The Lister List

Words for Folding Paper

As always, I come in late, but I can add one or two further snippets to this subject.

"Papiroflexia" is the usual term for paperfolding in Hispanic countries. However, notwithstanding that it is the equivalent of "Papierfalten" in German or "Paperfolding" in English, it is a fairly recent word, having been invented by Dr. Vicente Solorzano Sagredo of Argentina, probably sometime around 1910. Dr. Solorzano was fond of inventing new words and they included "deltoids", "deltoidology" and "papirola".

But what word did the Spanish use for folding paper before "Papiroflexia"? Vicente Palacios of Barcelona told me that the Spanish would talk of "making pajaritas". They would use this expression whether the actual model they were folding was an actual pajarita or not. From this the word "pajarita" came to be applied not just to the funny little bird which we all know as the pajarita, but also to any paperfolded model. Consequently, the word "pajarita" in Spanish usage may refer to models which are not the familiar bird, and it is necessary to exercise caution when reading the word in old records.

Although the pajarita/cocotte/hobby-horse/dragon is generally considered to be a western fold, because, like most early western folds, it is made from the Windmill Base, it is also traditional in Japan, where it is known as a dog ("inu"). Yoshizawa suggests that this was copied in the West. Vicente Palacios insists that the pajarita originated in Spain. Who is right?

I have mentioned the fairly recent invention of the word "papiroflexia" and compared it with "papierfalten" and "paperfolding".Surprising as it may seem, neither of those words, themsewlves, is particularly ancient. They seem to have originated as a result of the use of paperfolding in the Froebel Kindergarten, and because that originated in Germany, "papierfalten" came first. It is difficult to date, but around 187O would not be far off. As German Froebelian works were translated into English, so "paper folding" was the natural; translation. Before Froebel and his followers adopted folding paper as a basis for teaching kinderarten children, there was no concept of paperfolding as a seprate activity. It was no more than - folding paper, or making unrelated paper toys. Without the concept, there was no call for a special word.

Neither "Paper-folding" nor "Paperfolding" appears in the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary of 1928. (The section containing words beginning with P came out about twenty years earlier.) Of course, "paper" and "folding" are long-standing English words and their combination to make first, "paper folding" and later to hyphenate the two words as "paper-folding" is a natural process in the language, so the particular date "paper-folding" became an established word is indeterminable. Possibly 1880 would be about the time "paper-folding" as a word became estqablished in English. I admit, however that I am writing according to my recollection and not after recent research.

Now "paper-folding" is evolving into "paperfolding" without the hyphen. It is the form I myself prefer. How long before the OED recognises the change?

Talk about twittering pajaritas!

David Lister

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