June 12, 2009

Does the carpet match the drapes?

I had a call from a dear friend earlier this week asking the best way to wash curtains. She has those little metal hooks in hers and she wasn’t sure if she needed to remove them before washing. I’m not an expert on draperies and all things hanging, but I figured it was probably wise to remove the hooks as they are really sharp and would probably shred anything they came in contact with in the washing machine. Also it would be a really noisy load of laundry.

She took my advice and they came out beautifully clean and intact. But she posed a good question: What is the difference between a curtain and a drape?

My friend is from another country and English is not her first language. We have many great conversations about linguistics and the oddness of my native tongue, and she has taught me just as much about my language as I have taught her. Every now and then she uses a word which doesn’t actually exist in English but so better describes the thing or situation. Take the word “balmy”. We use it to describe a particular type of weather when it feels warm, moist, and tropical (yes, even here in Vancouver). The dictionary defines it as: “having the quality or fragrance of balm; soothing.” What is balm you might ask? Again the dictionary defines it as: “any fragrant ointment”, “a Mediterranean perennial herb”, or “a pleasing aromatic fragrance”. When my friend heard the word being used to describe the weather she didn’t hear “balmy” but “palmy”. Which to my mind, more accurately describes the type of weather we are talking about.

So when she asked what the difference was between curtains and drapes I had to admit I had no idea. Who better to ask than Better Homes and Gardens.

According to BH&G, "Curtains are generally lightweight, unlined and suspended from a rod by simple tabs, rings or rod-pocket casing. A rod-pocket casing is simply a sewn flap at the top of the curtain where you push the rod through to hang. Curtains are decorative and casual and easy to make yourself, if you were so inclined.” (Love that – if you are so inclined – ha ha. I have the urge to whip up some curtains; be right with you).

Drapes are typically lined and floor length and again, according to BH&G, "...often attach by hooks to a traverse rod. A cord mechanism that hangs behind either the left or right panel draws both of the panels open and closed. Here we've moved into a more formal, mechanized window covering, as opposed to curtains which you would open and close by hand. Drapes are typically pleated, though not always and offer a much fuller, richer look.”

Who knew?

I hope this answers my friend's question. And because she had to remove hooks before washing, it’s now that clear she was washing her drapes.

Next week I’ll discuss the difference between carpet, rug, broadloom, and wall-to-wall.


drollgirl said...

the english language is MIND-BOGGLING!!! it is the only language i know, and i still cock my head in wonderment at it constantly!

and i like PALMY a lot!!!

gh said...

Well, that was definetly good advice in removing the hooks as I'm sure her drapes would have gotten tangled and torn in them.
I actually knew the difference (somewhat embarrassing to admit)between drapes and curtains as my mom used to have a heavy drape on a sliding track mechanism attached with those same sharp hooks you mentioned. She always told me when I was a kid that those were drapes and the lighter airy ones in the shorter kitchen window were curtains. I guess I took that little bit of wisdom for granted :)
As for words and their odd meanings sometimes, I believe that many words come about due to ignorance and/or lack of education and sometimes mis pronunciations or wrong meanings are applied and given to words and somehow over time and generations. . . they
here is an interesting slang. Some Puerto Ricans and Dominicans use the word "gua gua" pronounced gwagwa. It is used to say Bus, as in I'm taking the bus or Gua Gua.
It actually means Wuff Wuff as in the sound that a dog makes. It came about years ago when the GreyHound buses were seen all over and the big dog (greyhound) was painted on the side of these buses. These immigrants then reffered to them as the "wuff wuffs" aka GuaGua.

Lianne said...

Good for you Gary. I know my mom used the words drapes and curtains but she never explained the difference to me. Hmmm...I wonder what else she didn't explain?

Love the info about the GreyHound buses.