Etymology of “crush”?

2018-10-18 17:59:54

How did crush come to be used to mean "an intense but usually short-lived infatuation"?

This is covered quite thoroughly in a column in The Globe and Mail by Warren Clements. Summarizing:

The romantic sense of crush was first recorded in the 1884 journal of Isabella Maud Rittenhouse.

According to Eric Partidge, crush might have been a variation on mash, since by 1870 mashed was a popular way of saying flirtatious or head over heels in love, and to crush something was to mash it.

How did mash acquire that meaning? The Oxford English Dictionary shoots down one line of speculation found in an 1890 slang dictionary: the suggestion of a Romani word mash or masherava, meaning to allure or entice.

Ernest Weekley’s 1921 Etymological dictionary of modern English observed that mash was “regarded as spoon-diet,” the sort of mashed pap one would feed to a person who couldn’t chew or tolerate regular food. He drew a link to the word spoony.

To be spoony on someone had, since t

  • This is covered quite thoroughly in a column in The Globe and Mail by Warren Clements. Summarizing:

    The romantic sense of crush was first recorded in the 1884 journal of Isabella Maud Rittenhouse.

    According to Eric Partidge, crush might have been a variation on mash, since by 1870 mashed was a popular way of saying flirtatious or head over heels in love, and to crush something was to mash it.

    How did mash acquire that meaning? The Oxford English Dictionary shoots down one line of speculation found in an 1890 slang dictionary: the suggestion of a Romani word mash or masherava, meaning to allure or entice.

    Ernest Weekley’s 1921 Etymological dictionary of modern English observed that mash was “regarded as spoon-diet,” the sort of mashed pap one would feed to a person who couldn’t chew or tolerate regular food. He drew a link to the word spoony.

    To be spoony on someone had, since the 1820s, meant to be foolishly or sentimentally amorous, drawing on the earlier meaning of spoony as simp

    2018-10-18 18:14:15
  • I can follow the "mash" to "crush" connection, but both the Romani and "spoony" etymologies for "mash" sound like stretches to me. I think it's more likely that "mash" is a derivation of "pash," the term school novels from the 1880s-1940s use for crushes, obviously short for "passion."

    2018-10-18 18:14:34
  • In Madame Bovary (1856), Flaubert has a passage in Chapter five, Part two:

    But the more Emma recognized her love, the more she crushed it down that it might not be evident, that she might make it less. She would have liked Leon to guess it, and she imagined chances, catastrophes that should facilitate this.

    That could be a likely candidate for the origin of the word. It also seems more in concert with the way we use it today (as opposed to mash, which can mean the act of love making). Many in France and America were aware of the book (since it was so scandalous), and it may have seeped into the language around that time, possibly playing a role in Isabella Maude Rittenhouse's use of it later in 1884.

    ** However, Madame Bovary was translated into English in 1857, but that version is lost and was never published. The first published version (from which the above quote is taken) was published in 1886. I still think this is a possibility. In French the phrase reads "Le refoulait

    2018-10-18 18:47:37
  • Ok. Not into etymology. But having said, I'm more confused than enlightened. Will skip this one if someone brings up at gathering, lest I confuse them too.

    2018-10-18 19:10:07