You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.

In a word: seersucker

In the summertime, particularly in the South, you can see gentlemen adjusting to the heat by wearing seersucker suits.

Seersucker is a light linen, rayon, or cotton textile, crinkled and typically bearing a pattern of stripes.

The word is of some interest because it arrives in English from neither the Germanic nor the French/Latin roots. It is from the Hindi sirsakkar, which in turn became the Persian sirosakar. The word means “milk and sugar,” applied to the fabric, the American Heritage Dictionary explains, “from the resemblance of its smooth and rough stripes to the smooth surface of milk and the bumpy texture of sugar.”

Example: From Al Kamen and Colby Itkowitz, “Seersucker day returns to Capitol Hill,” The Washington Post, 2014: “In June 2012, the Senate shut down a decade-and-a-half-old tradition of its members donning, on the same day, seersucker suits—those illustrious pale-blue-and-white puckered cotton numbers that are the summer uniform of certain types of Washingtonians.”

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