Feb 1, 2013

Fabric Etymology

Many of the fabric names we use today have very old origins, some quite surprising. Lets take a look at some of them.

It is a very old type of cloth which is made from flax. The word linen dates back to Old English linen – our earliest record of it is from 700 A.D. This word has not changed in over a millenium! There were cognates in Old Frisian, Old Scandinavian, and Old High German, all of which came from a Proto-Germanic root *linom which means "flax".

It has its roots in the Arab town of Mosul, where the cloth was originally made. The Romance languages all have cognates, as does Greek: musselin. The current form of the word dates in English to the early 17th century. However, Old French had mosulin in the 13th century, but this was applied to "cloth of silk and gold’ from Mosul, according to Marco Polo.

This word is quite old, dating from the time that the Greeks obtained silk from the east. The Greek form was seres, and the Romans borrowed that word along with the adjectival form, sericus. Seres is the name that the Greeks had for the oriental people who first provided them with silk. It is thought that the "r" may have changed to an "l" as the word traveled from the Greco-Romans to the Baltic area. There is an Old Slavic form shelku, as well as Old Norse silki and Old English sioloc. No other Germanic language possess this word. Interestingly, silkie is an old Scottish word for seals, so-named because of their silky fur.

It is a stiff, transparent form of silk, got its name from organzine, a strong, high-quality silk thread. That word comes from Italian organzino (17th century) but the source of the Italian word is not known.

It is, interestingly, related to our broach/brooch. It comes from Spanish brocado, which corresponds to Italian broccato "cloth of gold and silver", but literally broccato is "something bossed or embossed". The Italian form comes originally from the verb broccare "to boss, to stud, to set with great-headed nails", from Italian brocca "a boss or stud". Brocca is cognate with English broach/brooch, which is simply a boss worn on one's clothing .

Many of us probably assumed Tweed was named after the River Tweed in the Borders of Scotland, but this is not so. It is actually the product of a misunderstanding! This misunderstanding occurred in about 1831, when someone misread the Scottish word tweel "twill" as tweed. It is likely that the river name played some part in the misreading, but the cloth is not named after the river. Exactly who was guilty of this error has not been well determined. However, in 1847, it was written "Narrow cloths, of various kinds, known by the name of Tweeds,..are extensively produced at Galashiels and Jedburgh, but especially the former.

If you know any French, you might recognize the elements du and roi in the word: du = "of" and roi = "king". Corde du roi, "the king's cord", was either invented in English to have this meaning, or that meaning was attached to it soon after the word was coined in the 18th century. The phrase corde du roi is not known in French. In fact, a French list of manufactured articles, dating from 1807, includes "kings-cordes", apparently taken from the English word!

It was current in English by the mid-14th century, in the form taffata. Old French had taffeta and tapheta, and the Romance languages all had similar forms. The ultimate source is Persian taftah "silken cloth" OR "linen clothing". It comes from the Persian verb taftan "to shine" or "to twist, to spin".

It has its roots in a Latin words meaning "shaggy haired"! Its earliest English form was veluett or veluet (c. 1320), having entered English from medieval Latin velvetum, which came ultimately from Latin villus "hair, down". Some cognates are Italian velluto, Old French velut, and Spanish and Portuguese velludo.

Crepe de Chine:
It is literally "China crape", a white crape made from raw silk. Crape, as found in the term crape myrtle today, is increasingly being replaced by the French form crêpe, having come full circle as crape comes originally from the French form. Crêpe means "crisp" or "wrinkled", arising ultimately from Latin crispa "curled". The term crepe de chine was borrowed by English from French in the 19th century, the French having coined it to differentiate it from crêpe anglais, known in English as "simply crape". That word was originally crespe in English (mid 17th century) as in French, but by the late 17th century it was being spelled phonetically: crape.

It is a fabric made of silk or other threads interwoven with metallic threads. It gets its name from lame, which was a thin metal plate applied to the small overlapping steel plates used in old armor. Its earliest form was lamm (late 16th century) and English went back to the French form in the early 20th century. French got it from Latin lamina "thin piece or plate". English cognates are lamina and laminate.

It is named after a fairly old cognate of the English word ray. A rayon is a "ray of light", from French (1539) rayon, coming ultimately from rais "ray". It was applied to a synthetic cloth in the early 20th century, presumably because of the cloth's sheen.

It is simply a clever inversion of expand.

