News just in: chenille, the stuff of bathrobes the world over, turns out to be French for CATERPILLAR, which in turn derives from the word for LITTLE DOG. Yes, LITTLE DOG. No - I know I promised only one dog reference per fortnight, and this is the second for the day - but this information is TRUE. And USEFUL. You never know when some scoundrel will try to fob you off with a box of caterpillars (or - heaven forfend - puppies) instead of a posh dressing gown.
My trusty Oxford Anglo Lexicon describes chenille as "A kind of velvety cord, having short threads or fibres of silk and wool standing out at right angles from a core of thread or wire, like the hairs of a caterpillar; used in trimming and bordering dresses and furniture." But of course! Like the hairs of a caterpillar! The Parisian haberdasher who came up with that one wasn't just a pretty face.
While it's plain to see how the fabric took its name from the caterpillar, it's not as clear how caterpillars resemble little dogs. But we blame not France here. Those tricksy Romans were calling caterpillars "caniculae" from way back.
The plot thickens: a véhicule à chenilles, rather than being a truck full of caterpillars, or puppies, or bathrobes, is one of those tractor jobs with the two endless steel bands on each side. Perfect for traversing rough terrain, as is the limited edition chenille commando trouser.
Chenille! Versatile, absorbent, stylish, and like a small brown insect given to devouring cabbage.