croquet monsieur

Tennis, anyone? Croquet, monsieur? Croquette, madame?

I begin in medias res, with croquet monsieur, as used in this announcement on the specials board recently at the King’s College Cambridge servery:

(#1) (photo by Bert Vaux, of King’s, posted on Facebook today)

The staffer who made up the board was presumably unfamiliar with the croque part of the food name croque-monsieur, so they went with the closest thing they knew: croquet.  (Well, it was all French to them.) Go With What You Know is the eggcorning strategy of Ruthie in the cartoon One Big Happy, reported on regularly in this blog.Here it is in an adult variant.

Food and games. The item on offer at the servery is a croque-monsieur — unaccountably without visible cheese or ham, and not visibly grilled or fried, so it just looks like two pieces of undistinguished British toast — with a fried egg on top, a combination that is techncally called a croque-madame. From my 11/15/18 posting “Bite me, Count Bendix!”:

(#2) A croque-monsieur

My 7/8/13 posting “croquettes” has a section on the croque-monsieur (as a grilled ham and cheese sandwich using Emmental or Gruyère cheese); the name is literally ‘crunch, bite a man’, with the imitative verb croquer [‘to crunch, bite’, also in croquette].… A croque-monsieur served with a fried egg or poached egg on top is known as a croque-madame

The croque-monsieur and the croquette are both foods, and their names have a shared etymology. Croquet, however, is a game, and its name has an apparently unrelated etymology. From NOAD:

noun croquet: a game [the modern game is British and mid-19th-century, though with long antecedents] played on a lawn, in which colored wooden balls are driven through a series of wickets by means of mallets … verb croquet: [with object] drive away (an opponent’s ball) by holding one’s own ball against it and striking this with the mallet… ORIGIN mid 19th century: perhaps a dialect form of French crochet ‘hook’.

(#3) Croquet set: stakes, wickets, mallets, balls

(#4) About to croquet

Oh yes, on “Tennis, anyone?”, see the wonderful Quote Investigator entry on it.

Servery. Bert’s FB posting reported that #1 was at the servery at King’s. From NOAD:

noun serveryBritish a counter, service hatch, or room from which meals are served.

Similarly from the Macmillan dictionary:

British an area of a restaurant where you get food to take back to your table

I wondered whether at King’s the servery was a counter or the whole dining room or cafeteria in which the counter was located. I went to the King’s Servery website, which is quite detailed.

It offers a selection of traditional British food (chips, sausages, mushy peas), ethnic specialties, and healthy-food alternatives (quinoa, vegetarian dishes). Some sample items:

Monday main dishes: mac & cheese topped with spring onions & chillies; Thai green beef curry; confit duck leg with chickpea & chorizo stew. Thursday: vegetable biryani with chickpeas & okra, turkey & bean chilli with crushed nachos, braised beef brisket with smoky pepper & red onion sauce

But I couldn’t tell how the Servery fit into the larger picture. Turns out there are two separate rooms. From Bert:

I’m operating on the assumption that the ugly back room wherein one gets the food (post-1967) is the servery, whereas the beautiful 1828 room wherein one consumes it is the hall.

In a cafeteria, the servery would be a section of the room in which the food is made available: at food counters or food stalls. King’s, however, has this Georgian Gothic Hall for dining:


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