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: flip-flop / chancleta / tong


Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.

My brother sent me this funny video which is as good of an inspiration for a Word Mystery as any other.

EN → flip-flop — a light sandal, typically of plastic or rubber, with a thong between the big and second toe. ORIGIN mid 17th cent. from “flop” this from “flap” this from Middle English imitative [: onomatopoeia].

ES → chancleta — Chinela sin talón, o chinela o zapato con el talón doblado, que suele usarse dentro de casa. [Backless slipper with folded-over heel, generally worn indoors.] ORIGIN Disputed, but possibly from chanca denoting the Chanka people of Peru and their footwear, diminutive form.

FR → tongChaussure de plage, formée d’une semelle et d’une bride en V. [Beach show formed by a sole and a v-shaped strap.] ORIGIN English “thong” [a narrow strip of leather or other material, used esp. as a fastening or as the lash of a whip].

→ Wikipedia says that this type of footwear originated in 5500 BC. That’s a long time ago.

→ Thinking about this reminded me of a great piece in The New Yorker about the shoes of a Stone Age man, called Otzi by archeologists. The story is behind a pay wall, but it’s a really good one.

→ More about the shoes, the oldest of their kind in the world, is here.

Tough one today. All entries have their merits, though I think the win goes to English since I love onomatopoeias almost as much as puns.

Author: le cul en rows

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

5 thoughts on “Word Mystery: flip-flop / chancleta / tong

  1. If you are interested in shoes, you should go to Toronto to visit the Bata Shoe Museum which is surprisingly interesting. The building looks like a shoe box and the collection is absolutely amazing – if you like the history of evolution of shoes and stocking.

    • I had a friend who was OBSESSED with shoes and went to Toronto specifically to go to this museum. She loved it. If I’m ever there (like for TIFF, which would be awesome) I’ll totally check it out.

      • TIFF is indeed awesome though we only went the first few years of our stay in Toronto. We got tired of the line-ups to get into each movies. You have to be on vacation in order to truly appreciate the TIFF…you need time!!!

  2. This is too funny. When I studied abroad my roommate was from Barcelona and she liked calling them by their English name…but called them Clip Clops.Too funny!

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