Every so often, surprises seem to pop out of the mouths of public figures like a Jack-in-the-Box. CNN reporter Rick Sanchez lost his job Friday for a few eyebrow-raising comments he made on the radio.
Among other things, Sanchez called the comedian and political talk show host Jon Stewart a “bigot.” The specifics of the remarks aren’t the concern of this blog. When thousands of people began searching for the definition of “bigot,” however, our lexicological sirens start to flash.
A bigot is “a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.” OK, but where does this strong and negative word originate? Here’s the interesting part.
Etymologists believe the Old French version of bigot, which means “sanctimonious,” was used by the French to mock the Normans, a people who lived in France and invaded Britain in 1066. Allegedly, the Normans used the Old English expression bi God so often that the French nicknamed them bigots. This idea is backed up by the fact that the French during Joan of Arc’s time called the English the “goddamns.”
Many of our common oaths actually contain veiled religious references. For example, do you know what “gosh” and “gee” are euphemisms for? Click here to find out.
Scholars also speculate that bigot may be tied to the word beguine, now known as a dance style. Originally the term refered to an unusual 13th century woman’s religious movement led by a priest named Lambert le Bègue, otherwise known as Lambert the Stammerer. A male version sprouted up who only used the religious guise as a pretext of making some money. The sense of “hypocrite” in bigot as well as “beg” and “beggar” may have been influenced by this bizarre episode.