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"Biges" is slang for "long moustache. 2 prong pitchfork". The shape of the long prongs resembles the long hairs of moustaches. Is it possible that the word derives from "beige" wool threads? And was a farm worker with long moustaches identified with a stubborn, conservative person, a "bigot"? My question is about the concept of rural religious people and the idea of "The Cloth" meaning priests.

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For at least the pitchfork meaning, it seems a bit contrived when, for example, Latin had other words beginning with "bi-" meaning "2 ..." (e.g. "bijugis" = "drawn by two horses", "biga" = "two-horse carriage"). So for a word beginning with "bi-" to have ended up meaning "a thing with 2 things", I don't see a great need to bring colours into the equation.

P.S. "bigot" in the other sense you mention-- but maybe not the pitchfork sense-- was probably just a loanword (English "by God")-- I think it's a red herring.

P.P.S. María Moliner suggests that Spanish bigote (="moustache") is also actually derived from English "by God", so I suppose it's possible that that came first and then the pitchfork meaning was because the pitchfork looked like a moustache. (I think I'd probably still put some amount of money on it being derived from Latin "bijugis" -- the extension of meaning from "drawn by two horses" to "drawn at two points along the ground" seems at least equally plausible than people naming tools after moustaches...)

But the connection with "beige" is almost certainly a red herring then.

P.P.P.S. But... just to emphasise how much speculation and folklore there is in all of this. Imagine a linguist in 1000 years time, long after all technology capable of playing any recording of a Monty Python episode has been consigned to oblivion,  looking at the presentday English word "spam" and trying to work out why on earth it came to mean both a can of army meat and a piece of unsolicited advertising. Who knows what spurious stories they'd come up with... and that's essentially what we're doing here...!

thanks Neil.

It's not easy to connect "by God" with a moustache or 2 prong fork. (The opposition has the pitchfork..)

It seems odd for Spanish to adopt /bigote/  "by God"  for "par dios"  and with -e as well.  And a moustache as "2 things drawn along" is not the usual perception by men of other men's whiskery faces. For example, the  handle-bars on a bicycle are not seen as bi-bars ("handle-bar" moustache, "side-burns" not bi-whiskers). But "goatee" beard as animal hair is seen in Bavarian gamsbart "chamois beard" , the tassel made of  gamse/ gemse hair from a freshly-killed goat. 

The name "Chambiges" seems to connect cham-biges, suggesting  "chameau. chemise. camisole.cambric". Persian bujiya, Gr. byses /byssos was "fine cloth", as in P. Kambujiya (Cambyses) a king crowned at Babylon in the kambuzi "royal robe", Heb. cham buts.  Xenophon wrote of Persian princes wearing byses, red robe of  byssus "fine red threads of rare mollusc"  (as in Tyrrhenian purple cloth).  Possibly it was traded at Marseilles. "Beige" can extend to yellow or even the orange of Buddhist robes.  The chamarre robe was made of camelot cloth,  "chymeris of chambelote browne" in 14th century England, and made of kemel /khamlat "Angora goat hair"_ OED 'camlat".

Perhaps "chambiges" was a white wool robe of  pagan druids, and downgraded to the moustache in the way "camelot" is downgraded.

The story given by Moliner, but without a source for the myth, is that the Normans introduced the fashion of growing a moustache, and that they had adopted the English expression "by God". I've no idea if there's any plausible source/evidence for that myth. Inasmuch as there's any truth in it, what we're probably missing is some catalyst for the association. Maybe there was a Chanson de geste of the time that stereotyped some moustached men shouting "By God!" or... well, who knows... the point is, we're missing the Monty Python in the spam story.

What I'm still not entirely convinced about is the likelihood of a common origin/connection between "beige" and "bigot(e)".

If you're really interested in trying to track down the origin, then I would suggest that clue would be to track down where exactly "bege" is used in Old French-- which texts it actually occurs in-- and look at the contexts, backgrounds of the authors (if known!) etc.

[Fr. beige "yellowish-gray, brownish-gray," from O.Fr. bege "the natural color of wool and cotton; raw, not dyed" (13c.), of obscure origin. "Das Wort lebt namentlich in der Bourgogne und Fr. Comté, daneben aber auch im Südwesten" [Gamillscheg].]


That puts it in the Gaul country of druids and near Celtic-German Bavaria on the Danube. Persian Scythians were in Hungary at 5th cent BCE after Darius of Kambujiya (beige?) reached the Danube.

WordReference Etymology has this:

1590s, "sanctimonious person, religious hypocrite," from Fr. bigot (12c.), of unknown origin. Earliest French use of the word is as the name of a people apparently in southern Gaul, which led to the now-doubtful, on phonetic grounds, theory that the word comes from Visigothus. The typical use in Old French seems to have been as a derogatory nickname for Normans, the old theory (not universally accepted) being that it springs from their frequent use of the Germanic oath bi God. But OED dismisses in a three-exclamation-mark fury one fanciful version of the "by god" theory as "absurdly incongruous with facts." At the end, not much is left standing except Spanish bigote "mustache," which also has been proposed but not explained, and the chief virtue of which as a source seems to be there is no evidence for or against it.

In support of the "by God" theory, as a surname Bigott, Bygott are attested in Normandy and in England from the 11c., and French name etymology sources (e.g. Dauzat) explain it as a derogatory name applied by the French to the Normans and representing "by god." The English were known as goddamns 200 years later in Joan of Arc's France, and during World War I Americans serving in France were said to be known as les sommobiches (see also son of a bitch). But the sense development in bigot is difficult to explain.


Spanish bigote "moustache" is interesting. A coin of Darius shows him in moustache and evidently Celts had them, and Saxons etc etc. but not Charlemagne.  It's possible that civilised Christians used "bigot" for  pagan moustached provincial people. The zamarra /chamarre "goat-skin coat" was worn by  Spanish Galician Celts and Greek-influenced French (<Gr chimairos) as in acciamara   goat-skin coat in Sardinia.

Interesting -- it would be intriguing to know exactly with which facts the OED researchers' think it doesn't tally. (I don't have OED access, but my sister or one of her colleagues might-- I'll check when I get chance.)

But as I said before, I think it is clear that if "by God" really is the origin of "bigot", we're missing some information about the catalyst for that association. If there are texts from the period in which evil Normans are actually depicted shouting "By God!", or pastiching Normans as all having the same surname "Bygott", then that might maybe support the idea. I'm not sure what actual hard evidence there is... What does seem clear is that there's no obvious Latin word from which it would have derived, so it seems reasonable to look for some source as a loanword.

I'm afraid I'm a bit out of my depth on the relative likelihood of "bigot" coming via Spanish "bigote" vs the two words just having a common origin.

As  the context of the 12 th century Normans is the Crusade period, then a derogatory jibe at religiosity seems hard to credit. The Huguenot times may have produced the setting, but the word "bigot"  doesn't seem to be invoked there. It has the feeling of a more personalised slang word, similar to terms for odd moustaches.


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