"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 masakim 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.

: curry favor Seek gain or advancement by fawning or flattery, as in "Edith was famous for currying favor with her teachers." This expression originally came from the Old French _estriller fauvel_, "curry the fallow horse," a beast that in a 14th-century allegory stood for duplicity and cunning. It came into English about 1400 as "curry favel" - that is, curry (groom with a currycomb) the animal - and in the 1500s became the present term.
: From The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms Christine Ammer.

: Curry favour, To. The phrase was originally 'to curry favel' ('to groom the fallow horse'), the latter word being related to French _fauve_ and English 'fallow' itself. The fallow horse was used in mideaval allegories as a symbol of cunning, fraud or deceit, perhaps because of its indefinite colour. Since 'feval' was a word not familiar to English speakers, it was altered to a more meaningful 'favour', so that the expression came to refer specifically to ingratiation with a superior.
: From Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, revised by Adrian Room.

: Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, ed. Betty Kirkpatrick, gives the similar origin.

Well, that'll teach me to rely on an on-line version of Brewer's, dated 1898, then :) The paste in full as follows:-

"E. Cobham Brewer 1810-1897. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. 1898.
Curry Favour.
The French courir, to hunt after, to seek, as courir une charge, courir un bénéfice, to sue for a living; courir les tables, to go a spunging. Similarly, courir les faveurs, to sue for, court, or seek favours."

As an aside, I wonder if these dictionary and reference work compilers assiduously read rival editions and "steal" attributions from other works. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable has certainly changed its mind over the last 100 years.

See also - The meaning and origin of 'curry favour'.