handkerchief |ˈhaŋkətʃɪf|noun (pl.handkerchiefs or handkerchieves |-tʃiːvz| )a square of cotton or other finely woven material intended for wiping one's nose.ORIGIN mid 16th cent.: from hand + kerchief.
kerchief |ˈkəːtʃɪf|nouna piece of fabric used to cover the head.• literary a handkerchief.DERIVATIVESkerchiefed adjectiveORIGIN Middle English kerchef, from Old French cuevrechief, from couvrir ‘to cover’ + chief ‘head’.
I’m so old I can remember when I owned handkerchiefs, real ones, finely woven material intended for wiping one’s nose. I had an aunt who used to give me a couple for Christmas every year, good ones, not as big as my father’s and not monogrammed like his, but more colourful. I used mine for lots of activities besides wiping my nose. In those days before Bic pens I used them to wipe my leaking, so-called fountain pens. They were also useful for wiping shoes, faster than polishing. I never stuffed them in my blouse though I knew some girls who did. I used oranges instead, but just for dress-up. I wonder when Kleenex was invented…
Kleenex was the first Western facial tissue, introduced in 1924 and originally marketed as a way to remove cold cream or makeup (it had been in use for centuries before in Japan; see History of facial tissue for details). Wikipedia
I never used to call it facial tissue, but people do now because there are a lot of different ones on the market. The word Kleenex is a registered brand name. It’s close to being a generic term but not quite. I never could say hanky; that seemed too cutesy, like panties and bra. I hate the nicknames.
An aside: a thong used to be a kind of sandal but it’s a kind of lingerie now- smaller than a bikini. What I used to call thongs are now flip-flops. It’s hard to keep ahead of these things.
A few years ago a very elegant close acquaintance gave me a very elegant handkerchief to thank me for something I had done for her. It came in its own special little square, flat box, enfolded in tissue paper and it was embroidered with a flower in one corner, white on white. I didn’t dare wipe my Bic on it let alone my nose. I still have it somewhere. I guess the Queen owns and uses handkerchiefs like that. I remember reading about some of the purveyors of fine luxury items to the monarch who get to claim they are the official suppliers of whatever item they sell, like Yardley’s - I remember that name - and others. I wonder if they offer the Queen a discount. A few weeks ago I was unable to get to the bank before I totally ran out of cash and I didn’t have any subway tickets. I searched through the pockets of various jackets and coats looking for spare change. I didn’t find any coins. It turned out that a single fare wouldn’t do when I told my plight to the transit clerk. You have to buy a bundle, or now - a Presto, I think it’s called (I used Senior tickets). He let me through and told me to pay double the next time, which I did. Well, there were no coins in my pockets but boy, did I have a collection of Kleenex/facial tissue. I guess that goes back to some reflex action rooted in time, when I tucked a tissue, a lipstick and a dollar - “mad money” - into a pocket before leaving the house. Those were in my carefree days when I didn’t need keys, ID, or glasses, or, or, or (driver’s license, credit cards, notebook, Bic or the equivalent, etc.).
I bet the Queen doesn’t stuff her ubiquitous handbag with all that. One ladylike handkerchief will do.