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Craps And Dice History

Dear Mark,
You promised a follow-up column to the history of the word "craps." Will it be published soon? Tom F.

You are about to become an expert in the proper use of crap and craps, Tom-not that in the end you'll care-but for those of us who give a damn about such minutiae, your question opens an interesting door.
Back before the Middle Ages, the Arabs played a game using little numbered cubes, called az-zahr -- meaning the die. The game showed up across the Mediterranean in France, where it was named hasard, then jumped the

English Channel to England some time before 1500 AD where it was given the English spelling of the same word, hazard. The roll of lowest value in that game was called crabs. The French, trying to be amiable, adopted that term from the English, but spelling it the French way as crabes. In the early 1700s, the game crossed the Atlantic to the French colony of Acadia, where a surprise awaited it and those who played it.
In 1755, the French lost their colony, Acadia, to the English who promptly renamed it Nova Scotia and chucked out the French-speaking Acadians, who roamed around a bit and finally relocated in Louisiana, where they were called (as they still are) Cajuns, and developed a language called Louisiana French. They still played the good old dice game, but dropped the title of hasard and called the game simply crebs or creps -- their spelling of the French crabes.
By 1843, the Cajun word came into American English as craps. People were apparently careful for a while not to omit the final "s" for fear of confusion with a vulgarism having a totally different meaning -- also derived from French, but that's another story.
By 1885, such expressions as crapsgame, crapstable, and crapsshooter were found to be just too finicky and used up too much spit, so the final "s" was dropped where it served no useful purpose as in composites like craptable, crapshooter, crapgame, etc., and retained where it refers only to the game (game of craps) or the losing roll (he craps out, he rolled craps) or where it would be too hard to pronounce (she crapped out, rather than she crapsed out).
Well fellow crapshooters, do you have a clearer picture yet? I asked a colleague of mine, whom I dealt craps with at Lake Tahoe, what she thought of the above, and she said; "I was then, and still am, full of crap."

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