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This blog is about the fascinating, fun, and challenging things about the English language. I hope to entertain you and to help you with problems or just questions you might have with spelling and usage. I go beyond just stating what is right and what is wrong, and provide some history or some tips to help you remember. Is something puzzling you? Feel free to email me at wordlady.barber@gmail.com.
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Friday, November 18, 2011

Kittens and Mittens

With winter upon us, it's time to get out your mittens. The origin of this word is uncertain, but one possibility, unfortunately for cat lovers like me, is that it comes from the Old French word mite (puss, kitty), which probably originated as an imitation of a cat mewing. Mittens were originally lined with fur, very possibly cat fur. 

You may wish to prevent the annual scourge of mitten loss by attaching them to what we Canadians call, with characteristic sensitivity, “idiot strings”, a long string running through the sleeves and across the inside of your coat, with a mitten attached at either end. The thing (though not the word) was a clever invention of the Inuit, for whom losing a mitten would be a serious problem indeed.

1 comment:

  1. What! Found your mittens
    You good little Kittens!
    Then you shall have some pie And then they put on their mittens and ate up the pie and then they washed their mittens too, in the version in old, yellowed nursery rhyme book of my childhood. With choruses of meows, of course.

    ReplyDelete

About Me

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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.