weird wool wednesday: dirty knitting word in another language

when I knitted my first top down sweater it was from an American English pattern and it basically said: “keep increasing the yoke and knit until it reaches the underarm.” Which I did.

That’s how I nearly knit myself a bat winged sweater:

Bat Sweater by Lalla Ward

Because I didn’t recognize ‘under arm’ to mean to be ‘armpit’. ‘Arm pit’ is a kind of a dirty word in America I believe? You prefer ‘underarm’?

Which, coincidentally, is what we over here call the part between the elbow and the wrist: ‘onderarm’. That’s too close to the English ‘underarm’! It even sounds exactly alike.


You ask me, the beginner knitter, to knit to the underarm and I knit to the fore arm. Because the ‘fore arm’ is not really in front of the rest of my arm I’d never think to name that part thus, if anything my upper arm usually is in front of my fore arm. Wait, you have an upper arm? so how do you call the part that’s dangling from that, that should be some kind of ‘lower arm’ right? The ‘not-upper arm’. An ‘under arm’ perhaps, hee hee.

Anyway, I can see how Americans avoid the word ‘arm pit’ if it carries vivid images of the sweaty nook with its hair problem (grow it? shear it? smell it? show the stubble? douche it in chemicals? whatever you do, it emits a social message to your fellow human beings)

In Dutch it does not carry those associations, it’s just the name for a place on your body. Shoulder, elbow, arm pit, collar bone. In Dutch arm pit is called ‘oksel’.

Funny word he? “Oksel”

It may echo ‘oxen’ to you, or Vauxhall Motor cars. Both hardworking entities who might work up a sweat? Not to Dutch ears. ‘Oxen’ are ‘ossen’ in Dutch which reminds us more of a slow pace, dragging your heavy wood clogged feet (‘klossen’)

And Vauxhall care are called Opel cars over here.

If anything, to the Dutch the word ‘oksel’ associates actively to ‘klotsen’ which is the specific sound of small waves lapping against the side of a wooden boat. (we are a sea faring nation). Or your drink lapping against the sides of the glass. (we are a beer drinking nation)

Either way: a liquid making its presence known.

This brings the knitter back to her original effort:

“I really want to get it right this time, I’m knitting with ‘klotsende oksels’!”

I guess ‘arm pit’ is a dirty word in Dutch too…


2 thoughts on “weird wool wednesday: dirty knitting word in another language

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