Paisley. Argyle. Cashmere. Polyester. Corduroy. Seersucker. Madras. Aren’t fabric terms fascinating? Let’s look at some of them!
Paisley, cashmere and madras are words derived from places. Paisley, a design featuring feather-like teardrop shapes, is named after the town in Scotland where it originated. Cashmere, a soft wool, comes from goats in the kingdom of Kashmir in the Himalayas. Madras, a brightly-colored fabric, originated in Madras, India. Argyle is named after a Scottish clan whose tartan is similar to the diamond shapes of this pattern.
Polyester is a portmanteau (a word made from two others that are shortened and joined). Chemically speaking, it is a polymer joined with esters. Seersucker, like madras, is of Indian origin. The Persian words it is derived from literally mean “milk and sugar,” an apparent reference to the appearance of this fabric.
As for corduroy, I always thought this derived from “corde du roi,” which is French for “cord of kings.” It never occurred to me that this doesn’t make much sense, given the relatively cheap cost of this material and its ready availability. There is, indeed, no evidence that this is where the word originated. It’s one of those mystery words that English is full of. We’ll just never know where it came from. When I was growing up, corduroys were all the rage. I had a pair in quite a few different colors. Maybe they’ll come back again!
There are so many fun fabric words that I suspect this topic will be coming back again, also.