Archive for Language and food

Chinese restaurant shorthand, part 3

Yixue Yang and I were on a mission to find out what the mysterious "O" in this entry from the previous installment in this series stands for:

laan2 / lán 兰O — stands for gaai3laan2 / jièlán 芥兰O
("Chinese kale / broccoli / gai lan / kai lan order")

Since that "O" occasioned so much discussion in the comments to the previous post, we were determined to put the controversy to rest, once and for all, and we now have done so, as will be explained at the end of this post.  For the moment, though, let's look at the bill we received this time (Saturday 2/25/17):

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Caucasian words for tea

In Appendix C of The True History of Tea, a book that I wrote with Erling Hoh, I showed how all the words for "tea" in the world except two little-known Austro-Asiatic terms can be traced back to Sinitic.  The three main types of words for tea (infusion of Camellia sinensis leaves) may be characterized as te, cha, and chai.  I won't repeat all of the philological and linguistic data in this post, but you may find the essentials nicely summarized here:

"An evening with Victor Mair" ("Pluck Tea", 6/1/11), also in this Wikipedia article, and in this blog post on Languages of the World by Asya Pereltsvaig:  "What will you have:  tea or chai?" (9/28/14).

Here's a map of words for tea in European languages.

If you want more detail, go to Appendix C of the book, but — unless you have exceptionally good eyes — you'd be well advised to enlarge it on a photocopier because that part of the book is in double columns of very fine print.

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Trump tea

A friend of mine who does research on the history of tea in China recently shared the following photo in a WeChat group that focuses on Chinese food culture:

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Bread-salt ice cream

AntC took this photograph today at the "Sun Moon Lake" Visitor Centre / main bus station in Taiwan:

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Offal is not awful

My son sent me this wonderful, learned post called "The best bits" from the "Old European culture" blog (12/7/2015).  It begins:

Offal, also called variety meats or organ meats, refers to the internal organs and entrails of a butchered animal. The word does not refer to a particular list of edible organs, which varies by culture and region, but includes most internal organs excluding muscle and bone.

The word shares its etymology with several Germanic words: Frisian ôffal, German Abfall (offall in some Western German dialects), afval in Dutch and Afrikaans, avfall in Norwegian and Swedish, and affald in Danish. These Germanic words all mean "garbage", or —literally— "off-fall", referring to that which has fallen off during butchering. However, these words are not often used to refer to food with the exception of Afrikaans in the agglutination afvalvleis (lit. "off-fall-meat") which does indeed mean offal. For instance, the German word for offal is Innereien meaning innards. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the word entered Middle English from Middle Dutch in the form afval, derived from af (off) and vallen (fall).

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Chinese restaurant shorthand, part 2

On Saturday the 26th, Yixue Yang and I went to the Ting Wong Restaurant in Philadelphia's Chinatown. I took one look at the menu and knew right away that the first thing I wanted was the second item on the menu, the Congee with Chopped Beef.

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Free Tea

Advertisement for a beverage that is available in Japanese convenience stores:

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The mystery of "mouthfeel"

Helen Wang writes:

I have a question – what's the etymology of the English word "mouthfeel"? In the last few weeks in the UK I have heard the word "mouthfeel" several times, spoken very naturally as though it's an established English word. I was surprised because I remember kǒugǎn 口感 (lit. "mouth-feel") as being "untranslatable" or an "awkward translation". So I looked up "mouthfeel" online to see when this direct translation made its way into English. It even has a Wikipedia entry! But no mention of kǒugǎn 口感 or any etymology. It seems to have just appeared in English – earliest usage in the 1930s.  See The Big Apple, "Mouthfeel" (4/10/12) by Barry Popik.

So I tried looking up kǒugǎn 口感 in Chinese and found it was not as ubiquitous as I'd remembered. My very quick and basic search gave the impression that kǒugǎn 口感 might be a translated term in Chinese, most examples being related to drinks such as wine or tea. I wondered if you knew more?

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Please prevail in kind

Anne Henochowicz found this on the menu at Panda Gourmet, an incredible dìdào 地道 ("typical; authentic") Shaanxi restaurant in a Days Inn on the outskirts of DC:

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Chinese restaurant shorthand

Yixue Yang went to the Ting Wong Restaurant 天旺大饭店 in Philadelphia's Chinatown the other day. Here's the order the waiter took down:

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Toxic shellfish warning in seven foreign languages

Stephen Hart sent in this photograph of a sign that appears on Ediz Hook in Port Angeles, WA (and probably elsewhere in the state):

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Italy is a dollop

When I wrote the following post, I had an intuition that Yīdàlì 一大粒 ("one big grain / granule / particle / tablet / pellet / kernel / bead / seed"), aside from being a pun for "Italy", meant "one big scoop", and I said as much in the last sentence of the post.

"Italy is one big grain" (9/6/16)

Now, looking into the matter further, I have found that I was right on the mark.

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English "wine", French "vin", Spanish "vino"

Translators of Chinese poetry are tormented by how to render the term jiǔ 酒.  The nearly universal English rendering of jiǔ 酒 in Chinese belles lettres is "wine".  The problem is that "wine" is fruit based (usually grapes), whereas jiǔ 酒 is grain based.

This is a topic that has come up tangentially on Language Log many times in the past (see below for some references).  I am revisiting it now because, in the fall, I will be participating in an event in New York having to do with tea and wine.  In the minds of those who know Chinese, that will be framed in terms of chá 茶 and jiǔ 酒.

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