a WEAVING OF WORDS
and Norman Warwick cottons on to the language.
Chetham´s Library is now offering tours for visitors and readers to the Library To learn more about this service fans can also visit the Chetham´s Library blog and also follow news on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram).
In a most recent blog post by Kath Rigby and Barbara Tarbuck the Library’s connection to textiles is explored, in addition to the history and origins of popular phrases still used today, that emanated from the textile industry.
Chetham’s Library owes its very existence to the popularity of fustian, a coarse cloth of which the warp was linen and the weft was cotton. It was from trade in this fabric that Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653) made the fortune which was eventually invested in the school and Library
Chetham’s Library owes its very existence to the popularity of fustian, a coarse cloth of which the warp was linen and the weft was cotton. It was from trade in this fabric that Humphrey Chetham (1580-1653) made the fortune which was eventually invested in the school and library in pursuit of his mission to ‘overcome poverty and cure ignorance.’ It is unlikely that Humphrey himself ever wore this coarse fabric. The word ‘fustian’ in his lifetime had also come to be used figuratively to refer to pompous, inflated or pretentious writing or speech because this cloth type was often used as padding – hence, purposeless words were fustian.
photo 3 Textiles and Text share the same Latin origin: the verb texere which means ‘to weave’. It is possible that textiles could have been a form of language even before the advent of writing. What is certain is that some of the language we use today was inspired by the domestic and later the mechanised manufacture of textiles. We follow the thread of an argument, spin a yarn, become entangled in a web, unravel a mystery. An odd or dishonest person may be warped, politicians may be heckled for pursuing fine-drawn theories, or even home-spun arguments. Weaving and unravelling are metaphors for synthesis and analysis. I could go on spinning this out, or decide to wind it all up.
The two main processes in the domestic manufacture of cloth, spinning and weaving, were a source of metaphor for centuries. Shakespeare’s Falstaff knows that ‘life is a shuttle,’ and in Twelfth Night Sir Andrew Aguecheek’s hair hangs ‘like flax on a distaff.’ Before mechanisation spinning was a woman’s occupation; even in the Book of Proverbs ‘the virtuous woman seeketh wool and flax … she layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.’ In heraldry, the distaff side outlines the female lineage of the family.
As other processes were developed and mechanised for the production of wool and cotton, so our language continued to be enriched. The importance of the textile industry in Manchester, or Cottonopolis as it became known in the nineteenth century, is reflected in the number (over 500) and quality of books and pamphlets about textiles held in the library.
Just one striking example shows the interaction of textiles with book-art as well as language. ‘Concerning Cotton 1791-1920’, published in 1920. It is a lavish Art Deco production, containing brochures for each of the subsidiary companies, and it has been suggested that the fairy motifs could be by the celebrated illustrator Arthur Rackham.
The language of textiles has been and still is used to describe human characteristics. If yarn was twitty or full of twits it meant it had faults such as knots which would make the weaving process more difficult. When fabric was being washed or soaked, it was beaten with a wooden board or bat. This rhythmic action might create drowsiness and a sense of going batty. The waste bobbins used in mills came to indicate something of no value. Doffing one’s cap originally meant taking the bobbins off their spools on a spinning frame.
photo 3 A fault which could cause serious problems in the weaving process occurred when a collection of tightly packed broken fibres congregated in clumps in the cotton yarn. When twisted, a crackling sound could be heard. Someone a bit odd or unpredictable was thus known as crackers. When woven cloth has gone through the wet processes it needs to be tentered, or stretched, by means of hooks to prevent any shrinkage and to maintain a uniform width. To be on tenterhooks suggests a state of anxiety or apprehension.
In the north of England, the fag end was the end of a piece of cloth. Only later was it applied to the butt of a cigarette. In the Yorkshire woollen industry, a medley was produced by dyeing several batches of raw wool in different colours, then spinning them into yarn and weaving them. Later, fettlers were the men who helped to ensure that the huge and thunderous woollen and worsted carding machines were clear of fibres and grease and operated to maximum efficiency. The aim was for all the equipment to be in fine fettle.
In the 19th century, South American wool clip was imported from South America to be sold in Bradford. Market traders would claim that consignments of Uruguayan (Montevideo) wools always contained ‘full Montevideo bales.’ Over the years this became ‘full Monty bales’ and eventually ‘the full Monty.’
The use of textile language as metaphor continued to expand and develop. The warp and the weft (or woof), referring to the weaving together of horizontal and vertical yarn, has come to signify the building blocks or components of life or of an argument. More mundanely, losing the thread, cottoning on, and lining the pocket, are all self-explanatory terms. Dyed in the wool emphasises that cloth dyed before weaving retains its deep colour and is superior to the wool that is dyed in the piece.
The word shoddy had different meanings in different wool-producing areas. In the West Yorkshire woollen district, it was the fibrous waste that was blended with new wool to make heavy goods such as overcoats. Elsewhere, it described the dusty mixed fibres that gathered under carding machines.
Eventually, it was used to describe any product of inferior quality. During the 1950s the Yorkshire based Association of Reclaimed Fibre Manufacturers attempted to drop the word shoddy altogether but could not come up with a replacement term.
