Don't have a cow, man

WHILE musing about dairy cattle, Paul Cliff of the University of New England realised that the Channel Islands seemed to have provided names for footballers' strips: jerseys and guernseys. "Did the terms in fact derive from those islands?" he asked. "Did both words arrive into common usage at the same time? Have they been variously favoured in Australia/elsewhere?"

Yes, yes and yes. Both Jersey and Guernsey were noted for their woollen sweaters and so the island names entered the language as ordinary nouns in the 19th century.
    Guernsey is more favoured in Australia, particularly in the sporting context, and is pretty well unknown in the United States, but otherwise the two terms have spread pretty evenly and have much the same meaning, although the phrase "Give him a jersey" doesn't have the same ring as "Give him a guernsey", does it?. (For non-Australians: "Give him a guernsey" means "Give him a go", as in selection for the team.)
    Both island names are Norse, with the -ey itself meaning island. Jersey probably comes from Geirr's Island and Guernsey from Grani's Island, or possibly Green Island. Geirr was a Norse personal name meaning spear.

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