Le cul entre les deux chaises

An American Spaniard in France or: How I Learned to Make an Ass of Myself in Three Cultures

Word Mystery: egg / huevo / oeuf


Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.

The way my mind works, I think of a concept and then start extrapolating from there, considering and sorting all my associations with the thing and turning those ideas around and around in my head, making connections or setting some things aside for later reclassification. It’s like there’s an infinitely cross-referenced card catalog in my brain, or maybe one of those crazy-person conspiracy boards you see in movies.

How crazy is it that they're using a manifestation of mental illness to promote a TV show? (Homeland's back on Sept. 29!)

How inappropriate is it that they’re using a manifestation of mental illness to promote a TV show? (Homeland‘s back on Sept. 29!)

One of the last steps I get to is the actual name of the thing since I deal primarily in Platonic ideals. That’s when I begin to pull up all the different names I have for the same thing, which is when I hit on a Word Mystery. Thinking about those damned rabbits, I was forced to also think about chickens and something that I’ll write about tomorrow got me thinking about eggs… so, let’s get cracking.

EN → egg — an oval or round object laid by a female bird, reptile, fish, or invertebrate, usually containing a developing embryo. The eggs of birds are enclosed in a chalky shell, while those of reptiles are in a leathery membrane. ORIGIN Middle English (superseding earlier ey, from Old English ǣg): from Old Norse.

ES huevoCuerpo redondeado, de tamaño y dureza variables, que producen las hembras de las aves o de otras especies animales, y que contiene el germen del embrión y las sustancias destinadas a su nutrición durante la incubación. [Rounded structure, of variable sizes and hardnesses, which are produced by female birds and other species, which contain the germ of the embryo and the substances necessary to sustain them during incubation.] ORIGIN Latin ŏvum (« egg »).

FR oeufChose arrondie à enveloppe dure que produisent les femelles des oiseaux et qui contient des substances nutritives (de couleur jaune) entourées d’une gélatine protectrice (de couleur transparente). [Round thing enveloped in a hard casing which is produced by female birds and which contains nutritive substances (yellow-colored) surrounded by a (transparent) gelatinous protection. ORIGIN 12th cent. Latin ŏvum.

I cry foul (fowl?) today, as I can’t figure how huevo and oeuf came from the exact same word and yet evolved so differently. I’m also annoyed that despite appearing like a Word Mystery (they look totally different!) they don’t actually have unique origins. Grumble. This week’s winner is English because the other two didn’t play nice.

Pop quiz, hotshot!

Test your mettle on conspiracy board knowledge. I got 9 out of 13.

Author: le cul en rows

I'm an American Spaniard, living in France. I like to tell stories.

9 thoughts on “Word Mystery: egg / huevo / oeuf

  1. Fun fact: in both Spanish and German, the word “egg” can refer to part of a guy’s anatomy. Causing your German students to laugh at you when you ask them things in English like “How many eggs do you have [in the fridge at home]?” or “I had two eggs for breakfast!” And no, they don’t seem to care that it doesn’t actually have the same connotation in English.

    • When I was teaching ESL in Spain, I’d have to correct them all the time by saying that their sense would be “balls” which they thought was funny b/c in Spanish “en pelotas” means butt naked. Ah, languages, will you ever stop amusing.

      Speaking of your German students, have you gotten to the German/Ranch dressing moment in Breaking Bad yet?

      • If it was in the first four seasons, we must have missed it! I did keep an eye out. Maybe it’s in the fifth season, which isn’t on Netflix yet.

      • It’s 5×02, so I guess I’ll have to wait a while longer for your reaction. I don’t know why I’m so obsessed with the idea…

  2. Okay, not related to this post per say, but does this music video look vaguely familiar? http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=GaWXA5e0YTQ#at=68

    • Ha! You mean it looks like that Italian song I posted, right? It totally does look like that. My favorite YT comment is “its like jay gatsby meets benedict cumberbatch meets elvis presley.”

      I’m not even sure what it means but I think a lab should get on it right away! The hybrid would take over all forms of media!

  3. I’ve always liked the word “egg.” It’s fun to say. In Italian, it’s “uova”, which is sort of like a compromise between “huevo” and “oeuf.” Those Latin-based languages are funny, aren’t they.

    Have you done “beer” as a word mystery yet? Because I have no idea how “cerveza” came about. The Spaniards must have been drunk at the time.

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