>Colloquial Crochet: Yarn By Any Other Name

>As a writer, I am all for having fun with language and amuse myself finding other ways to say the same thing.  This approach is not always appreciated by editors who would rather I use fewer words and a less colloquial, more formal tone in my prose.  And I agree that much of the crochet writing I produce (think patterns) has to be clean, clear, pithy, precise, concise and…. well… boring.  But this is the blogosphere, the wild west, where anything goes and usually does. I understand that using jargon, slang and euphemism in writing may mean that some readers will not understand what the frack I’m talking about.  I can live with that.

Obviously the way we speak is not the way we are supposed to write. What I was taught in school, Standard American English composition, today seems static to the point of moribundity.  In contrast, spoken American English, like all living languages, is dynamic and constantly changing to meet the needs and coolness of the speakers. I don’t say we should have no standards for grammar, syntax, usage, spelling and such. I do say that there is a richness, texture and much humor to be found in personality prose, what I call this relaxed style.  I guess I want to express my joy and relief that I don’t have to obey all the rules here.

Naturally, we invent the greatest number of non-standard terms and euphemisms for the things that most interest us, what we humans think about and obsess over or are not allowed to talk about in plainer English.  For instance, there must be hundreds, no, thousands of slang terms for sex, the internet, bodily functions and parts, sex, technology.  Illicit activities and substances.  Money.  Hokey smokes, I can easily bang out at least two dozen words for money or dollars.  Bucks, buckos, buckaroos, simoleons, greenbacks, green (which probably doesn’t make sense in countries where currency is multicolored), smackers, clams, cabbage, kale, bananas, coconuts, dough, bread, potatoes, beans, bacon, cheddar, guacamole, lettuce (this is beginning to sound like a fast food order!), moolah, filthy lucre, dinero, paper, scratch, wad, Jacksons, Benjamins/Franklins (although I think only bank tellers and drug dealers ever handle those any more) and the related terms dead presidents and big faces.

Another category of slang I can appreciate addresses lack of either intelligence or sanity. Colorful and evocative, all deliver the sting of insult without being mean about it. So instead of saying stupid, brainless twit we can use dim bulb, low pressure zone, not firing on all eight (or all six), not the sharpest crayon in the box. I like some of the alternatives to crazy such as loony tunes, bats in the belfry, lights on-nobody home, bonkers, wacko, space cadet and my favorite, a french fry short of a Happy Meal.

Some words are more potent in print because they are difficult to pronounce or would come off as too effete in speech.  I use lots of scary words in writing that I’d never say in conversation because I am not an asshole. And I have to agree that most colloquialisms are better heard than viewed in print because our voices carry important cues for emphasis, emotional content and nuances that can’t be typed in, except perhaps by the lame use of emoticons.  🙂   But since I “read” out loud in my head, I can still crack myself up in writing, no problem.

So (here’s the payoff), we have a million thousand slang words for this other stuff that’s important to us, like sex and money.  Why are there no happy, amusing slang terms for yarn? Yarn is something I think about all the time. Don’t you? I find myself typing the word y-a-r-n so often that the labeling on those keys has worn off.  This annoys my partner no end.  He types by hunt and peck and if he can’t see which key is “A” then he is totally lost. It would be nice to give some of those other keys more action, to kind of even things out.

A better question would be, do we actually need a euphemism for yarn?  Is yarn considered shameful or taboo in any way? That would depend on your upbringing and how big your stash is, I suppose.  But wouldn’t it be cool to have our own word?

Imagine the possibilities.  “OMG, that LYS gives great [yarn]!”.  “This cashmere [yarn] is to die for.”  “Did you [yarn] today?” “So much [yarn], so little time.”

I’m gonna work on it.  Slang for the “Y” word.  Something that doesn’t have the letters Y, A, R or N in it, please.  Just saying….


9 thoughts on “>Colloquial Crochet: Yarn By Any Other Name

  1. >I love your writing. I don't think you go on too long. Screw your editors. As for a euphemism for yarn, well, I'm just being silly but I think of yarn as "fuzzy happiness."So, did you see the great variety of new fuzzy happiness at the LYS today?

  2. >Actually, for me using the word 'yarn' is very new, only since Ravelry started. I'm Australian, and learnt knitting from my Mum. In the past, Australian knitters called everything 'wool', even if it was 100% cotton. If you look at the size of the Australian wool industry and the historical influence it had us here, this makes some sense. I sometimes correct myself to say 'yarn', but it feels false. I'd like to keep some of the parts of our language that are different.There was a funny ranty blog post about Aussie knitting terminology a few years ago, I'll let you know if I find the link.

  3. >I, too, love your writing, especially in this blog. But why do we need a slang word for yarn? It's already a four-letter word. It's our basic means of communication — one of the things knitters and crocheters have in common. It's inclusive, not exclusive. And it's not taboo; we don't have to be evasive. We just need to get people to use it more in connection with crochet — crochet yarn.

  4. >Loved the post and the colloquisms. I usually don't like "Americanism's" but there were quite a few I recognised that are used "down-under".Totally agree with Ginerva. I used the term "wool" for everything for years. Its only the last 3 years or so that I discriminate and now use "yarn"

  5. >I roomed with Australian crochet celebrity Jenny King at a CGOA conference and she taught me a few choice phrases from down-under. The one that had me scratching my head (but eventually I got it) was "camp as a row of tents". 🙂

  6. >I just remembered two other phrases that make me smile, both picked up from a production director from Tennessee. "You're fishing off the wrong stump" and "that dog'll hunt".

  7. >Doris – Love your blog. This by far has been my favorite post that you have written. I am a firm believer that we all need an outlet for our streams of randomness. And GrandmaLolly is right — when it comes to yarn, it all comes down to sex.

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