I HAVE DINED TODAY.

For dinner tonight, my wife made a delicious beef stew (served over noodles) and followed it up with a peach tart so sublime I murmured the last line of this poem by Sydney Smith; since I’m not sure it’s as well known as it used to be and as it should be, I’ll quote it in full here, and wish you all bon appétit:

Recipe for a Salad
To make this condiment, your poet begs
The pounded yellow of two hard-boil’d eggs;
Two boiled potatoes, passed through kitchen sieve,
Smoothness and softness to the salad give.
Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl,
And, half-suspected, animate the whole.
Of mordant mustard add a single spoon,
Distrust the condiment that bites so soon;
But deem it not, thou man of herbs, a fault
To add a double quantity of salt;
Four times the spoon with oil of Lucca crown,
And twice with vinegar procur’d from town;
And lastly, o’er the flavour’d compound toss
A magic soupçon of anchovy sauce.
Oh, green and glorious! Oh, herbaceous treat!
‘Twould tempt the dying anchorite to eat:
Back to the world he’d turn his fleeting soul,
And plunge his fingers in the salad-bowl!
Serenely full, the epicure would say,
“Fate cannot harm me, I have dined today.”

Comments

  1. “A great salad requires four men to make it: a spendthrift for the oil, a miser for the vinegar, a philosopher for the seasonings, and a madman for the tossing.” –Roman proverb

  2. On china blue my lobster red
    Precedes my cutlet brown,
    With which my salad green is sped
    By yellow Chablis down.
    Lord, if good living be no sin,
    But innocent delight,
    O polarize these hues within
    To one eupeptic white.
    — Sir Stephen Gaselee

  3. John Emerson says:

    He was extremely vague about the quantity of onion. What’s up with that?

  4. I think he means you rub a cut onion around the inside of the bowl, and don’t actually put it in.

  5. In the Sydney Smith wikipedia article is a link to the same poem, but with the lines in a different order and the last two lines not there at all.

  6. I don’t understand his recipe at all. However, it shows that olive oil was used in early nineteenth-century English cooking, even if by the 1950s it was only being sold at the chemist’s.

  7. “Eating foie gras to the sound of trumpets” – was that the chap?

  8. “Eating foie gras to the sound of trumpets” – was that the chap?

  9. I’ve always thought it sounded like a very strange salad. It seems like it would just produce a paste with a little onion in it. Wikipedia calls it a recipe for salad dressing, which makes more sense.
    (This topic reminds me of Moretum (Latin), attributed to Virgil, which is often called a recipe for salad or salad dressing (actually more of a herb & cheese spread), and perhaps best known today as the likely original source of the phrase “E Pluribus Unum“.)

  10. This topic reminds me of Moretum (Latin), attributed to Virgil
    I tried to get MMcM to comment on it a long time ago, but I don’t think he saw my request.

  11. The lovely cookbook I was given as a farewell present from work, mentions using wooden bowls for salad and rubbing the inside with garlic. I’m not really fond of dressing, myself.
    I done well Thursday (I dine, I done, I have dinn): cold avocado/spinach soup, pointy cabbages in a cheese sauce (Maasdammer) sprinkled with fried almonds and a tarte Tatin for pud. Still have a bit of tart left, but the soup was all gone despite there being enough for at least six people (and we were three, though S breastfeeds).

  12. I’ve always thought it sounded like a very strange salad. It seems like it would just produce a paste with a little onion in it. Wikipedia calls it a recipe for salad dressing, which makes more sense.
    Yes, it’s obviously a dressing; I expect the idea is that the dressing is the vital individual element of a salad, the green part being whatever you have in the kitchen garden.

  13. was that the chap?
    In the internet I find variations of: “Sydney Smith once said that his idea of heaven was eating foie gras to the sound of trumpets”. It seems Smith’s mot is often quoted just so that someone can add his little banal flourish: “For me, you could hold the trumpets”, or “but I myself think that the flute would be more conducive to digestion”. There is also a wincingness about heaven: “an experience in felicity surpassing even Sydney Smith’s eating foie gras …”, or “He said once (not that this is a particularly brilliant bit) that his idea of heaven was …”, or “But surely for the gourmet, foie gras would just be as heavenly without the regal blare of trumpets”.
    Few are content to pass the wit on without pawing it.
    I once owned a volume of his sermons, but gave it to an aging Classicist on his birthday. He had gotten into the habit of walking up and down in front of his cold summer fireplace, occasionally directing a pained smirk at his reflection in a mirror propped on the mantelpiece. I hoped the book might cheer him up, and help him resign his looks to mortality.

