"Sauce" and "caravanserai": linguistic notes from southeast Texas

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My daughter-in-law, Lacey Hammond, is from Willis, Texas, not too far from Houston (46 miles / 74.01 kilometers).  Her family on both sides has been living in that area for generations.  They are mostly Irish, I believe, but with a bit of German and American Indian (Native American) blood too.

Anyway, Lacey calls salad dressing "sauce".  I was gobsmacked when I heard her say this several times, and wondered whether it's dialectal or she herself simply doesn't make a distinction between "sauce" and "salad dressing".  Anybody have any idea about that?

An interesting sidelight on the history of transportation before motorized vehicles that Lacey taught me has to do with the placement of towns in that area:  they tend to be spaced about 8 miles apart (e.g., Willis is 8 miles up the road from Conroe).  The reason is that this is the approximate distance a wagon could travel in one day in the times before railways were introduced.  Lacey, in turn, was fascinated when I told her about the stages for camel trains on the Silk Road and introduced the word "caravanserai" to her.  She just kept saying the word over and over, running it slowly and mellifluously over her tongue, asking me to help her pronounce each syllable and explain the meaning of its various parts.  Fortunately, because of my frequent travels in Central Asia and lengthy study of Silk Road history, I'm quite familiar with the etymology of the word.  From Wikipedia:

The word is also rendered as caravansara or caravansary. The Persian word kārvānsarā is a compound word combining "kārvān (caravan) with sara (palace, building with enclosed courts), to which the Persian suffix -yi is added. Here "caravan" means a group of traders, pilgrims, or other travelers, engaged in long distance travel.

The caravanserai was also known as a khan (Persian خان), han in Turkish, فندق funduq in Arabic (from the Greek, pandocheion, an inn), and fundaco in Venice.
VHM:  It was recognition of the Persian suffix -yi that enabled me to determine the origin of the word chai, for which see appendix C of The True History of Tea.

The more I talked, the more Lacey went into a reverie.  It seemed almost as though she were being transported along the dusty Central Asian trade routes by the magic sounds and meanings evoked by that exotic, vowel-rich word:  caravanserai.  At that moment, perhaps as never before, I truly felt the sheer power of words to convey not just meanings, but emotions, images, and countless other aspects of human existence as well.

[I dedicate this post to the memory of my dear friend, Elling O. Eide (August 22, 1935-January 2, 2012) of Sarasota, Florida.  Elling was a generous patron of the study of languages, poetry, history, and many other fields of human endeavor.  He was particularly fond of Iranian languages and would have loved the discussions of "caravanserai" and related topics in the comments below.  Elling assembled what I consider to be the finest private library in the world for research on Chinese civilization.]


  1. Edith Maxwell said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 9:26 am

    Thank you for sharing that, Victor. What a lovely post. (And although I have read that word, I didn't really know what it meant or its provenance before.)

  2. Simon Fodden said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    Lovely word, indeed. But my eye was caught by the statement that a wagon could only manage 8 miles in one day, which seems a really small distance, even for a wagon train. It would only take a slow walker three hours to make the distance, on level ground at least.

    [(myl) But a large traveling company of humans and animals does a lot more than mere walking. From The army of the Indian Moghuls: its organization and administration, 1903:

    Again the march of Sayyad Husain Ali Khan from the Dakhin, a march undertaken under circumstances of extreme urgency, should afford an excellent test of the rate at which a Moghul army could march. He left Aurangabad about the 11th Nov. 1718, and reached a suburb of Dihli on the 16th Feb. 1719. His march thus occupied 98 days, and his route by way of Burhanpur, Ujjain, and Agrah, measures about 695 miles on the map, allowing 1/8th for the windings of the road. His average daily rate of marching (including any days on which he halted) was thus 7.1 miles.

    A page on operations during the American Civil War says that "Large units sometimes marched over 25 miles and sometimes less than 8 miles per day, but the average—assuming no enemy interference—was probably 12 to 15 miles per day."

    And when rough terrain and substantial changes in elevation are involved, 8 miles a day might be a reasonable rate of travel even for a solitary backpacker.]

  3. h. s. gudnason said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 9:50 am

    MABEL: (coming forward) Hold, monsters! Ere your pirate
    Proceed, against our will, to wed us all,
    Just bear in mind that we are Wards in Chancery,
    And father is a Major-General!

    I've always believed that Gilbert didn't know precisely what the word meant, and was using it as a collective for the group of pirates, where "caravan" would have been a better possibility (though it wouldn't have rhymed with "chancery").

  4. David Epstein said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 9:57 am

    Think, in this battered Caravanserai
    Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day
    How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
    Arose, and spent is Time, and went his Way.

  5. William Ockham said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:01 am

    I live on the northeastern edge of Houston and one of my nieces lives in Willis. I don't think I've ever heard anyone call salad dressing "sauce", but I'll check around. There are still a lot of different dialects alive in the Piney Woods.

  6. Mark Liberman said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:06 am

    Robert Lewis Stevenson:

    The bed was made, the room was fit,
    By punctual eve the stars were lit;
    The air was still, the water ran,
    No need was there for maid or man,
    When we put up, my ass and I,
    At God's green caravanserai.

  7. Larry Goldsmith said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:07 am

    Salad dressing in German is Salatsoße.

  8. Alon Lischinsky said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:11 am

    @Simon Fodden: The OWTRAD notebook, which used to include marching and riding speeds collated from many historical sources, doesn't seem to be available any longer from http://www.ciolek.com/owtrad.html, but from what I remember 8 miles a day seems a reasonable distance. Troops, from Roman days through WWI, march at an average of 20 miles a day over clear terrain. Civilians riding on heavy wagons would average a substantially lower speed.

  9. nicholas said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:12 am

    Think, in this batter'd caravanserai/ Whose portals are alternate Night and Day, /How Sultán after Sultán with his pomp/ Abode his destin'd hour, and went his way.

    Omar Kayyam – and FitzGerald – knew.

  10. nicholas said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:14 am

    @David Epstein

    Beat me to it

  11. Alon Lischinsky said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:19 am

    On the empirical side of things: 'salad sauce' seems to be the earlier of the two designations, and more popular in the UK than in the US (http://goo.gl/VIVhr, http://goo.gl/xtGFV), although it has clearly lost to 'salad dressing' since the 1860s. (This does not account for uses of plain 'sauce' and 'dressing', which would require considerable manual disambiguation.)

