Useful words

Two recent items: misdemeanant and moreish — both new to me, but very much not new.

1. misdemeanant.  I came across this useful counterpart to felon a little while ago :

felon : felony = misdemeanant :  misdemeanor

This is in NOAD2 as ‘a person convicted of a misdemeanor or guilty of misconduct’, and AHD5 has a similar entry. OED3 (June 2002) has cites going back to 1819 (and marks the word as “now chiefly U.S.”). It also has an etymology tracing the noun back to a verb misdemean ‘to misbehave, misconduct oneself’ (with cites from the 16th century on and the label “now rare”).

Very much a legal term.

2. moreish. This adjective I came across, several times, in Michael Booth’s Sushi and Beyond: What the Japanese Know About Cooking (2009), an entertaining (and informative) book in which Booth writes about Japanese food, from the north of Honshu to Okinawa. He eats a lot along the way, (More on Booth’s book in another posting.) I wasn’t entirely sure how to interpret the word, though I took it to be British, colloquial, and complimentary.

Then I found Lynne Murphy’s 2007 Separated by a Common Language posting on ish, with this note:

as long as we’re on ish, a BrE word that really fills a gap for me is moreish (sometimes more-ish) as in These chocolate biscuits are really moreish — i.e., they make you want to eat more of them. Here’s a real example from a review of Tia Maria creme liqueur in Scotland on Sunday:

Tia Maria has blended a winner here. It is a moreish mix of Jamaican coffee, rum and cream that slides down so easily it should be served in an iced glass — pint-sized.

Well, it turns out that this one is in the OED too (OED3 of Dec. 2002), marked as colloquial (but not specifically British, though I suspect very few Americans will know the word):

Of food or drink: that makes one want to have more. Occas. in extended use.
Noted by Sewel (quot. 1691) as a burlesque or trivial word.

With quotes from the 17th century through this one from 1999

J. Preece Good Beer Guide 1999 454/2   An intense, chewy pint which is surprisingly refreshing and moreish.

Bet you can’t eat/drink just one …


4 Responses to “Useful words”

  1. Kadar Solihan 1989 Says:

    Dear Arnold,

    How about Sout east asia words such as Durian or Rambutan. Do you have any special comment about it

    Thank you

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      This is somewhat off the topic of my posting, but, in brief, words for material objects (including foodstuffs) tend to be borrowed along with the objects themselves, or, more generally, they are borrowed when people have some some experience of the objects — in which case, the words are obviously useful. So once you come in contact with durians or rambutans, you want a word for them, and adopting (some version of) the native names for them is an easy way to go. (Not the only way: names can be constructed from materials in your language, as with “Chinese gooseberry” or “kiwifruit” for the (originally Chinese) fruit in question.)

  2. mollymooly Says:

    OTOH “s’mores” is an American word (and s’mores are American treats). I wonder whether “more” = “tasty” is a viable metonymy in many other languages.

  3. pj Says:

    The British comedian Harry Hill had a one-liner (since widely plagiarised) to the effect: ‘The trouble with heroin is it’s very moreish.’
    The humour depends on the slight jocularity of ‘moreish’, its usual application to things (sweets, biscuits, alcoholic tipples…) where you might imagine your stereotypical old maiden aunt going through a pantomime of, ‘Oooh, I shouldn’t, really. Oh, go on, then, I’m feeling naughty: just one more.’
    Personally (BrEng, female, 30s) I’d only use ‘moreish’ in a self-consciously jocular fashion.

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