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Re: Flesh Eating Names

From:Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...>
Date:Monday, October 13, 2008, 17:11
On Mon, Oct 13, 2008 at 12:53 PM, Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...> wrote:
> I was wondering why it is that some meat is called by the name of the animal > and some meat is not. We have fried chicken, but not ground cow. We have pork > chops, not pig chops, yet we eat fish fillet.
In English, it's mainly because of alternation between Germanic words for animals and Romance words for meat. Walter Scott has a neat passage about the phenomenon in _Ivanhoe_, from the POV of people living through the early stages of this lexical differentiation as Norman French influences were making major changes in English. ``Truly,'' said Wamba, without stirring from the spot, ``I have consulted my legs upon this matter, and they are altogether of opinion, that to carry my gay garments through these sloughs, would be an act of unfriendship to my sovereign person and royal wardrobe; wherefore, Gurth, I advise thee to call off Fangs, and leave the herd to their destiny, which, whether they meet with bands of travelling soldiers, or of outlaws, or of wandering pilgrims, can be little else than to be converted into Normans before morning, to thy no small ease and comfort.'' ``The swine turned Normans to my comfort!'' quoth Gurth; ``expound that to me, Wamba, for my brain is too dull, and my mind too vexed, to read riddles.'' ``Why, how call you those grunting brutes running about on their four legs?'' demanded Wamba. ``Swine, fool, swine,'' said the herd, ``every fool knows that.'' ``And swine is good Saxon,'' said the Jester; ``but how call you the sow when she is flayed, and drawn, and quartered, and hung up by the heels, like a traitor?'' ``Pork,'' answered the swine-herd. ``I am very glad every fool knows that too,'' said Wamba, ``and pork, I think, is good Norman-French; and so when the brute lives, and is in the charge of a Saxon slave, she goes by her Saxon name; but becomes a Norman, and is called pork, when she is carried to the Castle-hall to feast among the nobles what dost thou think of this, friend Gurth, ha?'' ``It is but too true doctrine, friend Wamba, however it got into thy fool's pate.'' ``Nay, I can tell you more,'' said Wamba, in the same tone; ``there is old Alderman Ox continues to hold his Saxon epithet, while he is under the charge of serfs and bondsmen such as thou, but becomes Beef, a fiery French gallant, when he arrives before the worshipful jaws that are destined to consume him. Mynheer Calf, too, becomes Monsieur de Veau in the like manner; he is Saxon when he requires tendance, and takes a Norman name when he becomes matter of enjoyment.''
> cow -> beef > pig -> pork > deer -> venison > lamb -> mutton (also "lamb") > goat -> chevon (also "goat")
Animals that were commonly raised and eaten in England in the period when Norman French influences were strong.
> Small animals: > > fish -> fish > chicken -> chicken > turkey -> turkey > duck -> duck > goose -> goose > cuy -> cuy (guinea pig eaten in South America)
Some of these are animals that weren't known yet at the time those Romance words for meat were imported into English. I'm not sure why we didn't borrow Norman French words for the meat of the others, though.
> How do any of your conlangs name meat vs animal?
gzb is boringly schematic, forming compounds with {ķârn} "meat, muscle" as the head and the name of an animal as the modifier. That works for all animals whose flesh is eaten, including invertebrates. -- Jim Henry


Carl Banks <conlang@...>