Though these days the term wordmonger refers to "a writer or speaker who uses language pretentiously or carelessly," please join me in proposing a new meaning. A fishmonger appreciates and promotes fish, therefore, a wordmonger does the same for words.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Edible idioms & edible euphemisms


Edible idioms & edible euphemisms

I had enough fun with last week’s post to go a second week with food-related terms. Here’s hoping you’re having a good time with them, too.

The word giblets appears to have been constructed as a euphemism so people eating giblets wouldn’t be reminded they were eating the organs of a game bird, also known as offal (though we never see offal on the menu, do we?). Giblets comes from a French term that meant game stew, a word that has its roots in falcon-hunting.

And continuing in the world of euphemisms, who would sit down at an expensive restaurant and order swollen goose liver? There’s a reason restaurateurs embraced the French term pâté de foie gras.

Another food euphemism is sweetbread. This euphemism showed up in the 1560s. Isn’t it amazing diners are more likely to savor sweetbreads than the literal alternative – calf or lamb pancreas?

When something is sentimental or sappy, we might call it corny. This idiom made its debut in American English in 1932. It was preceded by the short-lived idiom corn-fed, which appears to have been – in part – a way for cityfolk to slander those who lived in the country.

In Britain in 1858 the word cheesy came to mean fine & showy, but forty years later in America the cheap or inferior meaning of cheesy was born. At the time, American university students were using the word cheese to label an ignorant person. Etymologists are pretty sure the American idiom cheesy was born of this put-down.

When someone’s goose is cooked, his/her hopes are gone; he is finished. This idiom entered English in 1845. The story appears to be that any farmer scrabbling for a living would likely have a number of chickens, but only one goose. As times got harder & harder, the farmer might eat his chickens one by one. But it was a sure sign all hope was lost when he cooked his goose.

Any chance any of you want to add a food idiom or euphemism to the heap? If so, please do so in the comments section.


4 comments:

  1. I remember the first time I went to a fancy Italian restaurant with my parents and they ordered sweetbreads and I wanted them too. But they told me I wouldn't like them. How could I not like sweet bread? When their order came I was so glad I got the spaghetti :-)

    Isn't that strange that "cheesy" went from meaning posh to downmarket. Cheese usually makes things taste yummier, so how could that be bad? Maybe it's like schmaltz, which is chicken fat, which when overdone can be pretty overwhelming and um, schmaltzy

    There's also that expression "to cheese somebody off." I wonder where that one came from? Maybe a question for another post?

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    1. Hi Anne,
      I love schmaltz -- hadn't heard that before. As to cheese, it seems to get around. There's also "cheese it!" meaning "let's get out of here." Dairy mysteries abound!

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  2. "BRING THE CHEESE," IN BASEBALL MEANS FOR THE PITCHER TO THROW HIS FASTBALL. AND THEN, OF COURSE, THERE'S . . . BUT WE WON'T GO THERE ON A FAMILY BLOG-SITE.

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    1. Steve! It's grand to see you digitally engaged. I hope you're feeling grand in the Heart & Para-thyroid Department...& elsewhere, too.

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