Natalie (http://knitting.xaviermusketeer.com/ ) has a contest going for favorite knitting-related lines from movies. Cheating slightly, I nominated the Sock Gap scene from Coupling. Then the second season DVD arrived and it contained the following exchange:

“He’s gorgeous!” “How gorgeous?” “Knitting pattern!”

Now, they are British, with all those explosive Ts and no R, so I backed it up to make sure that was the line, and it was. I was home from work early because I am sick. I was lying on the couch, feeling as though I had a sauna going in back of my eyes and a bird in my mouth scratching my throat with its feet (yes, I do feel awful, thanks), so I might have imagined the whole thing. But no, that was the line. A line or two later, she says “You can put down your knitting needles.”

Is this common British slang, based on Cockney rhymes we will never be able to guess? Or is it a reference to the type of model preferred for illustrations of British knitting patterns? The guy fishing in Alice Starmore’s Fair Isle waistcoat will be classically handsome, you can be sure, with maybe a bit of a five o’clock shadow to complement the vampire make-up on her female models. Or maybe the chaste beauty of knitting patterns themselves has inspired the term’s use.

I don’t know. But it does seem like a discreet way to discuss the subject, at least for Americans. “Knitting pattern,” you could say, with a glance toward the guy serving the coffee. Your companions would not miss the opportunity to admire him (and actually the guy who serves coffee at our local bakery is the handsomest man in town, at least until #1 son grows up), but neither you nor he would be embarrassed.

Unless he has also seen the show.