MUNDANE MYSTERIES: Why Do We Call Them “Polka Dots”?

Polka dots are a fashion staple, and have been for a while. But why do we call them “polka dots”?

Polka dots originated around the same time as polka music & dancing. The term “polka” comes from the Czech word for “half” (as in, the half steps you would do to perform the dance), which swept across Europe & the US in the mid-1800s.

So, what do dots have to do with dancing? Well…it’s not really all that clear. The connection’s murky, at best, but it most likely was related to all the products that were being marketed as polka-related at the pinnacle of polka’s popularity. Prior to that, wearing polka dots in Europe was actually a bit taboo; because the hand-sewing prevalent at the time was inexact, most folks found it impossible to sew perfectly round circles that were evenly spaced.

But then, along came sewing machines & the circle pattern became possible for everyone. And, once that happened, manufacturers put dots on everything, from drapes to dresses and beyond…pretty much anything that they figured might be more likely to sell if it were somehow connected to the polka craze. As it turned out, the dot pattern stuck & grew in popularity over the years, even after polka’s popularity had waned.

Got a Mundane Mystery you’d like solved? Send me a message via social media (@AndyWebbRadioVoice), or shoot me an email at [email protected].

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