or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Saturday, November 11, 2006


So we rented a car this weekend and I was working the closing shift and Jim came to pick me up and on the way home we passed Church Street (yes, there are lots of churches on it) and naturally one of us said "Crotch Street!" because we are eight years old and then I got to wondering where the word "crotch" even came from and why it's so funny.

I can't answer the second question (and it is funny, as evidenced by Chloe Webb as Mona Ramsay in "Tales of the City" screaming "Crotch, crotch, crotch, crotch, crotch, crotch, CROTCH!"), but I had a feeling that it must be related to "crochet" somehow, and, in fact, it is.

An old French word, "croc", meant "hook". (You'd think "croc" would have led to "crook", as in "shepherd's crook", and from there to "crooked", meaning bent, and finally to "crook", the criminal who's deviated from the straight and narrow: but it isn't so. The various bendings of "crook" come from Norse "krokr". "Crooked", by the way, has a marvellously off-kilter meaning in Newfoundland English: it means "ill-tempered" or "peevish", as in, "You're some crooked today!") The feminine form of "croc" was "croche", and that's where we get, variously, "crochet", needlework made with a hooked implement: "crotchet", a quarter-note in music (or an offbeat whim, for some reason): and of course "crotch", which, while not precisely hook-shaped, nevertheless consists of two limbs bent off at angles from a trunk, whether said crotch is on a tree or a human.

I think it was Chloe Webb. It might have been her replacement, Nina Siemaszko, in the sequel, "More Tales of the City". Whatever. Hilarious.


Blogger Bright Beak said...

I wonder if that was why hookers got their moniker? As in the 'profession' variety, not the crocheting variety ;) Because the corner of Church & St. George was where I saw the hooker yesterday, on the way to pick you up for work.

bb - w/ somewhat bizarre word associations traversing her (albeit limited) braincells.

Saturday, November 11, 2006 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

Nope, hookers don't have anything to with crotches, if you see what I mean: their name comes from the fact that they hook men as fishers hook fish. Honest.

Saturday, November 11, 2006 1:07:00 PM  
Blogger Bright Beak said...

Ok, I can see that. Wonder how 'crotchety' came about - via the Newfoundland-speak variety of crooked?


Saturday, November 11, 2006 4:12:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

Nope again. "Crotchet" means "a whim", for some reason, so someone who's crotchety is someone difficult to get along with, because their whims make them unpredictable and difficult to please. I really don't have any idea how "crotchet" came to have this peculiar meaning: it doesn't seem to have any point of connection to its source, or to anything else, really. The OED isn't any help, either.

Sunday, November 12, 2006 8:27:00 AM  
Blogger Tony Pius said...

I had always heard that "hookers" were from the camp followers in Gen. Hooker's part of the Union Army. The term went from the specific to the general, as it were.

I never bothered to question that etymology, because the same sort of process gave us "sideburns" and "cardigans". Why not "hookers"?

Sunday, November 12, 2006 11:51:00 AM  
Blogger Bright Beak said...

So, I'm (hopefully not too far off base in) assuming that "Hooker's Green" as a colour arose from the Union Army as well. I honestly thought it was because it was the colour of the rough at St. Andrew's Golf & Country Club in Scotland! Oops!


Sunday, November 12, 2006 2:27:00 PM  
Blogger pyramus said...

The story about hookers having gotten their professional title from General Joseph Hooker is a folk etymology. The OED's first citation of the word dates from 1845, thus predating the war by over fifteen years.

As for the pigment, it is named after a hooker: William Hooker, the famous still-life artist who invented the nearly-black green which he used, greatly diluted, for painting leaves. (I have seen Hooker's green spelled with a lower-case letter, but, as in invariably the case with a possessive eponym, it must be capitalized, as "Halley's comet".)

Sunday, November 12, 2006 8:14:00 PM  
Blogger Bright Beak said...

Umm, I think the self-directed "D'Oh!" would be appropriate now! As in, to myself, based on babblings that make no sense due to pre-migraine cognitive issues!


Sunday, November 12, 2006 9:33:00 PM  

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