Bock.

I forget why I looked up bock, as in bock beer ‘strong dark German beer,’ but I was startled to see in the Wikipedia article this origin story:

The style known now as bock was a dark, malty, lightly hopped ale first brewed in the 14th century by German brewers in the Hanseatic town of Einbeck. The style from Einbeck was later adopted by Munich brewers in the 17th century and adapted to the new lager style of brewing. Due to their Bavarian accent, citizens of Munich pronounced “Einbeck” as “ein Bock” (“a billy goat”), and thus the beer became known as “bock”. To this day, as a visual pun, a goat often appears on bock labels.

Is that true? I mean, the OED says it’s “< Einbeck, Eimbeck, a town in Lower Saxony, Germany,” so I guess the ultimate origin is correct, but is it true about the Munich accent?

Comments

  1. And why does Wilhelm Busch rhyme, “He, heraus! Du Ziegen-Böck! Schneider, Schneider, meck, meck, meck”?

  2. Oh, that’s just front-vowel unrounding, which is standard in Bavarian: John Boehner, the former Speaker of the U.S. House, is pronounced Behner. But o > e is another matter altogether.

  3. …so, also the origin of Beck’s beer? 🙂

  4. Reminds me of when Bitburger tried to keep US Budweiser out of Germany with the (to my ears) idiotic argument that “Bit” and “Bud” sound nearly the same.

    https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budweiser-Streit

  5. Wilhelm Busch wasn’t from Bavaria. He was from Niedersachsen, and even wrote some in Plattdeutsch.

  6. BerlinBrian says:

    My old Duden says that the story is true.

  7. Sir JCass says:

    I always associate bocks with fin de siècle France, for example Garçon, un bock !, one of the bleakest of Maupassant’s stories. There’s also Eliot’s “Portrait of a Lady”:

    Let us take the air, in a tobacco trance,
    Admire the monuments,
    Discuss the late events,
    Correct our watches by the public clocks.
    Then sit for half an hour and drink our bocks.

    On a similar theme, one of my favourite pictures is Manet’s A Bar at the Folies-Bergère. It made me laugh when I worked out that the bottles on the bar with red triangles are Bass beer. Bass comes from Burton-on-Trent, one of the least romantic places I know.* Wikipedia claims that “the conspicuous presence [in the picture] of this English brand instead of German beer has been interpreted as documentation of anti-German sentiment in France in the decade after the Franco-Prussian War.”

    *On the other hand, the town often has a pervasive smell of hops, which can be quite pleasant if you are a fan of Weetabix.

  8. Ah, the German Wikipedia article explains it more clearly: it’s that Einbeckisch to a Bavarian is homophonous with “einböckisch,” because of the aforementioned southern unrounding. So Bock is either a back-formation from that or a joke. Or both.

  9. Ah, the German Wikipedia article explains it more clearly: it’s that Einbeckisch to a Bavarian is homophonous with “einböckisch,” because of the aforementioned southern unrounding. So Bock is either a back-formation from that or a joke. Or both.

    Thanks, that makes perfect sense!

    Bass comes from Burton-on-Trent, one of the least romantic places I know.

    I think of it very fondly, because of my favorite Housman poem:

    Why, if ’tis dancing you would be,
    There’s brisker pipes than poetry.
    Say, for what were hop-yards meant,
    Or why was Burton built on Trent?

  10. In some parts of France, un bock is a very small draft beer – 125 cl instead of the more usual 250 or 330 cl.

  11. Hence the famous transcription /ʃtɔfə̃bɔk/ for ‘Let me buy you a small glass of beer’.

  12. Colloquial French is so concise! (Or, as they say, /scnsilfrsclk/.)

  13. Jim (another one) says:

    “The style from Einbeck was later adopted by Munich brewers in the 17th century and adapted to the new lager style of brewing. Due to their Bavarian accent, citizens of Munich pronounced “Einbeck” as “ein Bock” (“a billy goat”), and thus the beer became known as “bock”. ”

    Could be, but I remember a billy goat on the label of the beer brewed in Einbeck and I cannot imagine them doing or anything else that based on a Bavarian mispronunciation.

    The etymology I heard, and this is a thirty year old memory, was that the name derived from “eingepoeckelt” = “pickled” or aged beer.

  14. DWDS (http://www.dwds.de/wb/Bockbier) has this passage from a German etymology book. Rough translation is from me, please forgive any errors and lack of formatting.

    Etymologisches Wörterbuch (Wolfgang Pfeifer 1966)

    Bockbier n. ein Starkbier, dessen Bezeichnung von der niedersächsischen Stadt Einbeck, früher Eimbeck, herzuleiten ist und zunächst Eimbeckisch, Einbeckisch Bier (16. Jh.) genannt wird. Die Stadt erlangt bereits im Spätmittelalter Berühmtheit durch Herstellung und Ausfuhr eines anerkannten Hopfenbieres, das seit Anfang des 17. Jhs. auch in Bayern gebraut und mit Vokalwechsel e zu o in der zweiten Silbe ampokhisch pier (München 1630), Aimbock, Oambock genannt wird. Im 19. Jh. kommt die Kurzform Bock m. auf, die als un bock ‘ein Glas Bier’ ins Frz. entlehnt wird. Die Darstellung der Ziegenböcke bzw. Ziegenbockköpfe auf Verkaufsanzeigen, Etiketts beruht auf späterer volkstümlicher Umdeutung, indem der Name des Bieres mit dem betreffenden Tier in Zusammenhang gebracht wird.

