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Laugh like a drain

Posted by Baceseras on February 10, 2008 at 12:44:

In Reply to: Laugh like a drain posted by Rob Dinnis on February 10, 2008 at 12:44:

: To 'laugh like a drain' - the French words for 'laugh' and 'drain/channel' are spelt (and I think pronounced) the same (to laugh = 'rigoler'; drain/channel = 'rigole'). Could this explain the apparent nonsensical association of the two words?! I know nothing about etymology, so I may be completely wrong, but if the origins of the phrase can be traced to soldiers in WW2 (as is stated on your website), then it seems plausible to me!

English-speaking soldiers wouldn't have needed to go to France to come up with 'laughing like a drain'. No one who has ever heard the gurgling of a noisy drain would think the connection between that and coarse laughter was nonsensical. It is plain description.

French,by the way, is not the only language to have similar words along the lines of rigole - rigoler. In English agricultural usage a 'rig' is a ditch, later more particularly the sides of a ditch --- more frequently now called a 'ridge'. And in English there is also the unrelated word 'rig' meaning a prank or tom-foolery. By association with the 18th-century 'canting crew' this came to mean particularly larcenous tricks and cheats (we still say that a dishonest card game or election or whatever has been 'rigged').