In the Air

I’m going to be moving around for a while, but the blog must go on, so there will be some posting, with slight delays.

Have you ever wondered why the meat of a cow is called beef?
Imagine the Norman nobleman sitting in his castle and demanding dinner. He will ask for boeuf in French. The servants would then go into their English town and buy a cow. Notice how the languages used reflect the “use” of the subject involved. In other words, poor farmers raised the cows, but couldn’t afford to eat the meat. Noblemen ate the meat, but wouldn’t have anything to do with a cow.
Please note that the word cow is very close to the German word Kuh, which also describes the animal.
The question is: how English was the English language, anyway?
All the animals that are commonly eaten show the same pattern, the meat has a French name, the animal a German name. Take sheep.
The German word Schaf describes the animal, the meat is called mutton, mouton in French.
Kalb in German, calf in English, veal in English, veau in French.
The list goes beyond meat, though:
The German König is an English king, who is royal like the French roi.
Lead Acetate

While lead pipes were a contributor to lead poisoning in the Roman empire, the larger problem came when they boiled grapes in large lead cauldrons and discovered, sugar of lead (lead acetate).

It was nature’s first artificial sweetener and they used it for centuries to sweeten cheap red wine. It’s been cited as a cause for the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

A lot of that otherwise bitter red wine made its way to the army in the field, which was often diverted to the officer’s mess.
Maybe that accounts in part for problems with leadership in the later legions and insanity in the later emperors?


  1. Cows are the pioneres when it comes to sex change. Where I live they change sex after death. Progessive animals to the benefit of the farmer.

  2. That beef/cow thing has never even crossed my mind. But I am constantly wondering why the meat of a chicken is called chicken, and why the meat of a fish is called fish.

    Keeps me up at night.

  3. Language morph's…"putting a pox on someone" in British English merely means "an intense disgust", BUT, as recently discovered, means a whole lot more in Fredd English.

  4. A bit like Alberta beef which is shipped off to the rich who can afford it. The locals can't because they're too busy paying the Weather and Immigrant Votes Tax.

  5. I refer to it as "Fredd-bonics." Although Fringlish does roll off the tongue…

    Related note: a pox on anyone else who thinks it should be called something different.

  6. LOL, language gets bastardized quicker than anything else… And yes, lead acetate WOULD do in the brass and emperors… IIRC, the shlubs in the legion got the 'nasty' unsweetened wine…

  7. A favorite old quote goes, "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."

  8. As I heard it, English is the result of Norman soldiers hitting on Saxon barmaids – with all the illegitimate results that came from that.

  9. A Canadian view of Alberta Beef:

    As to which language for what: Ever notice that the bilingual packaging for "upmarket" items is in English and French, and for "downmarket" in English and Spanish. e.g. Lard/Manteca

  10. Manteca can also be interchanged with butter, can't it? I'm honestly unsure, but I've never ordered 'toast with manteca' at a restaurant, so I can't be sure.

  11. The Germans just take five words and slap them together if they want to describe something new. It works for them. In Laotian, they add tonals.

  12. As far as I know, he has not yet poxed me. Perhaps he doesn't think I'm worth the effort or maybe he has not yet thought up a sufficiently horrible pox.


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