Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.
Readers of expat blogs or visitors to expat grocery stores might think that all immigrants crave is their native junk food since most of both of those types of spaces are dedicated to memorializing food that contains more chemicals than actual food. Being guilty of both writing about crap that I long for and frequenting stores that sell the wares I want, I’d say that a big part of the appeal of such things is their specificity, how they mean something or represent something specific to the people who eat them.
Generally speaking, I don’t think I snack very much. In Europe, I’ve had a hard time finding things that I actually like to munch on. It took me four years to find a decent Cheetos substitute in Spain and I left the following year. In France, a decent dry roasted peanut has continued to elude me.
But I do hanker for something sweet or something salty now and again. The difference is that instead of indulging in a candy bar, I’ll go to the bakery and get something fresh and delicious and I’ll eat that instead of indulging in typical American snacking behavior (like eating a whole bag of chips or a pint of ice cream).
EN → snack — a small amount of food eaten between meals. ORIGIN Middle English “snap, bite” from Middle Dutch snac(k), from snacken [to bite], variant of snappen.
ES → picar / picotear — tomar una ligera porción de un alimento. [Eat a small portion of a food.] ORIGIN From pico describing the beak of a bird, suggesting the way in which a bird eats.
FR → grignoter — Manger (qqch.) par petites bouchées. [Eat little bites of something.] ORIGIN From grigner [gnash teeth], circa 1170 from Dutch grînen [grimace : an ugly, twisted expression on a person’s face].
The winner today has to be Dutch, right? I mean, two totally different languages adopted words from it for the same thing.
My Brain Says
→ “The Suicide” episode of SEINFELD features a manipulation-by-favorite snack when Jerry gets Newman to promise not to tell on him, all for the price of one Drake’s Coffee Cake.The show regularly featured specific name-brand snacks (Junior Mints, Snickers bar, etc.) which wasn’t really common at the time.
→ If you like junk food, beautiful pictures of junk food or someone who tells involved stories about their youth and then illustrates them with junk food, you should check out Food Junk.