Cotton (verb)

Posted by TheFallen on August 14, 2002 at

In Reply to: Cotton (verb) posted by R. Berg on August 14, 2002

: : The origin of " I don't cotton to that".

: The Oxford English Dictionary gives earlier figurative senses of "cotton": "To prosper, succeed, 'get on' well" (obsolete) and "To 'get on' together or with each other; to suit each other; to work harmoniously, harmonize, agree." The OED says the origin of the figurative senses is uncertain but directs the reader to some of its quotations. First, "cotton" as a verb has a few literal meanings, including this old one: "Of cloth, etc.: To form or take on a nap, to rise with a nap." Now, these are the quotations that hint at the transition to the figurative sense:
: [Literal sense:]
: In making Hats, 'To Cotton well', is when the Wooll and other Materials work well and imbody together .
: 'Cotton', to succeed, to go on prosperously: a metaphor, probably, from the finishing of cloth, which when it cottons, or rises to a regular nap, is nearly or quite complete .
: [Figurative sense:]
: It cottens well; it cannot choose but bear A pretty nap .

: Presumably the later figurative senses, "To agree, to fraternize" and "To 'take' to, attach oneself to; to become drawn or attached to," developed from the earlier figurative ones.

You learn something new every day on this board. There I was, reading the previous two posts and wondering what the Heck they were talking about, till a dash to my dictionary fortunately revealed that "to cotton to something" is a US expression apparently meaning to begin to like something. I'm pretty sure that this usage is totally unknown in the UK.

Speaking of cotton as a verb, does the US have the expression "to cotton on (to something)", meaning to realise or come to understand, which is prevalent in the UK?