Food puns

Two plays on food names: panini and congee. The first with an excellent visual pun, posted today by John McChesney-Young on Facebook, under the heading

Almost Certainly the Best Visual Pun on an Ancient Sanskrit Grammarian and a Light Italian Repast Ever

The second I have no visual for, though I can still hope to find a photo of a bowl of kanji — a sort of Japanese alphabet soup.

Panini. There’s the ‘sandwich made with Italian bread, usually toasted’ (NOAD2). Panini is originally the plural of Italian panino ‘small bread roll’, but has taken on the sandwich meaning (as a singular) in North America and the UK, where panini (or paninis) are now widely available.

Then there’s Pāṇini ( पाणिनि ), the great Sanskrit grammarian. (Note the retroflex [ṇ].)

Congee. From Wikipedia:

Congee is a type of rice porridge popular in many Asian countries. It can be eaten alone or served with a side dish. Names for congee are as varied as the style of its preparation. Despite its many variations, it is always a thick porridge or soup of rice which has usually disintegrated after prolonged cooking in copious water.

[many alternative names, including juk or jook]

In some cultures, congee is eaten primarily as a breakfast food or late supper; in others, it is eaten as a substitute for rice at other meals. It is often considered particularly suitable for the sick as a mild, easily digestible food.

(OED2 has cites in English from 1698 on, with the etymology

< Tamil kañji ; in Telugu and Kannada gañji , Malayalam kaṇni , Urdu ganji : of doubtful origin; ‘not Dravidian’ (G. U. Pope). The English form may have been taken through the Portuguese; Garcia 1563 has canje ; candgie , canji , cangia are early representations in other European languages.)

Congee serves as a neutral medium, akin to polenta or grits or oatmeal or cream of wheat. Here’s some congee with chicken and vegetables:

Then there’s kanji, the logographic Chinese characters (hanzi) used in the modern Japanese writing system (along with katakana and hiragana, which are phonologically based).

In my variety of English, the borrowed words congee (the rice gruel) and kanji (the logographic characters) are not quite homophones: the first has a primary-secondary accent pattern (as in compound nouns like snowman, or as in the noun or verb accent), the second a primary-unaccented pattern (as in silly). I suspect that many speakers have the two words as homophones, so that a bowl of kanji — you can certainly imagine such a thing — would be a perfect pun, even better than essays on Pāṇini.

(Footnote: According to Wikipedia,

Okayu  is the name for the type of congee eaten in Japan, which is considerably thicker than congee produced in other cultures.

And okayu in kanji is お粥, but of course that’s not pronounced like congee/kanji at all.)

One Response to “Food puns”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Victor Steinbok on ADS-L on 4/14/12, a link to a website providing a list of porridges around the world: rice, corn, and other (wheat, oats, buckwheat, barley, etc.).

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