The word ‘kettle’ derives from the Latin ‘ket’, meaning to encircle, and ‘le’, meaning an uncountable noun, and was most commonly used to describe the city walls. The first kettle in England was York kettle, the wall which now marks the limits of the old city.
The reason contemporary kettles are called kettles is both because they are objects that encircle water and because York was the first place to develop the ‘water boiling pot’, as it was originally known, in a company located near the South Wall of the kettle which was called York Kettle Water Boiling Pots Limited. The use of the word kettle to describe the temporary imprisonment of protesters also derives from this meaning, and describes the tension between the old meaning and the new (that of boiling water). Even though the police take the kettle to describe the encircling of people, the result is invariably to boil those people into a steaming frustration.