Just now, while listening to "Bargain Hunt", I heard one of the participants refer to her grandfather, now 80 years old, a "totter", and the presenter re-phrased it as "rag-and-bone man".
I wonder how it originated in this use, and if this use is possibly related to "totting up" (summing up) or to "tottering".
This was new one on me, and I couldn't find it in a current on-line dictionary, but I did find this on Google at:
http://www.robert-temple.com/oliviasFootnotes/craftmasters4.htm

As a rag-and-bone man, Alf Masterson, who has been doing the rounds in Camden Town for 30 years, is the father of all recycling. He rings a bell as he goes from street to street, his fox terrier Pip balancing precariously on the cart. Pip once picked up three £50 notes in the West End and brought them to Alf in his mouth. "The streets of London are paved with gold," says his master.Alf left school at 13, by which time he had already started "totting" (the word now used for his trade) with a friend's father. Originally, the rags were used for making paper and the bones (from Sunday lunches) collected for glue and bone china. Skips, charity shops and recycling bins have all made life harder for Alf, but he has a knack for recognising all sorts of different types of metal, and counts this ability, as well as good sight, hearing and a way with people, as a requirement for the job.

He reckons that he walks 15 to 20 miles a day, six days a week, and on a good day makes £40 to £50. Alf and his wife Phyllis live in a neat three-storey house which is entirely kitted out with items he has totted over the years, from the beds to the kitchen cupboards and the television set. There are some things he's picked up that he has preferred not to keep, however-including a human skull, a coffin and a stuffed turtle.
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Just now, while listening to "Bargain Hunt", I heard one of theparticipants refer to her grandfather, now 80 years old, ... me, and I couldn't find it in a current on-line dictionary, but I did find this on Google at: http://www.robert-temple.com/oliviasFootnotes/craftmasters4.htm

According to Chambers, tot has a slang meaning of "a bone: anything retrieved from a dust-bin or the like" and totter is a "a raker of dust-bins and heaps: a rag-and-bone-man, scrap dealer". Chambers gives its origin as uncertain (it does get a separate entry for this meaning though).

Regards,
Arfur
From COD10:
tot3
· v. (totted, totting) (usu. as noun totting) Brit. informal salvage saleable items from dustbins or rubbish heaps.
– DERIVATIVES totter n.
– ORIGIN C19: from sl. tot ‘bone’, of unknown origin.

wrmst rgrds
Robin Bignall
Quiet part of Hertfordshire
England
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
According to Chambers, tot has a slang meaning of "a bone: anything retrieved from a dust-bin or the like" and ... a rag-and-bone-man, scrap dealer". Chambers gives its origin as uncertain (it does get a separate entry for this meaning though).

I remember the dustmen of London negotiating some kind of payment in lieu of "totting" - perhaps after the introduction of a new kind of bin lorry that made bin-diving difficult.

Frances Kemmish
Production Manager
East Coast Youth Ballet
www.byramartscenter.com
Pat Durkin filted:
Just now, while listening to "Bargain Hunt", I heard one of the participants refer to her grandfather, now 80 years ... it originated in this use, and if this use is possibly related to "totting up" (summing up) or to "tottering".

I've always understood "totting up" to derive from "totalling up", which has nothing to do with the "writing off" synonym mentioned here recently..
There are some things he's picked up that he has preferred not to keep, however-including a human skull, a coffin and a stuffed turtle.

Not to worry...we have Tim Burton for that sort of thing..r
According to Chambers, tot has a slang meaning of "a ... (it does get a separate entry for this meaning though).

I remember the dustmen of London negotiating some kind of payment in lieu of "totting" - perhaps after the introduction of a new kind of bin lorry that made bin-diving difficult.

Thanks to both you and Arfur. I suppose like many slang words, we can guess and assume, just as well as the best of the dictionaries, can't we?

I just suppose my collection of guesses will never be published under my name, so I suppose I should accept what authority is provided. (gripes my guts, though!)
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According to Chambers, tot has a slang meaning of "a ... (it does get a separate entry for this meaning though).

I remember the dustmen of London negotiating some kind of payment in lieu of "totting" - perhaps after the introduction of a new kind of bin lorry that made bin-diving difficult.

For years most commercial enterprises and blocks of flats near where I've lived have had huge dustbins, varying between 5 and 10 feet tall, with an attachment on the side. A refuse truck has a hydraulic arm that slots through that attachment, lifts the bin, turns it almost upside down, and empties it into the truck in seconds. The trucks have a crusher inside that compacts the rubbish. The block of flats where Jeanne lives has such bins, and she has to stand on a platform adjacent to the bins to put her rubbish sacks into one. These bin collections are usually made daily.

I have to put rubbish out at my house in special degradable black sacks which are supplied by the council. This collection is weekly.

The trucks that collect my refuse also have a crusher and compactor, but do not have the hydraulic arm, so the council has to run (or sub-contract) two different sorts of trucks.
There's no chance at all of bin-diving.

wrmst rgrds
Robin Bignall
Quiet part of Hertfordshire
England
I remember the dustmen of London negotiating some kind of ... a new kind of bin lorry that made bin-diving difficult.

For years most commercial enterprises and blocks of flats near where I've lived have had huge dustbins, varying between 5 ... arm, so the council has to run (or sub-contract)two different sorts of trucks. There's no chance at all of bin-diving.[/nq]Dumpster-diving in the US is simple, at least in my neighborhood. A variety of divers wander the neighborhoods, usually on their bicycles, but some in autos. They carry large bags and long sticks, and ruffle through the trash on the lookout for recyclable cans, and perhaps other things which they set aside for their partners to pick up in cars. Sometimes they make terrible messes, and don't put back the sacks of trash that they remove to get at the goodies beneath.

Our bins are up to 4.5 feet deep and wide, and 10-12 feet long, so the ambitious can clamber in. The 4 to 6 lids are not secured, and are easily flipped open to enable us to dump our goodies in an even (yeah, like we all do that) layer. Sometimes the uncaring will cover the lids with rolls of carpet being disposed of, or swivel chairs, etc. The next people to drop stuff off will leave their trash "beside" the dumpster. Lovely to contemplate. The very worst, however, was the fisherman, probably not a resident, who left his bait or fish guts, etc.

in the bin to cook and rot for 4 days before the usual pickup. If it happens now, I can call the town government to make a special trash run.
However, I have found that crows and gulls are as likely as dogs and raccoons to drag bags of refuse out of the smaller, individual cans, as are provided in the parks.
On my walks through some more commercial neighborhoods, I encounter dumpsters that appear almost hermetically sealed, with all kinds of reminders of the kind of trash within, and warnings that the bins are private. I suppose their cleaning crews are the only ones who have key access.
That really frustrated me when I had doggy doo that I wanted to drop off, while walking the neighbor's dog. Sometimes I had to wait until I got back to my own neighborhood to drop the deposit off.
dust-bins as

(amusing anecdote snipped for brevity)
At least we don't have raccoons.
In the days before we had plastic refuse sacks and huge bins, I had an Asian friend who furnished most of his house by wandering the streets and picking up other people's discarded furniture and fittings. He was not some sort of poverty-stricken totter. He lectured in maths at university level.

wrmst rgrds
Robin Bignall
Quiet part of Hertfordshire
England
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