    Incidentally, the trends in the frequency of 'salad dressing' seem quite peculiar (http://goo.gl/pqqp1). Were the 1950s and '60s especially averse to the term, or was it a matter of less salad being eaten?

  12. rootlesscosmo said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:22 am

    Die Entführung aus dem Serail

  13. michael farris said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:25 am

    Larry Goldsmith: "Salad dressing in German is Salatsoße"

    It wouldn't surprise me if the usage in question is a carryover from German immigrants (who were important in Texas history).

    I still can't get over the idea that (if the Sopranos accurately reflected usage) Italian Americans call the sauce you put on spaghetti 'gravy'. That's way weirder for me somehow.

  14. Brooke said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:30 am

    I have heard several Southerners call salad dressing "sauce.". From the same sources I've also heard the lettuce on a sandwich referred to as "salad" (as in "I'll have the turkey sandwich, with onions and salad, no tomatoes.").

  15. Kevin said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:31 am

    Interesting! I am just now reading Jose Saramego's "The Gospel According To Jesus Christ" and encountered "caravansary" for the first time. I assumed its meaning from the context. Odd how when you see a word once, you start noticing it everywhere.

  16. Cameron Majidi said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:45 am

    I lived in Iran as a child, and first learned the word caravanserai in Persian. I think my first exposure to it was as a proper noun, though. Back in the '70s there was a restaurant in Isfahan by that name that we would frequent whenever we visited that city. "Isfahan" is itself a word that can serve to conjure images of the exotic, I suppose.

  17. Mr Fnortner said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:49 am

    @Kevin: the new car effect.

  18. Uly said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:51 am

    I still can't get over the idea that (if the Sopranos accurately reflected usage) Italian Americans call the sauce you put on spaghetti 'gravy'. That's way weirder for me somehow.

    It's accurate in NYC, at least.

  19. Amy Stoller said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 11:04 am

    I still can't get over the idea that (if the Sopranos accurately reflected usage) Italian Americans call the sauce you put on spaghetti 'gravy'. That's way weirder for me somehow.

    Accurate in some parts of the US, but I think not all. I've heard "sauce" in NYC, but I don't discount Uly's experience.

  20. Leslie said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 11:05 am

    Interesting! The word saray on its own ('palace') also exists in Turkish (and was borrowed into Russian, сарай, with the amusingly different meaning of 'tool-shed'). I am curious, why was the word borrowed from Persian with its -yi suffix attached? Was 'saray' just lopped off from 'caravansaray,' or borrowed separately? What does the -yi suffix mean? Is it a compound-word-making suffix, as it is in Turkish? If so, was the morpheme itself borrowed into Turkish from Persian?

    I love words that lead down rabbit holes.

  21. Bob Hay said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 11:06 am

    I lived in Houston for 7 years in the 90's and I don't recall hearing anyone call salad dressing "sauce". But then again, I was a teenager at the time, and few of my friends ever got anywhere near a salad.

  22. Henning Makholm said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 11:15 am

    Can you really define what the distance between Willis and Houston means to such a precision that it makes sense to quote it with a 10-meter accuracy?

  23. KeithB said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 11:19 am

    I jst finished "Empire of the Summer Moon", and while it does not address the 8 mile thing directly, the expansion of the frontier was drastically slowed by fear of the Comanches. People too far from their neighbors learned this the hard way like the Parker's:


  24. Victor Mair said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 11:28 am


    Spoken Persian apparently does not tolerate a syllable with an open vowel at the end, hence the closing off with a final -yi. The dictionary entry — at least in old dictionaries I looked at — would have the form without the suffixed -yi, but in speech it is realized with the final -yi. It was because of this phenomenon that I was able to figure out how Sinitic CHA became Persian, Mongol, Manchu, Russian, etc. CHAI (see Appendix C to the True History of Tea).

    @Henning Makholm

    That's just what the distance calculator spewed out. I thought about rounding it off, but what the heck, that little .01 wasn't likely to do anyone any harm, so I let it stay.

  25. Cameron Majidi said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 11:42 am

    Update to my comment earlier. The restaurant called Caravanserai that I remembered in Isfahan was actually the main restaurant in the Shah Abbas Hotel (now called the Abbasi Hotel – the word "Shah" apparently became toxic after the 1979 revolution) which is in the 17th century caravanserai built by that monarch. Pictures here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abbasi_Hotel

  26. Janice Byer said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 11:45 am

    What a charming slice of family life! I lived for a time about 20 miles SE of Willis – love them piney woods – but as a Yankee "expat" working in Houston, I was never in a position to hear "sauce" for what I've likewise heard only called "dressing".

    East Texas is, of course, where Texan and Mexican cooking meet up with Cajun to create some of the most delicious fire ever you'll eat. Local legend credits cooks at the state prison just east of Willis with inventing chili, supposedly as a means of making meat gone bad edible.

  27. Peter said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 12:04 pm

    That's just what the distance calculator spewed out. I thought about rounding it off, but what the heck, that little .01 wasn't likely to do anyone any harm, so I let it stay.

    It’s not likely to do any direct physical harm, true, but reading it is painful for an engineer (or physical scientist, etc.) much as reading “it is impossible to translate Schadenfreude into English” is painful for a linguist, I’m afraid.

    The effect is called false precision: the original distance (46 miles) has almost certainly been rounded to the nearest mile, but rendering the conversion as 74.01km makes it look like it’s accurate to a much finer degree.

  28. bfwebster said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 12:07 pm

    Just watched last weekend a documentary on the flight of thousands of Mormon refugees from Nauvoo, Illinois to Council Bluffs, Iowa, back in 1846. They had the misfortune to attempt this during what meteorological records show was one of the rainiest springs in Iowa in decades, turning much of Iowa's soil into mud. As a result, the refugees (traveling on foot, on horseback, and in ox-drawn wagons) often made no more than a mile a day. In all, it took the lead group 120 days to cover 265 miles.

  29. Brett said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 12:11 pm

    @michael farris: I have encountered "gravy" to mean pasta sauce several times, both in America and on the English version of the menu at a restaurant in Rome. However, in all of those examples, it was a meat-based sauce, made (at least mostly) without tomatoes. Apart from the presence of substantial chunks of meat, these sauces always seemed very much like the gravy that one might encounter in some other kind of dish.

