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Head or hand? The origin of the world HANDKERCHIEF

Posted By: 13/02/2017

Before people used the word handkerchief, the word kerchief alone was common. This term came from two French words: couvrir, which means “to cover,” and chef, which means “head.”

In the times of ancient Greece and Rome, handkerchiefs were often used the way they are today. But in the Middle Ages, kerchiefs were usually used to cover the head.


Then in the 16th century, people in Europe began to carry kerchiefs in their pockets to wipe their forehead or their nose. To distinguish this kind of kerchief from the one used to cover the head, the word "hand" was added to "kerchief".


King Richard II of England, who reigned from 1377 to 1399, is widely believed to have invented the cloth handkerchief, as surviving documents written by his courtiers describe his use of square pieces of cloth to wipe his nose. Certainly they were in existence by Shakespeare's time, and a handkerchief is an important plot device in his play Othello.


The material of a handkerchief can be symbolic of the socioeconomic class of the user, not only because some materials are more expensive, but because some materials are more absorbent and practical for those who use a handkerchief for more than style.


From the late 18th century white handkerchiefs were waved, generally by women (men usually waved their hats), to demonstrate approval at public events such as processions or political rallies.


Using handkerchiefs to accentuate hand movements while dancing is a feature of both West African and African-American traditional dance, in the latter case especially in wedding celebrations


Source: Wikipedia
 
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