Can't live without an OED
Posted by Jessamyn on September 27, 1997 at 14:21:49:
In response to "Fustian"?, written by Peggyn on September 26, 1997 at 16:35:13
] Hi. Does anyone know the origin of the word "fustian"?
Turning to my trusty Oxford English Dictionary (and squinting fiercely), I see that it is "conjecturally derived" (whew!) from Fostat, the name of the Cairo suburb where the fabric known as fustian came from. Fustian was "a coarse cloth made of cotton and flax." I have a dim recollection of references being made to its being used for nursery tablecloths by the Victorians, which means it was cheap and hard-wearing.
Moving down the page, I see that it also has the "figurative" meaning of "inflated, turgid, or inappropriately lofty language; speech or writing composed of high-sounding words and phrases..." Just as I'm wondering why it ever came to mean such a thing, I see that it refers me to the similarly meant word "bombast."
Bombast, I'm fascinated to learn, got its current meaning in a similar way. It used to mean cotton-wool; and it used to be used for stuffing and padding. So if you stuff and pad your conversation with a bunch of meaningless fluff, you are guilty of bombast. Or, for similar reasons I imagine, fustian.
Thanks very much for starting me on an unexpected trip through the dictionary!
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