Brindisi.

A reader writes: “At a concert yesterday, Verdi’s Brindisi from La Traviata playing, I thought, that’s a funny name for a toast! According to Wikipedia, from German, but mangled to sound like the Italian town, to which it is completely unrelated.” That of course caught my attention, and sure enough, Wikipedia says:

The word is Italian, but it derives from an old German phrase, (ich) bringe dir’s – “(I) offer it to you”, which at one time was used to introduce a toast.[1] The transformation of that phrase into the current Italian word may have been influenced by similar-sounding name of the Italian city of Brindisi, but otherwise the city and the term are etymologically unrelated.

That footnote says: “O. Pianigiani, Vocabolario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana, s.v. brindisi. See also OED, s.v. brendice.” And yes, Pianigiani says “dal ted. BRING DIR’S,” and the OED (entry unrevised since 1888) says “< Italian bríndesi, bríndisi, ‘a drinking or health to one’ (Florio); according to Diez perverted (by popular etymology) from German bring dir’s , i.e. ich bringe dir’s zu ; whence also French brinde”… but I don’t believe it. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it sure sounds like something that Diez thought up and that has stuck because it’s a clever idea and nobody’s had a better one. Anybody know anything more? (Thanks, Adrian!)

Comments

  1. I have no idea, but in Il Galateo, Giovanni della Casa describes a “brindisi” as an invitation to drink that’s more like a drinking contest, and says “this is not a custom of our land, so we use a foreign term for it, far brindisi.” (He doesn’t approve of the practice, and says it’s best to take a polite sip and concede defeat.)

  2. Here’s Diez’s entry:

    Brindisi It., Sp. brindis a health (propinatio) ; from G. bring dirs. Hence Fr. brinde, Lorr. bringuéi to drink a health, Sp. brindar. The O.Sp. caráuz in the same sense Covarruvias derives from G. gar-aus, but more prob. it comes from Du. kroesen krosen (kruyse a cup, cruse) to tipple, whence carouse.

    and the German

    Bríndisi das zutrinken, ven. prindese; vom dtschen bring dirs d. h. ich bringe dir’s zu. Auch fr. brinde erklärt sich aus dieser phrase, so wie das lothr. vb. bringuei, burg. bringuai zutrinken, sp. brindàr. Vgl. bringen bei Stalder und Höfer.

  3. OK, I guess I’m starting to believe it, but damn if it doesn’t sound fishy. I guess it would sound less fishy if I had been familiar with “bringe dir’s” as a toast — it sounds made up!

  4. David Marjanović says:

    I had no idea of the toast, but the two dictionaries say it’s real and provide a plausible just-so story for it.

    It probably started as a joke: start from [ˈb̥rɪŋd̥ɐs], simplify [ŋd̥] to [nd̥], and then engage in free association.

    Etymologisches Wörterbuch der in Oberdeutschland

    , vorzüglich aber in Österreich üblichen Mundart: “etymological dictionary of the dialect usual in upper Germany, but especially in Austria”.

  5. The German etymology sounds peculiar, but not unreasonable, to me at least.

    I mostly wanted to register that I dislike the countable term “a health,” meaning “a toast (or the wine drunk in connection with the toast).” It always strikes me as a very inapt an inelegant locution.

  6. I think my “BS meter” would have also gone off at this one, but it does seem to be pretty well-documented. Here’s a French dictionary that mentions mercenaries, always a welcome sight:

    https://www.lalanguefrancaise.com/dictionnaire/definition-brinde/

    Here’s a Google Books result in German that says something about the evidently well-known fact that the common people use “Ich bring’ Dir’s” as a toast (and that it’s a kind of benediction, which I don’t quite follow):

    https://books.google.co.th/books?id=IEBFAAAAcAAJ&pg=PA5&lpg=PA5&dq=%22bring+dir%27s%22+zum+wohl&source=bl&ots=WDlYmqoQv4&sig=ACfU3U3jJzf8cjk55pGbnTFj8oGq4DicGg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwit29DQsfrlAhWKQo8KHdx3AYUQ6AEwAXoECAkQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22bring%20dir's%22%20zum%20wohl&f=false

  7. it sure sounds like something that Diez thought up

    I’ve come across something similar recently:

    The word can also be thought of as a euphony of “宝刀” or “放蕩”. For “宝刀” (treasure sword), the given explanation is that Takeda Shingen cut the ingredients for the dish with his own sword. However, linguists tend to view this idea as a clever play on words in an advertisement campaign rather than a legitimate theory.

