þriðjudagur, október 31, 2006

klæðskerinn

Yesterday I stopped in at Breytt og Bætt, the tailor shop hidden away on the previously unknown third floor (spennandi!) of the Smáralind shopping mall. The tailor there had been recommended to me as "Best in the Land". She's Polish but has been living here on the ice cube nine years and speaks comfortable and pleasant Icelandic. She also runs a booming business, judging by the foot traffic in and out of that godforsaken corridor location next to the Smáralind corporate offices. (What is it about the office sections of shopping malls that makes them have a universal feel of bleak desolation? I am remembering the office/bathroom hallways at the old Billerica Mall, next to Top o' the Town. And Burlington Mall, too, by the old food court that was across from Eric Fuch's Hobbies.)

Childhood reminiscences aside, I needed to get a Beantown-era suit re-fitted on account of all this Iceland-era swimmin', and my new Polish-Icelander friend said "No probalo!" After all the pins were in place and she was hanging the jacket up on her to-sew rack, I told her that the last guy to work on that was the classic Cambridge fixture Joe Caluti at Rizzo Tailors, custom-maker of John Kerry's suits. I asked her to evaluate his craftsmanship.

"Oh, fo' sho'!" she said (in perfect Icelandic) and then she did one better. She told me that the President of Iceland, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson himself, had stopped in recently with a suit that had been made for him in Italy. Apparently it was a total mess, needing no less than 15 alterations and commanding a total tailoring tab that required a couple of new bond issues. I'd like to get her and Old Man Rizzo together on that Icelandic suit-making reality television show Allt í fötum to see who's really got the right stuff.

Today's word of the day (to resurrect a summer favorite) is klæðskeri for tailor. The word is a two-parter, with the first part coming from the verb klæða, meaning "clothe". Think "clothe", "cloth", "clad" and you get the idea of the common roots: they all come from an old English word clæþa and I would bet a new suit that that word is related to the Icelandic klæða. The second part, skeri, means "one who cuts". So a tailor is a clothes-cutter in Icelandic. (And by the way, that word skeri is a long-lost brother to the English word shear.)

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