Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Why Is It Called a Currycomb?

One of my earliest memories of livestock was watching our landlords daughter, Roxy,  putting neat squiggles on the side of her wet Hereford, 4-H steer, using a round, metal currycomb with a red handle. Recently while using the same style currycomb with the same red handle I have wondered “why is it is called a currycomb?”
This is what I found. From the late 13th century Anglo-French word curreier comes the English word curry, meaning, to rub down a horse. The Oxford English Dictionary quotes a phrase from 1398 as “coryed wyth an horse combe.” So, logically, a comb used to curry a horse might come to be called a curry-comb.
"Der behexte Stallknecht"
("The Bewitched Stable Boy")
Hans Baldung Grien (1544)
German Renaissance woodcut
This unfortunate stable boy has dropped his 16th-century currycomb on the stable floor.

An interesting side-note is that the phrase “to curry favor” rose from a satirical 14th century French poem Roman de Fauvel. In the poem Fauvel, a horse, moves from the barn into the largest room in the house. He represents sin and corruption; Fauvel’s name  is an acronym (in French) for the seven deadly sins. In the story the occupants of the house, who metaphorically represented church and state leaders, not only allowed Fauvel to dwell in the house, they even lowered themselves to curry and clean his coat.
Hence, the common expression "to curry favor" is believed to be a mistaken English adaptation of the French phrase to curreier Fauvel. In the English language, to curry favor has come to mean seeking favor by fawning or flattery.

Roman de Fauvel
Musical satire from early 14th century France.
Posted by Picasa