    餺飥

  8. January First-of-May says:

    I mostly wanted to register that I dislike the countable term “a health,” meaning “a toast (or the wine drunk in connection with the toast).”

    At least it isn’t particularly ambiguous. When I see the term “a toast” I want to interpret it as “a piece of toasted bread” unless that’s too obviously wrong in the context.

    (How did those two things happen to be called the same, anyway?)

  9. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    From the OED:

    toast, n.1

    1. a. (With a and plural) A slice or piece of bread browned at the fire: often put in wine, water, or other beverage. Now rare or Obsolete except in India.
    2. a. As a substance (without a or plural): Bread so browned by fire, electric heat, etc. (The ordinary current use.)

    toast, n.2

    1. A lady who is named as the person to whom a company is requested to drink; often one who is the reigning belle of the season. Now historical.
    2. Any person, male or female, whose health is proposed and drunk to; also any event, institution, or sentiment, in memory or in honour of which a company is requested to drink; also, the call or act of proposing such a health.

    Etymology: A figurative application of toast n.1, the name of a lady being supposed to flavour a bumper like a spiced toast in the drink.

    1709 R. Steele Tatler No. 31. ⁋8 Then, said he, Why do you call live People Toasts? I answered, That was a new Name found out by the Wits to make a Lady have the same Effect as Burridge in the Glass when a Man is drinking.

  10. For Brett, about the countable term “a health”:

    That one is long established. In the singular there’s Burns’s “Here’s a health to them that’s awa”; in the plural there’s Lovelace’s “To Althea, from Prison” (“When thirsty grief in Wine we steep, / When Healths and draughts go free”).

  11. PlasticPaddy says:

    @jen
    I thought sense 2.1 was still active in the phrase “toast of the town”. But Wiktionary gives this phrase as “dated”. Maybe by “historical” the OED means “rare for at least n years with n some value between 25 and 50”.

  12. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    PlasticPaddy:

    I think what they’re calling historial is the literal act of a company naming a lady and drinking to her – but the figurative ‘toast of the town’ doesn’t seem to be there at all.

  13. David Marjanović says:

    and that it’s a kind of benediction, which I don’t quite follow

    Yeah, I don’t either.

  14. PlasticPaddy says:

    Re benediction, i believe it may refer to the common prayer book phrase “ich bringe Dir dieses Opfer dar” used in that context. This also explains for me the es-referent in “ich bringe Dir es”.

  15. David Marjanović says:

    On the other hand, es could be das Bier. Or even das Glas without mention of contents.

  16. I had no idea that toast or hard biscuits were traditionally added to punch, but as it happens there was an article in Slate the other day that included a reference to this explanatory piece, which among other things says that the habit of dunking a biscuit in your tea was a seaman’s trick for killing the maggots that frequently infested hard tack. It also provides a recipe for biscuits that will retain their physical integrity while floating in an ocean of punch.

    That was a new Name found out by the Wits to make a Lady have the same Effect as Burridge in the Glass when a Man is drinking.

    Now I want to know about Burridge. Googling only turned up various people with that name, some villages in England, and a variant for ‘borage.’

  17. PlasticPaddy says:

    @david L
    Try Richard Burridge. He was a contemporary of Addison & Steele and a published writer.

  18. Jen in Edinburgh says:

    The OED thinks borage, although what that has to do with toast I do not know.

  19. OED (1887): “it was formerly much esteemed as a cordial, and is still largely used in making cool tankard, claret cup, etc.”

  20. I don’t see how Burridge as a person’s name fits the quotation — and, like Jen, I’m perplexed that it could be borage.

    After further googling, I discovered that Sarah Burridge of Manitowic, Wisc, is the proud owner of a family heirloom antique biscuit tin, and that someone on ebay is selling an 1896 silver toast rack made by Frederic Augustus Burridge.

    @LH: but how does that explain the connection to ‘toast’?

  21. OED (1887): “it was formerly much esteemed as a cordial, and is still largely used in making cool tankard, claret cup, etc.”

    If this is borage – borago in Norwegian – I occasionally put the flowers in salads, though it always seems a shame to pick them.

    And speaking of borage, another word unconnected to it is toasting. There is or was a band in New York called The Toasters whose name came from the Jamaican. People always assumed it was something to do with inanimate white goods and breakfast (cf The Cars).

