Monday, December 16, 2013

A Cowl Is Not a Snood

I've been noticing this for a while on Ravelry, and it's time I mention something.  A cowl is not a snood.  Here are a few definitions for snood: 

1. the distinctive headband formerly worn by young unmarried women in Scotland and northern England; 2. a headband for the hair; 3. a netlike hat or part of a hat or fabric that holds or covers the back of a woman's hair.


 O[ld].E[nglish]. snod "ribbon for the hair," from Proto Germanic. *snodo (cf. Swed. snod "string, cord"), from PIE base *(s)ne- "to spin, sew" (cf. Lett. snate "a linen cover," O.Ir. snathe "thread;" see needle). Meaning "net or bag worn over a woman's hair" first recorded 1938.

Merriam-Webster online:

1 a Scottish :  a fillet or band for a woman's hair;  2 b :  a net or fabric bag pinned or tied on at the back of a woman's head for holding the hair.
First Known Use: before 12th century

They’re pretty consistent, aren’t they?  A snood is used on the head to cover the hair.  If the word has been in existence since the 12th century, and possibly hundreds of years before then, then why are people using it to refer to a neck covering, for which we have the words “scarf” and “cowl?”  

Let's look at the word "cowl."

Merriam-Webster online:

1 a :  a hood or long hooded cloak especially of a monk; b :  a draped neckline on a woman's garment;  2  a :  a chimney covering designed to improve the draft; b :  the top portion of the front part of an automobile body forward of the two front doors to which are attached the windshield and instrument board.

Origin:  Middle English cowle, from Old English cugele, from Late Latin cuculla monk's hood, from Latin cucullus hood.  First Known Use: before 12th century.
The word “cowl” has also been used since before the 12th century.  The definition doesn't quite go far enough to say that the cowl also became the academic hood worn around the neck and down the back of one's academic gown, after obtaining a college degree.  (Perhaps in some European countries another term is used.)  The academic cowl goes around one's neck, as well as a draped neckline. 
It is clear the snood refers to the head and the cowl to the neck, and that's what one finds when the words are looked up.  It seems to me some person in the recent past had difficulty either telling a hat from a scarf or a head from a neck, if that's really, truly possible.  Or, another thought, in some foreign country, has the similarity of words led to a change in meaning?  Either way, I think the designer will earn more respect if s/he uses the words "cowl" and "snood" correctly.  The customers will also be happier if it truly is a snood for the hair that's desired, and not the many patterns of misappropriately named cowl patterns they'd have to look through otherwise.

My apologies for the terrible spacing on this post.  I haven't found a way to  correct it yet on Blogger.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, thank you for this. You're not alone LOL It's a pet peeve of mine. :)