Thursday, April 30, 2009

Why is it an "afghan"?

I have launched into the Quick & Easy Afghan from the January 2009 Creative Knitting magazine. It's a marvelous pattern for mindless knitting: I can carry on a conversation without making any mistakes which is quite a feat for me. Also it looks glorious and impresses the heck out of the non-knitters I'm conversing with.


The yarn (pictured above): Cascade Yarns Baby Alpaca Chunky. Ahhhhhhhh, what a soft, sensual, lovely yarn it is to work with in a glorious heathered turquoise blue (#562-Monterey Bay). I'm in heaven every time I pick up the project.

As I knitted away, it suddenly struck me that I had no idea why a simple, knitted blanket carried the exotic label "afghan". So, being a writer and therefore a master at procrastination-by-research, I looked it up. The truth? No one really knows. However, afghan as a synonym for a blanket was first found in writing in 1833 in England. The speculation is that it refers to the beautiful geometric patterns seen in the textiles from Afghanistan which were also found in the knitted blankets. The etymologists figure the word was shortened from the descriptive "Afghanistan blanket" to just "afghan" at some point before the written record. (BTW, the word blanket comes from the French word blanc, which means white. Just in case you were curious.)

Has anybody heard any other theories on why a blanket by any other name is an afghan? Or do you know interesting origins of other knitting words? Word games are such fun!

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3 Comments:

Blogger Fran Baker said...

What an interesting origin for our beloved afghans, Nancy. Thanks for looking it up. And wow, I love the color you're working with right now.

10:26 AM  
Blogger Jeanne said...

My son, when he was five or so, would call the afgans --Afganistans!

We'd laugh, but maybe he really knew what he was saying!

11:46 AM  
Blogger Nancy Herkness said...

Out of the mouths of children, Jeanne! They often say it better than grown-ups do.

Thanks, Fran! My Darling Daughter is a blue lover so everything I knit for her has to have that shade in it.

4:16 PM  

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