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Johnny Crapaud (literally Johnny Toad)

Johnny Crapaud (literally Johnny Toad), Johnnie Crappo, Crapoo, etc

"A Frenchman, so called by the English sailors in the long Napoleon contest. The ancient Flemings used to call the French 'Crapaud Franchos.' "In allusion to the toads borne originally in the arms of France." (E. Cobham Brewer, Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, 1898)

3 toads

Noms, armes et blasons des chevaliers de la Table Ronde
France, ca. 1500.

A Frenchman; so called from the device of the ancient kings of France, "three toads erect, saltant" (Guillim's Display of Heraldrie, 1611). Nostradamus, in the sixteenth century, used the term: "Les anciens crapauds prenderont Sara" (Sara is Aras reversed, and when the French under Louis XIV took Aras from the Spaniards, this verse was quoted as a prophecy.) c.f. the use of 'John Bull' referring to an Englishman.

Maritime (shanty) use:

Capstan haul, "Paddy lay back", alternative titles "Valparaiso round the Horn", "Mainsail Haul", "The Liverpool song" (last two/three syllables repeated by sailors) (References: personal, Stan Hugill, Doerflinger)

'Twas a cold an' dreary mornin' in December, December
An' all of me money it was spent, Spent, spent
Where it went to, Lord I can't remember, Remember
So down to the shipping office went, Went, went

Paddy lay back, Paddy lay back
Take in yer slack, take in yer slack
Take a turn around yer capstan, heave a pawl, heave a pawl
'Bout ship, stations, boys, be handy, be handy
For we're bound for Valaparaiser 'round the Horn!

2. That day there was a great demand for sailors, for sailors
For the colonies and for Frisco and for France, France, France
So I shipped aboard a Limey barque the Hotspur, the Hotspur
An' got paralytic drunk on my advance, 'vance, 'vance


x. There wuz Spaniards an' Dutchmen an' Rooshians,
An' Johnny Crapoos jist across from France;
An' most o' 'em couldn't speak a word of English,
But answered to the name of 'Month's Advance'.

Less maritime:

"A repeal of the Union would eventually divorce Hibernia from John Bull 'a mensa et thoro' - and that without alimony of maintenance. It is true that she might, perhaps, be at liberty to form another matrimonial connexion - but with whom would this new liason be? Johnny Crapaud - or Cousin Johnathan? Hibernia is not of the constitution to live in blessed singleness during the remainder of her life." from James Johnson, "A Tour in Ireland; with Meditations and Reflections" (London: S. Highley, 1844) p144.

"Oysters!" exclaimed the captain; "there'll be no time for eating oysters now, and no money to pay for them neither. Come along with me, some of you shore crabs. I promise you better sport than sneaking about the creeks. We'll have at Johnny Crapaud with gun and cutlass." Reverend Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924), "Mehalah: a Story of the Salt Marshes" (1880)

French in Europe and in most parts of North America, uses crapaud for "toad." Occasionally, in the French dialects of Louisiana and the Caribbean, crapaud may mean any of several large frogs. This may explain a basically incorrect etymology in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Ninth Edition.

The Louisiana misuse goes further: the word craps in the dice game, derives from the word crab and is a French corruption of the English term which stood for a throw of two or three. Why the English called such a toss crabs is not known, but the OED dates it at least to 1768. Derivation from the nickname of Bernard de Marigny, a New Orleans gambler (circa 1800) known as Johnny Crapaud is fanciful but incorrect. Example (from Tommy Crane, Inc. a New Orleans Real Estate firm in the Faubourg Marigny area of the town): "the name Craps has an interesting origin. Because the Frenchmen were playing this game of dice introduced by Marigny, the Americans called the game Craps after the Frenchmen themselves. That was because the Americans called any Frenchman "Johnny Crapaud," because crapaud was the French word for frog [sic] and the French ate frog legs."



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