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Some Spanish speakers use the word crack as a positive noun. For example:

Lionel Messi es un crack del football!

Is it the same in English? Can I say: You're a crack?

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Yes, crack can be used as a positive adjective, but no, you can't use it in your sentence. Please check the definition of adjective and edit your question as needed. [Is that OK, Martha?] –  TimLymington Dec 19 '12 at 20:25

8 Answers 8

up vote 6 down vote accepted

In Spanish and Catalan, the expression is with crack as a noun.

Messi es un crack.

Your example uses it as a noun too. In English, we don't use the word as a noun in the same way. Instead we use it as an adjective meaning something very similar.

crack (adj.): first-rate; excellent

It's not nearly as common as the Spanish expression, though. In Castellano and Catalan, I hear it commonly in reference to all types of top tier athletes. The closest English word I can think of that functions as a noun and means something similar is stud. "A-rod used to be a stud, but now he's a broken down injury liability."

In English the most common usage with the adjective "crack" is: He's a crack shot, meaning He's an excellent marksman.

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at least in Spanish we don´t have word crac. I think it´s just another deformation of the English word crack that´s the reason I used it with k. Thank you for your help, what you say is clear. –  lontivero Dec 19 '12 at 20:54
    
Okay, thank you. I will edit. –  tylerharms Dec 19 '12 at 20:58
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Careful using 'Stud.' In some English-speaking communities, it has a distinct connotation of sexual attractiveness that might not fit your intended meaning. –  user867 Dec 20 '12 at 4:24
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@user867: I think it's impossible to divorce "stud" of the connotation of sexual virility even when it's used in the above context. I would wager that it's part of the reason we use it to refer to top athletes in the first place. Plus, I'm sure "crack" gets thrown around in the same way in Spanish. Es un crack en la cama! –  tylerharms Dec 20 '12 at 21:32

In Ireland, crack is a form of slang. If you say someone or someplace is great crack, you mean that they are very entertaining and/or fun.

This derives from the Gaelic word craic, meaning a term of fun, amusement, gossip and interesting conversation. Craic can be used as a noun also. For example, you could say We had great craic in the town last night.

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OED definition III.11 A lively lad; a ‘rogue’ (playfully), a wag. [Conjectured by some to be short for crack-hemp, crack-halter, crack-rope, used playfully. Cf. also mod.Icel. krakki ‘urchin’.] seems at odds with your Gaelic origin. –  FumbleFingers Dec 19 '12 at 22:47
    
From OED definition: craic is a noun, chiefly Irish variant spelling of crack (sense 4 of the noun). Origin is 1970s: Irish, from English crack. The English word apparently entered Irish English from Scots in the mid 20th century and subsequently assumed an Irish Gaelic form. But it is very much a contemporary slang word in Ireland. –  mccannf Dec 19 '12 at 22:58
    
Sorry - I should have followed your link in the first place. It certainly does have "an unusual history", as that Wikipedia article puts it. But would you really call it a "Gaelic" word? Judging by his name, I assume English language specialist Diarmaid Ó Muirithe referred to in that article is an Irishman, and he says it's an example of "the constant Gaelicisation of good old English-Scottish dialect words [that] sets my teeth on edge". But so far as I'm concerned, we English have plenty of words to spare - you're welcome to help yourself to any you need! :) –  FumbleFingers Dec 19 '12 at 23:23
    
The fact that we'd been using the English word "crack" for as long as English was spoken on this island, but later found that spelling it the madey-uppy 1970s Irish way was better at persuading tourists to part with their dollars, does not make it as gaeilge in origin. –  Jon Hanna Dec 20 '12 at 16:11

No, you wouldn't say it that way. With this meaning, it's an adjective. You can say "you're a crack soccer player."

See crack definition:

adj.: Excelling in skill or achievement; first-rate: a crack shot; a crack tennis player.

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As the other answers have noted, you're actually asking whether you can use "crack" as a positive noun, not adjective.

The answer is "yes," for two reasons:

  1. "Nouning" of adjectives is an acceptable means of forming new expressions in English.
  2. The OED lists multiple meanings of the noun form of "crack" that could apply. Here's the most applicable definition, which includes citations dating back as far as the 17th Century:

That which is the subject of boast or eulogy; that which is ‘cracked up’; a horse, player, ship, regiment, etc. of superior excellence.

