It’s one of those words that makes you freeze up and wait for autocorrect to kick in: chauffeur. There’s only one proper way to spell it, but we’ve all seen (or been guilty of) myriad misspellings of this difficult word. No matter how we spell it, we’re all looking for the same thing: a high-end transportation professional who offers quality customer service. So how did the chauffeur’s title get to be so difficult?
The French Origins of ‘Chauffeur’
Many of us find it hard to spell “chauffeur” because it’s a French word, and we’re used to the spelling rules of English. But why are we using a French word in the first place?
In an earlier article on the history of chauffeuring, we write about the origins of the word. It comes from the French verb “chauffer,” which means “to heat” something. “Chauffeur,” then, means “one who heats something or stokes the flames.”
In the late 19th century, motorized cars became a primary means of transportation. These new inventions were difficult to operate, and many aristocrats hired people to drive and maintain their cars. These people became known as “chauffeurs” — or “stokers” — because early cars were steam-powered, so drivers had to stoke the engines to keep them running.
Chaufeurred, Chaufeur, Shoffered, or Chouffered may all seem correct phonetically, but we now know that the correct term is “chauffeur”. We could call them “stokers,” but “chauffeur” sounds much better, doesn’t it? After all, the French pronunciation evokes the luxury of the chauffeured experience itself. There could be no more fitting name.