Monday, October 29, 2012

Word of the Week - Card

First of all, I would like to report that I finished up Whispers from the Shadows on Thursday! Woot! It checked in way too long (130,000 words instead of the 116,000 I was to shoot for), but everyone agrees that it's better to have too much than to run out of story with 20K to go. ;-) Now it's time to shift my focus to editing--and hunker down as Sandy swings up this way. She's supposed to hit us tomorrow morning, with tropical storm force winds hitting us here in the mountains. Should be interesting.

Anyway. Rereading one of my chapters yesterday, I was inspired to look up the word card to see when the phrase "playing the ______ card" came into being.  So I thought I'd share my findings. =)
Playing card from the 1895 Vanity Fair deck

The word card itself is really old--the English word dates from 1400. It's taken from the Latin charta, which means "leaf of paper," which in turn comes from the Greek khartes, "layers of papyrus." Which, in its turn, is probably derived straight from the Egyptian word.

The most familiar meaning of "playing cards" dates in English and French from the 1590s. The listing didn't tell me about calling cards, but I happen to know those were around for a long while, especially popular in the 19th century. Greeting cards came about in 1869, and people who are original earned the name card in 1836 but usually had "smart" in front of it back then and came from the playing card sense.

"Card table" dates from 1713 and "house of cards" in the figurative sense is from 1640s--supposedly from Milton. To have a card up one's sleeve is 1898; and, finally, the one I was actually looking for! LOL. To play the _______ card is from 1886, originally the Orange card, meaning "appeal to Northern Irish Protestant sentiment (for political advantage)." Who knew?

So yeah, my hero's best friend couldn't accuse him of playing the _____ card, which is fine. But I sure learned something in the looking up of it!

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