  30. The Ridger said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 12:42 pm

    A clear distinction is probably made culinarily, but linguistically it's all "stuff you pour on food". I'm not surprised that "sauce" is used for salad dressing, since "dressing" is bread-based chunky stuff inside poultry, and "salad dressing" is nothing like that.

  31. David L said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

    If Lacey calls salad dressing sauce, what does she call the stuff you put on BBQ'd ribs? Does the type of sauce have to be specified or is it assumed from context?

  32. Coby Lubliner said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 1:03 pm

    In French also, sauce pour salade is the usual term for salad dressing.

  33. Gene said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

    Twas a cold Desert night in late December
    The Scotsman dismounted his camel and straightened his member.
    Waving aloft St Andrews banner
    He boldly strode off with a Highlander's canter.
    Sure now it's Hogmanay
    Here in the Caravanserai

  34. richard howland-bolton said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 1:14 pm

    Ah! that cued Borodin's In the Steppes of Central Asia.

  35. richard howland-bolton said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 1:15 pm

    Victor's not Gene's

  36. Victor Mair said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

    Gene Hill (a native Texas son and Texas history buff) points out that those eight mile transits were used as railroad wood fueling and watering points. The township was settled by freed men, former slaves of the Conroe sugarcane plantations.

  37. Jean-Pierre Metereau said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 1:47 pm

    Even though there's a French word for lettuce (laitue) I often heard my mother call lettuce "salade." @Cory Lubliner: I never heard "sauce pour salade"–it was always called vinaigrette. But then, Mom was a country girl.

  38. Avinor said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 1:59 pm

    Actually, since 1 mile is exactly 1 609.344 m, 46 miles is 74.029 824 m. So if you insist on 10 m accuracy, it should be 74.03 km, which again shows the danger of keeping decimals that carry no information.

    As a physicist, engineer, and Language Log reader, I agree completely with with Henning and Peter. This is the scientist version of "Swedish has no word for unit conversion"!

  39. Gene said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    Janice ! I must warn you I plan to plagiarize your, "Most delicious fire ever you'll eat." It's difficult to believe you could actually be a Yankee. For years I thought yankees were devoid of taste buds. I later concluded that their tongues were simply permanently numbed from chronic coatings of mayonnaise.
    How Texagan is, "Love them piney woods"?
    I think the best history of the origin of the TexMex dish Chili Con Carnie goes to a Freed slave who opened a Bar-B-Que restaurant in San Antonio just after the War of Northern Aggression.

  40. Victor Mair said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 2:49 pm

    #Avinor, Henning, Peter

    Henceforth, I shall round off all decimals, except when computing my students' grades.

  41. Thomas said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 3:39 pm

    "sauce" can mean strong alcoholic beverages in Anglo-Australian

  42. G said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 4:21 pm

    "Gravy" referring to red sauce (tomato-based pasta sauce) is very common in the Italo-American northeast US.

  43. Eric P Smith said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 5:29 pm

    @Mark Liberman: As an Edinburgh man I thank you for the Stevenson quote, which I have known from my cradle. But please note Robert Louis Stevenson, not Lewis (though he pronounced "Louis" as "Lewis").

  44. CuConnacht said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 7:03 pm

    I have heard that "gravy" is used where Italian would use ragú, i.e. for a sauce with meat, which would not be called salsa in Italian. I can't vouch for any of that.

  45. Rubrick said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 7:44 pm

    Using "sauce" for salad dressing seems less strange than using its Spanish equivalent for a kind of music.

  46. Jeff Percival said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:15 pm

    On the distance/decimal rounding thing: as a scientist, I too had a reaction, and enjoyed the followup. Two additional contributions: I once saw a sign on an interstate highway, maybe in the 1970s, that said *something* like "Chicago, 100 mi (160.9344 km). No wonder people don't want to switch. And this… I heard a woman say she didn't want to switch to metric, because places were already too far apart as it is…

  47. Vijay John said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:20 pm

    This is probably a stupid question, but does she really say "sauce" for ANY kind of salad dressing?

  48. Terry Collmann said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:42 pm

    Did everybody notice the "with with" in Avinor's comment?

    The curse of the copy editor: unable ever to stop noticing error, even when reading for pleasure.

  49. Jeff Percival said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 10:55 pm

    Victor: will you go light on them for missing apostrophes?

  50. Steve Morrison said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 11:26 pm

    "Gravy" means "sauce" in the context of Indian cooking, as well.

  51. Neil Dolinger said,

    January 4, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

    "Interesting! The word saray on its own ('palace') also exists in Turkish (and was borrowed into Russian, сарай, with the amusingly different meaning of 'tool-shed'"

    It also appears to have been borrowed into Italian as "seraglio".

    I can attest to the use of "gravy" to descrive sauce for pasta as far west as Pittsburgh.

  52. Vijay John said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 12:41 am

    @Steve: Yes, this is exactly why I don't feel like "gravy" is an odd word for the sauce you put on pasta.

    In Malayalam, there is a word "chaarru." (Pronunciation: Voiceless alveopalatal affricate + long low central vowel + alveolar trill + short unrounded high back (or central?) vowel). Even as a native speaker of English, I've never been sure how to translate this word into English. Even explaining the concept is a little hard for me. When my parents stir various spices and other ingredients (e.g. onions) together in a pan, add water, and then add some kind of meat (including fish), "chaarru" is the resulting liquid. The curry part of any meat curry, but it's not necessarily just curry, either. (Unless perhaps you think "meen vevichathu" is a curry, which I'm pretty sure my parents don't since "fish curry" means something else to them).

    I remember suggesting to my dad that the translation for "chaarru" in English might be "sauce." He disagreed and suggested "gravy" instead. I was surprised and didn't believe him at first, because I thought "gravy" was just this flavorful brown stuff the people in the cafeteria at school put on mashed potatoes, and I had no idea what it was actually made of. But he explained to me that (basically) "chaarru" isn't "chaarru" until it's cooked with meat.

    Unfortunately, I think the only time I ever tried telling a non-Malayalee that "chaarru" meant 'gravy', they didn't get it.

  53. Victor Mair said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 12:58 am

    @Jeff Percival

    Upon glancing over things, I actually caught that (students –> students') myself before reading your comment.

  54. Chris Waugh said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 1:56 am

    Seeing the combination of Victor Mair, sauce, and salad dressing had me thinking of the Chinese word 酱, which seems to be applied just as equally to things I would call 'dressing' as to things I agree are 'sauce'.

