21 June 2006

Knitter's Word.A.Day

This week's theme: professions that exist mainly as surnames.

mercer (MUR-suhr) noun

A dealer in textiles, especially silk and other fine materials.

[From Old French mercier (trader), from Latin merx (goods). Words such as market, merchant, commerce, and mercantile share the same origin.]

Then there is mercerization. To mercerize is to treat cotton thread or fabric with caustic soda to enhance its strength and luster, and to increase its affinity for dyes. The word is an eponym, coined after the calico printer John Mercer (1791-1866) who patented it in 1850.

And calico -- a kind of cotton cloth printed with a pattern -- is a toponym, coined after the city of Calicut in India. The city is now known as Kozhikode.