or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It is enormously gratifying to enjoy doing something you're good at. If you're a talented singer but you absolutely hate performing, isn't that kind of a drag? Either you do it out of a sense of obligation, or you refrain from doing it and live with the feeling that you're squandering your life somehow.

I'm extremely lucky that I'm good at my job and that (the usual corporate bullshit aside) I really enjoy doing it, and also that I love to knit and am good at that, too. I get a huge amount of satisfaction from both things, which means that both my work time and my leisure time are fulfilling.

I knit a whole lot--I've finished two pairs of socks this month already*--and I've ordered from Knitpicks before. It's a great company with great products (the best needles, hands down, that I have ever used), but what's this on the very first page of their catalogue, which arrived in the mail today?

I have no argument with the product, which could be very handy if you hold the yarn in your left hand.** But we have a word in there that's just plain wrong.

I've seen "chafing" spelled "chaffing" quite a few times. It's a mistake usually committed by people who don't seem to understand that doubling a consonant shortens the vowel sound that precedes it. "Bared" is not "barred". "Taping" is not "tapping". And so on.

As usual, this is a mistake that a spellchecker will not catch, because "chaffing" exists; "chaff" can be used as a verb, but it doesn't mean what most people think it means, which is "to tease in a friendly manner". It is, interestingly, probably derived from "chafe". But that doesn't mean that "chaff" and "chafe" are interchangeable, either as they are or as other parts of speech.

*One of my New Year's resolutions, the only one I'm keeping in any serious way, is to knit a pair of socks a month. I usually knit them on fairly small needles, 2.75mm, to give a nice firm long-lasting fabric. It took me three weeks to knit the first pair on these needles. But then I wanted to start February's pair early, and for a lark I made them on larger needles, 3.25mm, and this made a huge difference, because you need fewer stitches; I finished the pair today, and it took me a week. A week! (The first pair also had a stitch pattern, which takes more time to execute: the second pair had a patterned yarn, so I knit it up in stocking stitch, which is faster.)

**In Europe, knitters generally hold the yarn over their left index finger, as the knitter in this image is more or less doing (with mechanical assistance), and pick up each new stitch; this is called "picking". North American and British knitters, in contrast, generally hold the yarn over their right index finger, and wrap the yarn around the needle for each new stitch; this is called "throwing". My Finnish co-worker, who naturally knits in the European manner, thinks that the North American way is mildly hilarious, which it might be, and inefficient, which it definitely is, but I don't care. She's tried to teach me the picking method, and I could probably get the hang of it if I practised enough, but nearly a quarter century of habit is very hard to break, and I'm good at it this way, so I don't really want to change.


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