From Hull AWE
Jump to: navigation, search

Jean can be confusing, as a forename in European cultures, or as a common noun. There are two very different names written Jean:

  • The French Jean (pronounced rather like 'John', to which it is equivalent, but with a softer 'J-' sound (IPA: /ʒ/ as opposed to IPA: /dʒ/: more like the second '-g-' in the orthodox way of saying 'garage') is a masculine name.
  • The British Jean (originally Scots, but now widespread) is a female forename. It is pronounced like gene, IPA: /dʒiːn/. It is the local form of Jane or Joan.
    • The fabric jean (with its derivative, the garment jeans, which are made of it) is derived from the name of the Italian town Genoa, where it was first made. The fabric is usually called denim nowadays. That is a corruption of serge de Nîmes, 'from Nimes': Nimes is the town in Southern France where it was first made. (See Words Derived From Names of Places .)
The commonly repeated story that jeans were named after a mythical 'Jean', said to be the wife of that Levi whose name is now given to a brand of jeans, is folk etymology, and wrong. The clothing firm of Levi-Strauss, with its brand name levi's or levis, was founded in 1853 by a real person, known as Levi Strauss (1829-1902). In 1873, he took out a patent (United States patent #139121) with a partner for working trousers reinforced with copper rivets at points of stress. Strauss's wife was called Rebecca, not Jean.