Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Word Mystery: zipper / cremallera / fermeture Éclair


Word Mysteries are where words in languages that I know don’t correspond to each other at all despite those languages often sharing lexical histories. These words are both mystifying (why are they different?) and annoying (why must you be different?!).

I thought YKK invented zippers.

I thought YKK invented zippers.

If I were one of those proverbial typing monkeys who eventually write Shakespeare, I would still never have guessed the origins of today’s words inspired by yesterday’s childhood memory.

EN → zipper — a device consisting of two flexible strips of metal or plastic with interlocking projections closed or opened by pulling a slide along them, used to fasten garments, bags, and other items.
ORIGIN: 1925, probably from ‘zip.’ The trademark taken out on the name that year applied to a boot with zippers, not to the “lightning fastener” itself, which was at first called a zip. [source]

ES cremallera — Barra metálica con dientes en uno de sus cantos, para engranar con un piñón. [Metal strip with teeth on one side and gears on the other.]
Del francés crémaillère [from the French crémaillère: rack and pinion mechanism].

FR fermeture Éclair — Fermeture à glissière de la marque Éclair. [Sliding closing mechanism by the Éclair brand.] The “e” should always be capitalized as it’s a brand name.

The first zippers were developed in the US (U-S-A! U-S-A!) in 1891. You can read more about the evolution of zippers in last month’s NYT Magazine.

UPDATE: How many zipper-related injuries would you guess there were in a ten-year study? If you said 17,616 you were right.


Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

2 thoughts on “Word Mystery: zipper / cremallera / fermeture Éclair

  1. I love the photo. I’ve seen the YKK before, but like most small details, didn’t think much about it. However, any company that makes anything, and controls 90% of the world market is impressive. It makes me want to buy some stock. ~James

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