Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Word Mystery: armor / blindaje / cuirasse


Monty Python Black Knight

The conclusion to this is significantly less funny in light of recent events.

Word Mysteries are where words in languages that I know don’t correspond to each other at all despite those languages often sharing lexical histories. These words are both mystifying (why are they different?) and annoying (why must you be different?!).

There are currently 48 sets of words in my Word Mysteries doc, but only two were semi-appropriate for a week in which I’m still really sad and in mild shock. On another week, I would have introduced this triplet with an amusing anecdote but I just don’t have it in me today.

EN armor — the metal coverings formerly worn by soldiers or warriors to protect the body in battle. ORIGIN Middle English: from Old French armure [protective metal item of clothing].

ES blindaje — Conjunto de materiales que se utilizan para blindar. [Combination of materials used to armor.] ORIGIN French blinder [fortify, reinforce].

FR cuirasse — Arme défensive qui couvre la poitrine et quelquefois le dos. [Defensive armor that covers the chest and sometimes the back.] ORIGIN Latin coriacea [leather item of clothing].

The historical through-line (Latin to French to English; leather to metal) is pretty interesting. Spanish wins for most ridiculous sounding word.

Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

6 thoughts on “Word Mystery: armor / blindaje / cuirasse

    • Americans must have adopted “armor” instead to prevent a slew of homophobic jokes at the expense of knights and soldiers, sounding, as it would, like “queer-ass.” Perhaps it sounds better with an Australian accent?

      There also has to be some kind of linguistic connection vis-à-vis American English being “newer” than Australian. And both having evolved independently, of course. h

  1. Hello, your post and the word cuirasse reminded me of a song in the comic opera Princess Ida by Gilbert and Sullivan, which among other things pokes fun at the military. The lyrics are:

    This helmet, I suppose,
    Was meant to ward off blows,
    It ‘s very hot,
    And weighs a lot,
    As many a guardsman knows,
    So off that helmet goes.

    This tight-fitting cuirass
    Is but a useless mass,
    It ‘s made of steel,
    And weighs a deal,
    A man is but an ass
    Who fights in a cuirass,
    So off goes that cuirass.

    These brassets, truth to tell,
    May look uncommon well,
    But in a fight
    They’re much too tight,
    They’re like a lobster shell!


  2. So both the English and Spanish words are derived from French, yet the French word has nothing to do with the two other words that were derived from the language?

    • The way I see it, the French were first in coming up with a word since their root is oldest (time- and tech-wise). The Spanish was adopted from a practice they saw the French doing and took the word accordingly. Finally, I think the English was reverse-engineered to allow for verbification (it’s the most versatile of the 3). h

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