Occasionally in my everyday dictionary-perusing and word-collecting, I come across a word whose origin is so delightfully fascinating that I can't help but to share it. Recently, I did a closer investigation of the etymologies of the words gardyloo and zydeco, both words listed in Merriam-Webster Unabridged as "perhaps from French," and what I found was intriguing. They both come from French words or phrases that seem very far off from what the English word is today.
Gardyloo, according to Merriam-Webster Unabridged, is an imperative verb that was ". . . used as a warning shout in Scotland when it was customary to throw household slops from upstairs windows." This word doesn't look or sound particularly French, but if you scroll down beneath the definition, you find out that the word possibly came from the French phrase garde à l'eau, meaning "attention to the water." Upon being adopted into English, Anglicization made the elegant-sounding French into a more sloppy and clumsy English word. The eau, meaning water, apparently became oo, and the word referenced slop--usually human waste, specifically--instead of water. L'eau is also thought to have been the origin of the English word loo.
Zydeco, although being much more pleasant than gardyloo, has--in some ways--a similar origin story. It's a type of music popular in Southern Louisiana combining French dance tunes, Caribbean music, and blues. It's named after a Cajun dance tune called Les Haricots Sont Pas Salés--or, in English, "the beans are not salty." Specifically, the word is from les haricots, which, like with gardyloo, was Anglicized by lazy tongues once English picked up use of it. Although \ˈzīdəˌkō\ sounds quite different from \lāz ärēkōz\ (approximation of the French pronunciation of les haricots), some remnants of the sounds in the word can still be heard in zydeco, like the \z\ and \ō\ sounds. It truly is enthralling just how much language can change over time.