Every Wednesday, I explore the linguistic origins of one word in different languages I speak.
English is funny in that many dead animals that we eat are called different things when they’re on the chopping block. Cows are beef, calves are veal, sheep are mutton… the list goes on. This can all be traced to the Norman conquest of the land of Angles in 1066 and economic biases. You can learn more about why “The posh words are French and the rough words are Anglo-Saxon” in this nifty video but today we’re talking about the general term for dead mammal, one of my favorite things to eat, even when it’s a beloved pet.
Sharpen your knowledge knives and dig in!
EN → meat — the flesh of an animal (esp. a mammal) as food. ORIGIN Old English mete [food] of Germanic origin.
ES → carne — Parte muscular del cuerpo de los animales. [Muscular part of animal bodies.] ORIGIN Latin caro [flesh].
FR → viande — Aliment tiré des muscles des animaux, principalement des mammifères et des oiseaux. [Food pulled from the muscles of animals, principally mammals and birds.] ORIGIN Common Latin vianda from Low Latin vivanda [that which serves life].
Today’s Winner: Oh man, is this a tough one. How can I choose between a word that means “food” and one that means “gives life”? My first instinct is to go with English because, if I could get away with it, I would probably eat only meat all the time but I do love the irony of calling dead flesh “life-giving” so, vive la France!