How Do the Names of Different Textiles Tell Us About Their Histories? - Social Science

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How do the names of different textiles tell us about their histories?

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By tracing the origins of the names of different textiles, one can find out a lot about their histories. Take the case of muslin—a word that refers to any finely woven textile. This word is a derivative of the city of Mosul (in present-day Iraq). It was here that the European traders first encountered fine cotton cloth from India, which was brought over from India by Arab merchants. Another example is calico—the general name for all cotton textiles. This word is derived from the word Calicut, a city on the coast of Kerala. When the Portuguese first came to India, they landed in Calicut, and the cotton textiles that they took along with them to Europe came to be called calico. Chintz, a printed cotton cloth, is a term that is derived from the Hindi word chhint—a cloth with small and colourful flowery designs. Bandanna, which refers to any brightly coloured and printed scarf for the neck or head, is a term that leads one to the Hindi word for tying, that is, bandhna—a variety of brightly coloured cloth produced through a method of tying and dying. The widespread use of such words shows how popular Indian textiles had become in different parts of the world.

Concept: Indian Textiles and the World Market
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