Jewish World Review March 16, 2004 / 23 Adar, 5764
Editors of Merriam-Webster's Collegiate
"Carrot and stick''; "hue and cry''; Where did the term "flea market'' originate?
How did these familiar uses originate?
L. P., Dayton, Ohio
Dear L. P.:
A "carrot'' and a "stick'' are both ways of getting someone to do something. They are two sides of the same coin; "carrot'' is symbolic of a reward received for a task performed, while "stick'' symbolizes punishment for a job not done. The image underlying these symbols is the donkey cart that has a reluctant engine. The driver gets out of the cart and pulls on the donkey, pushes from behind and finally resorts to beating the animal with a stick, all to no avail. But when the driver uses the stick as a fishing pole of sorts, a carrot serving as bait, the donkey is more than happy to do its job and pull the cart. It knows it will be rewarded with the carrot when the job is done. The "bait'' is there to serve as a constant reminder of that fact.
A similar way of expressing this idea is the old maxim, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.'' In other words, a sweet disposition will win you more favors than a sour one. A tempted donkey is more likely to pull your cart than a beaten one.
Where did the term "flea market'' originate?
M.Y., Dallas, Pa.
Flea markets, where secondhand goods can be had cheaply, are not just an American phenomenon. In fact, the word "flea market'' has its origins in the name of a famous Parisian street market.
The "Marche aux puces Saint-Ouen'' is a colorful market on the northern border of Paris that is a favorite stop for tourists and locals alike. In the winding alleyways that make up the Marche shoppers can hone their haggling skills and perhaps find a rarity among the booths and tables. The Marche aux puces has been in operation for more than a century.
Francophones know that the French phrase "marche aux puces'' literally translates to "flea market.'' George Dougherty wrote in his 1922 book In Europe that the Marche aux puces "is called the 'Flea' Market because there are so many second hand articles sold of all kinds that they are believed to gather fleas.''
Whether Doughtery was merely parroting Parisian folklore or relating the actual etymology behind the French name, his use of "flea market'' to describe the street market is the first known example of this term in English. The term didn't begin popping up with any real frequency until the 1950s. At that time, it was usually used to refer to markets of this type in Paris, Spain and elsewhere in Europe. During the 1960s, however, it began to be applied more frequently to such gatherings in the United States.
I've always wondered about the expression "hue and cry.'' The "cry'' part of the phrase makes sense to me, but the "hue'' part is confusing. Doesn't "hue'' mean "color''? What does color have to do with the meaning of "hue and cry''?
C.C., Marengo, Iowa
Dear C. C.:
The answer to your second question is "absolutely nothing.'' It's true that "hue'' can mean "color'' (or "gradation of color''), but the "hue'' in "hue and cry'' is a different word altogether - one meaning "shout'' or "outcry.''
Like you, most people have never heard of this meaning of "hue.'' Though alive and well as part of the set phrase "hue and cry'' (meaning "a clamor of pursuit or protest''), on its own this "hue'' has fallen entirely out of use and is now obsolete.
Ultimately, it can be traced to the Old French word "hue,'' which also meant "outcry.'' Its meaning may have once been more specific (and distinct from "cry''), perhaps referring to a something like a trumpet call or a wordless yell, as opposed to spoken words. In any case, it appears to have formerly referred especially to war cries and hunting cries.
The expression "hue and cry'' itself dates back to Medieval England. Forms of the term can be found as early as the 13th century in Anglo-French legal documents (Anglo-French was the official language in England for a time following the Norman invasion), and by the 15th century the phrase had found its way into English.
Originally a "hue and cry'' was a loud outcry used in the pursuit of a suspected criminal. In those days there was no organized police force in England, so the job of fighting crime largely fell to ordinary citizens. If you were the victim of or a witness to a crime, you were expected to make a lot of noise - yelling something like "stop thief!'' - and anyone who heard you "raise the hue and cry'' was legally bound to join in the pursuit.
Eventually the meaning of "hue and cry'' was extended to encompass any clamor of alarm or protest.
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