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Vierge

(2 syl.). A curious conversion in playing-cards occurs in reference to this word. The invention is Indian, and the game is called “The Four Rajahs.” The pieces are the king, his general or fierche, the elephant or phil, the horsemen, the camel or ruch, and the infantry. The French corrupted fierche (general) into “vierge,” and then converted “virgin” into dame. Similarly they corrupted phil into “fol” or “fou” (knave); ruch is our “rook.” At one time playing-cards were called “the Books of the Four Kings,” and chess “the Game of the Four Kings.” It was for chess, and not cards, that Walter Sturton, in 1278, was paid 8s. 5d., according to the ward-robe rolls of Edward I., “ad opus regis ad ludendum adquatuor reges.” Malkin said it was no great proof of our wisdom that we delighted in cards, seeing they were “invented for a fool.” Malkin referred to the vulgar tradition that cards were invented for the amusement of Charles VI., the idiot king of France; but it was no proof that Jacquemin Gringonneur invented cards because “he painted and gilded three packs for the king in 1392.”

Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894
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