word of the day: croupier

December 24, 2006

inspired by the glut of gambling movies i’ve been watching recently (stay tuned for my next post), today’s word is “croupier.”

croupier comes from the French, “croupier”, which means “one who rides behind on the croup.” the word eventually comes to mean, “one who assists at the game of basset” (basset? thankfully wikipedia is here to help. Basset “is a card game that was considered one of the most polite card games, and only fit for persons of the highest rank to play at, on account of the great losses or gains that might accrue on one side or the other. It is said that Basset was invented by a noble Venetian, who was punished with exile for the contrivance. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basset for more info) and eventually one who assists at any card game.

nowadays, the word primarily refers to ” n.   An attendant at a gaming table who collects and pays bets. ” (AHD). interestingly, the word’s primary definition, now obsolete, is “A second standing behind a gamester to back him up and help him.” (OED) while the word still refers to assistance, the croupier is now an agent of the house, and not a comrade of the gambler.

the word has one final definition, however: “3. One who sits as assistant chairman at the lower end of the table at a public dinner.

as in:

1785 CRAIG in Lounger No. 26 §10 He is no longer Croupier at Lord E.’s, his place there being filled up by Tom Toastwell.”

it’s hard to imagine anyone making a movie about that type of croupier, but you never know. it could be a “Gosford Park”ish Michael Gambon vehicle. I can just here the narration over the trailer: “When the host starts to fall flat, or is otherwise negligent in his duties as host, the Croupier, is there with pun and anecdote to save… the… dinner.”

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