This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Word To Use Today: galatea.

Why use the word galatea?

Um...well, just for fun, really.  

Here is Galatea

by Auguste Ottin

She's being embraced by her lover Acis. The big green guy at the top is the giant and baddy Polyphemus. It's the usual story: girl loves boy, boy gets killed by jealous giant, girl turns boy into river.

Well, perhaps the end's not entirely usual, but you know what I mean.

The young lady in the statue isn't the only Galatea: there's the one 
who prayed for her daughter to be turned into a son; (no, no, she 
wasn't being sexist, it was to save the daughter's life); there's the 
one who started off as the statue that Pygmalion sculpted who later 
came to life; and there's the ship:

StateLibQld 1 254247 Three masted sailing ship H.M.S. Galatea, ca. 1868.jpg
There have been a whole series of ships called Galatea. I hope this is the right one. It was launched in 1859.

It's the ship that's the important one as far as the word galatea is concerned.

So what is galatea? It's a strong cotton twill fabric, often white with blue stripes, used for children's clothes and skirts.

Can you see the connection with the ship? 

No, I thought not. The thing is, that when the fashion for dressing 
little boys in sailor uniforms came along, the fabric used to make 
them was given the name galatea after the ship.

This is the future Edward VII in 1846, who started the trend for sailor suits. Painting by Winterhalter.

So there we are. Not the most useful word, I know, but I like the way it's wriggled its way from meaning statue-made-to-come-to-life to...well, looking at poor Prince Albert Edward, more or less the opposite.

Word To Use Today: galatea. Galatea is Greek and means she who is milk-white.

PS I've no idea why this post has come out in different formats. I do hope you can read it okay.


  1. I can read it okay and it's fascinating. I speak as one who thought she knew the names etc of most fabrics around. You do, as I've said often before, learn something new every single day on Word Den. Super word!

    1. Thank you so much, Adele. Use it in good health!