You are now entering a place… where one strange word… lives alone… separated from its sibling signifiers.
This is The Outlier Zone.
(Inspired by a comment made by Madame Weebles on last week‘s Word Mystery, I’ve decided to do the Bizarro version of that recurring feature and look at why sometimes one language has a different root word when the others I know share the same one.)
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I really like beer. My infatuation started when I realized that, consuming as much liquid as I do, I needed something with a lower alcohol content than, say, vodka, which I also love but can’t realistically drink unless I want to be hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. (Which I don’t.) I’m also a fan of the communal aspects of beer (it was the only reason anyone socialized in high school) and when I got to college, I discovered something that those wily New Englanders had been keeping to themselves: craft beer and bars with hundreds of beers on tap. It was glorious.
After college, I had disposable income to spend on really good beer, and I went nuts for Weissbier, Hefeweizen and Belgian blondes. When I told people I was moving to Europe, I joked that I was going to find a Belgian beer prince to marry and get drunk with for the rest of my life. (The joke was on me, of course, as Belgian beer is typically made by monks, a subset of the population little-known for their procreation.)
The word “beer” has basically been the same for ages, all over the Western world. In Old English, they had bēor. Latin biber was ‘a drink’; the Dutch guzzled bier and the Germans, with their crazy capitalization fetish, have Bier.
But the Spanish have to be difficult. Instead of accepting a perfectly good word, they stick it to everyone by having cerveza.
ES → cerveza — Bebida alcohólica hecha con granos germinados de cebada u otros cereales fermentados en agua, y aromatizada con lúpulo, boj, etc. [Alcoholic beverage made with germinated grains of barley or other grains fermented in water and flavored with hops, boxwood, etc.] ORIGIN Celtic cerevisĭa.
There is a very long history of Celtic presence in Spain (as far back as 900 BC according to some), especially the part closest to former Celtic lands. It’s odd that in a country still trying to learn to like beer, they should exclude themselves further from the fun by defying convention. They’re the worst.
A few months ago, the NYT published a story proving what I already knew in high school.
In Spain, a Corona beer is called una Coronita. “Corona” was already registered to a wine company when the Mexican brewer came to set up shop. (It tastes like watered-down carbonated urine in both countries.)
Jacques Brel, that paean to la chanson française, has an ode to beer unlike anything you’ve ever experienced. When I first saw Disney’s BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, I thought, “That Gaston song is totally a Jacques Brel rip off,” and I stand by my opinion.