Chicane
Posted: 05 September 2008 02:14 AM   [ Ignore ]
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How did we get from the “trickery” meaning of the word to the “section of narrowed track in motor racing” meaning?

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Posted: 05 September 2008 05:56 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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My guess would be that it is because it is a tricky portion of the track to negotiate.

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Posted: 05 September 2008 06:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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OED:

4. Motor Racing. A disguised or artificial construction, esp. a barricaded ramp. Also attrib.
1955 Times 23 May 12/6 The Lancia skidded at the chicane, demolished the wall bordering the sea, and dropped into the harbour. 1958 Times 8 Apr. 14/2 Led.. for three laps; only to crash into the chicane barrier. 1959 G. FREEMAN Jack would be Gentleman viii. 158 The news cameramen crouching down at the chicane for action photographs. Ibid. x. 216 He changed down again as he approached the chicane, snaked neatly through it, and accelerated up to the start.

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Posted: 05 September 2008 07:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Old discussion: Are motor racing chicanes chicanery?

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Posted: 05 September 2008 08:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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A tricky question: “Why did the chicane cross the road?”

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Posted: 05 September 2008 11:54 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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In the paper industry (in which I was once employed), the “fingers” (like little ploughshares) which stir up the sludge layer during the first (gravity) thickening stage of a twin-wire sludge press are called “chicanes”. I could never find out why, though such presses have only been around AFAIK for a few decades. In the papermaking industry, there are terms less than 200 years old whose etymology has already been lost (e.g. “dandy roll"). That’s what happens when nobody cares about word origins.

Did “chicane” perhaps have some special meaning in earler (say 17th-18th century) French, which might have been preserved in this industrial sense while getting lost elsewhere? any French etymologists around?

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Posted: 05 September 2008 12:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Is it so unlikely that the term derives from the (modern) French sense of “twists and turns, ins and outs, zigzag”?

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Posted: 05 September 2008 01:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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According to the on-line dictionaries of the Academie Francaise, it dates from the 15th century in France. The 1694 dictionary defines it as “Subtilité captieuse en matiere de procés” [translation: pettifoggery]. The current version of the dictionary states that it derives from a “radical expressif tchik exprimant l’idee de petitesse”. [Translation: I’m not sure what an “expressive radical” means in linguistics, but the idea is that “tchik” expressed the idea of smallness.] That is, a chicane was a lawyer’s argument over a trifle that delays and hinders the court process. I infer it was an easy jump to the meaning of barriers in a roadway that delay and hinder you.

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Posted: 05 September 2008 09:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thanks, westover, Dr. T, and others --- I, for one see “chicane” more clearly now, a-twisting and a-turning the sludge upon its bed. I found the French dictionary’s statement about tchik interesting, though it seems a bit digressive to me in the context of this thread. In modern Hebrew, tchik is in fact used in exactly this way, as a familiar diminutive: “Hanchik” = “little Hannah”, “Nahchick” = little Nahum, “chubchik” = little thingamajig. I think it may be originally from Russian (prhaps there’s a connection with the “holluschickie” in Kipling’s “The White Seal”?)

A bubble from the bottom of Swamp Memory: when I was very young, there was a popular song:

“Come on and sing the chik-a-chik-a-boom-chik,
That crazy thing, the chik-a-chik-a-boom-chik”

I think this is probably an attempt to vocalize the sound of maracas and drums. Now my head is singing (gropes back to within reach of his bottlechik)

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Posted: 06 September 2008 06:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Is it so unlikely that the term derives from the (modern) French sense of “twists and turns, ins and outs, zigzag”?

To further support this, many early automotive terms in English are from French (e.g., garage). Although the OED2 only reports the racing sense of chicane from 1955, too late for the spate of French automotive adoptions which were all around the turn of the 20th century. This of course doesn’t mean that the word isn’t from the French, just that it wasn’t adopted as part of this particular automotive jargon trend (unless, of course, antedates can be found).

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Posted: 06 September 2008 06:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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How old is the city street usage mentioned in the Wikipeida article?

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Posted: 06 September 2008 09:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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It would seem that French “chicane” was perhaps borrowed twice, in two distinct senses.

TLFi on-line shows “technical"/"technological" senses of “chicane”: //Passage tortueux à travers une série d’obstacles// (I guess “tortuous passage through a series of obstacles") and //Dispositif zigzagué permettant le ralentissement ou la régularisation de l’écoulement d’un fluide dans un conduit// (I guess “zigzag device enabling the slowing or regulation of the flow of a fluid in a conduit"). Various engineering and chemistry dictionaries translate “chicane” as “baffle”, also “obstacle”, etc.

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