Having finished Bunin’s Суходол [Dry Valley, also translated Drydale (name of estate)], an amazing, Faulkneresque novella about life at the Khrushchovs’ country estate in the 1850s as remembered by their former servant Natashka (who was madly in love with one of the Khrushchov sons), I started on the 1912 story Игнат [Ignat (name of character)], and quickly ran across a difficult word (there are lots of them in Bunin): “За ней, смеясь и что-то крича, выбежал на крыльцо, на тающий снег, Николай Кузьмич, приземистый, большеголовый, с тупым и властным профилем, в косоворотке из белого ластика и лакированных сапогах” [Behind her, laughing and shouting something, Nikolai Kuzmich ran out onto the porch, into the melting snow — thickset, bigheaded, with an obtuse and masterful profile, in a shirt made of white lastik and patent-leather boots]. The only ластик I was familiar with was a word for ‘(rubber) eraser,’ which was obviously not right here; fortunately, my Oxford dictionary had an entry for a different ластик, but it was defined as “(material) lasting,” which meant nothing to me. Again fortunately, Merriam-Webster includes the sense in their entry: “a sturdy cotton or worsted cloth used especially in shoes and luggage.” The OED (in an entry updated in September 2014) defines it as “A durable kind of cloth; spec. a strong worsted fabric formerly used for clothing and for the uppers of shoes (more fully lasting cloth)” and has a range of citations from 1748 (Gen. Advertiser 9 June Lastings, Shalloons, Fustians, Cottons, &c.) to 2000 (D. A. Farnie & T. Abe in D. A. Farnie et al. Region & Strategy in Brit. & Japan iv. 138 After the war Japan crowned its victory by surpassing Britain in the supply of lastings from 1918, of Italians from 1924 and of sateens from 1925). The one that struck me was this:

1993 D. L. Ransel tr. O. S. Tian-Shanskaia Village Life in Late Tsarist Russia iv. 56 On holidays, the men..wear cotton shirts, trousers of lasting cloth, [etc.].

The original Russian, if you’re curious (as of course I was), is: “На мужиках домашнего производства будничный костюм: рубаха, портки, онучи, лапти, поддевка, тулуп, а в праздник мужик (особенно молодой) надевает ситцевую рубаху, ластиковые шаровары, жилетку (иногда пиджак и калоши даже) и сапоги бутылками.” So now I know what it is (though I don’t really have a mental image of it, since I’ve never paid much attention to cloth and don’t know worsted except as a word where you don’t pronounce the -r-), but since it doesn’t seem to have been in use since WWI, it’s odd (though lucky for me) that the Oxford dictionary bothered to include it. Are any of you familiar with this sense of lasting?


  1. That makes me wonder whether it’s lasting because it’s durable, or whether it has something to do with the lasts used in the shoemaking process. A quick googling turns up a Dutch-English dictionary from 1766 that translates “a lasting cloth” as “een duurzaam laken”, which seems to suggest the former.

  2. Learned this word from your post.

    Did some search on Russian “lastik” cloth and it’s not obsolete at all – the word is apparently well known in clothing and fashion industry (maybe women are more familiar with it – Google search images mostly show tight sportswear for women).

    Never heard of English “lasting cloth” (and if I read, I probably didn’t realize it was a term and not an epithet).

  3. AJP Crown says

    From everlasting, lasting cos it’s durable, Ransom.

    lasting, n.

    (ˈlɑːstɪŋ, ˈlæst-)

    [Elliptical use of lasting ppl. a.]

    A durable kind of cloth; = everlasting B. 3.

       1782 Pennant Journ. Chester to Lond. 141 The making and sale of shags, camblets, lastings, tammies, &c.    1844 G. Dodd Textile Manuf. iv. 113, 3–4 Lastings, 3–4 Fancy Lastings.    1857 James Hist. Worsted Manuf. x. 362 There were different sorts of lastings as prunelles wrought with three healds. Also serge de Berry.    1871 Echo 14 Jan., Other branches of trade,‥such as damask and lastings, have much benefitted by the war.    1878 A. Barlow Weaving 440 Lastings, a strong cloth used for ladies’ boots and made of hard twisted yarn.    1895 Strand Mag. Mar. 311 The man is clothed in a suit of ‘lasting’—that curious leathery material affected by the London apprentices in the days of Queen Elizabeth.

    b.b attrib.

       1872–6 Voyle & Stevenson Milit. Dict., Lasting Cloth, a material similar to prunella cloth.‥ It has the property of not readily catching fire.    1892 Labour Commission Gloss., Lasting-shoes, shoes of which the tops or upper parts are made from lasting.

    [Goes away to look up shags, camblets, tammies, &c.]

  4. Lucy Kemnitzer says

    Side note: I use the word “worsted” a lot (in reference to yarn more than cloth), and I definitely pronounce the R, and I’v never heard it without the R.

    I’m assuming from the little bit of description that lasting is like a duck, a canvas, or a denim: a heavy tabby or twill, tightly woven of tightly spun yarns.

  5. Did some search on Russian “lastik” cloth and it’s not obsolete at all

    Judging from the relevant Wikipedia page for Ластик (ткань) this appears to be in part because the Russian word is now sometimes applied to cotton or silk polyester blends rather than the durable cotton cloth originally signified.

  6. I’m assuming from the little bit of description that lasting is like a duck, a canvas, or a denim: a heavy tabby or twill, tightly woven of tightly spun yarns.

    Thanks, that gives me a better idea of it!

  7. “worsted” … I definitely pronounce the R, and I’v never heard it without the R.

    With the R seems to be the American pronunciation (judging by

    I’m a Brit, I say ‘woosted’. Same vowel as in Bertie Wooster. The name’s from a village now spelled ‘Worstead’ in Norfolk (which I’ve visited). Domesday book has Wrdesteda and Ordested. The Norfolk/East Anglia cloth trade was set up by weavers from Flanders.

  8. Dictionaries give the rless FOOT pronunciation first for US, then the rful NURSE one. Except CALD, which I suspect is a Brit mistake rather than more up to date reporting of a change in progress. OTOH there must be Brits who say it with NURSE, like its homograph verb, but no dictionary reports them. Worstead is not as famous as Worcester.

  9. ə de vivre says

    If lasting cloth is used in the uppers of shoes, is it related to a shoemaker’s last?

  10. AJP Crown says

    I like the drawing by graphic artist Yuli Ganf (Ганф Юлий Абрамович 1898–1973) from 1923. It shows a natty dresser with a Poirot moustache who’s wearing a black-belted Kosovorotka (what’s going on at the top of his right sleeve?) I’d describe it as a tunic rather than a shirt. Ganf became art editor of Krokodil during the war. He was from Kharkov in Ukraine – as is Cassandre, his contemporary, who was b. 1901 in Kharkov to French parents. C. moved to France when he was 14 and disappointingly I can’t find any connection between them but Ganf’s kosovorotka drawing reminds me a bit of Cassandre’s Dubonnet posters.

  11. Lars (the original one) says

    The thing over his right sleeve has to be the grip of the scythe. I’ve never seen one with two fittings like that, but some spade and shovel grips are attached in similar ways.

  12. Oh, right. It ought to be scythe coloured and not kosovorotka coloured. Perhaps it was too prominent.

  13. In Bulgarian, the only meaning of ластик that I know of is “rubber band”, and also the game of skip, the one that children play with a rope.

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