Food words

We mainly have the French to thank for many of our food words (like omelette and mustard), but our imports also include such delights as avocado and vanilla from Spain, cauliflower and spaghetti from Italy, and lager and noodles from Germany. From the Middle East we have hummus, yoghurt, spinach and coffee, but it is from France that English has adopted ‘café au lait’, ‘au gratin’ and all such fancy terms for what is valued as top-notch ‘cuisine’ or ‘cordon bleu’.

Calling butchered meat different names to those of the live animals certainly puts a psychologically comforting distance between them, but it seems to have arisen simply because the Norman Conquering nobility used these words in their English homes. Thus we have beef (Old Fr. buef) for cow meat, venison (Old Fr. venesoun) for deer, and pork and bacon (Old Fr. porc, bacon) for pig. Rabbit, hare, lamb and chicken escaped unaltered.

There are plenty of English idioms related to food. For example:-

  • Take it with a pinch of salt
  • That’s just sour grapes
  • Know which side your bread is buttered
  • There’s one bad apple in every barrel
  • I don’t boil my cabbage twice
  • You’re as nutty as a fruitcake!

(Image: / CC BY-SA 3.0)

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