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02 July 2008 @ 05:31 pm
Word #21  
You all know what this word of the day means ;-). I am posting it because I recently stumbled upon its fascinating etymology.


Pronunciation: [seer-suhk-er]

A plainwoven cotton, rayon, or linen fabric: traditionally a striped cotton with alternate stripes crinkled in the weaving.

1722, from Hindi sirsakar, East Indian corruption of Persian shir o shakkar "striped cloth," lit. "milk and sugar," an allusion to the alternately smooth and puckered surfaces of the stripes. From Persian shir (cf. Sanskrit ksiram "milk") + shakar (cf. Pali sakkhara, Sanskrit sarkara "gravel, grit, sugar").

Word History:
Through its etymology, seersucker gives us a glimpse into the history of India. The word came into English from Hindi sirsakar, which had been borrowed from the Persian compound shiroshakar, meaning literally "milk and sugar" but used figuratively for a striped linen garment. The Persian word shakar, "sugar," in turn came from Sanskrit sarkara. The linguistic borrowings here reflect a broader history of cultural borrowing. In the 6th century the Persians borrowed not only the word for sugar from India but sugar itself. During and after Tamerlane's invasion of India in the late 14th century, opportunities for borrowing Persian things and words such as shiroshakar were widespread, since Tamerlane incorporated Persia as well as India into his empire. It then remained for the English to borrow from an Indian language the material and its name seersucker (first recorded in 1722 in the form Sea Sucker) during the 18th century, when the East India Company and England were moving toward imperial supremacy in India.

Fashion History:
For some men, seersucker proves hard to coordinate. To simplify the cloth for you a bit, here’s some history: developed in India, seersucker means “milk and sugar” in the original Hindu and Persian languages. It’s known for its cooling properties, as the crinkles help the fabric stay away from the skin. Interestingly, it was introduced to North America as blue-collar wear, but quickly moved up in status when southern gentlemen started wearing it. Now we see seersucker suits on clothes racks from Jil Sander to Alexander McQueen.

Interested? Here's more: "How to Find a Seersucker Suit That Won't Scream 'Ice Cream'" from the Wall Street Journal.

Info from:

Despite my posts here, I am not a fashion geek nor even all that knowledgable about fashion ;-). But my obsession is words. And how could I resist the milk and sugar of this one?
almost certainly thinking about William Shatner: selfmy_daroga on July 3rd, 2008 04:27 pm (UTC)
Dude, I would look rad in a seersucker suit.

That is indeed very interesting.