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linen or flax Options
Helenej
Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 6:28:01 AM

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An article about eco-clothes in a British textbook reads like this:

"Linen grows more quickly than cotton and doesn't need too many chemicals to produce it".

So linen here should mean a plant. However the Oxford dictionary defines linen as "a type of cloth made from flax" and "sheets, tablecloths, pillowcases, etc".

Does it mean that the word 'linen' is used wrongly in the BRITISH (!) textbook?

linen

Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 6:51:28 AM

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The plant, (Linum usitatissimum), is commonly called flax or linseed. The fabric, and the tablecloths, etc. are called linen.


In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.
mactoria
Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 7:05:37 AM
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Helenej: It would appear that you are correct that this textbook used the term "linen" incorrectly; that linen is not a plant (flax is) and the structure of the sentence does appear to be making a comparison between one plant (cotton) and another plant(linen...though linen is made of flax, not of linen). I could not find any reference source that used 'linen' to mean the actual plant that linen fabric comes from; they all make reference to linen fabric coming from the flax plant, and that the Latin word for flax is 'linum usitatissimum' from which the English word 'linen' is derived. Perhaps someone from the UK will have a different take on this question, though.
Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 7:31:54 AM

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Linen is a cloth. Flax (linseed) is a plant or it is the raw, unwoven threads (after spinning and before bleaching/dyeing). After it is woven, the material is linen.

Just because the writer of an article is British doesn't mean that they use English correctly - and it doesn't mean that they know the technical difference between flax and linen (I only know as I grew up in and around dye-works in a town specialising in spinning and weaving).

In German, the plant can be called either Flachs or Lein - and in most languages east of Germany (Swedish, Polish, Russian, Norwegian), the name of the plant is a variant of Linum.

Perhaps the author is from Northern or Eastern Europe.

Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Helenej
Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 7:49:58 AM

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Thank you very much to everyone who replied. Now it's clear.
thar
Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 8:41:27 AM

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I can't believe anyone would think linen was the crop - it sounds more like they were concentrating so much on the finished product (cotton and linen) they missed out the vital step of 'is a product from a crop which grows more quickly...)


And most Germanic languages distinguish a plant fibre (eg flax) from a fibre you collect from a plant - treewool. Whistle
papo_308
Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 9:29:10 AM
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Drag0nspeaker wrote:
....
In German, the plant can be called either Flachs or Lein - and in most languages east of Germany (Swedish, Polish, Russian, Norwegian), the name of the plant is a variant of Linum.

Perhaps the author is from Northern or Eastern Europe.


I can confirm that, in Czech it's len.

Drag0nspeaker
Posted: Tuesday, February 06, 2018 10:54:29 AM

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All very interesting . . .

I didn't delve into the Indo-Iranian languages, but it would appear that the Hellenic, Italic, Germanic and Balto-Slavic groups all had the 'lin-', 'len-', 'eln-' type names but somehow as Old Germanic split up into East Germanic, West Germanic and Norse, the 'flach' name for the plant came in from somewhere and entered only West Germanic (I guess it was just a local name which spread a bit). Even Hungarian (a different family altogether) uses 'lem'.

West Germanic influenced/preceded German, Austrian, Dutch, English and their derivatives around the world - these have separate 'flax-type' words.

Norse and Romance never picked up that word, so use 'lin-type' words for the plant.


Wyrd bið ful aræd - bull!
Jyrkkä Jätkä
Posted: Wednesday, February 07, 2018 4:42:31 AM

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In Finnish, with lots of loanwords from Germanic and Balto-Slavic languages, the plant is called pellava but linen is liina. Sheets used on bed are called lakana. ;-)


In the beginning there was nothing, which exploded.
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