Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wooly desks

source lainesdespyrenees
Are you ready for a little etymology today? 
So many words and expressions relate to fabrics and weaving if you scratch the surface a little.

In French, bure refers to a rough, resistant cloth of heavy weave that is associated with hooded monks, watchful shepherds, and scruffy peasants from the Middle Ages. The name for the cloth derives from burel, a heathery quality of brown, black or ecru wool.

source Orpostal

This cloth was also used to cover tables. Henri Havard described the wool rugs that protected tables from ink and lessened the noise of clattering coins for money changers. 

source planetefacility

In the 14th century, this wooly rug became known as a bureau
By the 15th century, it was not only the rug but the piece of furniture - be it bench, table or chest -  together with the rug that was known as a bureau. The meaning, as we all know, went on to include a room for work at a bureau/desk and further, an administrative organization, i.e., bureau de poste, bureau de style,  bureau of investigation....


  1. Fascinating! Who knew? Well, clearly you did. Etymology is one of the most interesting sciences. - logy = study.

    1. If you liked that, I have more in store. I like etymology too!

  2. Replies
    1. Hello Mary. Textiles come in to play in our world much more than most of us realize. In themselves they are a form of communication and they, like many other languages, influence our speech. This may be tthe subject of a future post!

  3. luv!!! etymology. if a few more people in america understood it, our culture would not be experiencing the confusion it is at the moment in the way of prepositions! (but that's a little soapbox of mine you don't have time for.....)

    bureau - who knew? on a similar note, but different, my mother remains extremely puzzled by my use of "french" quilts on my dining room table. but they serve a similar purpose as les bures, no? and make both me and my cats happier when they settle there.

    ok bring on more etymology!

  4. Yes, I use boutis- French quilts -on the sofa. That way if any popcorn falls during a family movie night, this Franco-American household is protected!

    I like when you get up on your soapbox. Are you talking about prepositional verbs? Maybe you can explain a little in an episode of Passage Paradis.