Tag Archives: etymology

Things I did not know…The etymology of Pumpernickel



Pumpernickel – From two German words. Pumpern, which translates into “To break wind”. And Nickel, which means “Goblin, devil, rapscallion”.

In other words…pumpernickel means “farting bastard”.

References here, here, here, and here.

This post on the etymology of Pumpernickel has been brought to you by Beano! Beano, for all of you bastards out there.


Dear McDonald’s,

I realize that you’d like to remove all negative connotations surrounding the ample job opportunities that your company provides. But your latest foray against dictionary creators and their inclusion of the word ‘McJob’ seems a bit, shall we say, odd.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘McJob’ as “an unstimulating, low-paid job with few prospects, esp. one created by the expansion of the service sector.”

Now, having worked at a McDonald’s in the early 1990′s, let me provide my own assessment of your job compared against the definition that the OED provides.

Unstimulating? This is probably the weakest point of the entire definition, as what’s stimulating for one person may not be stimulating for another. But in my experience, the job itself was rather rote. It was not much of a challenge to set up the store every morning, and running drive-thru quickly became an assembly line operation. The only thing that broke up the monotony of the job was the small percentage of customers who were so friendly that their appearance seemed to equate that of a sighting of a white whale.

Low-paid job? Hell yes. I was single, working 30+ hours at McD’s, and also selling a bit of writing here and there, and doing a paid-performance here and there, and I still required government assistance (food stamps) in order to make ends meet. Working for minimum wage can do that to a person.

As a side note, remember Chris Rock’s take on minimum wage (and I’m paraphrasing here) – “If a company is paying you minimum wage, it means that they want to pay you less, but legally can’t”.

Oh, and benefits? There were some if I were a full time employee, but it was made sure by management that I rarely got 40 hours of work. The same for tuition reimbursement.

Few Prospects? The only prospects provided to most Fast-food workers is to go into fast food management, where a person can then get paid a salary, working additional hours without the 40+ overtime wage that the hourly employees were required to get. However, it should be said that once a person made it into management, benefits would kick in.

Now unless things have changed in the past sixteen years, I can’t see how the OED’s definition is incorrect.

So perhaps it’s the ‘Mc’ part of the word that has you in a fit. But the fact is that your restaurants have led the way in franchising and implementing the idea of globalization into your business strategy. You have more stores than any other service sector companies out there, on the planet. Because of this, it doesn’t take that great of a leap of logic to determine that you are currently the worldwide leader in providing low paying jobs with limited opportunities, and have been for almost a generation now. You may not have invented low paying jobs with limited advancement, but I’m willing to bet that you’ve made the most money off of it.

But what really confuses me is the following line in the Chicago Tribune piece on your recent battles:

McDonald’s executives say the definition is demeaning to its workers.

So let me get this straight – your corporation underpays workers, provides little opportunities for advancement, provides little in the way of health benefits, provides little to no benefits regarding tuition reimbursement, and it’s the dictionary that’s demeaning to workers?

Color me puzzled at your logic.

Love Sincerely,


Salt and Words

I love discovering the etymology of words. For me, it gives insight into a bit of history and how ideas were formed and evolved into things we take for granted today.

When we look at several words, we see that many of them “devolve” into having been influenced by salt.

  • Halcyon – From the Latin halcyon, From the Greek halkyon, variant of alkyon “kingfisher,” from hals “sea, salt” + kyon “conceiving,”
  • Pastrami – This is possibly is Modern Greek pastono meaning “I salt,” from classical Greek pastos “sprinkled with salt, salted.” The spelling in English with the suffix -mi probably from influence of salami.
  • Salary – From the old French salarie, from the Latin salarium “salary, stipend,” originally “soldier’s allowance for the purchase of salt,” from neutral of the adjective salarius “pertaining to salt,”.
  • Salami – from the Italian word salami, plural of salame “spiced pork sausage,” from the Roman Latin salamen, taken from salare “to salt,” which comes from the Latin word sal “salt”
  • Salad – From the Old French salade from the Roman Latin salata, translated “salted,” short for herba salata “salted vegetables” from feminie Past participle of salare “to salt,” from the Latin sal “salt”.
  • Sauce – From the Old French sauce or sausse from noun use of the Latin salsa, plural of salsus “salted,” from pp. of Old Latin sallere “to salt,” from sal “salt”.
  • Sausage – From Old North French saussiche from Roman Latin salsica “sausage,” from salsicus “seasoned with salt,” from the Latin salsus “salted”.


  • Halle, Germany
  • Hallein, Austria
  • Schwäbisch Hall, Germany
  • Hallstatt, Austria
  • Galicia, Spain
  • Galicia, Poland
  • Galicia, Ukraine
  • Halych, Poland
  • Salzburg, Austria


  • Gauls – Part of the Celtic tribes. The name Gauls comes from Latin Gallis, coming from the Greek hal. All of those places listed above? All had (or still have) saltworks that were initially run by the Gauls and other Celtic tribes.

