pinochle

The One Big Happy from 12/9, in which Ruthie is rotfl over the name of a card game:

Exactly my response when, at the age of 7 or 8, I first heard the name of this card game. I mean, pea-knuckle!

Then my parents told me how the name was spelled, and I was just baffled. PINOCHLE (suggesting, maybe, PINOCCHIO)?

Of course, they had no idea where the name came from — why should they? — and if they had known, I almost surely wouldn’t have believed them. (My dad was not above inventing preposterous etymologies.)

The etymological truth, insofar as it’s known — from OED3 (June 2006):

Etymology: < German Binokel, the name of a card game < French binocle, lit. ‘two-eyed’ (see binocle n.). The game is perhaps so called after the high-scoring combination of Jack and Queen, both cards traditionally showing a face in profile, or after the fact that it is played with two decks of cards. [1st cite 1864]

Ultimately from a French word meaning ‘two-eyed’ (cf. Engl. monocle < Fr. monocle ‘one-eyed’)? Yeah, yeah, you’re pulling my leg…

3 Responses to “pinochle”

  1. John Baker Says:

    Now I want to know about the preposterous etymologies your dad invented.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    The only one I remember in detail was for preach, which my dad said had the ‘before’ prefix pre- plus itch — because preaching made you itch for it to be over.

  3. Bob Richmond Says:

    I was wondering if binnacle (a part of a boat) was related, but OED2 says that that word is historically bittacle, with the present form evolving only in the 19th century.

    OED2 also notes that the binnacle is the box that houses the ship’s compass. So Pogo wasn’t too far wrong in exclaiming
    Belay the boohaw!
    Box the binnacles!
    Poop the decks!

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