Wizard
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Wizard
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September 22nd, 2011 at 4:43:47 PM permalink
I've been playing card games for about 40 years about I don't think I ever stopped to ponder what is a Jack until recently. Wikipedia tells us the term used to be Knave, and was designated with a Kn. In 1864 an English card maker used a J instead of Kn, to avoid confusion, with the J standing for Jack. Wiki suggests the term comes from a game called All Fours. However, that would lead me to wonder why they used the term Jack in that game instead of Knave. Also, what did a Jack mean in that game?

What is a Knave then, you might ask. According to Wiki it is "a male servant of royalty." Perhaps there is a connection with the term jack as used in "jack of all trades."

Perhaps it would help to shed light on this mystery to know what they call jacks in other languages. In Spanish it is called a Sota, which I believe means helper. A bit off topic, but the word for King and Queen in Spanish are Rey and Reina, respectively. However, what letter do they represent the two ranks with on Spanish cards? It could get confusing if they were both an R.

I have a deck of cards here from the Casino de Montreal and here is what the French decks do:

King = Roi (R)
Queen = ? (D). The word for Queen is Reine. They probably didn't want another R, so what does the D stand for?
Jack = ? (V). No clue what that V stands for.

How about other languages besides English, French, and Spanish? Let's try to get to the bottom of this people!
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Nareed
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September 22nd, 2011 at 4:53:02 PM permalink
Quote: Wizard

Wikipedia tells us the term used to be Knave, and was designated with a Kn.



I think in the "Alice in Wonderland" books one charater is the Knave of Hearts. Not in the Disney movie, though.


Quote:

Perhaps it would help to shed light on this mystery to know what they call jacks in other languages. In Spanish it is called a Sota, which I believe means helper.



I've heard of it. The term may be used in Spain and other countries, but in Mexico it's now called "Jack" (I imagine some people spell is as 'Yak')

Quote:

A bit off topic, but the word for King and Queen in Spanish are Rey and Reina, respectively. However, what letter do they represent the two ranks with on Spanish cards? It could get confusing if they were both an R.



Beats me. I've played plenty of card games locally, but never read anything about them in Spanish. I suppose Q and K, as playing cards are printed that way. of course, most playing cards yuo find here are imported from elsewhere. For a long while you almost only found Bycicle brand cards. I still have lots of them at home.
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Tiltpoul
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September 22nd, 2011 at 4:55:04 PM permalink
Quote: Wizard


Queen = ? (D). The word for Queen is Reine. They probably didn't want another R, so what does the D stand for?

How about other languages besides English, French, and Spanish? Let's try to get to the bottom of this people!



My guess (no research or knowledge of French) is D stands for Dama or the French equivalent of Dame.
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Doc
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September 22nd, 2011 at 7:03:08 PM permalink
It's likely not directly the answer to the question, but some of this could be related. Here is a paragraph taken from a reference book I use occasionally.
Quote: Word and Phrase Origins, by Robert Hendrickson

jack. Jack, for money in general, is an Americanism first recorded in 1859, but the expression is probably older, possibly deriving from the expression to make one's jack, "to succeed in one's endeavors," first attested in 1778. This expression, in turn, may come from the British slang jack for "a farthing and a counter used at gaming tables," which dates back to about 1700.


The reference to a counter used at gaming tables made me think it could be a lead-in for the naming of a card.
weaselman
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September 22nd, 2011 at 7:08:42 PM permalink
Actually, when I was in UK, some years ago as a student, and played some cards with a bunch of my roommates, they called Jacks "Knave", so, I am thinking "Jack" is really more of an Americanism ...

Quote: Wizard



King = Roi (R)
Queen = ? (D). The word for Queen is Reine. They probably didn't want another R, so what does the D stand for?
Jack = ? (V). No clue what that V stands for.


D = Dame (lady), V = Valet (roughly, same meaning as knave in English).

That's what they call them in Russian too (pretty much Cyrillic transliteration of the French words. The word for Dame is also used in spoken language, meaning "lady", same as in French, "valet" in Russian is only used as the name of the card, although I think it used to be a more common word a couple hundred years ago).



One way to find out what they call it in other languages without recruiting native speakers is clicking on the language names on the left hand side of the Wikipedia page you linked to :)
For example:

German: Bube
Polish: Walet
Netherland: Boer
Norvegian: Knekt
Estonian: Soldat
Esperanto: Fanto
Ido: Pajo
Low Saxon: Buur
etc.
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FleaStiff
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September 22nd, 2011 at 10:12:37 PM permalink
Knave was a nobleman under arms in the royal household which is why the Jack of Diamonds is the only Jack depicted bearing arms.

The English still use knave from time to time, I believe.

I thought the V was viscount but never really thought about it much. I do know that there is a game called Valet wherein Jacks are the highest card so perhaps I'm wrong about viscount.
thecesspit
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September 23rd, 2011 at 12:09:55 AM permalink
Jack is an older slang word in English English for a common man. Jack tar. Jack-in-the-green. It's also a pretty popular first name over there these days.
"Then you can admire the real gambler, who has neither eaten, slept, thought nor lived, he has so smarted under the scourge of his martingale, so suffered on the rack of his desire for a coup at trente-et-quarante" - Honore de Balzac, 1829
waltomeal
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September 23rd, 2011 at 1:22:11 AM permalink
In my opinion, the definition of "Knave" always came out of the Dylan song "Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack and the Hearts." Look there my friends.
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heather
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September 23rd, 2011 at 7:03:00 AM permalink
Quote: Wizard

Wiki suggests the term comes from a game called All Fours. However, that would lead me to wonder why they used the term Jack in that game instead of Knave. Also, what did a Jack mean in that game?



I've been doing some work on Wikipedia's History of Games articles (*cough*), and I would suggest that you be extremely cautious in accepting some of that information without at least a grain of salt, particularly in reference to card games and games of chance. Some of the information is very dated, some is just wrong, and some of it is deliberately wrong or exaggerated (the dating of any game originating in China, for instance, is often pushed back to an absurd degree of antiquity for nationalistic purposes).

FWIW, in the Spanish (Baraja) deck, the Jack is called a Sota and looks like a page. Tarot decks have both a Page and a Knight between the 10 and the Queen, again FWIW.

I'll also mention that a line from Alice in Wonderland comes to mind here -- "She calls the knaves jacks, this one does", suggesting that the name change was somewhat recent to Lewis Carroll's time.
Wizard
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Wizard
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September 23rd, 2011 at 9:05:41 AM permalink
Thanks for all the responses. I asked my Spanish tutor this question and she produced a deck of cards from Argentina. For the suits they had cups, swords, a wooden club, and a round thing that looked like a coin but she called it "gold."

For the "face cards" we had only pictures to go on, no letter like J/Q/K to use as a hint. The pictures seemed to be of a man without horse and a man with a horse. My tutor referred to the latter as a caballo (horse).
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.

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