George Carlin once jokes that "they banned me from the casino in Vegas for saying sh*t, when the big game played there is called 'craps.'” How did the popular dice game get its rather unsavory name?
While craps is a distinctively American invention, it is based on a British dice game called Hazard that gained popularity some 2000 years ago. (Hazard is even mentioned by Chaucer in his Canterbury Tales.) When the French settled in what is now Nova Scotia, Canada, they brought the game of Hazard with them. In the mid-1700s, many of the French re-settled in New Orleans, where Hazard gained popularity thanks to all the gaming parlors in the area.
The roll we now call “snake eyes” was referred to as “crabs” in the lingo of Hazard, and it is believed that over time “crabs” turned into “craps.” By the early 1800s, the rules of the game had been simplified from those of the sometimes convoluted British version, and when riverboats filled with gamblers started heading up the Mississippi, craps caught on with the rest of the country.