Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Words of Yesteryear

Lately, when drifting off (as one is wont to do) in boring meetings, I've been thinking about words that you just never hear anymore - or perhaps never did all that often - that may in fact almost be in danger of vanishing altogether.

Today's word: Cretonne.

Grandmother Muscato may have been the last woman in America who dutifully every spring changed her curtains and put slipcovers on all the furniture in her every-day-of-the-week sitting room (as opposed to the parlor, which remained magisterially clothed, as always, in dark purple cut velvet and coordinating striped brocades).

"Cretonne," she would say, once she and her lady-of-all-work, the redoubtable Fanny (I kid you not), had gotten things more or less back in order, "is so cooling in the summertime."

Never mind that, even though it was nearly Decoration Day (the phrase "Memorial Day" being an unacceptable innovation in that household) on the calendar, in our northern town the warmth of summer was actually still about a month away (and would last no more than six weeks if we were lucky). It was almost summer, and soon enough time for white shoes and straw hats, along with cretonne curtains and slipcovers.

And until those few hot days of mid-July, I can still remember: cretonne may be cooling in summer, but on a brisk spring morning, it's downright cold.


  1. Wow.
    I forgot all about the practice of taking down the curtains.

    My mother used to do it when I was a kid. There was no word for it...or maybe there was...

    wv: retopti
    as in:

    It's time to retopti the curtains! LOL!

  2. I just adore heavy unglazed chintz like cretonne but it has been suggested that I’m a Creaton for using cretonne.