Roman de Fauvel is a satirical French poem about a horse who rises to power in the French royal court. That horse's name, Fauvel, is teeming with easter eggs. First of all, fauvel could describe a muddy beige color which matched his fur coat. Secondly, fau vel in Middle French meant "false veil", and, thirdly, if it's turned into an acronym, apparently it represents six vices or something of the sort. You may be wondering why I'm telling you this. Before the grand unveil, there's one more piece to put into place. The word curry has an obscure second definition, that of "to groom a horse with a comb", and in the poem, Fauvel's admirers traveled to court to curry his fur. They curried Fauvel. This phrase was borrowed into English to describe somebody acting obsequiously or sucking up to someone else, just like the nobility did to Fauvel by cleaning him. However, some wise English scholars decided that this seemed rather wrong, and the phrase curry favor made more sense. Thus, folk etymology got the better of the tale and the Roman de Fauvel has been lost to obscurity.
Hello! I'm Adam Aleksic, a senior studying government and linguistics at Harvard University, where I co-founded the Harvard Undergraduate Linguistics Society. In addition to etymology, I also really enjoy trivia, politics, vexillology, geography, board games, conlanging, art history, and law.