  55. John said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 4:14 am

    I'm with those who say that 8 miles is a bit short for a day's travel. This sounds to me like post-hoc reasoning. First, I'd like to see the actual data on the distances (breakfast experiment?). Second, stops on Roman roads were about twice as far apart as that (Google "vicarello cups" for info on the Flaminian Way, where I happen to have an archaeological dig myself), and we can expect that wagons and people on foot both used them.

  56. Nicholas Waller said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 4:23 am

    When I hear the word Caravanserai I first think of the Santana album from 1972, even though 1) I'm not a Santana fan and 2) I lived in the Middle East as a young kid. People at my secondary school in England had it, and it has an evocative and relevant cover.

    A brief glance at the lyrics (only three tracks of 10 even had lyrics) shows little connection to caravans; one of the instrumentals is called "Eternal Caravan of Reincarnation", though.

  57. George said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 5:55 am

    "Sauce" is certainly the generic term that all my French in-laws, friends and acquaintances use for what we would refer to in English as "salad dressing". If "vinaigrette" is used, it's to specify one particular type (albeit the most common one) of salad dressing. Maybe that's all they ever put on salad in Jean-Pierre Metereau's house?

    Using "sauce" for salad dressing is now part of my own idiolect and I've found that asking for the "sauce" at an anglophone table tends to produce the desired effect, even if I get the odd funny look.

  58. Thor Lawrence said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 6:08 am

    Regarding inter-caravanserai intervals and wagon speeds, is it referring to horse-, donkey- or ox-drawn wagons?

  59. Victor Mair said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 7:49 am


    I did hear Lacey use the word "vinaigrette" a few times, but, as you say, that was for one particular type of salad dressing.

  60. John F said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 9:07 am

    8 miles sounds like a short distance until you have to actually travel it, regularly, with lots of stuff. I'm guessing 8 miles is a compromise between different weather conditions and how fast various types of traveller could go (walkers have varying fitness; wagons travel at different speeds due to their different cargoes, animal types). If you were in an hurry, you could probably do 2 sets of 8 miles in a day. Plus, I hear Texas gets real hot, so you might not be able to travel for several hours of daylight.

  61. Dr. Decay said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    From "Jitterbug" sung by Cab Calloway:

    "If you'd like to be a jitterbug,
    first thing you must do is get a jug
    put whisky, wine and gin within and shake it all up,
    and then begin
    grab a cup and start to toss
    you are drinkin' jitter sauce"

    Here it means alcohol of course, but I don't think the author invented "sauce" as a general word for liquid.

  62. Mr Punch said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

    Here in Massachusetts, towns tend to be about four miles apart, (supposedly) because two miles was was the limit for walking to church, at least in the winter. But the eight-miles-by-wagon (oxcart) rule applies to larger market towns.

    In predominantly Italian neighborhoods, red sauce is "gravy," and the stuff you might put on your mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving is "brown gravy."

  63. E said,

    January 5, 2012 @ 10:09 pm

    Dressing translates to Spanish as "salsa para ensaladas".

  64. Victor Mair said,

    January 6, 2012 @ 1:07 am

    From Rosalind Bradford (Ontario):


    In my refrigerator is "Kraft vinaigrette". Gourmet's Menu Cookbook, N.Y. 1963, has "French dressing" and "vinaigrette sauce" on the same page (p. 464). Andre L. Simon (Guide to Good Food and Wines, London and Glasgow, 1963) lists Dressings, Salad under Sauces.(p. 23). Dione Lucas, Art of Cooking (Cordon Bleu, late 1950s) uses "dressing" (p. 26). Does any of this have to do with geese and ganders?


    From Mandy Chan (Hong Kong):


    Even after years of living in the US, I still use "sauce" instead of "salad dressing." I have never heard of people using "salad dressing" in HK. I always thought that it is a difference between UK and American English. I was at my cousin's for Thanksgiving dinner — I asked him to pass me the "sauce" (I meant the salad dressing) but he passed me the gravy, even though I was looking at the salad dressing.


  65. Victor Mair said,

    January 6, 2012 @ 8:25 am

    SAUCE / SAUCY / SOUSED < SALT (PIE sal-) Paula Roberts writes: ==== Thanks... for this charming post. It's a word I've always loved. "Caravanserai," not "sauce." Although I do like "sauce" in another of its senses: "Enough of your sauce, miss!" [VHM: !!!!!!!!] Well, I was raised by 19th-century English novels! ==== Paula's comment led me to wonder whether her "sauce" is the same one as the "sauce", with all of its burgeoning meanings, that we've been bandying back and forth in these comments. It turns out that her "sauce" is indeed derived from the same basic word that has been occupying us here. Still more surprising is the root of the word in question. From the Online Etymology Dictionary: ==== sauce mid-14c., from O.Fr. sauce, sausse, from noun use of L. salsa, fem. sing. or neut. pl. of salsus "salted," from pp. of Old L. sallere "to salt," from sal (gen. salis) "salt" (see salt). Meaning "something which adds piquancy to words or actions" is recorded from c.1500; sense of "impertinence" first recorded 1835 (see saucy, and cf. sass). Slang meaning "liquor" first attested 1940. Colloquial saucebox "one addicted to making saucy remarks" is from 1580s. ==== The implications are staggering. When we are being "saucy" or adding "sauce" to our salad or something else we are about to eat, at the most essential level we are "salting" our speech and our food. The infinite nuances of language go back to a couple thousand roots, the operative one in this case being IE sal- (see below for a few more etymological observations on "salt"). As a Sinologist, equally thought provoking is the fact that there were roughly two thousand discrete, meaningful forms at the beginning of the Chinese script around 3,500 years ago. Still today, as skeptical analysts have noted, there are approximately two thousand foundational elements of the modern script, and the vast proliferation of 100,000+ (and growing) character forms are all essentially elaborations of those root morphograms. And I don't think it's any accident that the basic KANJI required by educational authorities, as well as the number of HANZI needed for minimal literacy, also amount to around two thousand. I suspect that there is some deep, psychological and neurological reason why the brains of people all over the world settle on approximately two thousand etyma from which to build their swelling vocabularies. (Within the next week, I shall write a post on the notion of "word" and "vocabulary" in Chinese.) From the Online Etymology Dictionary: ==== salt (n.) O.E. sealt (noun and adjective), from P.Gmc. *saltom (cf. O.S., O.N., O.Fris., Goth. salt, Du. zout, Ger. Salz), from PIE *sal- "salt" (cf. Gk. hals "salt, sea," L. sal, O.C.S. soli, O.Ir. salann, Welsh halen, O.C.S. sali "salt"). Meaning "experienced sailor" is first attested 1840, in reference to the salinity of the sea. Salt was long regarded as having power to repel spiritual and magical evil. Many metaphoric uses reflect that this was once a rare and important resource, cf. worth one's salt (1830), salt of the earth (O.E., after Matt. v:13). Belief that spilling salt brings bad luck is attested from 16c. To be above (or below) the salt (1590s) refers to customs of seating at a long table according to rank or honor, and placing a large salt-cellar in the middle of the dining table. Salt-lick first recorded 1751; salt marsh is O.E. sealtne mersc. Salt-and-pepper "of dark and light color" first recorded 1915. To take something with a grain of salt is from 1640s, from Mod.L. cum grano salis. Saltine "salted cracker" is from 1907. ==== In this New Year, may we all be worth our salt, and may our meals be well sauced, but let us avoid getting soused too often! (Yes, through Proto-Germanic, "souse" ultimately comes from IE sal-.)