It is simply "many esters", an ester being not a Christian holiday, but an acid derivative. The word ester is thought to come from essig "vinegar" (acid) and äther "ether".

This word seems to arise first in the 16th century. Some believe it comes from French tiretaine (c. 1247) "a half wool, half linen cloth"

It comes ultimately from Malay ginggang "striped". It found its way to English via French guingan, from Spanish guinga and Portuguese guingão, Italian gingano, and Dutch ging(g)ang. The word first appeared in print in English in the early 17th century. Its circuitous route from Malay is an indication of the scale of trade and exploration occurring at the time.

This word has roots in Arabic. There it was qutn or qutun, and with the prefixed article it was alqoton. The Spanish took that word as alcoton, but they eventually dropped the prefix and the word became coton, although algodon is still used for specific applications (i.e., a cotton swab) . Italian and Provençal took it from Spanish (as cotone and coton, respectively), and the French took it from the Provençal form and gave it to Middle English as coton in the 14th century. The later English form cotton arose in the 16th century.

Jan 18, 2013

SPOONERISM - a type of Verbal Somersault!

Spoonerisms are words or phrases in which letters or syllables get swapped. This often happens accidentally in slips of the tongue (or tips of the slung as Spoonerisms are often affectionately called! For example:

A lack of pies (A Pack of Lies)
Wave the sails (Save the whales) 


Spoonerisms are named after the Reverend William Archibald Spooner (1844-1930) who was the Dean and Warden of New College in Oxford, England. He is reputed to have made these verbal slips frequently. He is famous for his verbal somersaults, that would turn a well - oiled bicycle into a well boiled icicle Big Grin

Born in 1844 in London, W. A. Spooner became an Anglican priest and a scholar. During a 60-year association with Oxford University, he lectured in history, philosophy, and divinity. From 1876 to 1889, he served as a Dean, and from 1903 to 1924 as Warden, or president.

Spooner was an albino, small, with a pink face, poor eyesight, and a head too large for his body. His reputation was that of a genial, kindly, hospitable man. He seems also to have been something of an absent-minded professor. He once invited a faculty member to tea "to welcome our new archaeology Fellow."
"But, sir," the man replied, "I am our new archaeology Fellow."
"Never mind," Spooner said, "Come all the same." - [ Source - reproduced from February 1995 edition of Reader's Digest Magazine.]

Reverend Spooner's tendency to get words and sounds crossed up could happen at any time, but especially when he was agitated. He reprimanded one student for "fighting a liar in the quadrangle" and another who "hissed my mystery lecture." To the latter he added in disgust, "You have tasted two worms." [ For more laughs - go here for some original spoonersaults!! ]

Spoonerisms are phrases, sentences, or words in language with swapped sounds. Usually this happens by accident, particularly if you're speaking fast. Come and wook out of the lindow is an example.

Of course, there are many millions of possible Spoonerisms, but those which are of most interest (mainly for their amusement value) are the ones in which the Spoonerism makes sense as well as the original phrase, like Go and shake a tower

Since Spoonerisms are phonetic transpositions, it is not so much the letters which are swapped as the sounds themselves. Transposing initial consonants in the speed of light gives us leed of spight which is clearly meaningless when written, but phonetically it becomes the lead of spite.

It is not restricted simply to the transposition of individual sounds; whole words or large parts of words may be swapped: to gap the bridge to bridge the gap.

SPOONERISM in Literature:
In the 1930s and 1940s, F. Chase Taylor – under his pseudonym of Colonel Stoopnagle – wrote many spoonerism fairy tales which appeared both in print and on his radio show. The original ones were printed in the Saturday Evening Post and he eventually published a collection of the stories in 1946 – a book which is now sadly out of print and much sought after.

Though if you are interested, you can enjoy them here :
Pinderella & The Cince, 
Beeping Sleauty
Ali Theeva & The Forty Babs

Some more Tairy Fales :D can be found here:
The Pea Little Thrigs
The Goldybear & The Three Locks

Rude Spoonerism

(Positively Red Face comes with a disclaimer, which everybody should please read.)

More Fun Spoonerisms
The Shog and his Dadow!

(You can try clicking on the other links too)


Wise words for Jan 18, 2013:

"Many people, other than the authors, contribute to the making of a book, from the first person who had the bright idea of alphabetic writing through the inventor of movable type to the lumberjacks who felled the trees that were pulped for its printing. It is not customary to acknowledge the trees themselves, though their commitment is total."
Forsyth and Rada, from "Machine Learning"