On "gamps" – the word

The thing with being a non-native speaker is that sometimes you don’t even reflect on strange words. "Gamp" is what it is called, even if I would have tried with "colour sampler" first
It seems to me that "sampler" (or just "sample") is any sample, but a "gamp" always is about colour. Am I wrong on that? Or can a "structure sampler" (like, for instance the draft here) also be a gamp?

Somewhere I’ve heard the explanation that it comes from Sarah Gamp, the Dickens character. Now I decided to try to look it up.
Dicitonaries of course gave nothing – there is no English word spelled "gamp", just so you know...
Next try: google.
I got lots of hits. ALL of them (ok, just the first 20 or so) told me that is is British slang for umbrella, named after Sarah Gamp (see above). Unless, of course, it means Good Automated Manufacturing Practice.

On Wikipedia, I found that Sarah (or Sairey) Gamp "habitually carries with her a battered black umbrella".

So, dear readers (especially the native speakers among you) – WHY does a BLACK (and battered) umbrella lend the name to a COLOUR, er, "gamp"?

1 comment:

Cate Markey said...

Hello Kerstin,

I just recently found your interesting blog and I'm taking my time catching up on the posts.

You asked a question about the word gamp. Having woven my own color gamp I wondered why I hadn't asked your word origins question.

I checked Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles, sure that I would find the answer - but did not. No entry for gamp, color gamp or any similar word.

http://weavezine.com/content/color-gamps has an article by Michele Belson on color gamps. She also references The book The Magic of Handweaving by Sigrid Piroch has a chapter "Weave a Rainbow" which discusses color gamp theory and includes instructions for weaving four different types of color gamp. I don't seem to have that book on my shelf so don't know if she can shed any light on origins of the word.

Though in practical use among U. S. users, gamp is most often associated with color - it can also refer to structure gamp or twill gamp or other sampling.

Seems odd that we can't get closer to a textile meaning - unless somehow the faded cotton umbrella set the stage.

Cate Markey