phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Phrases, Sayings and Idioms Home > Discussion Forum

Re: Crank

Posted by Smokey Stover on March 22, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Crank posted by Digger on March 20, 2004

: : : : fyi

: : : : I have heard [also believe] that the term to be "cranky" comes from when automobiles required a "crank" to turn the engine of the automobile in order to start the car...thus...when one was unable to start the car by cranking it, they became "cranky"

: : : Yip - sounds like me tonight! And I remember it always made my dad cranky when he couldn't crank the car enough to start (God I'm old, fancy remembering that - he he!!! But aren't I lucky too, that I can!)

: : Merriam-Webster online says that "cranky" comes from "crank." Crank -- Etymology: Middle English cranke, from Old English cranc- (as in crancstæf, a weaving instrument); probably akin to Middle High German krank weak, sick.

: The luck is all on your side Shelia.

The OED Online has a very interesting (to me) opinion on the etymology of "crank." It's unusually long and detailed, but I think the gist is that crank comes from the past participle of crincan, which is a by-form of cringan, which means, fig., to fall in battle, but originally to draw oneself together in a bent form, to contract oneself stiffly, curl up (as you might do if you fell in battle). "These verbs are not known elsewhere" than in Old English. But the numerous Teutonic derivatives are connected with either 'to bend together, crook, curl up', or 'to shrink, give way, become weak or ill'. "English 'crank' belongs to the literal-sense group, with the primary notion of something bent or crooked, German and Dutch 'krank' adj. 'sick', formerly 'weak, slight, small,' shows the figurative development." If this is true, then 'cranky' should be interpreted as something like 'bent' or 'twisted,' much as an automobile crank or crankshaft is something bent or twisted. And if you thought German 'krank' always meant 'sick,' now you know the truth. I don't know how methamphetamine (crank) fits into this picture. But it can certainly make you sick; and those who make IT are twisted. SS