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A what-not is a piece of furniture derived from the French étagère, which was exceedingly popular in England in the first three-quarters of the 19th century. It usually consists of slender uprights or pillars, supporting a series of shelves for holding china, ornaments or trifles of any kind, hence the allusive name. In its English form, although a convenient drawing room receptacle, it was rarely beautiful. The early mahogany examples are, however, sometimes graceful in their simplicity. In some parts of the United States, the term what-nots has come to mean the decorative ornaments so displayed.



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