I think it was Miss Cher who once sang about life after cotton, but I think she’s mad, mad as a… hatter on crack. You know, I once knew a fella named ‘Cotton.’ I wondered how anyone could acquire such an unusual nickname, but then… then it turned out his mother had actually named him ‘Cotton.’ The girls sure loved him, though. No, really. I think his name evoked images of sensitivity and cotton candy and other things girls like. You’re far better off naming your son something cutesy if you want him to have any luck with the dames, let me tell you that much. Long gone are the days when you named a boy ‘Bruce’ to ensure he got the gals. Some would argue that mothers don’t name their children after what it will do for them in their love lives as adults. Fathers, on the other hand…
Cotton is a soft, fluffy fibre that grows inside a hard case known as a ‘boll’. Some cotton even grows on trees. I still find that remarkable. Cotton grows on trees. It’s like finding out that bacon goes on trees, only slightly less delicious. Only slightly, mind. The fibre of this is often spun into a yarn or a thread of some sort to make a soft, breathable texture. And boy oh boy, does the human race love its cotton. We’ve been cottoning on since the time of the dinosaurs. Probably. I like to think some prehistoric Paris Hilton owned a pet Compsognathus and made him a cotton jumper for when it was cold.
We have discovered cotton fabric carbon dated to 5,000 BC in Mexico. Scientists think it’s one of the earliest examples of a jockstrap. Tee, he, he… Although we’ve been doing this for a shit long time, it was the invention of cotton gin that really lowered the price of cotton and thus production rocketed around the world. Cotton gin, in case you’re wondering, isn’t some fantabulous booze from the Upside Down. It’s actually from a time when engines were more commonly referred to as ‘gin.’ Mechanical engines, that is. Not natural, like the power of a horse. That said, Tesco probably is selling horse gin.
Cotton was first spun by machine in 1730 in England, but the cotton gin was invented in America in 1793 by one Eli Whitney, patent number 72X, right between X71, a round saw, and 73X, a patent for preventing the progress of fire. It was a productive year all round. That said, X74 was a machine for cutting nails, so, you know.
Within a decade, that’s it, of the cotton gin’s invention, the value of the American cotton crop rose from, in today’s money, 3.6 million dollars a year, to a staggering 19 million. That’s what, a 400% increase? I can only imagine what those cotton farmers did to celebrate. I know what I’d do. I’d have cotton on my breakfast. I’d sleep on a big pile of cotton. I’d have lots of sex on it. You know, the usual…
The word ‘cotton’ comes from the Arabic word ‘Qutn,’ meaning ‘fancy.’ Ooh! La-di-da, your majesty! It’s sweet in a way, isn’t it? ‘Ooh, look how fancy this newfangled cotton is! I can’t believe my toes!’ Quite. That said, it wasn’t always known as ‘cotton.’ No, at one point in history, it went under the name ‘vegetable wool,’ which isn’t nearly as romantic, although, that said, that kid in school would’ve gotten far fewer girls than he deserved if his mum had named him ‘vegetable wool.’ I’m not bitter about it at all…
If anybody is still reading, let me introduce you to the exciting world of yarn. The higher the yarn number, the finer the yarn. So if you’re ever sent out to buy some yarn, for some reason – perhaps you’re living in the Victorian era – and you’re specifically instructed to buy a fine yarn, you’ll want the higher number, so a 32 instead of a 16. I know it’s a lot of conditions, but as I always say, new knowledge will always come in handy one day. Maybe not in this life, maybe not in the next, maybe not the one after, maybe never, but one day, it will come in handy. Maybe.
Like me, cotton is stronger when wet. Whilst wood pulp and rayon lose strength when wet, cotton laughs at such inadequacies. Rayon, if you’re wondering, are those things your kids draw with. And here’s something really remarkable. Cotton plants can self-pollinate, in case the bees let them down. Oh, we’ve all had Friday nights like that. Your dream girl doesn’t show up to your date and the next thing you know, you’re spending the night self-pollinating. It’s a real tragedy, it really is…
Nowadays, cotton is produced in more than 100 countries around the world, with America, Brazil, China, India, Pakistan and Uzbekistan together making around 80% of the global cotton production. It’s so engrained into our very culture that there are many common cotton phrases. To cotton on, bless one’s little cotton socks, cotton-picking, to wrap somebody in cotton wool. There’s also, ‘be in tall cotton’ and ‘be in low cotton,’ to be doing well or doing badly, respectively. There’s even ‘cotton up,’ to make friends with someone. And then there’s daily rags, referring to newspapers from the olden days that were made by incorporating cotton and linen fibres.
Cotton is fascinating! It has a long and illustrious history and a long and illustrious future, I’m sure. We take it for granted, but perhaps we shouldn’t any more.
What are my thoughts on cotton? I love it…
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