Tuesday, April 26, 2011

British Word of the Day

Yes.  It is a jumper but, as in most things, it's the filling that matters more than the shell...
 jump·er 2  (jmpr)
1. A sleeveless dress worn over a blouse or sweater.
2. A loose, protective garment worn over other clothes.
3. A child's garment consisting of straight-legged pants attached to a biblike bodice. Often used in the plural.
4. Chiefly British A pullover sweater.
[She] thanked heaven that she had had the sense to buy wool and needles for the jumpers she intended to knit for the children.--The Final Touch 
This is one of the few British words that I have trouble with as it conjures that first definition, for me (see right), so vividly.  Does anyone have any idea how this might have come to mean 'knitted sweater'?


  1. I have to poll Betty Ross and Betty Henry on this one. So far, all I have is this:

    During Agincourt, the archers couldn’t afford chainmail armour, so wore a top padded with straw that looked like a jumper. It was called a “juppe”, which is Old French and our word comes from that.

    But how that comes to mean a sleeveless dress over here and a sweater over there, I don't know.

    I have read that "jumper" as a sweater is more popular in Australia. In the UK they're more likely to call it a pullover. (Betty Ross calls his a "pullie" which I think is cute.)

  2. Okay, all of what follows is going to be seriously unhelpful.

    1. The Agincourt thing is not true. Don't trust everything you read on the Internet.

    2. The term "jumper" to mean a sweater was first used in the U.S. more than 100 years ago.

    3. That's about as much as the complete OED was willing to give Betty Ross.

    Strike three, we're out. Sorry, Bettys.

  3. From an Australian living in London for many years, I am interested to see the word jumper applied to a child's pinafore dress and also to a pinafore apron: never heard of that use of "jumper". Straight-legged trousers attached to a bib-like bodice: that would be called bib-and-braces in UK and Australia. But that is not a million miles from a jumpsuit (an all-in-one outfit, like an airforce pilot's, but a 1970s fashion statement).

    In the UK, "jumper" is the more common name for a pullover (which is worn by a higher class person, so Betty Ross must be posh). Marks and Spencer shop sells jumpers and cardigans to the Great British Public. Harrods might sell pullovers.

    A woolly jumper is a cross between a sheep and a kangaroo (as every 4 year old knows, as they giggle at their clever joke)