Dans de beaux draps (suite)

Vous voilà dans de beaux draps !

voo vwah-lah dahd bo DRAH! Click below to hear this.

Look at you–you’re in a nice mess!

Today’s post will make more sense if you go back and read Saturday’s post, because it’s really a continuation. You’ll find it here. Go ahead, I’ll wait!

Ready? Okay:

And while you are disentangling yourself from the draps, don’t mispronounce them. Of course the final s for the plural is silent, but so is the p. What’s it doing there, then?

In the Middle Ages, the word was dras. It meant then (and means now) not only sheet but also drape or cloth. The p probably was put back into the word during the Renaissance, when it was all the rage to use spelling to display the history of the word.

The idea was to prove what an ancient and noble language French was, descending directly from Latin and Greek. At the time, French was still a fairly new language, only a few centuries old. It was widely used for everyday purposes and non-serious literature such as pornography (yes!), but it was not considered worthy of treating serious and dignified matters such as philosphy or poetry.

But the joke was on these Renaissance language lobbyists. The French word drap most likely descended from a Low Latin word (kitchen Latin, if you like) drappus, which may even have come from a Gaulish word. It is certainly not a word that would have been used in a dignified, sober text!

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