24 Mar 2014

IBM - CIA - SSK ... k2tog?

I remember meeting someone at my driving test when we were first in the USA. As we all waited for our turn around the driving course he said that he was going to "really make something of himself — go to work for some three letter organization." 

I really had no idea what he meant at first and then figured it out. "Oh like IBM or the CIA, you mean?" I said. "Yeah, that's it." Quite a surprising difference between the two of course, but he didn't seem to mind. Once you were with a three-letter organization of some kind then you had really achieved something. 

And it's the same in knitting, isn't it? When Barbara Walker was putting a name together for her new stitch technique: "Slip two stitches knitwise, one at a time, to the right-hand needle, pass them back to the left-hand needle and knit the two stitches together through the backs of the loops", she coined the term "SSK"

This elegant shortening captures a lot of information in just 3 letters: Slip, Slip, [remember to do all that bit in the middle without another letter coming into the name], Knit [two stitches together tbl]. Simple, easy, catchy.

So why do we still have k2tog and p2tog? Why haven't these morphed into K2T and P2T? Personally I think this would be an improvement, and surely the magazine folks would prefer an acronym with just 3 letters instead of 5. Fewer column inches and much easier to read. It is also a better mirror of the SSK, since these often occur together. For example:

Row 1: K1, SSK, wk to last 3 sts, k2tog, k1.
Row 1: K1, SSK, wk to last 3 sts, K2T, K1.

The second one there definitely gets my vote! Of course we can say it's tradition, but we have long since lost the "K1, sl 1, psso" abbreviation [Knit 1, slip 1, pass slip stitch over]. This is now reduced down to the much more succinct "KSP" [Knit, Slip, Pass]. 

Over time we have changed many other knitting terms such as "widen" [increase] or "narrow" [decrease]. The term "narrow" was our dear friend "k2tog" and even that was sometimes abbreviated to just one letter: "N", but that has long-since gone. 

There have been some attempts to produce standardised lists of knitting terms, such as the US Craft Yarn Council's List of Abbreviations, but still there are many variations in different books, magazines and individual patterns. 

There are also international differences which just adds to the complexity. For example, I still can't get used to using the term "rep" for "repeat" instead of "rpt" which is the more usual form in the UK and Australia. I always feel like I should be doing an exercise routine when I see the numbers of "reps" I need to work in a pattern!

 Still, the 3-letter "K2T" doesn't seem to have made the suggested lists, but perhaps I should be radical and sneak it into my next pattern... 

Happy Knitting!


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