Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Giving a New Meaning to the term "Sheepdog"

I just read an article from the Wall Street Journal about spinning and knitting with dog hair. It references Knitting With Dog Hair: Better A Sweater From A Dog You Know and Love Than From  A Sheep You'll Never Meet, by Kendall Crolius and Anne Montgomery, which puzzled me a little since the book is over a decade old, so it's not like they're doing a publicity stunt or anything. Overall I found the concept interesting. I can't say I'd want to try spinning hair from, say, a Pug, but I defy any spinner to look at an Afghan hound and not be tempted to turn all that lovely fur into an afghan:

Afghan Hound
(Picture from tarentula_in's Flickr photostream. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License.)

So, spinning dog hair: I'm cool with it.

But the thing that stuck out to me in the article is the term the dog-hair spinners have coined for their fiber: chiengora. That's the French for "dog" (chien), plus the ending -gora from "angora", which doesn't mean anything because "angora" is derived from the place it comes from, Ankara. But I guess it means "hair" now. Which kind of makes me want to pull mine out. Is "angora" doomed to go the way of "hamburger"*? Aaaaargh.

(Edited to add: Fabulous Husband, who speaks better French than I do, pointed out that since 'chien' ends in an 'ang' sound, the word is a portmanteau (like Brangelina) rather than a back-formation (like cheeseburger). I stand corrected on the etymology, but maintain that chiengora, however you pronounce it, is a silly word.)

Let's play find-an-even-more-absurd-name-for-dog-yarn in the comments! Here are a few to get us started:

Cocker Spiniel
Even-More-Fun Fur
Cardigan(-growing) Welsh Corgi
Irish Woolfhound

*You probably knew this already, but in case you didn't: "hamburger", the food, got its name from the city of Hamburg, Germany. So a "hamburger" originally meant "that thing they make in Hamburg". But as English is English, eventually the "burger" part got chopped off and redefined as "meat patty in a bun", and thus we have cheeseburger, not to mention turkey burger, veggie burger, butterburger, and California burger. Thank you, English language.

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