  22. @LH: but how does that explain the connection to ‘toast’?

    Don’t ask me; the immediate question was what “Burridge in the Glass when a Man is drinking” was, and Jen in Edinburgh’s suggestion of borage is clearly correct.

  23. And speaking of borage, another word unconnected to it is toasting. There is or was a band in New York called The Toasters whose name came from the Jamaican. People always assumed it was something to do with inanimate white goods and breakfast (cf The Cars).

    OED s.v. toast, n.3 (“A type of long narrative poem recited extempore by American and Caribbean black people”; “In reggae, a performance by a disc-jockey who speaks or shouts while playing a record”):

    Etymology: Perhaps < toast n.2 [“Any person, male or female, whose health is proposed and drunk to; also any event, institution, or sentiment, in memory or in honour of which a company is requested to drink; also, the call or act of proposing such a health”].

  24. And don’t be dissing the Cars; “My Best Friend’s Girl” and “Shake It Up,” at least, are undying classics, or at any rate earworms.

  25. Yes, the earworms that wouldn’t die. Having investigated the Toasters, I see that their leader has a degree in linguistics and his great, great-uncle was Capt. “I may be some time” Oates.

  26. John Cowan says:

    To me toast is another (equally old-fashioned) word for the dozens, a long rhyming tetrameter insult-poem, often alternating between two participants. I think the OED might have missed a nuance.

  27. Trond Engen says:

    For some reason I never took You are toast! as a proposition of health.

  28. Trond Engen says:

    A slice or piece of bread browned at the fire: often put in wine, water, or other beverage. Now rare or Obsolete except in India.

    It will be interesting to see if this will be updated. It’s my understanding that the OED is not quite up to date on English usage.

  29. No dictionary is, or can be, quite up to date; a newly revised OED entry is as up to date as you’ll get.

  30. MILNEWS.ca says:

    I’ve learned a lot about the history/etymology here that I didn’t know before. What I can contribute is that at least in central Italy, I’ve heard the term commonly used as a noun for a toast, as in, “facciamo un brindisi” or “let’s do a toast”.

  31. John Cowan says:

    Trune: What the OED (the OED2 in this case) says is that a toast ‘a slice of fire-browned bread’ is not in current use except (apparently) in India. Toast, the mass noun, is sense 2a; the OED says “The ordinary current use” and I think that’s exactly right.

  32. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, damn. Sarcasm backfire. I’d heard of that, but I never thought I’d be hit myself.

  33. John Cowan says:

    “Any satire, however broad, will be taken by at least a third of the audience as an attack on Mom and apple pie”, or words to that effect.  —Robert Heinlein

  34. Coincidentally just ran across another supposed German => Romance mutation as I was thinking about “Movember”. This etymology can’t be real, right?:

    https://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bigote

  35. Graham Asher says:

    Mentioned in Stiernhielm’s Hercules (1658) as ‘vi-fo-brindis’, in a satirical equation of a drinking bout with war:

    Stå skole troliga bij, gode, gamle, wäl-öfwade Kämpar,
    Franssman Monsieur Avous; och Wälske Signor, Vi-fo-brindis

    which means something like (my hasty translation from the Swedish – please be kind), “faithful old tried and tested heroes will stand by your side: the Frenchman Monsieur Avous, and the Italian Signor Vi-fo-brindis”.

  36. PlasticPaddy says:

    @ga
    Vi fo = vi faccio (but i suppose you knew☺)

  37. Graham Asher says:

    “Vi fo = vi faccio (but i suppose you knew☺)” – well, that was my guess, but I never got round to checking, partly because my original acquaintance with Stiernhielm was before the internet. Thanks for confirming it!

  38. Who were these 16th century Austrian mercenaries who served in Italy, France, Spain and Lorraine? Is there some commonality of the elites in these places at this time that would have helped this joke spread? Is there a regular pattern by which brindisi in Italian yields bringuei in Lorrain? And how did the Spanish and French reanalyze brindisi to arrive at brindar and brinde rather than brindisar and brindise? Or did all these folks independently invent similar jokes at the expense of the humble German soldiers, most of them dropping the dir’s part?

    And the Venetians, who were closest to Austria fighting alongside them for centuries against the Turks, rendered bring dir’s as prindese instead of prindise?