This is far from comprehensive, but it certainly shows how much salt has influenced our world.

Technorati Tags: Food, Salt, Words, Etymology

Our Readers are the Best! v.1 – Tsatziki

I don’t wish to denigrate regular readers of other food blogs, but I’m about to do exactly that.

I’m of the belief that the regular readers of this site are some of the most well-informed, passionate food freaks on the Internet. I get e-mails and comments all the time that easily demonstrate this fact. These e-mails and comments often either correct mistakes I have made, or elaborate on posts already on the site. In the past, I would take their information, pass it off as my own. Well, not really, but I often feel like I do.

Well, I think it’s time to change this reprehensible behavior in myself. So I’m starting a new category called “Our Readers are the Best!”, which will allow me to share other peoples information and give credit where credit is properly due.

The introductory post of this series comes as a direct result of Nicholas Caratzas knowledge. A few days ago, I posted a recipe for Tsatziki, and I asked for a little help on translating the word Tsatziki. Nicholas not only addressed this, but gave an entire post in of itself in the comments. I knew that his information deserved a post of its own, so here’s his information in its entirety. I have edited it only a bit to allow the post to stand on its own.

Always glad to be of limited help: “Tzatziki” is a Greek rendering of the Turkish word “cacik” (pronounced something like “JAH-jik”) which is a cold yogurt/cucumber soup. Cacik is more liquid than the tzatziki you’ll get in most Greek restaurant, but that’s where the word and the dish originally come from (the Greek word for “cucumber” is “angouri.”)

A similar dish to cacik is the raita they serve in most Indian restaurants by me (SW Connecticut) which tends to be fairly soupy and is based on yogurt, cucumber and usually (in my neck of the woods) mint. I suspect the dishes’ cooling effect was lost on neither the Indians nor the Turks.

It wouldn’t surprise me if cacik is the child of raita or vice versa — thanks to history, there’s a lot of overlap in food and food language of the Near East, Middle East and Indian subcontinent — two examples that pop into my head are “kofte” — in Greek meatballs are “keftedes;” asking for a “kofte kebab” in a Middle Eastern or tandoori place will get you something similar — and “keema” which means “ground meat” (typically lamb.) I think “keema” is Persian. “Kebab” is another one.

I don’t know if there really is a definitive or authentic recipe for these sorts of things, as Greece’s communities have a history of relative isolation — the mountains and islands made getting around tough. Traditional cooks worked with what they had — thus one recipe might have mint added, another dill, a third onions, oregano or olive oil. I’ve also seen vinegar used in place of lemon juice. About the only constants are the cucumber and yogurt. The good news is that since there isn’t a definitive recipe you can experiment and find a combination that you like without feeling that you aren’t being “authentic” enough — it’s a versatile dish that can be used as a soup, dip, sauce for meats or salad.

In a later e-mail, he also adds:

if you do try making a tzatziki with shredded/grated cuke and drained yogurt, the flavors will blend if you let it sit in the fridge overnight. In particular the garlic flavor becomes significantly more pronounced but mellower. It is normal for some water to separate if you do this — either stir it back in or drain it off the top before serving.

Many thanks Nicholas! You’ve answered several questions I had. You also prove my theory that “Our Readers are the Best!”

Cacciatore Etymology and Vegetarians

I’m the type of person who’s bemused at vegetarians more than anything else. “To each their own” is the mantra I try to live by, even if “their own” means looking down at others who don’t ascribe to their philosophical beliefs about food.

But sometimes…sometimes they make me laugh out loud.

Take the simple idea of “cacciatore”. Most of us have a basic idea of what cacciatore means in the culinary sense. A meat of some sort, braised in a tomato sauce, mixed with variations of mushrooms, onions, various herbs and wine.

The word itself is a different matter. “Cacciatore” translates into “hunter”, meaning that when a dish is served cacciatore, it’s served in the “Hunters style”. Pollo Cacciatore (sometimes seen as pollo alla cacciatore) translates rougly to Hunters style Chicken. Coniglio Cacciatore means approximately “Hunters style rabbit”. You get the picture.

Presumably, the dish was served to game hunters in Italy, on those cold, brisk autumn days. After a day of being in the damp forest, shooting at local pheasants, boars, or other wild game, the hunters would sit down to a meal that would warm them up.

Which leads me to the following discoveries on the web…ladies and gentleman, I give to you…Tofu Cacciatore.

Hunters style tofu?? My mind reels at the incongruity. I’m sure that after a day of hunting in the forests of Umbria or Lombardy, many an Italian hunter, chilled from the damp November air, longed for a plate full of…bean curd.

Lord and Lady

More trivia interesting to only me.

The word ‘lord’ is derived from the Old English hlaford, meaning ‘keeper of the bread’, i.e. master of the household. ‘Lady’ comes from hlaefdigge, meaning ‘kneader of the dough’ – equivilent to ‘second most important person’.

(From Food in History – by Reay Tannahill)