20 June 2008

Is "bespoke" a word that is "moving on" ??

“A group of Savile Row tailors have lost their fight to stop the term "bespoke" from being used by menswear retailers to sell suits which have not been made entirely by hand…

The word was coined by tailors on Savile Row, London, in the 17th century and referred to a suit which was hand-crafted from a single bolt of cloth without the use of a pre-existing pattern.

Clients would have numerous fittings for the outfit, which would be hand-stitched and finished to the highest standard. These creations have long been synonymous with the best of British craftsmanship and even the simplest of bespoke suits can fetch £5,000.

However, Savile Row institutions… are concerned that the term "bespoke" is being used by some retailers for suits which are just made-to-measure… For the bargain price of £495 consumers were promised the choice of the finest Italian fabrics. But after an initial fitting session in London, the fabric was sent to Germany to be cut and sewn mostly by machine.

Although this is not strictly bespoke in the old-fashioned sense, the ASA has ruled that the historic term has moved on…”

Credit to Nothing To Do With Arbroath. Interestingly I discovered this morning that "bespoke" was not listed in the original OED, except as a past tense of "bespeak." It wasn't until the supplement was printed that "bespoke" appears, still as a ppl of "bespeak," but with the definition "Of goods: Ordered to be made, as distinguished from Ready-made. Also said of a tradesman who makes goods to order."

Of additional interest, here are the original definitions of "bespeak" -
1) To call out, exclaim, complain
2) To speak up, or out, to exclaim...
3) To speak against, charge, accuse...
4) To speak about, discuss, advise...
5) To speak for; to arrange for, engage beforehand: to 'order' (goods)
6) To speak to, to address...
7) To speak of, to indicate...

So, depending on how one interprets "for" the third and fifth definitions would appear to make "bespeak" a contranym - re which a separate post would be in order when I get some free time.

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