  66. Vijay John said,

    January 6, 2012 @ 8:59 am

    Yes, etymology is a fascinating thing, isn't it?

  67. Nikhil said,

    January 6, 2012 @ 11:20 am

    @Vijay John — the Hindi equivalent to the Malayalam word you mentioned is ras (रस). I agree with your dad's that it's probably not technically ras unless there's meat involved, but even then, I think if we had to use an English word, it would be gravy

  68. Nikhil said,

    January 6, 2012 @ 11:23 am

    I wish I knew how to go back an edit a comment. After thinking about it before, ras is any fluid emanating from food or a meet , so even juice from a fruit. So basically there's no connection to Vijay's word above, and my comments have all been a waste of space. Pls ignore.

  69. Vijay John said,

    January 6, 2012 @ 11:37 am

    No, don't ignore! You're probably right. The same is true of "chaarru." It can be used to mean juice of a fruit. For instance, there's a well-known old movie song called "Mattichaarru manakkanu manakkanu." I used to confuse the first word with "mathichaarru" meaning 'sardine gravy', and apparently I'm not the only person to have this confusion. But then I found out that "matti" (pronounced more or less like मटी) is a type of tree with a sap that is fragrant when burnt.

  70. Victor Mair said,

    January 6, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

    From Hiroko Sherry:

    …[S]alt is thought to have the power to protect you from evil in Japan as well. Sometimes you see small piles of salt at the entrance of Japanese restaurants.

  71. Victor Mair said,

    January 6, 2012 @ 9:18 pm

    From Toni Tan:

    “Ketchup” in Singapore is called “tomato sauce” by some.


    Why, uncle, 'tis a shame.


    Go to, go to;
    You are a saucy boy: is't so, indeed?
    This trick may chance to scathe you, I know what:
    You must contrary me! marry, 'tis time.
    Well said, my hearts! You are a princox; go:
    Be quiet, or–More light, more light! For shame!
    I'll make you quiet. What, cheerly, my hearts!

  72. Andrew Baker said,

    January 7, 2012 @ 2:29 am

    Actually in that part of Texas, small so-called "gin towns" were about that distance apart because that's about how far apart cotton gins were located. The theory being that farmers didn't want to have to haul all their cotton more than about four miles for ginning. (My family was in the cotton seed oil business.)

  73. Victor Mair said,

    January 7, 2012 @ 7:32 am

    From Nathan Sivin:

    "Sauce" for dressing goes nicely with the S. Philly "gravy" for tomato sauce.

  74. Gene Buckley said,

    January 7, 2012 @ 11:33 am

    I might have missed it, but I didn't see anyone yet mention that salad itself originally means "salted", so the phrase salad sauce is etymologically "salted salted".

  75. Gene said,

    January 7, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

    Thanks Andrew,
    Yours is clearly a better explanation. Even today you can find the old abandoned gins scattered all across the southwest. Many communities would build on the nucleus of the gins.
    My Grandfather at age 19 brought several small gins from Missouri to Indian territory (Okla) in 1888 where he became a cotton broker to the Choctaw.
    Cotton certainly has been one of the most influential factors in the shaping of this country

  76. Victor Mair said,

    January 9, 2012 @ 11:36 am

    From Dennis E. Wenger:

    A very interesting post. Regarding “sauce,” I lived in College Station, Texas for about 15 years and never heard it used, except for stuff that was thrown on hot dogs. It was not another term for salad dressing. The discussion of urban location is very interesting. In urban sociology there are a variety of theories dealing with the location of urban settlements, i.e., “break-in-transportation” theory, the theory of “historical accidents,” and “central place theory.” Central place theory was developed in the early decades of the twentieth century and has great application to location of urban settlements in land-locked areas, such as the mid-west, great plains, and, of course, Texas. It appears to be strongly related to caravanserai and Lacey’s “8-hour rule.” It basically posits that urban settlements were located in central areas to provide goods and services to rural areas. They were generally in the center of a region that was determined by travel time. Eight hours does appear to be a little slow for a horse drawn wagon. Often Central Place theory holds that rural service communities tended to be located in the center of a one hour travel zone, That would make any two rural service communities about two hours apart. Before trains and cars, that would probably be about 8 miles. Many of the towns in Texas, including those that are now the northern suburbs of Houston, fit this model quite well.

  77. Victor Mair said,

    January 9, 2012 @ 11:49 am

    From Robert S. Bauer:

    I recently observed that some Hongkongers with Cantonese background and writing in English use the expression "salad sauce" to refer to "salad dressing".

    Recently, I was working on the lexical entry "gip1 zap1" [喼汁] for the ABC Cantonese-English dictionary. This word is the Cantonese name for Worcestershire sauce which was invented by two men surnamed Lea and Perrins in England and has been for sale to the public since 1838. It was brought to HK sometime in the 19th century and has now become a part of Cantonese cuisine. In visits to several HK supermarkets I have asked the people who stock the shelves "Where can I find gip1 zap1?" (but said in Cantonese), and they know precisely what it is and where to find it on the shelf.

