Archive for Language and food

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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A Stew with a Consonant Shift

[This is a guest post by Lukhnos Liu]

Oden (おでん) is a popular Japanese dish. Common ingredients include fishcakes, konjac cakes (or konjac noodles), daikon, and boiled eggs, all stewed in a lightly soy- or mirin-flavored dashi broth. It is also popular in Taiwan, usually called o-lián and written as 黑輪 ("black wheel"), but I don't think I've heard anyone say the word in Mandarin (hei-lún). It is an example of how Taiwanese words are often written: the 黑 in 黑輪 does not represent the sound o͘ – the character 烏 (black, dark) does, and the character 黑 (black) is pronounced hek.

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Japan: crazy over portmanteaux

No matter where I go these days, I hear young people shouting to their friends, "I'm playing Pokémon Go", which they pronounce "pokey-mon go".  It would be an understatement to say that, for the past few weeks, Pokémon Go has been a veritable craze.  Yet most people who play the game probably do not realize that the name "Pokémon" is a Japanese portmanteau based on two English words:  poketto ポケット ("pocket") + monsutā モンスター ("monster"). 

"What's in a name — Pikachu, Beikaciu, Pikaqiu?" (5/31/16)

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Of shumai and Old Sinitic reconstructions

It's no secret that I'm a great fan of the AHD:

"The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition " (11/14/12)

My devotion to AHD stems not just from its unparalleled inclusion of Indo-European and Semitic roots, but from its outstanding coverage of terms relating to Chinese languages and linguistics.  It was already strong in the latter respect in the earlier editions, but, with the 5th edition (2011), there was a noticeable improvement, such that the treatment of Chinese in AHD cannot be matched by any other dictionary of English.

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A meal of little shovels

At an excellent restaurant in Leipzig last night the server quickly identified me as an Auslander whose German might not be up to grasping every nuance of the menu, so I was given an English menu as well. (It was a bit humiliating, like having a bib tied round my neck. I have tried to explain elsewhere why my knowledge of German is so shamefully thin and undeveloped despite my having once spent 18 months living in the country.) On the English menu was a dish at which I raised a native-speaking eyebrow: Frankish little shovels, it said. And since there is no limit to my dedication as a linguistic scientist, I ordered the dish just to see what these little shovels were like.

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