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I had it exactly backwards

The word ‘chintzy’ drifted across my consciousness this afternoon. By the diktat of my new lockdown rules, that means I had to look up ‘chintz’.

I knew it was a fabric. I was astonished to learn it isn’t so much. It’s more about the style of decoration. It originated in 16th Century India – the word is derived from the Hindi chīnt, meaning spotted or freckled. It’s about the busy, often floral block prints.

But chintz was often printed on calico, another word I completely misunderstood. Calico is a rough fabric made from unbleached cotton, and by ‘unbleached’ I mean not fully processed so there’s still bits of shit in it. Also from India, 16th C, named after the city of Calicut (not to be confused with Calcutta).

So gaudy print + cheap fabric = chintzy. I thought calico was the decoration and chintz was the fabric. I was bassackwards.

And while we’re here, muslin (a much more refined woven cotton than calico) was named for Mosul, as in Iraq. Where it isn’t actually from.

And that’s the end of today’s edition of “Things You Could Damn Well Have Looked Up on Wikipedia Yourownself If You Cared.”

January 26, 2021 — 6:02 pm
Comments: 16