Thursday, May 07, 2009

Colloquial French

I see from today's cartoon and via Google and some french translations that 'un macchabee' is slang for a stiff aka a dead body. How on earth did a word which to me represents a hero in battle (Judah Maccabee and the whole Chanukah story) come to mean this? It can also be used as bored stiff, i.e. to death. Any suggestions?

NB Here is an article about the closure of the Our Body exhibition in France


  1. The word "macabre" (in English, and in its French origin) comes from a middle-ages practice known as "danse macabre."

    "Danse macabre" were morality plays about Christian (and pre-Christian) martyrs. They were intentionally very gruesome, intended to send the message that we're all going to die, and that we better repent our sins now and get right with Jesus. Or something like that.

    Anyway, the "danse macabre" was named after their most gruesome death scene... The one described in the Books of the Maccabees. Apparently, Judah's death is pretty gross.

    This is, of course, mostly conjecture. Most etymological dictionaries refuse to state this word origin as fact, and usually say "perhaps."

  2. thanks, Josh - that is something to think about for sure.