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Saturday, June 25, 2011


June 25 is Croatia's national holiday, known as “Statehood Day”. A good day to look at a word for a type of necktie. In the 17th century, Croatian mercenaries in the armies of other European countries wore neckcloths of lace or linen, tied in a bow with long flowing ends. This became all the rage in French fashion, for both men and women. It was named after its originators, called in their native language “Hrvati”. Since French-speakers could not pronounce “hrv”, the word became cravate, and subsequently “cravat” in English.

1 comment:

  1. Great!

    They had tried at some point (18th or 19th century) in Romania to replace words of foreign origin by Romanian constructions. One of the words in the crosshairs of change was "cravata", for which "gatlegau" (here without the proper diacritics) was proposed. That is the equivalent of the English "necktie", except in Romanian it sounds really "paysano", really lacking class. Another detail is that this (failed, Romanian) term is actually built precisely the same way (the same order of the inner parts) as its English counterpart, which is rather unusual for Romanian.

    Now that I come to think of it, did the French not really mold this word along the (I assume) already existing French word "Croatie", in which case, was the name of this country (at the time) not more like Cr(o)Uatie, that is, with an extra U/V (and not yet an O, perhaps), which matches the V in both the country's original name and the one given to the necktie ?

    It seems a weak point, but ... what have the French do with that V in the original name of Croatia, when they adopted their own - French - version ? My best guess at this point is the one above.

    Just wondering. Thanks.


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Canada's Word Lady, Katherine Barber is an expert on the English language and a frequent guest on radio and television. She was Editor-in-Chief of the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. Her witty and informative talks on the stories behind our words are very popular. Contact her at wordlady.barber@gmail.com to book her for speaking engagements; she can tailor her talks to almost any subject. She is also available as an expert witness for lawsuits.