worsted

Do not be bested by the fabric of this word. The smooth yarn that has been spun for you has been invented whole cloth. But do not let the wool be pulled over your eyes, nor the word be twisted or mis-said; though the lie of this may suit you, take what it’s worth in its stead: a name of a parish in Norfolk, north of Norwich, which has gone from Wurthestede through Worthstead to Worstead. It gets the credit for the yarn and cloth with long, tight, parallel fibres; it may leave you cold, but it holds together smoothly. For centuries England was famed for (and profited by) its wool, but as its renown has reduced so, too, has the name, until now the fabric is even a letter shorter in measure than the place. Worsted has been worn since the 13th century, and so has worsted.

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