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This week we'll talk about food names. These aren't words that will increase you vocabulary, for most of them are familiar names -- but ones that have an interesting story behind them.

'Sunflower' is girasole in Italian. We have corrupted girasole to Jerusalem, and we call the sunflower root the Jerusalem artichoke. It is not an artichoke at all, and has nothing to do with Jerusalem.
 
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How is it that the turkey, a native American bird, is named for a country 4,000 miles away?

Turkeys first arrived in England from Spain, where they had been brought by Cortés in 1519. The English mistakenly believed they had come from Turkey. (Indeed, the first English colonists in the new world were surprised to find that the land abounded in turkeys. Other European nations made similar mistakes of geography.) The French called the bird 'chicken of India', that is, poulet d'Inde, which has evolved into their current name in French, dindon. The Germans, Dutch, and Swedes identified the bird with the city of Calicut (Calcutta), and called it Kalekuttsch Hün, kalkoen, and kalkon respectively.
 
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Delmonico's Restaurant in New York (1827-1923) created lobster à la Wenburg to honor an esteemed client, Ben Wenburg. After a falling out, however, the restaurant re-ordered the initial letters, calling the dish Lobster Newburg.

The Waldorf-Astoria hotel, creator of the Waldorf salad, also concocted a hangover cure for a Mr. Samuel Benedict. The cure? Eggs Benedict.
 
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Posted elsewhere is this illuminating conversation on the origin of the Hamburger.
 
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In England the word 'corn' means 'grain' of any sort, but in the United States it means the specific grain maize.

How did this difference of meaning arise?

Though the Pilgrim colonists brought wheat with them, it was devastated by a fungal disease native to the Americas. However, the Indians taught the Pilgrims how to grow maize, which the Indians had grown for centuries. (Teaching was needed because maize had evolved to the point that it would no longer self-propagate; it is entirely dependent on human help.) Since maize was the only grain available in the colonies, the word 'corn' came to mean that specific grain in US speech.
 
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Why do we call it a hot dog?

The butchers' guild of Frankfurt introduced this form of sausage in 1852. Folklore claims that it was made curved at the behest of a butcher who had a pet dachshund, and who convinced co-workers that a dachshund-shaped sausage would win the locals' hearts and stomachs. In any event, a vendor who hailed from that town popularized this food at America's Coney Island, in the 1890's. The sausage went under a many names: frankfurter or frank, wienerwurst or wiener (after the city of Vienna, spelled "Wien" in the native tongue), and dachshund sausage. "Dachshund sausage" was the name used by the vendors who sold it at New Your baseball games in 1906.

Enter Tad Dorgan, syndicated cartoonist for the Hearst newspapers. He sketched a cartoon of a dachshund smeared with mustard, sandwiched in a bun. But since he was unable to spell dachshund, he settled on "dog," captioning the picture "Get your hot dogs!"

Then name not only stuck, it virtually obsoleted its predecessors, and soon spun off terms like the exclamations "hot dog!" and "hot diggity dog".

Note: My source for this is Charles Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Thing (including the verb "to obsolete"). Other print sources confirm the Dorgan story, though some say the catchphrase "hot dog" was already sweeping the nation and helped support the name for the sausage, rather than vice versa. In fairness, I'll add that snopes and word-detective stoutly deny the Dorgan story – but until otherwise shown, I'm putting my money with the published-in-print sources.
 
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French fried potatoes are not named for France. Rather, the verb 'to french' means "to cut into strips or slices, before cooking'.
 
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Originally posted by wordcrafter:
"...it virtually obsoleted its predecessors..."

"My source for this is Charles Panati's Extraordinary Origins of Everyday Thing (including the verb "to obsolete")."

"Obsoleted"? I don't care what Charles Panati says. "Obsoleted" should be obsoleted!

The OED say it is "now chiefly N. Amer."

Tinman
 
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"Obsoleted"? I don't care what Charles Panati says. "Obsoleted" should be obsoleted!


