In films, novels and comedy series, there is a recurring character for whom we always have a little tenderness, a little compassion. He’s the cuckold. A character, deceived by his or her partner, who is often referred to in these works as someone who “has horns”. An expression that can also be found in everyday French. But why would deception suddenly cause horns to grow on the head of the victim? The answer lies on the side of the goats and ancient Greece.
Because the word “cuckold” comes from “cuckoo”, the name of a particularly fickle bird which lays its eggs in the nests of other species, in order to avoid the grueling task of feeding its young. In Occitan, “coucou” is called “coguos”, a translation which has its roots in the Latin “cogulus”, which designates the same bird.
But why the horns? In the 13th century, to say “imbecile”, we used the word “cornart”, which will later give the insult you guess. In the same vein, in the 15th century the verb “escorner” is used to mean “to ridicule”. The term “horn”, which one finds in “cornart” and in “escorner”, designates in itself the penis.
Making someone cuckold, and therefore practicing sex with a third person, could thus be referred to by the not really subtle expression “sticking horns”. And, according to Voltaire, we find this image of the horn as early as Greek Antiquity. At that time, the word “goat” could be used to designate a husband whose wife was particularly receptive to extra marital impulses.
Finally, Edmond Rostand had invented in his time the verb “ridicoculiser”, a mixture of cuckold and ridicule, to designate what happens to deceived people. Fortunately, ridicule doesn’t kill the cuckold.
Source site www.europe1.fr