The Legacy of Textile Language

As weavers and fiber artists, we recognize the little bits of textile lingo that have made their way into every day speech. We know sleazy can refer to something corrupt and immoral, or to a flimsily woven piece of cloth. We also know that even the high-tech space shuttle gets its name from the humble (but oh, so useful) tool we throw through the shed.


However, after readying Elinor Kapp’s delightful Rigmaroles and Ragamuffins we here at BeWeave It headquarters have learned that there are many words we use each day that have a textilian origin that has since been lost. While we’re not going to give away all the fun from Elinor’s book, here are a few of our favorites.


Before Sherlock Holmes and Scooby Doo started working with them, a clue referred to a ball of thread. What’s the connection? The story of Theseus in the Minotaur’s labyrinth. If you remember your Greek mythology, or at very least have read the Percy Jackson book series, you’ll know that to solve the labyrinth Theseus was given a magic ball of thread by Ariadne. He tied the end of the string to the entrance and unwound it as he moved to the heart of the labyrinth. After defeating the Minotaur, he was able to follow the ball of string (or clue) to find his way to safety.


Before our morning cup (or three) of coffee we’d describe ourselves as groggy most mornings. Groggy, of course, comes from the word grog which originally referred to a watered-down beer or rum, which if you'd had enough might have you feeling a bit groggy. Grog was named in honor of Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon of the British Navy, who ordered that rum rations be cut with water and a bit of citrus (to cut the taste of the foul water). As for his nickname, well, it came from the grogram (also known as grosgrain) coat he always wore. On another note, other than giving us the word "groggy," Old Grog’s grog had another benefit. The bit of citrus juice added helped prevent scurvy and so his sailors were healthier than the rest of the navy.

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