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 Outlier: cerveza

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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.)

Very similar to my high school experience.

Very similar to my high school experience. @Anders Nilsen for NYT

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 → cervezaBebida 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.

'Tis true!

‘Tis true!

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.

Final thoughts

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.

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Author: le cul en rows

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

10 thoughts on “Word Outlier: cerveza

  1. Nice story…I love Jacques Brel and I do like Belgian beers though one is enough for me!

  2. Yay! I mean, I could have looked it up myself, but you make it much more interesting. I had no idea that “cerveza” was based on a Celtic word. Who knew? I was also not aware of Celtiberians. I learned so many new things today!

  3. I adore your Belgian Beer Prince story. Also, I love the references to the Celtic parts of Spain. I studied the Celtic parts of France for my Master’s degree and learned a bit about Spain, but now I may have to read up a bit more. Any recommendations?

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