Mangled words!

Thick polyester “fleece” blankets are popular in the winter here in the Rio area. I mean double thick heavy things, far too warm for the actual 60F night temperatures. I find them clammy and unpleasant. They are popularly printed with colorful scenes or cartoon characters. Sometimes they are just plain brown.

Of all weird names these blankets are called “edredom” (eh-dre-DON) which seemed a mysteriously un-Latin thing to call a blanket. No Portuguese in their right mind would have invented that word. It’s a bit like “gorgurão,” the long-suffering version of the French word “grosgrain” (a kind of ribbon, if you don’t sew). These are the sorts of mouthfuls that the young people in my English classes struggle with. Too many consonants in all the wrong places.

Finally, the mystery is solved.

Edredom is from “eiderdown,” the ‘featherbeds’ used in northern Europe at night, which in the USA we would call a ‘down quilt’.

The word apparently crept into French from Danish, and from French it spread into Catalan, Spanish, and Portuguese. I assume it spread along with the sales of imported or imitated Danish eiderdowns into Iberia. Perhaps when some Danish princess popularized them during a marriage or a voyage?

Ever wondered what eiderdown is? It’s the down feathers from a kind of duck what lives in the north Atlantic. It’s collected from the abandoned nests of the ducks: the female ducks line the nests with these delicate feathers. Sixteen nests yield a kilo of feathers – the tradition of collecting the feathers dates to the 9th century.

A cool video about it:

And the mysterious origins of polyester fleece: