Regular readers of this blague should be able to anticipate Dr. Metablog's best and favorite answer to the important question, "What is a cutter?"
Familiar with Dr. M's lifelong passion for baseball, the king of all sports, an informed reader might be tempted to say that a "cutter" is short for a "cut fastball" -- a variation, baseballophiles know, of the two-seamer -- perfected by the likes of Mariano Rivera. Or one might think to guess that a "cutter" is a skilled craftsman in the garment trades. Good answers both, but not the echt metablogian answer.
How about a utility knife or box cutter, prominent in the new world of terrorism? Or a small fore-and-aft rigged sailing vessel, junior to the sloop? Or one of those self-destructive teens who inflicts injury upon himself? A shaper of gems? An unlicensed, underworld surgeon? A film editor? A queue-jumper? A quarry worker from Bloomington, Indiana? A mohel?
Good answers all. But Dr. M, in a moment of ultra-metablogism, is proud to announce that the properest answer can be found in William Dean Howells' 1882 novel, A Modern Instance:
"On a Saturday evening in February, a cutter, gay with red-lined robes, dashed away and came musically clashing down the street under the naked elms. The young man slackened the pace of his horse,as if to still the bells. The girl took the hand he offered her when he dismounted at the gate, and as she jumped from the cutter, 'Wont you come in?', she asked. 'I guess I can blanket my horse and stand him under the wood-shed,' answered the young man, going round to the animal's head, and leading him away."
The answer: a cutter is a nineteenth-century horse drawn vehicle.
Howells doesn't bother to mention whether it runs on wheels or on runners. He assumes that his readers will know.