The curious case of étreindelles

Harmonised System, the international language of trade for 30 years

19 July 2018

"It would be highly appreciated if you could provide any information on the meaning of étreindelles used in the third paragraph of Note 7 (a) to Chapter 59" came the request for information in 1995, a hint of perplexed desperation apparent in the underlined ‘any’.

And there was reason to feel perplexed, for an extensive search of French language dictionaries and encyclopaedias revealed no trace of the elusive étreindelles’ existence. However, further enquiries revealed that the ‘word’ existed in the first version of the CCC Nomenclature in 1955 and even before then in the 1937 Geneva Nomenclature. In English the equivalent term used for Note (7) to Chapter 59 is ‘straining cloth.’

So, where did this word come from?

In the spirit of a Cold Case, we re-opened enquiries but using the internet instead of DNA. We found that the word ‘Étreindelles’ occurs in Émile Littré: Dictionnaire de la langue française (1872-77). There is even an image of an étreindelle from a 19th century book reproduced on the internet (see illustration).

This concludes the curious case of étreindelles. The deployment of 21st century technology to locate a sub-heading derived from the 19th century proves that sometimes you have to go backwards to go forwards.

Original étreindelle memo from 1995
Original étreindelle memo from 1995

19th Century image of an Étreindelle.
19th Century image of an Étreindelle