"Short Horse" expression... - help with 'curry favour'

Posted by TheFallen on April 26, 2002

In Reply to: "Short Horse" expression... - help with 'curry favour' posted by James Briggs on April 26, 2002

: : Has anyone else ever heard this espression...?

: : "A short horse is easily curried."

: : I heard it often when growing up as a young boy, used mostly by my grandparents and great-grandparents, which would mean back in the early to mid 1900's. They lived on ranchland out in West Texas.

: : The meaning is fairly obvious, as "curry" means to brush or groom [a horse], so doing a "short horse" would be easy, and so the phrase was often used in reference to something that turned out to be "easy to do". I am mainly wondering if this was every used in other areas, or is common enough that anyone else has every heard it? I've had no luck in finding it on any of the phrase/saying databases. Thanks...

: Curry: To curry favour is to seek to get into someone's good books; to ingratiate oneself. It has absolutely nothing to do with Indian food. The "curry" in this instance is a horse riding term for grooming or rubbing down an animal. The "favour" is an alteration of the word "Favel". Favel was the name of the half horse, half man Centaur in the early 14th century French satirical romance Le Roman de Fauvel. This beast was cunning and evil and it was just as well to keep on the right side of him. To curry him kept him in a good mood.

Interesting. I've found the above origin referred to, though not in such specific detail, in the The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, from which the following is pasted:-

Curry favor, by folk etymology from Middle English currayen favel, from Old French correier fauvel, to curry a fallow-colored horse, be hypocritical (from the fallow horse as a medieval symbol of deceit).

The above shows "curry" being used in the sense derived from the Latin "conredare", to make ready, or prepare.

However, I've also found another proposed and simpler origin of "curry favour" in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, where "curry" is allegedly being used in its sense derived from
the French "courir" / Latin "currere", meaning to pursue or court. Presumably Brewers would say that favo(u)r was used literally in this context.

You pays your money, you takes your choice, I suppose.