Arms or sleeves?

David on TEFL Smiler asks:

bq. Finally, for the moment – here’s a totally unrelated question: shirts have sleeves, right? But what about jumpers? I say they have arms, whereas someone I know here (from London) insists that they have sleeves, just like shirts. Any thoughts?

And here’s the rub: two of his commenters actually agree with him!

This is almost as bad as Germans calling a sleeveless (armless?) jumper a Pullunder.

12 thoughts on “Arms or sleeves?

  1. There are three of us that think that jumpers have arms, Margaret, not two! :) In Australia, anyway, we call them arms… I guess every country is different hey?

  2. You mean all three of you are in Australia? Fair dinkum!
    But if anyone in Britain calls them arms, that is not so surprising to me as to say you *can’t* call them sleeves. I can’t remember a knitting pattern that didn’t say ‘sleeves’. That’s why I reposted it here, to see if anyone else reacted.

  3. In the US, jumpers are sleeveless (armless?) dresses worn over a blouse. I had to look the word up to understand your discussion.


  4. Gary: I think the word ‘sweater’ is more common now. I was assuming, maybe wrongly, that if David says a jumper has arms, he would also so a sweater has arms.
    Paul: I was just thinking how the people in Stuttgart don’t seem to distinguish their legs from their feet.

  5. Btw I think that jumper would be BrE pinafore dress, but there may be a more modern term. We had to wear something like that as part of our school uniform, and it was called a tunic.

  6. You mean that famous word “Fuuuuuaaaasssss” Margaret? I hope Swabian accident & emergency depts. get it right….”Schneude mir den Fuuuuaaaas ab, Schwester”….


  7. Here’s the view from North America. Jumpers are what you call(ed) pinafore dresses, sleveless by definition. Sweaters are what you call jumpers. Garments have sleeves; bodies have arms.

  8. I don’t believe I mentioned right or wrong. If I gave that impression, my apologies. I come from a view that any word or expression can theoretically have any meaning. I merely didn’t like being told I was wrong, when I most certainly wasn’t. People have arms. Shirts have sleeves. Jumpers and coats have either. Typically. For me, jumpers, sweaters and pullovers are basically all the same. But what on earth is a pinafore dress? If it’s an armless/sleeveless jumper, then it basically sounds like some kind of Victorian name for a tanktop!

  9. Margaret: we obviously have more in common than I thought!

    David: sorry if I seemed to jump on you. However, you have been defended by Australians. This is a pinafore dress – a fairly short one. I suspect it’s the right term but they aren’t in fashion. I don’t know how much of your bum a tank top covers.

  10. What’s so bad about calling a tank top a “Pullunder?” Another example of how the German language can be surprisingly and pleasantly succinct. And you have to admire the ability to play around so cleverly with a foreign language.

  11. There’s nothing wrong with calling a sleeveless jumper a Pullunder (not a tank top, afaik – these are called Tank Top – Pullunder is a type of old-fashioned knitted garment worn over a shirt). Nothing except that it shows a complete misunderstanding of the meaning of Pullover. Playing around cleverly with a foreign language they don’t understand – shades of ‘Come in and find out’ in Douglas!

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