Sticking together

To cotton to

This expression, meaning "to be attracted to a person or an idea," comes from the English weavers who worked with the fabric in the 16th century. To enhance cotton's value, textile workers used to rub its newly woven surface until it produced a fluff or down.

Those fluffy particles or fibers would cling tenaciously to the weavers' hair and clothing, their looms, and everything the weavers owned, just as one might be devoted to a beloved or attached to someone or something. Nowadays, you can be sure that friends who "cotton to each other" are steadfast or really stick together.

Company, in the shared sense

In its original meaning, a company was a group of people who sat down and shared bread. From the Latin con, meaning "together," and panin, "bread," this modern-day word for an army unit or business comes from that close association between people who dine at the same table. By 1303, the word's usage was extended to mean a trade guild, where workers often shared not only lunch but also a workbench.

SOURCES: The Barnhart Dictionary of Etymology, by Robert K. Barnhart; 'Why You Say It,' by Webb Garrison; The Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins, by William and Mary Morris; The Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, by Robert Hendrickson.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.