Posted: 26 March 2018 10:40 PM   [ Ignore ]
Total Posts:  904
Joined  2013-10-14

In Shakespeare’s Love’s Labor’s Lost he writes:

O, thy letter, thy letter! he’s a good friend of mine: Stand aside, good bearer. Boyet, you can carve; Break up this capon.

It was used like poulet in French for a love letter. “Break up this capon” i.e. “Open this letter.”

Capon from the OED

†4. A billet-doux. Cf. French poulet ‘a chicken; also, a loue-letter, or loue-message’ (Cotgrave). Obs.:

Poulet as a love letter has an interesting etymology from OED:

Etymology: < French poulet chicken (13th cent. in Old French), written message (1556 in Middle French as poullaict ), love letter (1588 in Middle French): see pullet n. The origin of the French transferred uses is unclear; they perhaps arose from the comparison of the shape of a folded letter to a chicken wing.

†1. A love letter; a (neatly folded) note. Obs.

1691 W. Sherlock Dialogue between Dr. Sherlock, King of France, Great Turk, & Dr. Oates 2/2 Will you send it in a Basket as a Token of your pure Love to absolute Soveraignty, or in a Billet Dieu [sic], or in a Poulet as I us’d to do to the Nuns at Salamanca?
1751 Ld. Chesterfield Let. 28 Jan. in Lett. to Son (1774) II. 93 If you were to send a poulet to a fine woman.
1847 Thackeray Vanity Fair (1848) xxiv. 206 He..sate down to pen a Mademoiselle Aménaide.
1894 S. J. Weyman Man in Black ix Even the Commissioners..found their doors beset at dawn with delicate ‘poulets’, or urgent, importunate applications.

Posted: 27 March 2018 02:42 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
Total Posts:  4125
Joined  2007-02-26

Not quite on topic but I learned two bird related words today.
1/ poussin, which is a culinary term for a baby chicken that derives from the Latin pullus
2/ snarge, the remains of a bird that has gone into an aircraft engine. Etymology, uncertain.

Posted: 27 March 2018 04:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
Total Posts:  307
Joined  2007-02-16

Snarge - not exactly an etymology, unless you believe ‘snot+garbage, but a hint of the possible origin:

[ Edited: 27 March 2018 04:24 AM by Skibberoo ]
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