Moving on from such examples of derogatory terms, the English language is also rich in words for the fabrics themselves. From the 17th to the 19th century in particular, an enormous number of fabrics were imported to Britain – jersey from Jersey, cashmere from Kashmir, jeans from Genoa, denim from Nîmes, muslin from Mussolo in Iraq, damask from Damascus, cambric from Cambray, and many more. But as well as importing textile names, Britain also contributed them to the rest of the world. Cotton goods and household linen are to this day known collectively in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, simply as Manchester.
As a part of the current exhibition A Weaving of Words, visitors have enjoyed exploring the library looking for tags with various textile related words and phrases, and many have been surprised by their origins. It makes one wonder: which of our contemporary phrases will be studied by future generations?
A clue to the answer to that rhetorical question above might lie in the fact that only ten miles away from the city centre where Chetham´s is situated the Edwin Waugh Dialect Society meet every month in Rochdale to enjoy dialect texts in a way that keeps alive the language of Edwin Waugh (left) and his hinterlands of Bury and Bolton.
photo ewds The EWDS web site tells us the Society is dedicated to ´maintaining and increasing interest in Lancashire Dialect,
The Society was formed in 1938 by a group of Lancashire Dialect enthusiasts. It lapsed in 1940 due to the effects of the Second World War but restarted in 1950. It has continued to the present day.
Meetings are held on the second TUESDAY of every month from October to June, commencing at 7.30pm. Your first meeting is freeso why not pop inm and see what they do. Having regularly attended when I lived in the Uk I can assure you the entertainment value is very high.
The annual subscription of £7 is due at the October meeting.
Voluntary donations at each meeting help defray the cost of the room hire.
The meeting starts with a welcome to all from the evening’s Chairman, followed by a rendition of Edwin Waugh’s song “A Lift on the Way”.
We then have a reading of a poem or extract from one of Waugh’s works by a pressed volunteer and hear the ‘Parish Notices’ from the Secretary.
Members are then entertained by a speaker, or a performer. You can find full details of each of our monthly meetings on the Events Calendar page of their on line site.
A vote of thanks is given followed by a second Waugh song, “Toddlin’ Whoam”, being the most appropriate!
After this, in the immortal words of our previous President, Jack Lye, “Tha con aw pike off whoam neaw!”
The evening ends at around 9.00 pm.
Even today, as the ruins or occasional re-gentrifications of the sites of the cotton industry still cling to the landscape (and climate) that facilitated them two hundred years ago the dialect and vocabulary of that day are still being studied and are still providing entertainment.
Dialect, accents and vocabularies are different aspects of the same study we might think, but it is acknowledged that words and phrases have often been coined from a region´s agricultural or industrial past, as has been exampled in this article.
We close with what might seem a very tenuous link, but one we think will hold firm, because jazz, like fabric, like words, weaves and warps its way into beautiful patterns. We´d therefore like to share the latest news from our friends at Jazz In Reading
|JAZZ MASTERCLASS IN READING What?|
A masterclass exploring the skills and virtues of the jazz ensemble featuring headliner Pete Long, a renowned jazz composer and musician.
photo Pete is a graduate of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra and a virtuoso clarinettist and saxophonist, He has been featured in works such as “Handbags and Gladrags” by Stereophonics, famously used as the theme for The Office. More information on Peter Long can be found at his website.
The masterclass day will round up with a pro gig and open jam session in the evening.
Saturday 21 Jan 2023 – 1:30pm Where?
G01, L29, 29 on the London Road campus map
Open Jam afterwards at The Dairy – 14 on the map
Participation as a masterclass student is limited to UoR Music members but the Masterclass is open for everyone to attend, including the public. Anyone with an interest in jazz, whether playing or listening, will get value from this session.
£15 Adult, £5 Student. Get your tickets here.
| The following week there is a drumming Project to emjoy Fri 3 February | Progress Theatre, Reading (details below) | 7:30pm ||
£18.00 (£16.00 concessions, £9 under 16) plus maximum 5% booking fee–__-
Gary Willcox has created an exciting project to provide a glimpse of the contribution that drummers have made to jazz across the decades. Not only as instrumentalists, but also as composers. The sets include well known jazz tunes that epitomise the era of “Be Bop and Beyond,” written by drummers.
Tunes by Elvin Jones, Kenny Clarke, Paul Motian, Jack DeJohnette, Bill Stewart & others. Plus covers of a broad cross section of jazz music for people to hear and the musicians to play and everyone to enjoy. Be they compositions in the styles of BeBop, Modal, 90’s NuBop or that specific sound found on ECM albums.
The band members are well known to UK jazz audiences – Chris Batchelor on trumpet (Pigfoot, Big Air, Loose Tubes), Julian Siegel on saxes (Partisans and many more), Gareth Williams on piano (Claire Martin, Jim Mullen, Iain Ballamy), Oli Hayhurst on bass (Julian Siegel, Pharoah Sanders, Zoe Rahman) and Gary Willcox on drums (Loz Speyer’s Inner Space, WayOutWest, Chris Biscoe’s Mingus Profiles).
Despite the wide variety of music, this band creates a unified sound which brings continuity to the project. The musicians are given space, enjoying the flexibility of the musical compositions, to interpret things in their way, rather than there being a showcase of styles or a recreation of the past.
“……inspiring and ‘in the moment’ playing. Love it!”. – Jerry Bergonzi
** Due to illness, Jason Yarde cannot appear. However, we will welcome Julian Siegel who is a long established leading UK jazz sax and reed player, composer and band leader.