January 2, 2014

Case File #014.01.02: SEERSUCKER

Like many people in the English-speaking world, you've probably at least heard of a seersucker suit. And you may even know that the suit gets its name from the striped and intermittently puckered cloth out of which it is made. But do you know where the cloth itself got the name? Well, the word seersucker, which first appeared in the English lexicon circa 1735, is an Anglicized borrowing of the Hindi word sirsakar, meaning “striped cloth,” and the Hindi is, in turn, a borrowing and phonological attrition of the Persian shir o shakkar. Now, even though the Persian phrase is commonly used as the moniker for seersucker material, it literally translates as “milk and sugar,” and it is likely meant to allude to the way in which the alternately smooth and puckered stripes of the material resemble, respectively, the smooth surface of milk and the bumpy texture of sugar.

©2014 Michael R. Gates

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