though he is a good character.

    PS Cross-posted with Keith
    YES!! Why didn't I think of "take"?? Thank you very much, owlman5! I think I will take "take" :)

    Many thanks to the others, too. It has been so nice of you to give your suggestions.
     
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