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I have no access to the online OED, but your citation appears to be from OED 1, and that particular fascicle was published in 1893! It's not updated in the Supplements, and I find no instance in COCA or BNC of this particular sense. OP may of course revive it, under your principle 1; but I don't think it will be received as idiomatic. –  StoneyB Dec 19 '12 at 21:16

In your example the word crack is being used as a noun, not an adjective. English does not use the word crack this way, and your example is not grammatical. However, English does sometimes use the crack as an actual adjective, that is, a real adjective and not what you wrote:

He's a crack hitter.

That lady's a crack shot.

Note that in order for this to make sense, you have to include a noun after the adjective crack.

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I don't know how widespread it is beyond the UK, but "we had a great crack" (a good time), and "for the crack" (just for the hell of it) are established (albeit "slangy") noun usages with OP's general sense. –  FumbleFingers Dec 19 '12 at 22:51

There's one positive adjective crack and one more complicated noun and adjective crack.

The adjective crack referring to the highly-skilled is already noted.

The other is partly noted, but not quite correct.

Some time ago, crak was mostly negative, and meant boasting. From this we have Shakespeare's insulting use in "King John":

What craker is this same that deafs our ears With this abundance of superfluous breath?

Now, this word largely then mutated in two different ways that resulted in two different folk-etymologies.

One route took cracker to the Americas where it became a general insult (much as bastard is used as a general insult making no genuine claim as to the marital status of the subject's parents). Then it became an insult used primarily by people of English birth or descent to describe people descended from the Scottish planters in Ulster (those who are now called "Scots-Irish" in America). Later it became an insult used by African-Americans for relatively poor white people. The folk etymologies arose that it came either from "cracked corn" or from the "crack" of a whip during the time of slavery in the US.

The other route it took was to develop a more positive connotation throughout England to be about the sort of boasting that one might make good-naturedly during a night of revelry and fun. From there it spread to Ireland, and largely (but not entirely) died out in England. It developed an adjective form, so we might not just talk about going out "for the crack" but of a night out having been "good crack".

It was borrowed into Irish, and in the 1970s within the Irish language the spelling craic began being used, displacing the more direct borrowing crack. This became popular in pub signs promising craic agus ceol ("crack and music") or more to the point of the establishment's business craic, ceol agus ol ("crack, music and beer"). These signs did their job of persuading people to part with punts - and more so with pounds and dollars - to the point where craic was re-borrowed back into Hiberno-English with that spelling often used in Ireland even in English.

This led to the folk-etymology which claims that the word is of Irish origin, when it's actually the other way around, with the Irish use of the word being a borrowing from English.

But anyway, it's the other form of crack that might be informing the Spanish you cite.

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You're a crack.

Crack is not being used as an adjective here. To do so, you would have to amend it to read something like,

You're a crack footballer.

This is perfectly fine and indicates a high level of skill in the game of football. The relevant definition for crack reads:

adjective
[attributive]
very good or skilful:
he is a crack shot
crack troops

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Be careful when saying, "You're a crack user." People might get confused. –  jdstankosky Dec 19 '12 at 20:34
    
what about programmers? I want you say: I know you're a crack powershell programmer. Does it sound like something good? or does it sound like a code destructor? –  lontivero Dec 19 '12 at 21:06
    
@lontivero No, that doesn't sound destructive; it means exactly what you intend: a first-rate programmer. But tylerharms' stud is more colloquial and would probably make him feel better; crack is sort of literary now. –  StoneyB Dec 19 '12 at 21:17
    
Lol @jdstankosky - not to mention some who is an excellent prostitute ;))) –  mplungjan Dec 19 '12 at 21:29
    
@lontivero the fact that "crack" is used by hackers to mean much the same as what tabloid journalists use "hack" to mean - destructive, childish vandalism - would make it an unwise choice in that context. –  Jon Hanna Dec 20 '12 at 16:13

All wrong. Crack comes from the American term "crackerjack" shortened to "crack" meaning a person of excellence in sports or otherwise

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If this is the etymology, how come crack (adj., meaning excellent) is attested by the OED in 1793 in the U.K., and crackerjack (noun, meaning excellent) isn't attested until 1895 in the U.S. –  Peter Shor Jul 9 at 20:17

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