Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Chew on this - the etymology of food and the story of English

Its been an enlightening morning,

Did you know; that
a biscuit is called a biscuit because the word comes from the
Latin term for "twice-baked," which is how biscuits were made in Roman days, the
jalapeƱo chile is named after Xalapa - a city in Mexico, that the term "gourmand"
came from the Old French gormant, or glutton, And what makes a halibut a halibut,
is that the fish once was eaten on holy days, with the name derived from
the Middle English words hali (holy) and butte (flatfish).

I was scrolling through my google alerts this morning, when I came across a story
by Rebekah Denn, restaurant critic
for seattlepi.com. The story is on a new book
by Anu Garg whom some might know as the Wordsmith, from his daily e-mails -
discussing particular words and their origins - that he's been sending out to
upwards of 600,000 subscribers all over the world since 1994.

The article goes on to talk about his book, "The Dord, the Diglot, and an Avocado
or Two" (Plume, $13), and enlightens that he's devoted an entire chapter to 'chewing
over the etymology of culinary terms with noteworthy backgrounds. (The avocado of
the book's title, he wrote, "originated in the Aztec language Nahuatl, where it was
called ahuacatl, meaning 'testicle' because of its shape.")'
Denn's article goes on to quote Garg, "Food is so integral to our lives and cultures, Garg said last week before an appearance at the Ballard Library, it's no surprise that related words are steeped so deeply into our language.

"Language is a reflection of people," he said, and food terms seep deeply even into metaphors, such as a "juicy" plot.

And just as careful eaters read labels to find what's hidden in their meals, Garg delves into food words for "what's hiding in their etymologies.""

The full story is here. Of course I clicked over to the website (wordsmith.org) and
found it fascinating, but can get overwhelming, however the daily email is great for
small doses of vocabulary to dip into. Especially the theme based collections in
which food makes an appearance often.
Scroll down the Oct 2007 archive for food
related words.

The story got me to thinking about something I had read a few years ago in a book called
The story of English

Here it is...

Quoting Shakespeare ~ Bernard Levin

If you cannot understand my argument and declare “It’s Greek to me” you are quoting
Shakespeare; if you claim to be more sinned again than sinning, you are quoting
Shakespeare; if you recall your salad days, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you
act more in sorrow than in anger, if your wish is father to the thought, if your
lost property has vanished into thin air, you are quoting Shakespeare; if you ever
refused to budge an inch or suffered from green eyed jealousy, if you played fast
and loose, if you have been tongue tied, a tower of strength, hoodwinked or in a
pickle, if you have knitted your brows, made a virtue of necessity, insisted on
fair play, slept not one wink, stood on ceremony, danced attendance (on your lord
and master), laughed yourself into stitches, had short shrift, cold comfort or too
much of a good thing, if you have seen better days or lived in a fools paradise –
why, be that as it may, the more fool you, for it is a forgone conclusion that you
are (as good luck would have it) quoting Shakespeare; if you think it is early days
and clear out bag and baggage, if you think it high time and that that is the long
and the short of it, if you believe that the game is up and the truth will out
even if it involves your own flesh and blood if you lie low till the crack of doom
because you suspect foul play, if you have your teeth set on edge (at one fell swoop)
without rhyme or reason, then – to the devil his due – if the truth were known
(for surely you have a tongue in your head) you are quoting Shakespeare; even if you
bid me good riddance and send me packing, if you wish I was dead as a doornail, if
you think I am an eyesore, a laughing stock, the devil incarnate a stony hearted
villain bloody minded or a blinking idiot then – by Jove! Oh lord! Tut Tut!
For goodness’ sake! What the dickens! But me no buts – it is all one to me,
you are quoting Shakespeare!!

From The Story Of English by Robert McCrum, William Cran and Robert Macneil.
Published by Faber and Faber. Cover Price 7.99

How fascinating it is to delve into the origins of words! Food for the brain!


1 comment:

Clark H Smith said...

I just discovered your blog. I love the food etymologies. (I just discovered the relationship between "cayenne" and "Guiana".)

You might enjoy my word blog. Here's the entry for the word "barbeque" (be sure to check out all entries): http://chsbackwordsblog.blogspot.com/search/label/barbeque