Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Etymology and pinnies


The protective garment was once known as
a "napron." from the French "naperon"
which in modern French means
a napkin. However there was a
process in English of the "n" moving
from the article "an" to the noun
and "a napron" became "an apron."

I find that etymological fact both pleasing and amusing, so I thought I'd share it with you. It also gives me an excuse to show you a collection of vintage aprons/naprons/pinnies or what you will, which have come into my possession (long story far too complicated to bore you all with here).

They were a bit grubby, so I flung them in the washing machine . . . and here comes a word of warning, a lesson I have learnt and will now pass on my wisdom to you: if you wash ten aprons together the strings form a knot of amazing complexity!

Once I had untangled them (and this took a while)
I hung them up to dry . . .

I think some were bought, others home-made; the fabrics look as though they date from the 1960s and 1970s. Here's a gallery of the designs . . . aren't they jolly! Some need a few stitches here and there, then I'll have to decide what to do with them.

By the way, there are other "n" words that by a process called junctural metanalysis became transformed into the English words we use today: a nadder became an adder; a nauger became an auger; a numpire became an umpire and a norange became an orange*.

Here endeth today's lesson.

*I admit that the evidence for "a norange" is a tad hazy – however it does come from the Arabic – "nāranj"


  1. Fascinating stuff! And I love the pinny collection.

  2. So how did 'pinnies' come about ( my word of choice for said article)
    I've got a wonderful one with pictures of sewing equipment on!

  3. I have a collection of vintage aprons - all with chickens on them! Some are frilly things, meant for a 50's housewife to serve cocktails in, others are real workhorses. Love them. I do use them, but then I have to iron them (which means they're in the laundry basket longer than they're in the drawer ready to wear.)

  4. Hi Gina - there's more on this theme to come ;-)

    Hi Magramsay - quite right I should have explained ... pinny is an informal diminutive of pinafore, which is an apron with a bib.


  5. Oh Hi Terry - there were none with chickens on them - but those are all at your house ;-)


  6. Just a thimbleful....

    How interesting, I love the idea of a numpire! And I do like an ice pinny.

    You must tell me the tale of the aprons - sounds interesting!

  7. Celia, thank you for letting me know about how all those "n's" jumped across the space.

    The aprons look marvelous blowing in that wind on the line. Please do reveal more all about how they became yours.

    Best wishes.

  8. love it! but a 'norange'? no way! sounds like child speak to me...ndont nbelieve nyou x

  9. A Pinny was one of the first things that we had to make at school in a sowing class. I still have mine.

  10. I for one am rather in love with your naprons

  11. They are lovely indeed, but useless for a messy person like me, who needs to look like Mrs Overall to keep clean!
    By the way, the word verification is..... houshag! That's me folks!!!

  12. Is a nonion one?
    In Lancashire the Old Ladies (I'm getting there) used to wear a big, fold-around pinny called a 'brat' - don't know why. I know why they wore them of course - don't know why they are called that.

  13. Facinating!
    will pass that on to the teachers at school and impress them!
    Aprons-they always remind me of my nan, she always wore one, hers were orange and brown-it was the 1970's!

  14. there are those who buy specially made deep frames to hang thier collection of hawaiian shirts. you could do the same with favorite aprons, i would suppose...

  15. How I love it when I learn something. Thank you for sharing that. I love your aprons and I hope that you'll let us know the full story of how you got them.

  16. I have not thought of the word pinnie for ages!

  17. Ooh, what lovely things. I have two little vintage aprons which I'm afraid I never wear because I am a proper slasher when I cook so I have to wear a full length one. Mucky pup.

    Mine do look nice on the back of the kitchen door though.

    You really do learn something new everyday.

  18. These look so like the aprons my grandma used to make. I didn't appreciate it at all when she gave me one when I went away to university - lost it, left it, no idea what happened to it. Now I so wish I had kept it. Lovely.

  19. I burst out laughing when to mentioned the ties on the aprons getting tangled! I did that with pantyhose many years ago - what a mess! It also warmed my heart to see those aprons, I have many of my husband's mom's aprons. Love your blog, I'm new to blogging, my friend Susan introduced me to it and I'm having a blast. She also convinced me to start a blog, so I have. If you'd like to follow my blog it's http://oceanbreezesandcountrysneezes.blogspot.com/

  20. That's a great collection of protective wear! It its fascinating how many different words there are for the same things, reflecting the linguistic and dialect history of these islands.I enjoyed your language lesson very much.

  21. Well there you are, you really do learn something new every day! One of my 'things to do' lists for this year is to make my own pinny. I'm inexcusably messy and somewhat cack-handed at the best of times, so I feel it's a necessity (that could also look quite stylish, if I get it right...)

  22. oh! please tell us the 'long story' about where the aprons came from!

    it's a really interesting theme.... I silk screen printed and made a series of pinnies a few years ago as part if a course, I was interested in a womans relationship with her home and garden.....

  23. Fabulous etymology! Thank you! I love finding out how words are constructed! Lucy x

  24. 'junctural metanalysis' - brilliant explanation thanks. I'd always wondered why it was naranja etc in other languages - now I know

  25. Barbara Hodkinson3 September 2012 23:34

    Love your Etymology lesson. I was at our local Lawn Bowling Club Jitney and must tell our Umpire he is really a Numpire. Love your blog, Thanks for all your lovely blogs.


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