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CURFEW

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CURFEW

Postby Dr. Goodword » Sun Nov 20, 2005 11:41 pm

• curfew •

Pronunciation: kêr-fyu • Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A time at which everyone is required to clear the streets and be at home or the regulation that institutes such a restriction. 2. A signal that is sounded to mark the beginning of a curfew.

Notes: Today's Good Word hasn't much of a current family since it is a word fallen victim to folk etymology, the conversion of a foreign-sounding word into one that sounds more English. Even though cur and few have nothing to do with a curfew, they are at least English words, whereas couvre and feu (see Word History) are not. M'aidez "help me" suffered the same sort of transformation in becoming English Mayday!

In Play: Tork Buckley, who is now in France, suggested today's Good Word in light of the curfews currently being imposed in the Arabic banlieues (suburbs) of several French cities. However, curfews are not limited to cities: "OK, guys, I have to go; we have an 11 o'clock curfew at our house."

Word History: Today's Good Word has a rich family history. It comes from Middle English curfeu, a word borrowed from the Old French phrase cuevre feu "cover the fire", from the verb that today is couvrir "to cover" + feu "fire". A curfew originally was the time when you had to put out your fires, candles, and lamps. French couvrir is the direct descendant of Latin cooperire "to cover up" from co-, an intensive prefix + operire "to cover". The same French verb went into the making of kerchief, originally Old French couvrechief from the words that are today couvrir + chef "head". (Thank the craziness of the English spelling system for the initial K.) You might be surprised at where feu "fire" came from. It was originally Latin focus "hearth, fireplace", a word English borrowed directly from Latin, giving it the meaning of the place where the fire starts when you hold a lens beneath the sun.
Last edited by Dr. Goodword on Mon Nov 21, 2005 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Brazilian dude » Mon Nov 21, 2005 6:38 am

M'aider "help me" suffered the same sort of transformation in becoming English Mayday!


Oh, I've always wondered why they had picked May out, now I have the answer.

Today's Good Word has a rich family history. It comes from Middle English curfeu, a word borrowed from the Old French phrase cuevre feu "cover the fire", from the verb that today is couvrir "to cover" + feu "fire".

Slight lapsus digitorum.

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Postby Stargzer » Tue Nov 22, 2005 3:28 am

Brazilian dude wrote: . . .
Today's Good Word has a rich family history. It comes from Middle English curfeu, a word borrowed from the Old French phrase cuevre feu "cover the fire", from the verb that today is couvrir "to cover" + feu "fire".

Slight lapsus digitorum.

Brazilian dude


Or is cuevre an Old French form that migrated to the Modern French couvrir? I'm old, but not old enough to have known Old French. I have enough of a problem with Modern French. :)
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Postby M. Henri Day » Tue Nov 22, 2005 2:51 pm

I have to agree with BD here ; I think our good doctor has been the victim of a typo, «*cuevre» for «couvre». Here is what some older French dictionaries which are available on-line have to say about the matter :

Dictionnaire de L'Académie française, 4th Edition (1762)
COUVRE-FEU. s.m. (Page 433)

COUVRE-FEU. s.m. Ustensile de cuivre ou de fer, qu'on met sur le feu pour le couvrir & le conserver la nuit.

Il se dit aussi Du coup de cloche qui dans certains lieux marque l'heure de se retirer.


Dictionnaire de L'Académie française, 6th Edition (1832-5)
COUVRE-FEU. s. m. (Page 1:443)

COUVRE-FEU. s. m. Ustensile de cuivre ou de fer, qu'on met sur le feu pour le couvrir et le conserver la nuit.

Il se dit aussi Du coup de cloche qui, dans certaines villes, marque l'heure de se retirer, de couvrir le feu, etc. Sonner le couvre-feu.


Dictionnaire de L'Académie française, 8th Edition (1932-5)
COUVRE-FEU. (Page 1:322)

COUVRE-FEU. n. m. T. militaire. Signal sonné par le clairon ou la trompette chaque soir pour l'extinction des feux. Sonner le couvre-feu. Des couvre-feux.

Il signifiait autrefois un Coup de cloche qui, dans certaines villes, marquait l'heure de rentrer chez soi et d'éteindre feu et lumière.


Henri
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Postby Brazilian dude » Tue Nov 22, 2005 4:49 pm

I have to agree with BD here

Does that mean you always have to disagree with me?

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Postby tcward » Tue Nov 22, 2005 7:07 pm

He's a victim of his own conscience, Dude! ;)

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Postby M. Henri Day » Thu Nov 24, 2005 6:49 pm

Brazilian dude wrote:...

Does that mean you always have to disagree with me?


No, on the contrary ; it implies that on certain (rare ?) occasions, I am vouchsafed the privilege, not to say honour, of agreeing with you !...

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