or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Monday, September 03, 2007

Knit Large

I knit, a lot, and this is what I'm knitting at the moment (I got the picture here):

As you can see, the model is about to get hit by a vehicle, but no fear: the colossal sweater will protect her. The car doesn't stand a chance.

The sweater is a Marc Jacobs/Perry Ellis pattern from the Fall 1989 issue of Vogue Knitting. It was recently republished in the 25th Anniversary issue as one of their top 10 sweaters ever, and after paging through it, I thought, "That was a whole lot of fun to knit, and I want to make it again" (I'd made two of them for friends when the pattern was first published), so I dug out my old pattern and had at it. You knit the body circularly up to the underarms, do likewise with the sleeves, and then join everything and knit upwards to the ribbed yoke and neck, which means no seams to sew, always a pleasurable bonus.

The picture doesn't even do the garment justice (it's surely been styled to look just so). It's enormous. When you join the pieces, the sweater is over ten feet around. It has an eighty-inch chest, and the sleeves are thirty inches around at the upper part. You could probably fit a second person in there if you needed to. Or you could smuggle a turkey dinner into the movies. A whole turkey.

How am I going to tie this in to my usual theme? Well, the sweater is called The Bubble, which name called to mind a few words, and here we go.

"Bubble" itself is from German "bubbele" and/or Swedish "bubbla", which became, in Middle English, "boble" (with a short vowel sound). Surprisingly, "bobble" isn't from the same source: if it appeared in English, it died out and was reborn from the verb "bob" plus a suffix transforming it into a noun.

Both of these put me in mind of "bulb", which really, really looks as if it ought to be descended from French "bulbe", but isn't, because French hardly ever uses "bulbe". In a French course I took last year, scratching around for the word for "light bulb", the instructor supplied the correct word, and said that "bulbe" wasn't French at all. I probably misunderstood her, or she didn't know that "bulbe" is occasionally used, but in a very limited context; it has a few anatomical or medical applications, but otherwise doesn't get much play. ("Light bulb" is "ampoule", and the bulb that gardeners plant is "oignon", which is to say "onion".)

My next thought was that if "bulb" isn't originally French, then it's probably Greek, and so it is: "bolbos", "onion", "bulb", which was predictably absorbed into Latin as "bulbus" and then into English in the mid-sixteenth century.

Finally, "knit", if you were wondering, is inextricably related to "knot". They're practically the same word (a very old Germanic ancestor, "knoten", meant "to knit"), though their meanings, obviously, have diverged over the centuries.


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