(Question in the "Title Header" restated in French):
Quelle est l’étymologie du mot « dada » tel qu'il est employé en français pour signifier « cheval » (horse) ?
When our children were little “poussins,” Mama Coq and I would bounce them on our feathered laps cackling « A cheval … . / A dada sur mon bidet … » .
Although they’re much too big for that now, we still, for old time’s sake, bring out our “Jeu de dada/Petits chevaux” game board to play each year when they “fly south for the winter (holidays),” which they will soon do, and which, I suppose, is what inspired my question at this particular time.
I know that “dada” is children-speak / baby talk for “cheval,” which my “Le Robert-Micro” confirms, and the earliest reference that I can find is the following entry from the 5th edition of the Dictionnaire de l'Académie Françoise, Volume 1 (1798-99 [L’an VII de la Republique]):
s. m. Terme dont se servent les enfan[t]s et ceux qui leur parlent, et qui signifie un cheval. Un petit dada. Aller à dada
However, I need help to discover and understand the origins of the word as used in this sense.
When asked where « dada » came from (and why), Mama Coq responded:
Well it’s just what we [as French children] called horses and rocking horses because “cheval” was too hard for us to say. It’s nonsensical baby talk, so I don't see why you are even trying to find any rhyme or reason for it ([you stupid sh#t-head]). Now please get off your butt and take out the garbage, darling.
Be that (the above parenthetical) as it may, I don’t accept that answer, because I fail to see either:
any phonetic connection between “dada” and “cheval,” which often exists between the real word and a baby’s failed attempt to say it [brother = bubba in English / Tante = Tata in French, for example] or
any "onomatopoetic" connection between “dada” and the vocal sound made by horses (whinny/neigh in English / hennissement in French), which also often exists between the real word (especially an animal) and the “word” used by babies to identify the animal [a cow = a moo-moo in English / un oiseau = un cui-cui in French, for example].
So no, I can’t accept that ANY (much less, ALL) contemporary French babies simply hear the word “cheval” or hear the horse’s “hennissement” and immediately experience a eureka moment in their perhaps small, but not-so-nonsensical brains, to-wit:
Eureka!! From this day forward I shall call that thing “un dada!”
No, I'm thinking that this must be a term expressly coined (apparently pre-1798) and espressly taught to French babies (as if they don't already have enough vocabulary and grammar rules to learn!) by adults, who were/are either:
the ones actually possessing the type of brains that would be required to concoct such a "nonsensical word" (if that's all it is) for "cheval" OR
(and this is what I believe [and on the descendants of whom I’m counting to answer my question]) the ones possessing the etymologic knowledge that logically connects “dada” to “cheval.”
Thanking you all in advance.