or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

No Glove, No Love

I knit. A lot. I always have at least two projects on the go: usually a big one that I work on mostly at home (in this case, a christening gown which was commissioned by a friend for her incipient grandchild) and a smaller, travelling project which I can noodle away at on the bus or at work (currently a teeny baby sweater for the same pending infant). I also plan my upcoming projects: I never like to work on the same kind of thing twice in a row, so since I just finished a massive cabled sweater and am now working on two different lace projects, I figured it was high time for some colourwork, probably a big circular-yoke Fair Isle sweater, and maybe a pair of gloves for my on-the-go project, because even though it isn't even summer yet, winter is never far away in this part of the world. I've never made gloves before, at least not the full-bore kind with individual and complete fingers.

Gloves. "Glove". Where did that word come from, anyhow?

It wasn't a huge surprise to learn that it was from Old Norse, from the word "glofi", which entered Old English as "glof" and then through the typical batch of changes: "glofe", "gluif", "glowe", "gloofe", and on and on, spelled phonetically as pronunciation changed through the years and centuries.

Here's what is a bit of a surprise, though: hardly anybody else inherited the word. The Scandinavian languages don't use it, or anything like it; Icelandic, the language closest to Old Norse, has "hanski", and Danish and Norwegian have "hanske", with Swedish adding a letter to make it "handske" and Finnish adding a whole new syllable for "hansikas". German, another of the relatives of Old Norse, uses "Handschuh", literally "hand-shoe", and Dutch has the similar "handschoen". The big Romance languages use some variant of French "gant" (the source of English "gauntlet"): Spanish has "guante", Italian "guanto".

However, and this is very interesting, Portuguese uses "luva", which sounds quite a lot like "glove" with the first syllable lopped off, and this is not as random as it might seem, because Old Norse "glofi" comes from Proto-Germanic "galofo", which is two words jammed together, "ga-" plus "lofo", "hand". And "luva" looks much like "lofo", doesn't it?

Something else I find interesting: that the difference between a glove and a mitten is that a glove has individuated fingers, unless it's a boxing glove, which is actually a gigantic mitten. How is it that they're called gloves when they're clearly not? Who started that? Did someone think that "boxing mitten" was just too silly, or did boxing gloves originally have fingers which in later stages of evolution become vestigial? Wikipedia is not a lot of help.


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