    If you Google the Chinese characters for gip1 zap1, you discover there is a Lea and Perrins website in Chinese that tells all about it. [VHM: google on: 急汁 lea & perrins; the first character should actually be written with the mouth radical, thus 喼, but 急 seems to work too] The English and Chinese Wikipedias give the correct information that Cantonese gip1 zap1 is Worcestershire sauce.
    [VHM: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worcestershire_sauce#China

    I recently checked seven Cantonese dictionaries that included an entry for this word with a gloss and simple etymology. Of the seven I consulted only one (!) had the correct English equivalent "Worcestershire sauce" (Sidney Lau's A Practical Cantonese-English Dictionary, HK Govt. Printer, 1977). The other six all claimed incorrectly the word means "ketchup/catsup" and is a loan from this English word. For example, 廣州話正音字典 edited by 詹伯慧 on page 257 claims that gip1 zap1 is made from tomatoes and soy sauce and is the phonetic transliteration of English "catsup".

    However, this is complete nonsense, as the word means 'Worcestershire sauce'. If one checks the label for the ingredients, one will notice there is no mention of tomatoes. So, apparently what has happened among these Cantonese lexicographers is that they have copied from each other's entry, and so false information has gotten passed on from one dictionary to another. Of course, this is most unfortunate since the information is incorrect. I think the editors at Cantonesesheik.co.uk have also copied the entry on gip1 zap1 from these dictionaries, and so again the false information continues to be passed around.

    I suppose what speakers who don't know anything about this word do is what the lexicographers did, and that is to make up/invent a plausible-sounding meaning for the word. I have asked several different speakers what is gip1 zap1. Those who didn't know it is Worcestershire sauce have suggested that it might mean ketchup. Two people I asked (both of them are professors who had studied for their Ph.D. degrees in the U.K.) did know gip1 zap1 means Worcestershire sauce.

  78. Victor Mair said,

    January 9, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

    Just so that we don't confuse "gip1 zap1″ [喼汁] (Lea and Perrins Worcestershire sauce) with "ketchup" — as so many people seem to be doing in Hong Kong these days (see the note by Bob Bauer above) — although the etymology of the latter is contested, the phonology of the former (in particular the final -p of the first syllable) ensures that it is not the source of "ketchup". The second syllable of both, however, undoubtedly comes from Sinitic 汁 ("juice"). In Modern Standard Mandarin (MSM), that would be pronounced zhī, but in southern topolects (e.g., Cantonese, Taiwanese) it would have a final -p.


    Online Etymology Dictionary

    1711, said to be from Malay kichap, but probably not original to Malay. It might have come from Chinese koechiap "brine of fish," which, if authentic, perhaps is from the Chinese community in northern Vietnam [Terrien de Lacouperie, in "Babylonian and Oriental Record," 1889, 1890]. Catsup (earlier catchup, 1680s) is a failed attempt at Anglicization, still in use in U.S., influenced by cat and sup.

    Originally a fish sauce, the word came to be used in English for a wide variety of spiced gravies and sauces; "Apicius Redivivus; or, the Cook's Oracle," by William Kitchiner, London, 1817, devotes 7 pages to recipes for different types of catsup (his book has 1 spelling of ketchup, 72 of catsup), including walnut, mushroom, oyster, cockle and mussel, tomata, white (vinegar and anchovies figure in it), cucumber, and pudding catsup. Chambers's Encyclopaedia (1870) lists mushroom, walnut, and tomato ketchup as "the three most esteemed kinds." Tomato ketchup emerged c.1800 in U.S., predominated from early 20c.


    See the extensive notes under "history" and especially "etymology".

  79. JMS said,

    January 9, 2012 @ 3:54 pm

    The claimed etymology for ketchup that I am most familiar with is Cantonese (or other southern) 茄汁 ke4*2 zap1, but I have no idea if such a term has real history within the Chinese languages or is rather a late calque-cum-phonetic loan…

  80. Alan Chin said,

    January 9, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

    I am familiar with the etymology of "ketchup" — but isn't it a lot more obvious and simple, being that:

    茄 (qie / ke) is an eggplant, and 番茄 (fan qie / faan ke) is a tomato, or "foreign eggplant", being that tomatoes were from the New World and not introduced globally until the Spanish galleons spread them far and wide in the 16th-18th centuries.

    So isn't 茄汁 (qie zhi / ke zap) in Cantonese the original, (interesting that it's not used in Mandarin, which offers us the mildly absurd 番茄醬 fanqiejiang — tomato sauce), having simply lost the 番 character somewhere along the way, and therefore also making "tomato sauce" a perfectly reasonable synonym?

    Being also that in most East Asian countries, most tomato sauce-based pasta of the "spaghetti and meatballs" variety is usually sweeter than in the West, often because ketchup is used as a tomato puree.

    Worcestershire sauce? Sure. These days, what's really common all over East Asia and the Middle East are the distinctively boxy yellow labelled bottles of Maggi brand — something. A kind of soy sauce.

  81. julie lee said,

    January 9, 2012 @ 4:45 pm

    Re. ketchup, I don't know if anyone has already mentioned this here, but ke- in ketchup is Cantonese for "tomato", and -tchup is Cantonese for "juice". (For those who don't know Chinese, Cantonese is the regiional speech of Canton or Guangdong/Kwangtung province of China. Regional speech in Chinese is also widely called "dialect" in English, so Cantonese is commonly called a "Chinese dialect". Victor Mair has written about the misuse of the word "dialect" in Chinese linguistics.) The Chinese character for ke-"tomato" is 茄, which means "eggplant". It is pronounced qie in Mandarin (another regional speech or "dialect" of China). Eggplant is also called 茄子 (qiezi in Mandarin). Why is the tomato called "eggplant"? The tomato is also called fanqie in Mandarin. Fanqie 番茄 or 蕃茄 (literally "FAN eggplant") . I believe FAN in fanqie蕃茄 is an abbreviation for tu-er-fan 吐爾番 (Turfan, in present-day Sinkiang, on the Silk Road), and was a word which stood for "foreigners" (i.e., people from the West, who came on the Silk Road).
    Another common designation for foreigners was YANGREN"ocean people" (foreigners who came from the seas, early Arabs, Portuguese, etc., later Europeans, Americans, etc.) Why is the tomatoe called a "foreign eggplant"? The insides of a tomato and an eggplant, when you slice them, do bear some resemblance to each other, don't they? Similarly, a turnip (daikon) is called a LOBU in Mandarin, and a carrot is called a "red turnip" HONG LOBU (which can also mean "radish"). In Mandarin, a tomato is also called XI HONG SHI (literally, "Western red persimmon").
    Getting back to "ketchup". Ke- tchup simply means "tomato juice or sauce" in Cantonese. However, I asked a Cantonese friend: "What do you think is the origin of the English word KETCHUP?" She said: "I don't know." I pronounced ketchup "KETCHip", with accent on KETCH. Then I said: "It means ke-e-e- TCHUP", dragging out the e and putting stress on -TCHUP and making it a shrill high tone, as in Cantonese. Then she said: "Of course, that's tomato sauce!!"

