Cod loins

From Ellen Seebacher on Facebook, this puzzling ad:


Cod loins?

Loin is an unusual body-part term. AHD2 on the word:

the part of the body on both sides of the spine between the lowest (false) ribs and the hipbones.

• (loins) chiefly literary the region of the sexual organs, esp. when regarded as the source of erotic or procreative power: he felt a stirring in his loins at the thought.

• (loin) a large cut of meat that includes the vertebrae of the loins: loin of pork with potatoes.

The trick is to figure out what the counterpart of the loin(s) is on a fish. For comparison, here are graphics of cuts of beef in US and British usage:

(#2, US)

(#3, Brit)

6 Responses to “Cod loins”

  1. Victor Says:

    Neither diagram tells the whole story. There are multiple butchering and naming traditions on both sides of the Atlantic and the number of different cuts has been increasing. Blade and rump both exist in the US and don’t correspond to the similarly named British cuts. There’s also skirt (steak), tritip and a bunch of other smaller specialty cuts, plus the round is divided into top and bottom, and one muscle is extracted as eye round. And this does not include the inventive names chefs and retailers give smaller cuts. But “loin” is one item you’re highly unlikely to find at a retail butcher or in a supermarket. You also won’t find plate in retail outside the BBQ Belt. Most of those cuts are processed further, much of it into undifferentiated ground beef.

    But the cod loin is closer in meaning to pork cuts. The pork loin and tenderloin are found on the side of spine (think “loin chops”, as whole loin is usually sold boned). You also get similar cuts of lamb (meaty part in lower back, but this one is rarely separated from the bone before cooking). Cod loins are filets of cod from the dorsal side, usually further processed into rectangular or ovoid shapes. One has to wonder what happens to the rest of the fish, particularly, the rib and belly side of the filet, as well as the tail and collar. In reality, cod loin is just a marketing term. It’s not named this way because of its similar location on the fish but because it bears vague similarity to the pork loin in shape and texture, as well as both being lean, fairly tender, uniformly textured cuts.

  2. Ellen Seebacher Says:

    Interesting, Victor. Before I posted the ad I checked my Merriam-Webster and apps — and both defined “loin” as a body part belonging to a human being *or* a quadruped. It’ll be interesting to see whether this usage catches on — it definitely struck several of my acquaintances as hilarious!

  3. Alon Says:

    Where’s the ad from? ‘Loins’ may simply be a false friend.

    In several languages (including Spanish) thick, short , squarish fish fillets are called lomos. This is not only cognate with loin, but also equivalente in several other contexts: it’s the word used for the cuts of meat you mention above, as well as the euphemism of choice for the genitals in old Bible translations.

  4. Ellen Says:

    It’s from Market Basket, a New England chain based in Tewksbury, Massachusetts — an area with a Latino population of less than 2%, so I’m a bit skeptical. (Granted, nearly 5% of Massachusetts residents have Portuguese ancestry, but they tend to be concentrated on the southern coast of MA and in Boston, outside Market Basket’s service area.) The chain is owned by heirs of the founders, who were Greek immigrants.

  5. arnold zwicky Says:

    Now from Victor Steinbok on 4/22/14:

    If you recall the discussion of “cod loins” there was some suspicion that the use was particular to Demoulas Market Basket, whose owners have Portuguese background. But I was quite certain that the use is broader. Here’s a clip from the current circular of another local chain, Shaws (used to me mostly NH and Northern MA chain, but expanded when they bought the Star Market chain; now a part of the Albertson’s/SmartValu chain, I believe). I still don’t know if this is regional use, however.

    But there is this:

    [text] Loin: the thickest and juiciest piece of the fish fillets. It is the best part of the fish.

    (with a photo of the fish and the package)

    • Ellen Says:

      What’s particularly interesting about that Edenia Foods page is this paragraph: “International names: Cod Loins (engleză), Filet de Cabillaud (franceză), Lomos de Bacalao (spaniolă)”. The language names are all given in Romanian!

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