Saturday, November 16, 2002

Etymology Today from M-W: kaput
1 : utterly finished, defeated, or destroyed
*2 : unable to function : useless
3 : hopelessly outmoded

"Kaput" originated with a card game called "piquet" that has been popular in France for centuries. French players originally used the term "capot" to describe both big winners and big losers. To win all twelve tricks in a hand was called "faire capot" ("to make capot"), but to lose them all was known as "etre capot" ("to be capot"). German speakers adopted "capot," but respelled it "kaputt," and used it only for losers. When English speakers borrowed the word from German, they started using "kaput" for things that were broken, useless, or destroyed.

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