  82. Victor Mair said,

    January 9, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

    From Mandy Chan:

    HK people like to use 喼汁 on spring rolls and other crunchy stuff — this is the most local way of doing it. If you go yum cha and order a dish of spring rolls, the cart ladies would certainly ask you if you want 喼汁 with that. Maybe it sounds weird to non-HKers, but a 春卷 is not the same without 喼汁 !!

  83. Alan Chin said,

    January 9, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

    Turfan on the Silk Road? As a derivation for 番? Look closer, no? The word means, "to turn over" also in the sense of "upside down" or "reverse."

    European foreigners write from left to right as opposed to the right to left of traditional Chinese. In a more general sense, also, Chinese racism and xenophobia against foreigners characterizes them as "upside down people," that is to say "reversed," as in morally and spiritually backwards, etc.

    It is so derogatory, and was so common as to not even be thought of as derogatory, but simply the standard word.

    The Worcestershire sauce with spring rolls is common in the USA as every dim sum aficionado knows…also, this is less common now, but a bottle would always be on each table of old school Chinatown coffee shops, now mostly vanished.

  84. Zev Handel said,

    January 10, 2012 @ 1:47 am

    Although Cantonese 茄汁 seems a plausible etymology for English ketchup, and although it is often listed as the origin in lexicographic sources, it now seems clear that this is a false lead, and that the real source is in fact 鲑汁, an archaic word for "fish sauce" in Zhangzhou-area Southern Min dialect of Fujian. The various hypotheses and a definitive solution to the problem are clearly presented in this blog entry from linguist Dan Jurafsky: http://languageoffood.blogspot.com/2009/09/ketchup.html . The entire article is worth reading. (Jurafsky is Stanford linguistics professor and recipient of a MacArthur "genius" Fellowship. His blog on the language of food is wonderful.)

  85. Victor Mair said,

    January 10, 2012 @ 12:53 pm

    From Geoff Wade:

    In HK, everyone tells you that the origin is in Cantonese pronunciation of 茄汁.

    However, the short first vowel of the English phonetics suggest that it was initially borrowed from the Malay/Indonesian kicap/kichap/kecap — referring throughout maritime Se Asia to fermented sauces, including soy sauce:



    In Indonesia, soy sauce is known as kecap (also ketjap or kecap), which is a catch-all term for fermented sauces, and cognate to the English word "ketchup".[21] Three common varieties of Indonesian soy-based kecap exist:

    Kecap asin
    Salty soy sauce, which is very similar to Chinese light soy sauce, but usually somewhat thicker and has a stronger flavor; it can be replaced by light Chinese soy sauce in recipes.
    Kecap manis
    Sweet soy sauce, which has a thick, almost syrupy consistency and a pronounced sweet, treacle-like flavor due to generous addition of palm sugar. In cooking, it may be replaced by molasses with a little vegetable stock stirred in.
    Kecap manis sedang
    Medium sweet soy sauce, which has a less thick consistency and a more saline taste than Manis.

    This term kicap/kichap/kecap is undoubtedly a borrowing from Chinese and, as you say, the final element of this will certainly be 汁 (Mod. Hokkien zap7. The big question is what the first syllable represents. I think we need to be looking at a borrowing from a Min language rather than Cantonese, given the early nature of this borrowing into Malay and the fact that most early borrowings were from Min languages. Given the ubiquitousness of fish sauces in Se Asia, it probably initially referred to a fish sauce and thus 鮭汁 (although the modern Quanzhou Hokkien pronunciation is guê2zap7) seems to have a pretty good claim to being where it all started.

  86. Victor Mair said,

    January 10, 2012 @ 12:54 pm

    From Geoff Wade:

    Has a Chinese precedent

    Carstairs Douglas


    OF THE





    p. 242 column 1

    kOe [R. hai, a sort of fish], (C. ke; Cn. koe), salted

    or pickled fish or shell-fish (the name of the fish or shellfish

    is prefixed). koe-chiap, brine of pickled fish or

    shell-fish. si"-kOe,,to pickle, as fish or shell-fish. hikoe,

    pickled fish. he—koe, pickled shrimps. hekae-

    phoa, do. broken down small.

    k6e [R. kli, to separate the parts

  87. Victor Mair said,

    January 10, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    From Geoff Wade:

    IV. The Regimen.
    As to Diet, it must be Nourishing, Warm|ing, Comforting, and Titillating, with realish|ing and high Sauces, Oisters, Anchovy, Caviare, Cockles, Ketchup, Mango's, Garlick, Onions, Leeks, Bears Garlick, Rocket, Sives, Shelot, Ginger, Aro|maticks, RoSingle illegible letterts of Satyrion, Feaverfew, Goats-beard, Silver-weed, Skirrets, Parsnips, and Artichoaks.

    Jones, John, 1645-1709.
    Title: The mysteries of opium reveal'd by Dr. John Jones … ; who, I. Gives an account of the name, make, choice, effects, &c. of opium, II. Proves all former opinions of its operation to be meer chimera's, III. Demonstrates what its true cause is, by which he easily, and mechanically explains all (even its most mysterious) effects, IV. Shews its noxious principle, and how to separate it, thereby rendering it a safe, and noble panacea, whereof, V. He shews the palliative, and curative use.
    Date: 1700

  88. Victor Mair said,

    January 10, 2012 @ 12:56 pm

    From Geoff Wade:

    # 2. By Artificial Sauces we imitate the natural foetid and sub-acid Slime of the Stomach, as in Catchup, Mango, Plumbs, Mushrooms, and some Indian Liquors or Sauces of Garlic, assa foetida,—Salt, and Aromatics, Mustard-Seed, with Vinegar in common Mustard.

