It sounds natural (of course other than "unzip, "come undone") to use open with zips. Like (if they sound natural)..

Open your zipper.

Your zipper is open.

But it does not sound natural to say:(now the unnatural ones

Your button is open.( unnatural)

Open your button.(unnatural)

Why is this difference? Why is it only "undone" and "do up" for buttons but "open" sounds okay for zippers (along with alteranatives of course;>)

  • I would say "your zipper is open" isn't particularly natural speech. We would say, "your fly/jacket/briefcase is unzipped."
    – pboss3010
    May 2 '19 at 15:56

It's because that's the action of a zipper. It is a long ribbon of teeth. When you stitch it into place over a gap in fabric, it forms a sort of "seam" which naturally "opens" and "closes" as the zipper performs its function.

A button works differently. The "button" isn't the entire closing device, merely one half of it. It is just a knob which has to fit into a buttonhole to work. The button itself, as it works, is passive. According to the meaning of "open", you can't really say that a button does that particular verb.

If you name the entire closure (e.g. the "fly") you can refer to it opening and closing: "Your fly is open." [Whether it opens and closes by zipper or by buttons]

  • Exactly. Your answer also explains why, even though we don't say "Your button is open," we might well say, "Your shirt is open.".
    – J.R.
    May 2 '19 at 16:07
  • 1
    You could say "Your buttons are undone" though. or "Undo those buttons"
    – Smock
    May 2 '19 at 16:22

Because we say:

Button your button. And we say: your button is unbuttoned.

That's why.

And we don't say: open your zipper. We say: unzip your zipper.

But: Your zipper is down or open.

That's it in a nutshell.

  • "But: Your zipper is down or open." So can it be: "Close your zipper." Or not..? May 2 '19 at 16:12
  • If close your zipper were a real option, I would have said it.
    – Lambie
    May 2 '19 at 16:30
  • @Lambie But it is a real option. "Down" or "Up" is merely an accident of spatial positioning, where the closed end is at the bottom and the open end is at the top. "Open" and "closed" are absolute, and appropriate whichever way the zip is positioned. Nov 14 '20 at 10:05

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