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: slipper / zapatilla / chausson

7 Comments

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

Last summer, my sister bought me these slippers while she was in Paris.

FLASH slippersShe did this because everyone in my family loves slippers, they were on sale (we love good deals) and when I saw them, I said, “FLASH! Ahh-ah!”

Flash tweetI’m not the only one who does this last thing (see tweet at right), but I may be the only person who does it who doesn’t like Queen and who can’t remember having seen FLASH GORDON (1980), the movie whose theme song‘s chorus I repeat every time I see lightning bolts.

You know what else is like a flash of light? Realizing that I wear a Word Mystery every day.

EN → slipper — a comfortable slip-on shoe that is worn indoors. ORIGIN From Middle English slip [move quickly and softly].

ES → zapatillaZapato de comodidad o abrigo para estar en casa. [Comfortable or warm shoe for use in the house.] ORIGIN Diminutive of zapato [shoe] from Turkish zabata [shoe].

FR→ chaussonChaussure d’intérieur, souple et légère. [Light and flexible indoor shoe.] ORIGIN Variation on chausser [to put on shoes] from the past participle of Latin calceare [to put on shoes].

Spanish note: The Spanish verb calzar also comes from the Latin and has the same meaning as the French. Interesting that all the related words, like those for “footwear” [calzado] and “bare foot” [descalzo] and “sock” [calcetín] in Spanish share the same root tree as the French, but that it strayed so far in one instance.

Man, I’ve got to hand it to Spanish for fairly consistently coming up with crazy origins (that’s why it’s Today’s Winner). This is the first time Turkish has appeared in a Word Mystery and is probably the first time I’ve ever thought about the language of the Ottoman Empire.

About those slippers

The ones pic’d above have been made in France since 1947 by a company called Collégien. On the packaging, which is basically a cardboard hanger from which the slippers are suspended, it says that these are a classic indoor shoe worn in schools since forever. I figured they were being hyperbolic but a visit to a friend’s house over the holidays suggested otherwise.

terminator2thumbsup

All five people who were staying there had their own pair and there were a few for guests as well. They’re really comfy (though they offer zero arch support) and nice and toasty and are also good for doing yoga since they have soft spiked soles. They don’t get this site’s highest award, but I’ll give ’em the ole T-800 salute.

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Author: le cul en rows

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

7 thoughts on “Word Mystery: slipper / zapatilla / chausson

  1. The word I learned in French class for ‘slipper’ is ‘pantouffle’ – is that not one that people actually use?

    • Look at you, being all smart! A pantoufle is indeed a slipper, though it’s a kind that has no support or even a semi-firm sole. (Think something like an Asian silk slipper.) My experience is that people like something with a little more heft (to check the mail, take out the garbage, etc.) so that chaussons are what you see for sale and pantoufles are what you read about in older(er) books.

      (Plus, I was saving the word for use in relation to another idea I’ve got. Don’t tell anyone and it’ll still be a surprise when I finally write it!)

  2. I’m not sure how much I’ll ever have to add to the discussion when it comes to mystery words, so I might as well just forge on in and say this: I love mystery words! (And I wish I had a more intelligent comment.)

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