    Author: Floyer, John, Sir, 1649-1734.
    Title: The preternatural state of animal humours described by their sensible qualities, which depend on the different degrees of their fermentation and the cure of each particular cacochymia is performed by medicines of a peculiar specific taste, described : to this treatise are added two appendixes I. About the nature of fevers and their ferments and cure by particular tastes, II. Concerning the effervescence and ebullition of the several cacochymia's … / by the author of Pharmacho bazagth.
    Date: 1696

  89. Victor Mair said,

    January 10, 2012 @ 12:57 pm

    From Geoff Wade:

    1711, Charles Lockyer, An Account of the Trade in India 128

    * "Soy comes in Tubbs from Japan, and the best Ketchup from Tonquin; yet good of both sorts are made and sold very cheap in China."

    What is Tonkin famous for? Fish sauce!

  90. Victor Mair said,

    January 10, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

    From Eugene Anderson:

    My father having been raised on a small farm in East Texas, I was already aware of this. "Sauce" is used pretty generally in the old South. We used to talk of "garden sass," meaning greens–"sass" is just dialect for "sauce," as in describing a girl as sassy or saucy, either way a common description in the old south. Anyway, the greens were cooked don into a mooshy state (technical term there), usable for sauce on bread or whatever, as Chinese veg are used as a "sauce" on rice.
    Southernisms include a whole lot of Wolof and Mende, because Wolof and Mende from what is now the area from Senegal to Liberia knew how to grow rice and were brought in as slaves in the 18th century when the Carolinas got into rice in a big way. So we have e.g. jambalaya, which is a Wolof dish with a Wolof name ("mixed grain dish"). Cool.

  91. Victor Mair said,

    January 10, 2012 @ 4:06 pm

    From Eugene Anderson:

    …as to the ketchup: Zev Handel and the others with this idea are right. The Southern Min word got to Indonesia and got used for soy sauce and such, there, and was carried back to Europe. The Indonesian preparations begat Lea and Perrins' great creation, which then spread to Hong Kong complete with a much-altered variant of the Southern Min name. All this happened BEFORE tomato ketchup was invented, except probably that last step (with Lea and Perrins in HK), so ketchup can't be from "tomato sauce."

  92. Victor Mair said,

    January 10, 2012 @ 4:12 pm

    From Robert S. Bauer

    By the way, the label of Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce has the Cantonese/Chinese equivalent printed just below it as 李派林喼汁.

  93. Victor Mair said,

    January 10, 2012 @ 10:16 pm

    From Robert S. Bauer:

    gip1 zap1 喼汁 ‘Worcestershire sauce’
    The name 喼汁 is used by the manufacturer Lea & Perrins as the official name of the product, and it appears on the label along with the the phonetic transliteration in Chinese characters of the name Lea & Perrins, i.e. 李派林喼汁 lei5 paai3 lam4 gip1 zap1.

    [VHM: Dr. Bauer sent a nice photograph of a bottle of Lee & Perrins Worcestershire sauce with the characters for the Cantonese name on the label, but I was unable to copy it here, so instead I offer this website, which also has a photograph of a bottle with such a label:

    At the present time the morphosyllable 喼 gip1 has no isolatable or identifiable meaning, so one question to be answered is, what is the origin of 喼 gip1 in 喼汁? It is possible that gip1 originally had something to do with taste. The morphosyllable gip3 (with mid tone) has the following entry on page 435 of Bai Wanru’s 白宛如Cantonese-Chinese dictionary 廣州方言詞典 (江蘇教育出版社, 1998): “o劫 [o = mouth radical]: kipL [pronunciation transcribed in IPA, so romanized as gip3] 澀味 [= astringent taste]: 柿未熟得透, 好~ [ci5 mei6 suk6 dak1 tau3, hou2 gip3 ‘the persimmon is not yet thoroughly ripe, so it has a quite astringent/puckery taste’]; ~口 [gip3 hau2 ‘mouth feels puckery because of the astringent taste’]; ~口~脷 [gip3 hau2 gip3 lei6 ‘both mouth and tongue feel puckery because of the astringent taste’].

  94. Victor Mair said,

    January 11, 2012 @ 10:04 am

    From H. T. Toh:

    Here is what has been offered so far in the Indonesian & Malaysian Wikipedia:


  95. Alan Chin said,

    January 11, 2012 @ 10:37 am

    So we have a "faux ami" here?

    The Southeast Asian connection is self-evident in the taste of modern ketchup, which supports the Min rather than Yue derivation, as well documented above, thank you.

    What's really interesting to me is that if the historical 鮭汁 led to both 茄汁 and 喼汁, what we have is a branching off of the tomato based sauce from the fish / soy based sauces. In terms of taste and use, Worcestershire sauce is closer to a fish / soy based sauce than it is to anything with tomatoes in it, yet the modern Canto word 茄汁 sounds more like the original?

    Idea for future discussion: Yellow and brown curries in East Asian cuisines!

  96. Victor Mair said,

    January 12, 2012 @ 12:51 am

    From H. T. Toh:

    Here is just a quick note (not a solution to the "ketchup" problem). If I were asked to suggest yet another etymology, I guess a forgotten alternative is perhaps Chaozhou 潮州 kue-tsap. I am not sure whether one should call it a sort of mixed gravy/soup, or whatsoever.

    A quick English reference for Chaozhou/Teochew kue-tsap:

    Flat rice noodles 粿汁 Kueh Jarp A dish of flat, broad rice sheets in a soup made from dark soy sauce served with pig offal, braised duck meat, various kinds of beancurd, preserved salted vegetables and braised hard-boiled eggs.

    A semantic shift (to that of "sauces") in a borrowed lexicon such as this is not unintelligible.

  97. Victor Mair said,

    February 2, 2012 @ 12:03 pm

    from Anthony DeBlasi:

    I really enjoyed the discussion of “sauce.” It brought to mind an old debate in my Italian-American family. My grandmother (born in the first decade of the 20th century on this side of the pond a couple years after her parents immigrated but fluent in Neapolitan Italian) insisted that the ubiquitous red sauce that she made for pasta was “gravy” (in English). Others (mostly non-Italians who had married into the family) argued that it was “sauce” not gravy (which had to be brown). Even now, 25 years after my grandmother passed, the debate goes on. I have even seen a reference in print to the same debate in another New York Italian family. And for what it is worth, I never heard my grandmother utter the word “pasta” in English. It was always “macaroni.”

    Ah, the joys of dialectology.

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