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Eat Your Words May 30, 2009

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Silence Dogood here, and no, this isn’t a comment directed at our friend Ben. It’s actually the title of a fun book I found yesterday at our local library. (Subtitle: “A Fascinating Look at the Language of Food”) The book tells all kinds of stories about how foods and food-related expressions got their names, most of which tally with what I know, which of course inclines me to trust the stuff I didn’t know, such as this entry about sardines:

“Why can’t you buy fresh sardines at the grocery store? The answer is surprising: Because a sardine is not a sardine until it is packed in a sardine can. Actually, there is no living fish called a sardine. Any one of twenty different species might end up as a canned sardine. The most common are young herring and pilchard. The name sardine comes from the island of Sardinia, where sardines were first canned in 1834.”

Who’d’a thunk? If you enjoy the origins of words, or obscure facts about food, look for Eat Your Words (by Charlotte Foltz Jones, Delacorte Press, 1999) at your local library. You’ll find the origins of expressions like “a baker’s dozen,” how words like canape and pie came to be associated with foods rather than their original meanings, and why a dish of ice cream and syrup came to be called a sundae. It’s fun!

Don’t be put off by the fact that this book is likely to be found in the children’s book section. What publishers are thinking when they assign books like Eat Your Words (especially with its vaguely disturbing Goreyesque illustrations by John O’Brien) to the children’s books category is beyond me. I don’t know if children would enjoy it, but I did, and I think you would, too!

Oh, and OFB, listen up.

          ‘Til next time,