Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.
I’ve done almost 70 Word Mysteries and have a list of nearly 130 waiting to be researched on my computer but this week’s entry doesn’t appear on it because I am an idiot. No other possibilities exist.
EN → eat — put food into the mouth and chew and swallow it. ORIGIN Dutch eten [food, eat] and German essen [eat].
ES → comer — Masticar y desmenuzar el alimento en la boca y pasarlo al estómago. [Act of chewing and making smaller of food in the mouth and passing it to the stomach.] ORIGIN Latin comedĕre [consume, devour].
FR → manger — Absorber un aliment, par opposition à boire. [Absorb food through means other than drinking.] ORIGIN Latin manducare [chew, masticate].
French note #1: the second definition for manger is the one you’d expect (it includes chewing) but the example provided is “to chew one’s nails,” not what I think about when eating. (Nail chewing is totally disgusting, on par with people who clip their nails in public. What makes anyone think that’s okay? That is *not* okay.)
French note #2: I took enough science classes to understand that food is actually absorbed by the body during the process of digestion, but I still feel like the French is suggesting that osmosis is a viable way to take in calories.
Today’s Winner: I’m going to go with English as that definition is the only one that didn’t make my stomach turn.
Just for funzies
Nauseous — causing nausea.
Nauseated — affected with nausea.
Both come from the Latin nauseosus [seasickness] but the difference in usage is one that’s important (to pedants like me, at least).
I am nauseous = I make people vomit.
I am nauseated = I am going to vomit.
Tags: Dutch, Eating, English language, food, French language, German language, Heathers, Latin, Nausea, Pedant's Corner, science is magic, Spanish language, The Princess Bride, Winner: EN, Word Mystery
I was very happy to receive the following photo from friends of mine who now live in Maryland.
They’re keeping the Catalan tradition of the shitting guy alive in a new country, with a new generation (they’ve got two kids). I am very pleased that my teachings have reached this far.
Maps + misconceptions + Internet idiocy (or genius?) = some of my favorite things.
The story of the map and its creation is here.
Because I am an experienced traveler and have developed a keen sense of when a suitcase is overweight, I took the precaution of sending myself some things from the US. As usual in such cases, I chose wisely as the package in question weighed 13.25 lbs. (6k) and my luggage allowance was 50 lbs. (23 k).
Here’s what the mailman came twice to deliver (really! He left a note the first time and the package the second):
→ Envelopes filled with the few actual photographs I still have. Many of them will be scanned and then shredded because I don’t believe in keeping lots of stuff.
→ The only love letter I probably won’t ever throw out. In keeping with my own twisted logic, it’s not from anyone I actually dated, nor does it contain any declaration of love but that’s why it’s my favorite.
→ A whole stack of my original Super López comics, including my favorite issue! You can tell they’re the real deal because they cost 395 pesetas! (That was just over 3 bucks back in the day.) These books have traveled more than many people.
→ An Italian phrasebook I bought in 2003 as my one defense against the rudest people on earth. It didn’t make them any nicer to me, but at least I knew I was being polite to their asshole faces.
→ On Writing Well, William Zinnser. I’m gonna master this whole expressing-with-words-on-pages thing.
→ The Big Screen, David Thomson. Books about movies are two of my favorite things in one! The only way to make them better was if they were edible.
→ Mythologies, Roland Barthes (2012 translation). I will most likely not understand anything, but I’ll try.
→ Complete Works, William Shakespeare. It is possible I have three different versions of this but I won’t know for sure until I finally unpack all my belongings and take stock.
→ My name tag from college when the locally owned video store I worked for got bought out by a chain. A friend of mine called me Brain and that’s his crappy writing on the tag.
One night, a young guy and his girlfriend came up to the counter and he looked at me, then my name tag, then to his companion and finally back at me and smirked, “Hi, ‘Brian.’ Do you have [some stupid movie I didn't bother to register in my memory]?” To which I had to say, “Actually, it’s Brain,” and I very condescendingly ran my finger under each letter so that he could see how un-Brain he was. “And we currently have multiple copies of [whatever Hollywood crap fest] on the New Release wall. It’s that huge wall that runs the length of the store. With a neon sign. That says ‘New Releases.’” And then I smirked right back at him. God, that was the best job.