    Bockbeer a strong beer whose name comes from the Lower Saxony city of Einbeck, earlier Eimbeck, and was initially named Eimbeckish/Einbeckish Beer (16th Cent.). The city already achieved importance by the late middle ages from the production and export of a renowned hopped beer, that was also brewed by the start of the 17th century in Bavaria where, with a vowel change of ‘e’ to ‘o’ in the second syllable it was called ampokisch pier(Munich 1630)/Aimbock/Oambock. In the 19th century came the abbreviation Bock, which was borrowed into French as ‘un bock’, meaning ‘a glass of beer’. The depiction of a billy-goat [der Bock] on sales signs and labels is due to later folk reinterpretation, in which the name of the beer was linked with the animal.

    I would guess that the adoption of the goat symbolism even outside of Bavaria is just evidence of how charming the goat joke is, as well as perhaps how great Bavaria’s beer influence is.

  15. David Marjanović says:

    Wilhelm Busch wasn’t from Bavaria. He was from Niedersachsen, and even wrote some in Plattdeutsch.

    Unrounding is so widespread – perhaps most importantly for historic reasons, it’s present in (Upper) Saxony – that rounded and unrounded front vowels (including the pair eu/ei) are officially allowed to rhyme in Standard German poetry. This rule is taught in schools even today.

    Could be, but I remember a billy goat on the label of the beer brewed in Einbeck and I cannot imagine them doing or anything else that based on a Bavarian mispronunciation.

    Well, Berlin compulsively puts unetymological bears everywhere… it seems to me like some kind of in-joke.

    No c in gepökelt, BTW.


  16. “Wilhelm Busch wasn’t from Bavaria. He was from Niedersachsen, and even wrote some in Plattdeutsch.”

    Unrounding is so widespread – perhaps most importantly for historic reasons, it’s present in (Upper) Saxony – that rounded and unrounded front vowels (including the pair eu/ei) are officially allowed to rhyme in Standard German poetry.
    Just as a note, while unrounding is far-spread in German dialects, it is rare in the Low German (Plattdeutsch) area – IIRC, there is only a small area near Bremen with unrounding. But the verses quoted are not Plattdeutsch, as you say Busch is just following Standard German rhyming conventions.

  17. The online Duden has this to say:

    von älterem bayrischen Aimbock, Oambock, mundartliche Umgestaltung von ain-, einbeckisch Bier, nach der für ihr Hopfenbier berühmten Stadt Einbeck in Niedersachsen

    which translate roughly to: from the older Bavarian Aimbock, Oambock, a dialect re-working of ain-, einbeckisch Beer, after the city Einbeck in Lower Saxony, famous for its hop beers.

    It dates the first appearance of ‘Bockbier’ in Duden to the relatively recent date of 1880

    http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Bockbier

  18. @Declan: The date is so late because the 1880 edition is the first edition of the Duden. So the note only means that the word was already part of the first edition, not that it hasn’t been attested earlier.

  19. David Marjanović says:

    Other than Grimm’s, which… is being updated for the first time now, the German language doesn’t seem to have a historical dictionary at all.

  20. So many languages don’t! God bless the OED.

  21. @DM: And Grimm’s unfortunately doesn’t treat “Bock(bier)”, neither s.v. “Bock” nor s.v. “Bier”.

  22. Hans, I just mentioned that Busch wrote some verse in Plattdeutsch, not including the verse from Max and Moritz I gave. That was just to highlight that he was from a Plattdeutsch-speaking area.

  23. Yes, that’s how I understood it.

  24. Frequent commenter Paul sent me the entry from the Trésor de la langue française informatisé, which includes this etymology:

    Empr. à l’all. Bock « bière de Bavière, fortement alcoolisée », forme apocopée pour Bockbier; à l’orig. du mot, l’all. Einbeckisch Bier, de Einbeck ou Eimbeck, petite ville de Basse-Saxe qui, dès le XIVe s., exporta sa célèbre bière, très riche en houblon (Brockhaus Enzykl., p. 17); en Bavière où fut introduite cette bière, le nom fut altéré en Aimbock ou Oambock puis abrégé en Bock au XIXe s. (Duden Etymol.), la 1re part. du mot ayant été comprise comme l’article indéfini (ein, prononcé oan en Bavière), AXEL LINQUIST, Deutsches Kultur- und Gesellschaftsleben im Spiegel der Sprache, Wiesbaden, 1955, p. 67.

    There’s also an interesting quote from Sartre (Les Mots, 1964, p. 157) in which he contrasts bock and bière: “nous nous asseyions côte à côte sur la banquette, tout le monde nous regardait d’un air de connivence, il commandait un bock et, pour moi, un galopin de bière, je me sentais aimé.”

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