It was invented in 1935 by scientists at DuPont, and introduced to the masses at the 1938 World Fair in New York, where nobody much cared. Today, it is hard to imagine life without it. It was meant to be a substitute for use in products no longer available from Japan due to hostilities prior to and during WWII. DuPont considered over 400 commercial names for their revolutionary “polyamide 66,” including “Duparooh,” which stood for “DuPont Pulls a Rabbit Out Of Hat.” Whatever they called it, it would be applauded by women and fishermen everywhere, not to mention the military. Today, you can find it in many household items and articles of clothing. It is stronger than steel. You can wear it, brush your teeth with it, sleep under it and cook with it. It’s the next best thing to plastic (no, it’s not plastic). It’s nylon.
So how did it come to be called “nylon?” It started out as “norun,” since DuPont recognized one of its main uses as material for stockings that, unlike Japanese silk, would be resistant to snagging or running. However, since “no run” was slightly misleading and they did not want to restrict its intended use to this one area, a change to “nuron” was proposed. Fearing this would be pronounced “neuron,” it was changed again to “nulon.” Due to further mispronunciation concerns it became “nilon,” and, finally, the less phonetically ambiguous “nylon.”
Word spread at the time that “nylon” was actually an acronym for “Now You Lose (or Lousy) Old Nippon,” but this was invented after the fact, compliments of anti-Japanese sentiment. The material did prove useful, however, during the war in the construction of parachutes, tents, rope and ponchos. Today it is omnipresent in carpeting and outerwear, in kitchens and operating rooms, music halls and tennis courts. It was the first synthetic fiber made by man. Remember that the next time you don a pair of duparoohs.