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A piece of gut cello string

Catgut is a type of cord[1] that is prepared from the natural fiber in the walls of animal intestines.[2] Usually sheep or goat intestines are used, but it is occasionally made from the intestines of a hog, horse, mule, pig or donkey. Although one could conceivably prepare catgut from cat intestines, the name neither implies nor derives from any association with cats.

Contents

Etymology

The word catgut may have been an abbreviation of the word "cattlegut". Alternatively, it may have derived by folk etymology from kitgut or kitstring -- the word kit, meaning fiddle, having at some point been confused with the word kit for little cat.[3] A third theory is that violinists used the term "catgut" in order to protect the secret behind their strings, as pet cats were considered taboo during the Middle Ages.

Production

In order to prepare catgut, the intestines are cleaned, freed from fat, and steeped for some time in water. After that, the external membrane is scraped off with a blunt knife. The intestines are then once again steeped for some time, in an alkaline lye, and then smoothed and equalized by drawing out. Next, they are subjected to the antiseptic action of the fumes of burning sulphur, dyed if necessary, sorted into sizes, and twisted together into cords of various numbers of strands according to their uses. The best strings for musical instruments are reputedly from Italy, and are called “Roman strings.” It is found that lean animals yield the toughest gut.[4]

Common uses

For a long time, catgut was the most common material for the strings of harps, lutes, violins, and violas, as well as other stringed musical instruments, although most musical instruments produced today use strings with cores made of other materials, generally steel or synthetic. However, catgut strings are still most commonly preferred in concert-tension pedal/grand and some lever harps because they give a richer, darker sound as well as can withstand high tension within low alto, tenor and high-bass ranges. Catgut is still used as a high-performance string in tennis racquets, although it had more popularity in the past and is being displaced by synthetic strings. Other uses of catgut include hanging the weights of clocks and for bow-strings. In addition, catgut suture was once a widely used material in surgical settings. However, there is currently some debate about whether to continue using catgut in a medical setting, since cotton is usually cheaper and wounds closed with either cotton or synthetic threads are less prone to infection.[5] However, catgut sutures continued to be used in developing countries where they are locally less expensive and easier to obtain.[citation needed]

References

  1. ^ Underwood, Oscar Wilder (1913). "Tariff schedules: Hearings before the Committee on ways and means" (in English). Strings for Musical Instruments. p. 5691. http://books.google.com/books?id=fGgsAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA5691&dq=catgut+intestines+sheep&ei=KEAzStzqGJG-zATamcG4Bg#v=onepage&q=catgut%20intestines%20sheep&f=false. Retrieved February 27, 2010. "[T]here is no such thing as crude catgut or catgut unmanufactured. Catgut is a manufactured article and a finished product; the crude form are the intestines or guts of sheep or other animals." 
  2. ^ Roenigk, Randall K.; Henry H. Roenigk. "Roenigk & Roenigk's dermatologic surgery: principles and practice" (in English). p. 93. http://books.google.com/books?id=VgzI_gZ-7hcC&pg=PA93&dq=catgut+intestines+sheep&ei=KEAzStzqGJG-zATamcG4Bg. Retrieved February 2010. "Catgut sutures are derived from the submucosal layer of the small intestine of sheep and the serosal layer of the small intestine of cattle." 
  3. ^ Theraputic Gazette
  4. ^ Workshop Companion
  5. ^ Cotton vs Catgut

External links

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CATGUT, the name .applied to cord of great toughness and tenacity prepared from the intestines of sheep, or occasionally from those of the horse, mule and ass. Those of the cat are not employed, and therefore it is supposed that the word is properly kitgut, kit meaning "fiddle," and that the present form has arisen through confusion with kit= cat. The substance is used for the strings of harps and violins, as well as other stringed musical instruments, for hanging the weights of clocks, for bow-strings, and for suturing wounds in surgery. To prepare it the intestines are cleaned, freed from fat, and steeped for some time in water, after which their external membrane is scraped off with a blunt knife. They are then steeped for some time in an alkaline ley, smoothed and equalized by drawing out, subjected to the antiseptic action of the fumes of burning sulphur, if necessary dyed, sorted into sizes, and twisted together into cords of various numbers of strands according to their uses. The best strings for musical instruments are imported from Italy ("Roman strings"); and it is found that lean and ill-fed animals yield the toughest gut.


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