burlap bag / tow sack / crocus sack / gunnysack

If you feel that your question or comment doesn't fit into the categories above, feel free to post it here.

burlap bag / tow sack / crocus sack / gunnysack

Post by Wizard of Oz » Sat Mar 17, 2007 7:17 am

.. on thinking more about it, a hessian bag was more commonly called a sugarbag for rather obvious reasons .. in one life when I worked at the wheat silos on the wharf I sewed many, many sugarbags full of wheat and dust .. but heaps of things came in hessian bags, coal for instance and wool was bailed in hessian cloth .. and I do remember seeing clothes made from dyed hessian .. large rolls of hessian cloth were rolled out at shows and fairs to make quick cheap privacy screens for dunnys and showers ..

.. I suppose in reality a hessian bag, a gunnysack, and a burlap bag are not the same thing as each is made from the respective textile that it is named after ..
gunny 1711, Anglo-Indian goney "coarse fabric," from Hindi goni, from Skt. goni "sack."

burlap 1695, probably from M.E. borel "coarse cloth," from O.Fr. burel (see bureau); or Du. boeren "coarse," perhaps confused with boer "peasant." The second element, -lap, meaning "piece of cloth."

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary
.. hessian is a bit more roundabout as it seems the word hessian has been around for a lot longer than the textile that bears the name..
Hessian 1677, from former Grand Duchy of Hesse, now a state in central Germany, its soldiers being hired out to fight for other countries, esp. the British during the American Revolution. Hessian fly (Cecidomyia destructor) was a destructive parasite the ravaged U.S. crops late 18c., so named in erroneous belief that it was carried into America by Hessian mercenaries.

Source: Online Etymology Dictionary
.. but the Dictionary of word origins, Flavell 2004, p235, confirms that ”this loosely woven cloth made of jute … takes its name from the West German state of Hesse where it was made.” .. maybe the association with the Hessian Mercenaries is why the bags are not called hessian bags in the US ?? ..

.. of course from my little days the most delightful use for a sugarbag was at picnics for the olympic event of the bag race where I can at times remember being swamped by the size of the bag .. and little boys loved to have a hessian bag to carry little boy things in .. *grin* ..

WoZ O’Aus 17/03/07
Post actions:
Signature: "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

burlap bag / tow sack / crocus sack / gunnysack

Post by gdwdwrkr » Sat Mar 17, 2007 11:04 am

Around here, the Hessians were certainly stigmatized. Not far from where I live at the foot of the mountain there was/is (according to local lore)a rough settlement of mercenary Hessians who were marginalized by the culture during revolutionary times, and also by their immigrant-countrymen, as they represented a culture to be escaped.
To this day the "plain" men do not grow moustaches (though, once they marry, they grow full beards) because they eschew the pride they saw in those who sported the large vain moustaches popular among their countrymen who had persecuted them back home.
As an "english" (non-Amish/Mennonite) I may not be historically very accurate, but that's the local lore.
Reminds me of the sectarian quip about being "proud of our humility".
Post actions:

Re: burlap bag / tow sack / crocus sack / gunnysack

Post by KhloesJayde » Tue Dec 26, 2017 5:46 pm

According to my research, I find that these bags are usually made out of the same material/fabric and source of fabric. The reason that I found for it having the various names depends on the different locations that they are used. For example, I live in southwest Missouri, and I referred to these bags as being a gunnysack. My husband's grandfather was raised about 70 miles southeast that is also considered to be in southwest Missouri. He asked me one day to bring him an tow sack that he had stored in the shed. I was too embarrassed to admit that I didn't know what a tow sack was, so I went in search of my husband to ask him what his grandpa was wanting me to get for him. My husband had me follow him out to the shed and handed me the bag, and got a good laugh when I exclaimed, "Oh, a gunnysack!"
Post actions:

Re: burlap bag / tow sack / crocus sack / gunnysack

Post by BonnieL » Wed Dec 27, 2017 12:13 am

Interesting resurrection. When I was a child, we called them gunny sacks. Usually used for potatoes and gunny sack races. As my vocabulary grew, they became burlap bags. Two questions arose from musing on this subject - 1) Why did we never have burlap bag races? They are still called gunny sack races. 2) Why is it never gunny bag & burlap sack?

A third question: are there answers for my first 2 questions? :D
Post actions:

Re: burlap bag / tow sack / crocus sack / gunnysack

Post by Bobinwales » Wed Dec 27, 2017 1:02 pm

I am not quite sure that I am thinking about the same fabric , but I think that I would call it a sack and leave it at that.
Post actions:
Signature: All those years gone to waist!
Bob in Wales

End of topic.
Post Reply