Posted in English language
04/06/2021

Food words

Before the Norman Conquest of 1066, food animals had the same names on the plate as in the field, e.g. cow, sheep, pig. Afterwards, meat acquired names derived from aristocracy’s use of French, e.g. beef, mutton, pork. These smudge the link to the live animal and protect the feelings of the squeamish. However, there are many other English food words that have come from other languages, purely by adoption.

From German we have lager, noodle, vermouth, Emmenthal and pretzel, for example. From Italian, pizza, macaroni, broccoli, cauliflower and latte. Turkish gave us houmus, bulgur and shish kebab, while Spanish contributed its paella, avocado, vanilla and guacamole. Among many Arabian-origin words are alcohol, apricot, artichoke, syrup, coffee, couscous, sherbet, lemon, lime and orange, and from India came mulligatawny soup, kedgeree and chutney.

Of course, the French influence not only gave us cuisine to denote a certain cookery excellence, but also everyday names such as omelette, mayonnaise, custard, meringue and casserole. During the World Wars, when supplies were strangled and food rationing prevailed, British cooking was allowed to become a poor joke, which further elevated our French neighbours’ culinary reputations, but since the 1980s the skills of British chefs have gained more acknowledgement.

(Image [cropped]: openfoodfacts.org / CC BY-SA 3.0)