Historically Speaking

Making sense of it all!

Gauche

Posted by Elyse Bruce on September 24, 2010

When a situation is awkward and uncomfortable, people sometimes say it’s “gauche.” But being “gauche” is so much more than just that. Being “gauche” is to be lacking in social polish, to be lacking in good taste, to be graceless, to be unpolished (or ill-mannered) or to be tactless in action, manner or expression.

So how is that the French word for “left” came to be part of the English lexicon?

The word “gauche” comes from the Old French word gauchit meaning to turn aside. Etymologists claim that the Old French word is Germanic in origin and can be traced back to the Old High German word, wankōn which means to stagger.

The first recorded use of the word “gauche” in English dates back to at least 1763 when Scottish philosopher, historian, economist, and essayist and then-secretary to the British Embassy in Paris, David Hume (1711 – 1776), was discussed in letters exchanged between various members of High Society.

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