Friday, 29 April 2016
Freya's day again, yay. Let us as usual begin the end of the week with some wordy stuff.
This week's new-to-me term is polypharmacy, which came to me via Edward Banatt on Twitter. Polypharmacy refers to taking four or five or more (anyway, "a lot of") drugs concurrently. This can happen with older people who are following different drug regimens for different problems. For example, per an article in The New York Times, 39% of the over-65 demographic are—what, engaged in? subject to?—polypharmacy. This can lead to issues, of course, such as drug interactions. But we do at least have a word for it, so that's one problem solved.
Etymology. I recently started watching the HBO TV series Deadwood, set in the Dakota Territory. In season 1, a new gambling emporium opens that features the game craps, which is new to many of the miners who live in the town ("camp"). TV drama aside, how weird is the name "craps"?
There are a couple of theories about the origin of the name. A dice-throwing game that preceded craps was called "hazard," and in that game, the low throw (snake eyes) was referred to as crabs. (In craps, shooting a 2—that is, two 1's—is a loser.) The OED speculates that crabs in this sense might be related to the crab in crab apple. It's unclear why this term would have been used in the game for a low throw.
Another theory, one that isn't endorsed by the OED, is that craps comes from the French word crapaud, meaning "toad." Supposedly this was because people playing dice are often crouched over. It does seem to be true, FWIW, that the game was popular in New Orleans first.
The name has spawned some other words in English. To throw a losing number is to crap out, which we can use now in something like "My car crapped out on me." Throwing dice is sometimes referred to as "shooting" them. Thus "shooting craps" gave us the noun crapshoot to mean "a gamble," as in "Trying to find a good mechanic is a crapshoot."
Historically, the name has been used in the singular—shoot craps or shoot crap (crapshoot again). First cites for the name are in the 1840s, which makes it realistic that the game might have been new to people in 1876, which is when Deadwood is set.
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Friday words, language