Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Crotch - Why Oh Y For Fork's Sake?

A lifeguard's crotch in red shorts
A photo of me at the beach. I've edited out my face to protect my identity. And credited the photo to someone else. But it's definitely me.
(photo by Hotlanta Voyeur)


Noun. Mid-16th century.
[Perhaps ultimately related to Old French croche crosier, CROOK noun, but partly variant of CRUTCH noun.]

1 obsolete. A fork used in agriculture or in the garden. M-L16

2 obsolete. = CRUTCH noun. M-L16

3 A support in the form of a stake or rod with a forked end. L16

4 A fork of a tree or bough. L16

5 The place where the legs join the trunk (of the human body or a garment). L16

6 A fork of a river or road. Chiefly US. L17

7 Nautical. = CRUTCH noun. M18

Crotch is an inherently ugly word, a bit like groin and moist. However, crotch really just means something Y-shaped or forked.

That's a bit better now, isn't it? Now we can all use crotch without grimacing, right? Yeah. Maybe not.

Y-fronts - that's another ugly word ... 

A road name sign for 'Crotch Crescent'
Would you, could you, should you live on a road called this?
Leave a comment before you split and we'll disgusset.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

What Is the Origin of 'To Come a Cropper'?

A small car half submerged in a pond
Car pooling ... it's not always good for the environment
(photo by Esther Simpson)


Noun. Colloquial. Mid-19th century.
[perhaps from neck and crop.]

A heavy fall;
figuratively a severe misfortune, personal failure, etc.

come a cropper fall heavily; be ruined, suffer sudden misfortune.

If you've ever been told by an English speaker that so-and-so came a cropper, then you may justly have wondered at the origins of this bizarre idiom. And if you asked the aforementioned English speaker, you were likely given a blank look, for very few of us know. So, this is it: what is the origin of coming a cropper?

The short, frustratingly unsatisfactory answer is that it's not known for sure. Indeed, investigation quickly leads to the similarly abstruse English idiom from which it perhaps originated: neck and crop. The difference between coming a cropper and neck and crop, however, it that very few English speakers use neck and crop anymore. However, as it's perhaps the origin of our target phrase, what does it mean and what is its origin?

For something to happen neck and crop means for it to happen completely, perhaps violently. So, for example, if a team was beaten neck and crop, they were (to use other expressions) soundly thrashed, given a hiding, a drubbing, etc, etc. It's total, complete, and rather ignominious. This is what neck and crop means, but where is it from?

Oh dear, for now we've come a cropper in our investigations because, again, no one knows for certain. However, there are theories, the most likely being that this is horse riding term, with crop being a variation of croup, the rump of a horse. Therefore, if a horse fell neck and crop, it (somehow) managed to land on both its neck and hindquarters at the same time. This, as any self-respecting horse will tell you, is not a dignified position for a mount, and to illustrate the ignominy of falling neck and crop, I have included a video of a hapless Irishman coming a cropper on the national news. Pre-shame on you for sniggering ...

No horses were harmed in the making of this video

Have you ever come a cropper?

Do please stick your neck out and leave a comment in the box below.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Croodle - Crouching as for Warmth

A Native American croodling by a campfire
Crouching Indian by a Fire
E. Irving Couse (1866-1936)


Verb intransitive. dialectical. Late 18th century.
[Origin unknown.]

Crouch down;
draw oneself together, as for warmth;
cling close to a person.

This is a delightful word, possibly of Ulster-Scots origin, listed in other references as also meaning 'to coo' and 'to hug'.

If you use croodle (or are henceforth going to use croodle), do please leave your warmest comments below.

I want to know more about this word and its use.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Crony - A Timely Etymology


Noun & verb. Also obsolete chrony. Mid-17th century.
[from Greek khronios long-lasting, long-continued, from khronos time.
Originally university salgn, the Greek word being perverted to the sense 'contemporary'.]

A noun. An intimate friend or associate. M17

B verb intrans. Associate (with) as a crony. M17

cronyism noun friendship, fondness for the company of cronies;
US the appointment of friends to political posts without due regard to their qualifications. M19

Oh those Cambridge nitwits! How Oxonians chortle at the catechrestical origins of crony, being Cambridge University slang for a 'friend, associate'. It's derived from a preposterously pretentious corruption of the Greek khronios, meaning 'long-lasting'. Had it not originated in the 1600s, one could almost hear the vapid undergrads' attempts at sounding simultaneously hip and sophisticated: "Sup, crony?" "Hey crony, sup?" Such oikery! I bet those chunder-headed Cambridge chumps chronically misuse chronic too. At least the Oxford equivalent chum, while lacking the faux-Greco-pretention, makes a modicum of etymological sense. And, let us collectively note, it hasn't descended into the pejorative, which crony undoubtedly has. Crony indeed! Too bad, Cambridge mortar-munchers! You're fooling no one.

The Ohio Gang. I don't know who these guys are, but they look like cronies.
(image from Wikipedia)
Are you a crony, a Cambridge crony, or a cravenly croodling champion of Cambridge cronyism?

Do please leave your most chattering comments in the crony box below.
(Pff. Cambridge, eh?)