I agree. Verbifying nouns and, in this case, adjectives is one thing but the completely unchecked overuse of this device could eventually result in the obsoletification of the OED!
 
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Originally posted by wordcrafter:
_French fried potatoes_ are not named for France. Rather, the verb 'to french' means "to cut into strips or slices, before cooking'.


So, let me see, to French means to cut. Hmmmmm....I hope that is not where we get French kiss from! Red Face
 
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Let it be noted that the phrase "to obsolete" is Panati's, not mine, and I too see it as a barbarism. Smile
 
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Why is an 'ice cream sundae' named after a day of the week?

The authorities agree that this Americanism, from the late 1800's, comes from the day of the week. The majority view cites the "blue" laws of the period, which often forbade the sale on the Lord's Day of intoxicating sprits – and which viewed carbonated soda as an "intoxicating spirit". On Sunday, then, an ice cream parlor would have to modify its ice cream sodas by removing the soda water, and use only ice cream and syrup – the ice-cream sundae.

But what city thus given birth to the sundae? Several claimant cities can show that the term was used on their local menus from that time. The various authorities list as possible cities Evanston, Illinois, Norfolk, Virginia and Ithaca, New York.

I tend to go with Evanston, for two reasons. First, almost every authority lists it as a "possible". Second and more important, Evanston was the national headquarters of the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), a very active organization, and was notorious for the strictness of its blue laws.
 
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That has answered a question that has long puzzled me. I never could understand why Budweiser was sold as "intoxicating liquor" since in my experience the more you drink the more sober (but the more waterlogged) you get.

Now I know - it's the carbonated water that's the intoxicant!

Richard English
 
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Originally posted by wordcrafter:
French fried potatoes are not named for France. Rather, the verb 'to french' means "to cut into strips or slices, before cooking'.


Aha! That explains "french cut green beans". My first job after high school was working in a frozen foods processing plant. Produce from local farms was processed and frozen. Green beans were processed most of the summer, either as regular cut green beans or french cut green beans. Later, in college, I had to give a speech, and I spoke about the processing plant. The first thing I had to do was explain what french cut green beans were. I always assumed the "french" referred to France. I never bothered to look it (until now), not realizing it was a method of cutting.

M-W dates it to 1941 and says it means, 1 : to trim the meat from the end of the bone of (as a chop); 2 : to cut (green beans) in thin lengthwise strips before cooking
M-W notes that it is often capitalized. This is probably because most people assume, as I did, it relates to France. I'm still not convinced it isn't.

The OED defines it as "To prepare, as a chop, by partially cutting the meat from the shank and leaving bare the bone so as to fit it for convenient handling", and dates it to 1895. The OED and M-W usually agree on the date, so I wonder what happened here.

There are, of course, other definitions of "french"!

Tinman

PS. The food-processing plant was in the Green River valley in the small town of Kent, WA. The entire valley, except for Kent and a couple other small towns, was farm land. Now, it is mostly concrete. Sad.

[This message was edited by tinman on Sun Jan 19th, 2003 at 18:03.]
 
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Originally posted by Morgan:
So, let me see, to French means to cut. Hmmmmm....I hope that is not where we get French kiss from! Red Face

The AHD gives the following definitions:

1. To cut (green beans, for example) into thin strips before cooking.

2. To trim fat or bone from (a chop, for example).

3. or French

a. Slang. To give a French kiss to.
b. Vulgar Slang. To perform oral sex on.

Interestingly, the OED doesn't include the definition of 3a. It does, however, include the definition of 3b, but it words it a bit differently and it calls it "slang", not "vulgar slang". If you look it up, be sure to read the quotes!

So be careful who you call "Frenchie"!

Tinman
 
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Originally posted by wordcrafter:
Let it be noted that the phrase "to obsolete" is Panati's, not mine, and I too see it as a barbarism. Smile

I realize the word was not yours, that it was part of a quote. The OED (and M-W) date it to 1640. The OED's most recent quote was from 1977. Let's hope that's the last one.

Tinman
 
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