Me Like Words
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
A source of danger; a possibility of incurring loss or misfortune.

Me Like Words took the long weekend off to focus on more pressing issues like eating an absurd amount of hot dogs and getting a mean farmers tan, but he's back and he's talking about the word Hazard. Hazard has been around for a while and most of us know it as a word describing a risky nature of a situation. However, some of you from the southern states may be more inclined to use the word in conjunction with it's 'Dukes Of' association, therefore creating a prude double entendre invoking a place name (Hazard County) and a risky state of affairs. Anyway, the word has been around a lot longer than Bo and Luke Duke have been jumping cars over gullies and outwitting Boss Hog.

Hazard has its roots in an Arabic game known as "Al Zahr," which means "the die." No, not "die" like the kind the terrorists want us to do; "die" like the word for multiple dice. Anyway, the French liked this game so much they adopted it and through a bastardization, the name became Hasard. After a few years the French got antsy and decided to invade England, which they did in 1066. This was the Norman invasion and it was the last time anyone would successfully invade and conquer the English, but that's neither here nor there.

The English learned this dice game from their French overlords and it took root in the gaming halls of London, where that pesky French S was replaced by a neat English Z. According to my source ("Thereby Hangs A Tail" by Charles E. Funk) the game was played for very high stakes, which I can only take to mean fingers and eyes. After all, it was a different time back then.

So now we have our word, Hazard, meaning a popular high stakes gambling game. Through the natural progression of time the word just comes to the usage we know today. But what about that dice game, whatever became of that? It too evolved and exists today with an equally catchy name and, just like Hazard, it's name goes two ways: Craps.

As is clearly show in this illustration, Craps is an easy-to-understand dice game without an overly complicated betting system. Perhaps that is the source of its popularity.
Isn't "die" the singular and "dice" the plural?
Interestingly, in Slavic languages the word 'hazard' (хазарт) is used to refer to 'risky' games like pocker and all types of games in a casino.
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I (me) like words. And even more than liking words I like to know where they come from and how they ended up in my mouth. It's called 'Etymology,' and I hope you like words as much as me do. If you have a word or phrase you've been pondering send it to me at with 'Me Like Words' as the subject.

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