Obscure food etymology

As consciousness about food and food culture increases, so do the number of neologisms.  These rely on a shared familiarity with the base terms.  Locavore, for example, depends on the base “-vore,” which we recognize from the terms herbivore and carnivore.  -Vore is derived from the Latin word vorare, to devour. Likewise, we may make up words that end in -arian–a vegetarian that dislikes vegetables might be a called “bageltarian”–even though -arian is not originally a food term (it indicates a believer or advocate of something).  Philadelphia used to be fond of the term and type “gastropub”: I’m personally not so fond of words that use “gastro,” as the direct reference to a stomach strikes me as less than poetic, but I suppose the word has been elevated from its use by noted food theorist Brillat Savarin.

But my Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day subscription has given me a handful of food words that I’d never heard of, and couldn’t trace to a familiar root.  I present these for those who, like me, like to collect linguistic oddities.

  • Abligurition
    Noun. Prodigal expense for food and/or drink.
    This one is a bit of a tongue twister–appropriately, since it comes in part from the Latin term for licking (lingere). Lingurire means to be dainty about the business of eating;ab, naturally, suggests the opposite of that!
  • Acatry
    Noun. Provisions purchased for a house, or the room where such provisions were kept.
    It comes from an old French term for a place to buy provisions–achaterie–so it may not surprise you to note that this term was most often ysed to describe the provisions or pantry for an English royal household.
  • Analects
    Noun (obsolete).  Discarded fragments of food, esp. those gathered after a meal; morsels, scraps, crumbs.
    Latin analecta referred to a slave who picked up crumbs after a meal; the Latin was derived from an older Greek term for gleaning. Now the English term is used more often, if ever, to refer to a collection of literary extracts or gleanings.
  • Eculent
    Noun or adjective. Something edible, especially a vegetable.
    “The remainder of the garden presented a well-selected assortment of esculent  vegetables, in a praiseworthy state of advancement.”– Nathaniel Hawthorne, The House of the Seven Gables. Supposedly this word comes from a Latin word for food, esca.

English is a veritable salad of a language, isn’t it? I imagine there will be more such posts to come.


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