CREW.

Another interesting etymology (this is the kind of thing that catches my attention when I’m copyediting a dictionary): crew originally meant ‘reinforcement(s)’ in the military sense, as can be seen from the first citation in the OED, “1455 Rolls of Parl. 34 Hen. VI, c. 46 The wages of ccc men ordeigned to be with him for a Crue over the ordinary charge abovesaid.” It quickly started being used for any “body of soldiers organized for a particular purpose” (which would doubtless have upset sixteenth-century prescriptivists, had there been any) and then for any gathering or grouping of persons, especially one “engaged upon a particular piece of work.” It’s from Old French creue ‘augmentation, increase,’ the feminine past participle of croistre ‘grow,’ from Latin crescere. (Note that it’s not from the Latin past participle, cretum, which left no descendants in French, but was reformed on the basis of other verbs with past participles in -u.) This means that it’s historically the same word (except for gender) as cru ‘vineyard’—a word which, however familiar to wine buffs, hasn’t made it into Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate.

Comments

  1. So, this is a dictionary of words beginning with the letter ‘c’?

  2. accrue

  3. I wonder if Hat ever feels a bit like Everard Raven.

  4. Fortunately, I am not responsible for “the whole damned thing,” just whichever batches they send me. Next up: the letter M!

  5. “Next up: the letter M!”
    Do I get to be the Cookie Monster?

  6. marie-lucie says:

    I never heard of cru as meaning “vineyard”. It meant literally “grown” (although it is no longer used with this meaning), hence it refers to the product of a vineyard, not to the vineyard itself (which is called un vignoble).
    This is a masculine word. The feminine equivalent crue refers to the sudden increase in the volume of water in a river, especially in the spring, causing predictable floods in low-lying areas.

  7. Bill Walderman says:

    “sixteenth-century prescriptivists, had there been any”
    There were. See this:
    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1901#more-1901

  8. I never heard of cru as meaning “vineyard”.
    That’s because you have a French background. In English wine use it’s “a vineyard or group of vineyards, especially one of recognized quality.”

  9. J. W. Brewer says:

    So you’re saying Motley Crue were antiquarians trying to revive the 15th C. spelling, not just making up some random thing in a heavy-metal-umlaut kind of way?

  10. marie-lucie says:

    Cru: In English wine use it’s “a vineyard or group of vineyards, especially one of recognized quality.”
    Then it must mean “the vineyards that produce a particular cru in the French sense”.

  11. Yes, I think that’s the case. People especially associate the word with the phrases “grand cru” and “premier cru.”

  12. John Emerson says:

    The feminine equivalent crue refers to the sudden increase in the volume of water in a river, especially in the spring, causing predictable floods in low-lying areas.
    My brother in North Dakota is facing a serious crue for the something like the fourth year out of five. It’s a word the North Dakotans should learn.

  13. I was a great Appleby fan as a teenager, and “Appleby’s End” was one of my favourites. Unfortunately most of my Michael Innes collection has disappeared over time.

  14. When a schoolboy in New York I was always given a ‘crew cut’ at the barber’s. In my mind it has since been connected to something cruel, not university boating hair styles.

  15. John Emerson says:

    The crew cut is based on or equivalent to the American military haircut.

  16. Re the previous post: I think there’s a chicken-and-egg relationship between learning new words and discovering (or legitimizing) new…shades of thought?

  17. I always wanted a crew cut, Sashura. This was in England in the late 50s. My friend had one, but I wasn’t allowed. He grew his out into an Elvis quiff.

  18. John Emerson says:

    So now we know why AJP turned out that way.

  19. Graham Asher says:

    The great etymologist Skeat mentions teasing out the derivation of ‘crew’ and its connection with ‘recruit’ in his introduction to the science of etymology. See http://books.google.com/books?cd=4&id=vXdJAAAAYAAJ&dq=skeat+etymology&q=crew#search_anchor.

  20. Thanks! Here‘s the direct link; the full passage reads:

    The word crew entirely baffled me; it was Sir James Murray who discovered that, although the old sense of ‘augmentation’ can be explained from F. crue, creue (in Cotgrave), the modern sense of ‘company of sailors’, &c, is best explained by help of the longer form acrew, accrew, or accrue; as when Holinshed says (Chron. iii. 1135/1): — ‘The towne of Calis and the forts thereabouts were not supplied with anie new accrewes [accessions] of soldiers.’ Of course, various kinds of syncope have always been common, and examples abound; I mention it here only to call attention to the fact that abbreviation sometimes makes an etymology very difficult to discover; for we always want to know exactly how a word begins, and how it began in early times.

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