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I thought we spoke the same language…?

March 9, 2012

Apparently not! I was totally wrong about what a jumper is, so here is what I gather is the correct terminology:

Everyone calls a dress a dress (sometimes frock but that always sounds like a rude word to me, and it’s awkward to pronounce. Awkward.)


According to a jumper is:

Sweater, a heavy shirt usually made from wool
Jumper dress, a sleeveless, collarless dress

According to Urban Dictionary a jumper is:

The British word for a sweater. In the United States, a jumper is a kind of dress or coverall.
In the Harry Potter books, Mrs. Weasley makes jumpers for her children.

Hope these etsy sellers don't mind me posting they're pictures. I'm linking back to them though!

Americans call sleeveless layering dresses jumpers (because it’s easy to jump in them…? who knows), the English call this type of dress a  pinafore dress (jump in and correct me if I’m wrong). Though I’ve always associated pinafores with overly fancy aprons. But, I guess I’m not far off, here is what, again, has to say about pinafores:

A pinafore  (colloquially pinny  in British English) is a sleeveless garment worn as an apron.

Pinafores may be worn by girls as a decorative garment and byboth girls and women as a protective apron. The name reflects that the pinafore was formerly pinned (pin) to the front (afore) ofa dress. The pinafore had no buttons, was simply “pinned on thefront” which led to the term “pinafore.”

A related term is pinafore dress , which is British English for whatin American English is known as a jumper dress, i.e. a sleevelessdress intended to be worn over a top or blouse. A key differencebetween a pinafore and a jumper dress is that the pinafore is open in the back. In informal British usage however, a pinafore dress issometimes referred to as simply a pinafore, which can lead to confusion.

But, it get’s more confusing! Jumper has a different meaning too. A jumper in England (and surrounding areas I assume) is what Americans call a sweater, a thick knitted top (if your lucky, with cute kittens or polar bears stitched into it) to keep you warm. I’m informed by Emily (a New Zealander) that she calls them jerseys, which is all confirmed again by

A sweater , pullover , jumper , or jersey  is a relatively heavy shirt intended to cover the torso and arms of the human body (though, in some cases, sweaters are made for dogs and occasionally other animals) and usually worn over a shirt, blouse, T-shirt or other top. Sweaters tend to be, and in earlier times always were, made from wool (typically of sheep, though possiblyof alpaca or other type); however, they can be made of cotton, synthetic fibres, or some combination thereof.

"Back in 2005 in Australia, tiny fairy penguins Toby and Percina modeled sweaters that were being sent for the rehabilitation of penguins involved in oil spills."

Hope that didn’t add to anyone’s confusion, I know matters of jumpers are life and death to some people.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 9, 2012 6:42 am

    Haha! This was a fun read, your people have a crazy language, that´s for sure! 😉

    Just to add some fun facts to the charts, in Norwegian we sometimes use the word “pullover” (in English) as a term for a vest (you know, a sleeveless jumper/sweater/jersey), and sometime in our language´s history, probably in the fifties, the word “jumper” was introduced as a synonym for the already excising Norwegian word “genser”. And that word, “genser” is derived from Guernsey (you know the British isle). Apparently it was a very popular sweater/jumper from Guernsey that was introduced to the Norwegians, and thus replaces the even older common word “trøye”, but we are not even going to go there. This is only a comment, after all…Oh, how I love languages! 🙂

    • March 9, 2012 7:39 am

      Even more craziness! In American English vests are more like waistcoats with buttons up the front (but we do have sweater vests that are literally just chunky sweaters without the sleeves) and a sleeveless knit top used for layering or summer time is called a tank top.

  2. March 9, 2012 8:49 am

    Penguins in sweaters! Awwww.

    I’d forgotten the term pinafore dress. To me it connotes something a bit less structured, what I’d normally call a tank dress these days, but I’ve certainly heard it used in the UK.

  3. March 9, 2012 9:25 am

    I’m in the UK and would use sweater, jumper, pullover or jersey (although jumper is probably the one I use most often). I do tend to think of sweater as a more American term. I wore a pinafore dress sometimes as child. The apron kind of pinafore might also be referred to as a ‘pinny’. A jumper dress I would think of as something like a jumper but extended to dress length.

    I think the Genser type of jumper mentioned above is what in the UK is now known as a Gansey (a friend of mine has knitted some).

    Don’t let’s get into vests, which are items of underwear here!

    • March 9, 2012 1:43 pm

      the Irish/Gaelic for jumper is geansaí – even though we don’t really use Irish as a first language (outside of certain areas) here, geansaí is commonly used in place of jumper

  4. Pedro permalink
    March 9, 2012 10:17 am

    On a different but related note, the terms Britain, England, and the United Kingdom always confused me until a friend of mine showed me this video:

    And interestingly enough, I am currently (supposed to be) writing a research paper for my anthropology class on kindof this topic. It’s going to be titled “Dialect Leveling in the Post-Colonial American West.” I should really get started on that… Well, anyway, I enjoy language as well.

    • March 9, 2012 1:57 pm

      ha I spent a summer in Edinburgh, Scotland when I was in college and worked two jobs – one in a bottling factory (don’t ask!) about a 15-20 minute walk away from city centre and it was like crossing over some imaginary border – the women who worked there had such strong accents and used colloquial phrases I’d never heard it was like speaking a different language, and they had as much trouble trying to understand my fairly light Irish accent. The other job was in a bar and related to your video link, I have a feeling one of the regulars had himself marked as Scottish rather than British on his passport cos he was so adamant that he was Scottish and not a subject of the Queen!
      Good luck with your paper 🙂

  5. March 9, 2012 11:49 am

    Interesting post! Yep the first two garments I would call a jumper. Sweater, jersey and pullover as well but they don’t roll off the tongue. I think it’s funny when Americans don’t understand some English accents. I went to the States a few yeas back and remember watching an interview of a woman from Birmingham in the UK with sub-titles! I also watched Paddington expecting to see the English fluffy bear and it was a nasty cartoon version with Paddington dressed as Elvis!!

    • March 9, 2012 11:53 am

      oh, Paddington dressed as Elvis sounds horrible!

  6. March 10, 2012 12:35 am

    It’s always fun to read these posts and to think that you’re all native speaklers! When I started reading sewing blogs, my garment vocabulary increased by x10, I love it.

  7. March 10, 2012 12:36 am

    (Speakers, I mean, oops)

  8. March 10, 2012 2:03 am

    Oh crap and I thought pants vs trousers was confusing. What have you started!!!? PS thanks for the link :o)

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