French roots of English slang ?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Pater, Feb 1, 2007.

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  1. Pater New Member

    French, english, german
    I have been curious for some years about what appear to be the French origins of some English slang words.

    For example :
    1. Crash (single word - London in the 70s) to spend the night "Where did you crash last night?" : from "crèche" (crib) or "crécher" (to lay one's head)
    2. Skyve or skive (to avoid work or to truant) : from "esquiver"
    3. Screw (prison slang for gaoler) : from "écrouer" (to lock up)
    4. Goolies (testicles) : from "couilles" (idem)
    Do any others come to mind ?
  2. Hockey13

    Hockey13 Senior Member

    Irvine, California
    Perhaps, but if so, it's not a modern phenomenon. You're bound to find lots of words on loan from other languages in English.
  3. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    "...appear to be" isn't quite a firm etymology.
    Take crash, for example. It has been around for many centuries in English. It has been in use to mean
    to fall or land somewhere for a long time. Is the similarity to the French terms coincidental?

    Here is what the online etymology dictionary offers:

  4. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    It's highly likely that many English slang words originate from French (and Latin, the basis of French, before it), as we were invaded by the Normans in 1066 (some of us even remember it).
  5. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    It's highly likely, even certain, that many English slang and non-slang words originated from French, for the reasons stated. What's missing is a reason the believe that the slang use of 'crash', recorded from the 1940s to mean sleep, has a French origin. Given the elapsed time from the Norman invasion to the slang use of 'crash', I guess I'd have to call that tie a real sleeper.
  6. emma42 Senior Member

    North East USA
    British English
    Not necessarily. It may have survived in a regional or dialect form for ages before coming into the standard language. Or then again, it might not. I will put my theory to bed.
  7. ADCS Senior Member

    Houston, TX
    English, U.S.
    Or, it might have come from soldiers' speech during their time in France (though 1944 would suggest that better than 1943)
  8. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Why do you suggest these etymologies?
    Have you checked any authoritative etymological sources?
    This reads very like the article I found in the Sunday Times last year:
    Is this a load of buanchumadh?
    ... suggesting that US slang was derived from Irish ;)

    The OED has the following suggestions, some supportive, some not.
    (1) Crash, from crash pad:
    hang-outs and crash pads..resound with the uncontrollable chattering of sour high-school drop-outs. (1968)
    agreed to take these guys home with them, turn them on, feed them, give them a place to crash, love them a lot and keep them close to them all the next day. (1969)

    (2) Skive, perhaps from esquiver (dodge, slink away). Perhaps from a dialect word meaning to move lightly and quickly.
    ‘To skive,’ to dodge a fatigue. (1919)

    (3) Screw, no etymology given.
    ... and put a Jigger Screw [i.e. a prison warder] upon the alert. (1812)

    (4) Goolies, gooly, apparently of Indian origin; cf. Hindustani golí, a bullet, ball, pill.
    Dictionary of slang. (1937)
  9. gaer

    gaer Senior Member

    Fort Lauderdale
    To me it does not matter if the words you have mentioned have come from French. They are highly useful "links" that could be used as "tricks" to help associate words together in two languages. :)

  10. . 1 Banned

    Ferntree Gully
    Australian Australia
    I have always thought that screw as a negative term for prison officer originated in England. Prisoners were set to work at meaningless tasks as punishment. One of the tasks was to use a tread mill to lift a certain amount of sand per day and mean prison guards or 'screws' would tighten the treadmill to make the work harder.

    I have always considered 'crash' as in crash at a mates house is a contraction of 'crash and burn' meaning to become totally exhausted and unable to go further so you crash at a mate's place. I have a hard time accepting the concept that rugger thuggers and leather ball bashers would talk about creching at a mates place. It hardly sounds macho.

  11. Brioche

    Brioche Senior Member

    Australia English
    In Australia, an word for cheap wine is "plonk".
    Although this comes from the French "vin blanc" = white wine, plonk can be any sort of wine: white, red, table, fortified, &c.
  12. Pater New Member

    French, english, german
    Thank you for your interest. Actually, Panjandrum is right : my approach was more intuitive than scientific. I also happen to think that dictionaries are not always infallible and that a forum like this can be a valuable complement to our knowledge base.

    His explanation of the origin of the word "goolies" is an example.

    Encouraged by his observations, I went to look for the etymology of "couilles" and found a reference (Lexis / Larousse) to "Feminine noun, from the Latin « colia / coleus » and Greek « koleos » = "sheath" (I translate).

    This is some way from Hindustani, although I suppose the different explanations could have a relationship. Could it possibly be that "goolies", in spite of what appears to be the plural form of the word "goolie" in fact refers to the scrotum instead of the testicles, as I always thought ?

    It is interesting (thank you Projet Babel) to note that the Latin word for sheath is vaginus.

    As far as where the words come from, I agree with Gaer. It doesn't matter really. But if anyone should think it is of interest, well, so much the better.

    It has struck me that dialect or slang words are fascinating because they indicate another source of origin, as to the pronunciation habits of certain parts of England. My mother (born in 1916 and still going strong) always used to castigate people who didn't speak like she did for "being slovenly" in the way they talked.

    For example "Cowd" (would that be what's known as "estuary pronunciation" ?) for "cold" would meet with her utter disapproval : and I believed she was right until I went to live in Holland, where they all say "cowd" and write it "Koud".

    I have been told, as regards "Plonk" cited by Brioche, that
    the English speaking soldiers' preference for white wine during the First World War encouraged the adoption of "Plonk" for wine, whatever the colour.
  13. sound shift

    sound shift Senior Member

    Derby (central England)
    English - England
    Pater asked if any others come to mind. The only one I can think of right now is booze, which is surely related to the French boire (or I'm a Dutchman:)).
  14. sandman2 Senior Member

    English - Canada
    Homey - homme
  15. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    From the Middle English bouse, from Middle Dutch busen = drink to excess - or so says the Oxford Dictionary.
  16. ewhite

    ewhite Senior Member

    Homeboy --> homey

    Nothing to do with homme.
  17. JamesM

    JamesM à la Mod (English Only)

    As far as I know, homey meaning "mate" or "buddy" comes from AAVE (African American Vernacular English). I would be really surprised if French had anything to do with its invention. I believe it's a shortening of "hometown boy" (see also "homeboy" as another similar slang word from the same source).

    "Homey" as word meaning "homelike" or "of the home" is older by at least a hundred years and comes from "home", which is of German origin.

    The words are similar but I don't see any link. It is as unlikely a link as the word "home" coming from "homme", even though they look similar.
  18. Andygc

    Andygc Senior Member

    British English
    That suggestion is, to be frank, a load of balls. Goolies are testicles.

    I think that this thread has many of the characteristics of a troll. Perhaps we should stop feeding it.
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