Monday 29 August 2011

Currants, Sportsmen and Brothels

In Greece there's a little city called Corinth which lies on the narrow isthmus (Greek for neck) that connects the Peloponnese with the mainland. They used to make raisins there.

These raisins were known in Medieval England as raysyn of Curans. And then people got lazy and just called them currants. As a chap pointed out in 1578:

The smal Raysens which are commonly called Corantes, but more rightly Raysens of Corinthe.

Oddly, the S was on the end to make it sound like the Greek Corinth; but then people got the mistaken idea that it was there because the word was plural. So a singular word currant was mistakenly invented.

Corinth was known for its wealth and decadence. From the wealth we get the word Corinthian meaning a rich, amateur sportsman. From the decadence we get the fact that Corinth used to be a slang term for a brothel.


  1. Now there's something I neer knew. It's interesting that the same word can be used for gentleman and brothel.

  2. Fascinating. Gather Corinth - which connects the Peloponnese (NB spelling; island of Pelops) with the mainland - still produces a healthy amount of currants.