My brother had a Spanish girlfriend who, on her first visit to the US, freaked the hell out when he took her to a diner. It was way too much for her. She’d never seen a menu with so many pages listing countless options of things and then, when she actually ordered, there were so many other choices to make that she hadn’t anticipated. And then the portions were so big and numerous that she was totally overwhelmed.
If you’ve been to a decent diner, none of this will come as a surprise to you because this is just how diners operate, but she’d never experienced such a thing.
For the first time since I left the States in 2005, being in a diner reminded me of her, not because the story was funny, but because I totally empathized with her position. The menu in diners *is* way too long. Several pages of small print listing hundreds of combinations, covering all possible meals, usually supplemented by a “daily specials” list is more than one person can handle. New Yorkers think the rent’s too damn high? Their menus are too damn long.
Anyway, I thought of this story when I went to a diner for my last dinner in New York and had a mini-breakdown while ordering something totally simple off the chalkboard so that I wouldn’t have to open the opus of edibles on offer.
Waiter: What kind of dressing? Italian, thousand island, French –
[I didn't take a picture of the salad because it wasn't in any way exciting.]
Waiter: Two vegetables; mashed potato, French fries, green beans, corn –
Me: Ah! Mashed and beans!
At this point in my head I was thinking, “Christ, please go away because I can’t make any more choices and you’re totally stressing me out,” but then he asked if we wanted bread and an extra bowl of gravy and I just yelled, “Yes! Yes!” and he ran away because I looked crazy.
The meal was good and totally worth the trouble, but I can tell you that I am very happy to be back in a place where you get two, maybe three, options for each course and that’s it. Too much choice is paralyzing.
Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.
Well, that was a missed opportunity. Last week’s Word Mystery should definitely have been “turkey” but I schedule these posts so far in advance that I frequently pass up perfectly good holiday tie-ins. Though, truth be told, if I had an oven, I could still be eating Thanksgiving leftovers a week later since it’s my favorite meal in the universe… so, yeah, I totally meant to post this today! Whether you believe me or not, waddle on down and let’s talk turkey.
EN → turkey — a large mainly domesticated game bird native to North America, having a bald head and (in the male) red wattles. ORIGIN applied to the guinea fowl (which was imported through Turkey), and then erroneously to the American bird.
ES → pavo — Ave del orden de las Galliformes, oriunda de América. [Bird of the Galliformes order, native of America.] ORIGIN Latin pavus [peacock].
FR → dinde — Grand oiseau de basse-cour originaire de l’Amérique du Nord dont le cou et la tête sont rouges et dépourvus de plumes. [Large game bird native of North America whose neck and head are red and without feathers.] ORIGIN Spaniards brought the bird to Europe from Mexico and in France it was known as “chicken from India” [poule d'Inde] since Columbus and the Spanish still thought the Americas were India.
English & Spanish note: man, people used to be really bad at geography. Like, way worse than I am at math which is hard to comprehend.
Second Spanish note: the definition for pavo was the longest I’ve come across, so I edited it down considerably. I have *no idea* why this of all words required such a lengthy, zoological description.
Spanish note, tercero: In moden Spanish, a peacock is called un pavo real [a royal turkey] which I like to interpret as a veiled insult to monarchies solely because that amuses me.
French note: The male of the bird is called a dindon, but it’s the female who gets eaten so she gets to be Word Mystery-ed.
Today’s Winner: it’s obviously French because that origin story is awesome, hilarious and makes Spaniards look like idiots. It’s a Word Mystery hat trick!
Learn one more thing
You may not have noticed the pun in the introduction and since I both love puns and want people to make gooder English talking, here’s an explanation. “Talking turkey” means to talk about something honestly. In this sense, turkey is also not bullshit which is another thing to love about it.
Sigh. Why can’t my full time job be correcting things*? If someone at Camper (or whoever does their not-good marketing) had just asked me to glance at what they were working on, I could have told them that in English, our colas are Diet, never Light.
*This job kind of exists in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel where Judi Dench is hired by an Indian call center to school the operators on how to be properly British. I would love doing something like this, especially since my General American accent (that is to say, one which isn’t specific to any region) is highly prized by people who are interested in such things.