Posts Tagged ‘curfew’


This week’s word is curfew thanks to my son’s history book.

Curfew entered English during the Middle Ages and it originated in French. The phrase “couvre feu” means “cover fire” and it evolved into the Middle English word curfue, and later to curfew.

At the time the majority of buildings in villages and towns were built of wood, the exceptions being churches and the lord’s manor house or castle. The gaps between buildings were narrow so if a fire caught hold you could easily have half the town burned to a cinder before the bucket line got into gear.

One way to lessen this danger was to limit the times when people could have an active fire in their hearth. The church bell rang around sunset to indicate curfeu, time to cover over (bank) your fire for the night. The town bailiff would enforce the rule by taking a stroll around town, which I suspect may have led to the phrase “no smoke without fire”.

The idea of curfew being a time at which you must return to your dwelling didn’t arise until the 1800s and is now mostly associated with teenagers and the declaration of martial law.

Until next time happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,

Grace (a.k.a. @Wordfoolery)


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I finished version 2.0 of my novel last week, and slacked off here as a result. Apologies to all for missing last week’s blog posting. There will be a version 3.0 of the novel by early September – it needs a final polish before submission to publishers and agents. I have some feedback still coming in on the last third of the text, but the bulk of the work is complete and it’s a source of huge relief and satisfaction. I was particularly keen to finish by this week as I’m heading to Tuscany on our family holiday. I have no intention of scurrying around in search of internet access while I am there, so you may assume the next blog post will be Monday 12th of July.

And now, back to fooling with words…

This week’s entry is inspired by an issue of Podictionary. I am happy to recommend this wonderful resource for those of us interested in the origins of words.

Curf is defined as an incision made by a cutting tool. I’ve done some wood carving in my time, and my husband enjoys it as his main hobby, so I’m familiar with the curved or straight lines made by chisels in wood. That’s what I think of when I envision a curf. Although I assume it could be done to fabric or paper with scissors, or indeed on metal, given a sharp enough tool. The spelling kerf brings a very similar definition from many sources.

The word leads neatly to the idea of cutting a line in the sand when outlining a curfew, whether that be to a wayward teenager or under military law. My own dictionary here defines it as “official regulation restricting or prohibiting movement of people, especially at night – or the time which is set for that purpose.”

I like the image of a stern parent carving out the time their offspring must return home nightly. Thankfully I set my own curfews these days.

My own curfew this month was the last day before our holidays, the time at which I must put aside novel version 2.0 in favour of relaxation. Now that’s a curfew I can live with.

Happy reading, writing, and wordfooling,


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