Eating your words
“Keep your words sweet – you may have to eat them” is an aphorism often attributed to the French Quaker missionary Stephen Grellet, although variants of this phrase turn up in a number of other places. Grellet was perhaps a man who was aware of the etymological background of some English words for food, for many of them are surprisingly unappetizing. From ‘little tongues’ to ‘little worms’, and from ‘fleas’ to ‘chamber pot’, the roots of our cuisine can be formed of things most of us would rather not eat.
Have a look at the list of food items below, and see if you can match each word with its corresponding root:
1) Ricotta a) fleas
2) Vermicelli b) squeeze out the dregs
3) Linguine c) staff
4) Lobster d) cooked twice
5) Psyllium e) locust
6) Burrito f) little worms
7) Baguette g) chamber pot
8) Tapioca h) little tongues
9) Lasagne i) small donkey
Answers: how many did you get right?
The opinions and other information contained in the Oxford Dictionaries Online blog posts do not necessarily reflect the opinions or positions of OUP.
- Competitions and quizzes (26)
- Dictionaries and lexicography (116)
- English in use (304)
- Grammar and writing help (58)
- Interactive features (46)
- OED Appeals (4)
- Other languages (50)
- Varieties of English (28)
- Word origins (156)
- Word trends and new words (93)