Lint and gnurr (gnrr)

Lint is a funny little word… it means fluffy stuff, the sort of thing you get in a first aid kit and never quite properly use; it’s exactly the sort of thing which sticks to wounds when it’s not supposed to… or maybe it was just me being a not very good first-aider.

In its natural stat lint is just random fluffy stuff, for example it can be as Wikipedia says:  ‘Fibrous coat of thick hairs covering the seeds of the cotton plant’… or it can be any old fluffy stuff such as  the ‘accumulation of fluffy fibres that collect on fabric’

The actual word is old, arriving at the end of the fourteenth century and coming by devious means from the Old English word for flax which was ‘lin‘ – hence linen.  Fluffy stuff when collected can be used for things, such as tinder for lighting fires, and as I mentioned for medical purposes – and here is a lovely description from the on-line etymological dictionary, lint is  “flocculent flax” . Because it is useful as tinder, its flammable property makes it dangerous in some situations, its combustible nature can lead to it being a fire hazard,

Exploring the word lint has led me to another odd word – gnurr… otherwise known as pocket lint, the dusty, fluffy rubbish which collects in pockets. and trouser turn-ups. No-one seems to know where it originated, and  people wondered about its pronunciation. Should it be pronounced ‘nurr’ with a silent ‘g’ like gnome, gnash, gnat and gnu? Or should the ‘g’ be voiced g’nurr, like Australians might say g’day? I have even seen it written as gnrr – with no vowel, but I think this is a mistake – unless it refers to the Georgia Northeastern Railroad which is known as GNRR… I know that trains accumulate dust and fluff, could that be the origin, from the Georgia Northeastern Railroad? I think probably not…


  1. David Lewis

    When I was a kid I was told that they make $100 bills out of belly-button lint so I started saving mine. Can’t remember how long it took before I realized I was being had.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. John Atkins

    In the musical MOST HAPPY FELLA there is a line about this. (Was looking it up to see if it’s true or not and came across your page.) She pronounces it ‘guh-nurr’ and spells it ‘gnrr’, then she adds ‘some people call it ‘smirgals’ – and starts to spell it, but says I don’t know how you spell that. Can’t find anything online about smirgals, so I’m just making up my own spelling.


    Liked by 1 person

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