Friday, December 28, 2007

Cotton Up To and Cotton To, Too

Miss Etta, wouldn't you just think that the term "cotton up to" HAD to be a Southern phrase? I seriously doubted that combination of words would ever be heard from the mouth of anyone outside of our general neck of the woods. But I was soooo wrong!

The phrase was not coined by a fellow southerner! It seems the phrase "cotton to" has been in used in Great Britain for many long years.

I discovered a number of different thoughts on the origin of the phrase, neither had anything to do with our early American history.

One source took the word back to Egypt and China! I found the term used in plays back in the 1500's when I went looking.

According to Folk-Etymology, the use of cotton in the phrase is an old BRITISH word and has nothing at all to do with the cotton that still grows in many of our Georgia fields. It means harmonize, get along well, coincide. This fellow said it goes back to the Welsh and even further back to Latin.

I found this quote from a forum where they were discussing the meaning. They didn't cite a source, so I can't tell you where it came from but here it is: "To "cotton" meaning "to get along with" comes from the characteristics of cotton cloth. Cotton fabric is soft and fuzzy with a rich pile, and "to cotton" originally meant to work cotton or some other fabric such as wool so as to raise a nap or pile. This process is an important step in the finishing of fine cloth, and by the 16th century "cotton" was being used figuratively to mean "succeed" or "improve." By the early 17th century, "cotton" was being used in a more general sense of "get along well together" or "work harmoniously," and a bit later to mean "strike up a friendship." The modern sense of "to become attached to" first appeared around 1805."

And here's another source: Eric Partridgein A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (Routledge, 2000) has cotton v.i. Prosper; hence, agree together: colloquial; the former (obsolete). from ca. 1560; the latter, from ca. 1600. In an old play (1605), 'John a Nokes and John a Style and I cannot cotton.' The primary sense ('prosper') may arise ex 'a figurative sense of raising a nap on cloth' (Ernest Weekley, Etymological Dictionary of Modern English). —2. Hence, with to, 'get on' well with (a person), take kindly to (an idea, a thing): from ca. 1800; colloquial Barham. 'It's amazing to think./How one cottons to drink.' —3. See cotton on.

Here's a fun article I found in, of all places, the Hindu Times!
What is the difference between "cotton onto someone" and "cotton up to someone"?
http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/edu/2003/05/20/stories/2003052000110201.htm

I wonder where the word cotton in relation to the growing kind that we turn into cloth came from?

In case you're wondering, I was eating my dinner in front of the computer and decided to take a short break to do something fun. I have been SO busy all day today. I thought finding the meaning of "cotton to" or "cotton up to" would be fairly simple.

I was wrong.

I hope you have a delightfully fun weekend!

Goodnight for now,
Miss Faye

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