I’m not a fan of footnotes, really. I generally find them distracting, like little tangents in conversations that you just wish you could fast-forward through. Literary gnats, if you will.
But it seems, in this case, that my first entry about papermaking was in need of a footnote. It was my grandmother who alerted me to this fact, when she called me and questioned my use of the word “cooch.” Curious, having only heard it in reference to the “hoochie coochie” dance of yore, she first typed it into an internet search, and then, somewhat alarmed by the outcome, said in a slightly horrified tone, “Do you know what that means?”
I know, I know. We’re dirty little papermakers. I relayed the origin as it was explained to me: derived from the French, coucher , as in “to lie down.” This, of course, in reference to the papermaker’s motion of pushing the newly-formed sheet of paper onto a felt in order to release it from the mould.
When, in turn, I told this story to a friend, she informed me that I had, in fact, misspelled the word to begin with. It seems we’ve butchered the pronunciation, but kept to our roots in the spelling. Guess the joke’s on me again…I’ll opt out of revision of the original posting simply because the whole chain of events still makes me laugh out loud.
Just FYI, there are certain similarities between couching and the aforementioned dance: grace, rhythm, timing, style. There’s a certain chemistry involved between hydrophilic particles: the desire of the felt to cling to the paper. So the two aren’t entirely unrelated. Don’t you love those moments where the evolution of language comes full circle?
There are two things to be learned from this experience:
1. Language, in all of its mutations and eccentricities, is infinitely fascinating (particularly for us word nerds).
2. an internet search, even conducted by your grandmother, is going to yield more information than you ever wanted to know.
Kim Novak in the movie “Jeanne Eagels”, 1957. (Photographer: J. R. Eyerman)