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This phrase "to have no truck with" has bothered me ever since I stumbled upon it, the reason being it makes no logical sense whatsoever even remotely if you go by the lexical meaning of the words in English.

For the benefit of those who aren't aware, this phrase means to have nothing to do with [sthg].

The most popular usage of this phrase is probably in Pablo Neruda's poem Keeping Quiet (read full poem here):

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

I had always wondered if it had foreign origins, but I never found any definitive confirmation online. Now that I am learning French, I found a striking resemblance between this phrase and how the French word "truc" is used.

Truc, in French, is a colloquialism meaning "thing" or "stuff", often used to replace something trivial. It surprises me how this word perfectly complements the meaning of the phrase in question.

This word, as with our English phrase, has negative connotations as well. For example, "On raconte des trucs sur lui," which means, they say some nasty stuff about her.

Owing to the lexical similarity of this word with the phrase, as well as the semantic similarity (to a degree), I draw the theory that this is where the phrase originated.

Is it possible for someone to verify the validity of my hypothesis?

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    "Based on the lexical meanings of the words"; I think you're missing a lexical meaning. See OED sense v5 (a and especially b): imgur.com/a/jVapCZb . Similar entries in all the other dictionaries I checked. In use since the 17th century. Relatively easy to see how the sense evolved (barter->exchange->have dealings with). For an expanded etymology, see etymonline.com/word/truck#etymonline_v_17884 (which reiterates "sense of 'dealings' from the 1620s).
    – Dan Bron
    Jun 4, 2022 at 12:54
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    This is an original sense of truck garden, which I grew up thinking was named after the trucks that took fresh produce to market. Jun 4, 2022 at 14:37
  • @DanBron Aaah! Yes, that should make a lot of sense! Thanks for pointing it out to me Jun 4, 2022 at 14:40
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    @DanBron Sounds like a good answer to be made out of that!
    – Mitch
    Jun 4, 2022 at 21:42
  • For the French element, see these (1, 2, 3).
    – user425462
    Jun 4, 2022 at 21:43

2 Answers 2

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Lexico gives two definitions for truck. The first is the wheeled vehicle. The other, which "have no truck with" is listed under is a noun/verb pair that means "barter" (with some other related definitions). Therefore, "have no truck with" can be paraphrased as "have no dealings with". Lexico gives this etymology:

Middle English (as a verb): probably [from] Old French, of unknown origin; compare with medieval Latin trocare.

Cross referencing, I found truken (verb) in the MED (defined as "barter"). Its etymology there is given more solidly as:

OF troquier, trochier & ML trocāre; for forms in -u- cp. AF truck barter.

This connection with trochier is shown in the first example, which is spelled with ch:

Men beoð wode þe trochið [Cleo: trochieð] swa uuele. — Ancrene Wisse, c1230(?a1200)

This means there is indeed a connection with French, but not a connection with truc ("thingamajig"), as Wiktionary gives the etymology for that as:

derived from Vulgar Latin *trūdicō, from trūdō.

(I'm not sure the timeframe for this, unfortunately.)

The noun form of truck appears in Early Modern English, and not just in negative contexts. A search of EEBO, which is Early Modern English (EME), gives some examples:

(There are also a few results for Lexico's first sense of truck — in this case defined as "a wooden disk at the top of a ship's mast or flagstaff" — such as in Six dialogues about sea-services.)

Moving out of EME, there are still more examples to be had:

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Have no truck with:

“Truck” came from the French word (troc) for “barter.” Originally, if you had no truck with somebody, you refused to trade with him or her. By extension it came to mean you refused to have anything to do with the person.

(Endangered Phrases by Steven D. Price Copyright © 2011 by Steven D. Price)

This 'truck' is the early French word 'troque', which meant 'an exchange; a barter' and came into Middle English as 'truke'. The first known record of truke is the Vintner's Company Charter in the Anglo-Norman text of the Patent Roll of Edward III, 1364. This relates to a transaction for some wine which was to be done 'by truke, or by exchange'.

'Truck' is now usually only heard in the negative and this usage began in the 19th century. To 'have no truck with' came to be a general term for 'have nothing to do with'. An example of that is cited in the Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1834:

  • Theoretically an officer should have no truck with thieves.

(The Phrase Finder)

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    Hence "truck farm", a farm that raises vegetables for barter or for sale.
    – MTA
    Jun 5, 2022 at 1:15
  • @MTA I see the evolution of the phrase now, thanks! Jun 5, 2022 at 8:40
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    Or the Truck Acts which stopped employers forcing their workers to only purchase from the overpriced company store
    – Henry
    Jun 5, 2022 at 9:50
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    In fact, I often hear the phrase as "no truck nor trade with" which makes it clearer that it's "dealings of any sort" Jun 5, 2022 at 14:44
  • @Henry The truck shops were originally a result of the shortage of small-denomination coins at the start of the industrial revolution. The industrialists struck their own coins which could only be spent in company shops. The profitability of this system did, of course, mean that the truck (or tommy) shops survived the reform of the Royal Mint and necessitated the Truck Acts.
    – BoldBen
    Jun 5, 2022 at 22:17

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