    But wait, there’s some question whether these Hessians might have come much earlier, since AG’s French reference has Rabelais already using brinde to mean a glass in 1552, and we’re to believe this is not the primary meaning, but a derived meaning backformed from toast?

    And i don’t know German conjugation, but am i to understand everyone heard the german toast, then switched to the infinitive before importing the phrase? Because wouldn’t (ich) bringe dir’s come out more like brinedisi?

    Count me dubious. I’m withlalanguefrancaise.com in believing vase a anses dans lequel on mettait du vin came first, and the German infantrymen are just a diversion.

  39. David Marjanović says:

    And i don’t know German conjugation, but am i to understand everyone heard the german toast, then switched to the infinitive before importing the phrase? Because wouldn’t (ich) bringe dir’s come out more like brinedisi?

    No, because the -e has been gone throughout Upper German since something like 1300, if not 1250. The first person singular and the imperative singular have been endingless there for a long time. The infinitive, on the other hand, would end in -en, which disappears in very few dialects, and surfaces as a vowel (of various sorts) practically throughout Upper German today at least when it follows a nasal consonant, as it does here.

    The interesting question is how old nonrhoticity is in unstressed dir (which is, for example, just [d̥ɐ] in my dialect as mentioned above).

  40. boynamedsue says:

    Don’t buy this at all, I think it is very old folk etymology.

    @January First-of-May

    “At least it isn’t particularly ambiguous. When I see the term “a toast” I want to interpret it as “a piece of toasted bread” unless that’s too obviously wrong in the context.”

    Really? I find it impossible to interpret the countable version of “toast” as connected to the uncountable one. Generally speaking, my head classes uncountable and countable things as completely different unless there is a very obvious connection (like, strangely, “health”)

  41. Yeah, in standard English, countable “a toast” has to refer to drinking in honor of something. The foodstuff “toast” is uncountable; to identity a single serving, you need “a piece of toast,” or “a slice.”

    I wonder if this is a more general property of sliced foods. It certain also applies to bacon. “Bacon” is strictly a mass noun, and it has a count noun, “rasher” that is practically unique to slices of bacon. (In principle, it can refer to other kinds of meat slices, but I have never encountered it used for anything but bacon.)

  42. Stu Clayton says:

    # Great rashers of broiled ham‥done to turn, and smoking hot. # [Barnaby Rudge]

  43. a count noun, “rasher” that is practically unique to slices of bacon. (In principle, it can refer to other kinds of meat slices, but I have never encountered it used for anything but bacon.)
    Beef rashers are a thing. Many of the pictured items represent beef bacon, but many clearly don’t, but look e.g. rather like roast beef.

  44. Gotta be a UK thing. Not only have I never heard the term, I find it hard to assimilate into my picture of English.

  45. “Rashers” is more Irish than British. In Ireland, joints of bacon are still commonly sold; the Irish-American “corned beef and cabbage” originated as an ersatz “bacon and cabbage”. In the UK, bacon is rashers by default, so the word has fallen into desuetude. This is probably happening too in Ireland, but for now a “rasher sandwich” (with bacon pre-sliced before cooking) is different from a “bacon sandwich” (sliced after cooking).

    “Rashers Tierney” is a main character in “Strumpet City”, one of the most significant 20th century Irish historical novels.

  46. For well over half a century, bacon in America has always been sold sliced. Even if I get it from a farmer, who raised the pig the himself, I get the meat neatly sliced. This probably influences the use of rasher for sliced meat; rashers of bacon are distinguished by my never needing to cut them up myself. If I make a beef or lamb roast, there is very little similarity to sliced bacon.

    I don’t know when presliced bacon became standard in other Anglophone countries. I remember uncut slabs of pork belly appearing in And Then There Were None (first published in 1939, under a different title), although the reason I recall this particular instance is more related to the “cozy” nature of the murder mystery. Even after it had been revealed that everyone has been invited to the island to be killed, the couple hired as servants are still dutifully serving meals for the other, more aristocratic, guests. This includes grating the rind off a full slab if bacon every morning, before slicing the meat up and frying it.

  47. Ngrams rasher(s) ~3x as common GB as US.

    rasher*_nn*
    35/520 million COCA[US] = 0.067
    52/100 million BNC[UK] = 0.52

  48. John Cowan says:

    I buy bacon in rashers like most or all Americans, but to make them easier to fry I cut them into half-rashers, generally by chopping or sawing through the packaging directly.

Speak Your Mind

*