Archive for the ‘Language and food’ Category

Choosing your words

October 15, 2014

Two recent items on word choice: a One Big Happy with a set of synonyms; and a NYT Magazine piece on children’s breakfasts around the world, with a reference to Japanese natto as “putrid”.


Turnip cake

October 6, 2014

From Ned Deily, this photo of the turnip cake from a gathering of friends for dim sum at the San Francisco restaurant Ton Kiang yesterday:

Ned tagged me in his Facebook posting on the gathering, because he knows how much I like the turnip cake at the Palo Alto restaurant Tai Pan, which specializes in Hong Kong-style cuisine. Ton Kiang features “the finest in Chinese and Hakka cuisine”.


Word geographies

October 2, 2014

Some good words here about Asya Pereltsvaig’s explorations in word geography, from the etymology section of her Languages of the World site, which has some cool maps. In no particular order (some postings have come by more than once, in different versions):

The Geography of ‘Book’ (link)

The Geography of the “Onion” Vocabulary (link)

What will you have: tea or chai? (link)

Say “Cheese”! (link)

The Geography of “Cucumber” (link)

The ‘cheese’ map:



Slush Puppies

September 27, 2014

In the NYT on the 23rd, an obit by Paul Vitello, “Will Radcliff, 74, Creator of the Slush Puppie, Dies”, beginning:

Flavored ice drinks had been around since the Romans, and machines had been churning them out under various brand names for almost as long, it seems, when Will Radcliff, a peanut salesman, had the ice beverage inspiration that made him rich.

He called it a Slush Puppie. Thirty years later, when he sold the company he had founded to make and market the product, the Slush Puppie had become a staple among aficionados of brain-freezing supersweet drinks all over the world.

(“brain-freezing supersweet drinks” is a nice turn of phrase). The product mascot:



Roost Lake Trout

September 26, 2014

Yesterday’s Zippy:


Three things: the location of this scene; lake trout; and what “happens” in the strip.


Hero sandwiches

September 21, 2014

Today’s Rhymes With Orange:

Dragons eat heroes. In this case, in hero sandwiches.

hero sandwich is the New York term for a submarine sandwich, or sub, first attested in 1937; several unlikely etymologies have been suggested, but the likely source is as a relatively transparent compound — something like ‘sandwich for a hero’.

On synonyms for submarine sandwich, see 8/22/11’s “Zippy makes a sandwich”, with links to sources.

Linguistic diversity among the nopalries

September 13, 2014

I’ve been reading through Amy Butler Greenfield’s fascinating A Perfect Red: Empire, Espionage, and the Quest for the Color of Desire (HarperCollins 2005, paperback in 2006), which abounds in great topics: conquest, colonialism, skullduggery, official secrecy, piracy, medieval-style commercial guilds, mysteries of natural history, the growth of science, international trade, cultural diffusion, and more. Officially it’s about dyes, in particular the intense and durable true red dye sought by cultures around much of the world. So of course it turns out to be about cactuses and scale insects. Plenty of linguistic interest in there.


Sweet rainbow food

September 13, 2014

In a continuing series, more food with a rainbow theme, this time from the sizable Flickr site Rainbow Sugar, which says:

Anything that is rainbow color and sweet, belongs in this group

(The comma between subject and predicate, marking a breathing point in the sentence (especially with a complex subject), once very common, is now treated as non-standard punctuation, an error.)

(Hat tip to Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky.)

Two examples: rainbow cookies and rainbow (jelly) fruit slices (with only part of the rainbow shown here; we need purple and blue at the left end):



Huge numbers of rainbow cakes, of course, ranging from the subtle to the garish.

Birthday presents

September 8, 2014

Among the presents for my birthday (on the 6th): a penguin, a spelling Owl, an Archie comic, and a rainbow cake. (At least one more to come, in a future posting.)


What a difference 30 years makes

September 6, 2014

Just arrived: Dan Jurafsky’s delightful The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu (Norton, 2014):

I’ll have more to say about the book later; here I’m focusing on chapter 1, “How to Read a Menu”, because it takes up a topic than Ann Zwicky and I wrote on in 1980 (“America’s National Dish: The Style of Restaurant Menus”, in American Speech 55.83-92; available on-line here). A lot has changed in 30+ years.



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