  14. Salad is one of those stretchy or wandering words, isn’t it? (Not that is unusual in a word.) Etymologically related to salt, for a start. For Sydney Smith the dressing is the salad, but for some places/times/people salad is lettuce. (A salad is a lettuce? A salad is a head of lettuce?)
    I was quite disappointed one long-ago day to discover that in a pub in the UK a “chicken salad sandwich” might be merely a thin slice of chicken and a single small limp leaf of lettuce laid together between two humdrum slices of bread — as opposed to what I was expecting: a sandwich featuring a generous mound of some mixture thoughtfully compounded of diced chicken, crunchy vegetable bits, and something in the oil-vinegar-mustard-spices line.

  15. Salad is the Norwegian word for lettuce.

  16. Salad is the Norwegian word for lettuce.

  17. And the Russian as well (well, technically салат [salat]).

  18. I just discovered today that demoiselles de Cherbourg are lobsters – Vincent Cronin dixit in Paris on the Eve (1900-1914) of meals Proust and Plantevignes ate in Cabourg.
    Some 25 years in France and neither of us had every heard that usage – and my wife’s a serious student of French cookery.

  19. Is it an intended reference in the title Les Demoiselles d’Avignon?

  20. Is it an intended reference in the title Les Demoiselles d’Avignon?

  21. neither of us had ever heard that usage
    Maybe desmoiselles de Cherbourg is a usage désuet, so one wouldn’t expect to have heard it nowadays. If it was ever a usage at all, and not just a someone’s ephemeral jokey-poo. Who said it, according to Cronin?
    Crown, that’s a neat observation. It could go either way: the painting is a reference to the expression, or else the expression is a reference to the painting. The painted ladies looked scalded red, like the lobsters.

  22. The German Salat can also “mean” lettuce as well as salad, as in Russian and Norwegian apparently. That really chapped my ass when I was learning German – “don’t they have enough sense to distinguish between the thing (salad) and a part of the thing (lettuce)??” – until, having learned German, I found the chapping factor had just vanished somswhere down the line, without so much as a rustle of green leaves.
    Here are a few snapshots of the situation. You see a field where lettuce is being grown, you say Da wird Kopfsalat angebaut (or Endivien(salat) or Eisbergsalat or whatever). In a grocery store, you see bins with signs saying Kopfsalat, Endivien and Romana. In the refrigerated section, you see bags of Krautsalat and containers of Nudelsalat. Neither “contains” Salat, they “are” Salat (because they’re so utterly different, it’s unlikely that anyone would use the plural to say they are Salate). Later, in the kitchen, you ask someone to make the salad (Machst du den Salat?). He may ask what you want to go into it: Was kommt in den Salat? Willst du wirklich Romana und Kopfsalat nehmen, beides?
    It would be a little weird for someone to say Nudelsalat ist eine Art Salat, wie Kopfsalat. It’s not wrong, just wrong-headed – something a child might say, at which one would smile and reply “That’s right, Angela”. It’s weird in German, but a “translation” of this sentence into English just wouldn’t make sense: “Noodle salad is a kind of salad, like lettuce”. Salat is not a generic term in quite the same way as “salad” or “lettuce” – but nobody thinks or worries about this, because Salat just doesn’t function in German like “salad” functions in English, where “like” means according to a comparison of artificially posited “structural features”. If you try to ponder this, instead of just saying it once and then forgetting about it, as I am doing, you will never get anywhere with German.

  23. I completely agree, Grumbly. Is ‘Angela’ a reference to your Chancellor?

  24. I completely agree, Grumbly. Is ‘Angela’ a reference to your Chancellor?

  25. Yes, I thought “Angela” would add a nice bit of topicality, evidencing my familiarity with current affairs.

  26. Is it an intended reference in the title Les Demoiselles d’Avignon?
    No, AJP, see below.
    Maybe desmoiselles de Cherbourg is a usage désuet, so one wouldn’t expect to have heard it nowadays. If it was ever a usage at all, and not just a someone’s ephemeral jokey-poo. Who said it, according to Cronin?
    No, Grumbly, the usage is current, but seems to be very much confined to the Cotentin area of western Normandy – it’s not used in our local fish market on the north-east (Upper) Normandy Channel coast, but is highlighted in Contentin websites, and current recipies.
    Demoiselles de Cherbourg à la nage : derrière ce nom original de recette, se trouvent de petits homards cuits au court-bouillon avec un oignon, de l’aneth et un bouquet garni. (Don’t like aneth, myself).
    Cronin doesn’t cite who says it, just that it was a favourite dish of Prout and Plantevignes, in this case cooked au feu eternal, a rather extravagant way of saying on an open fire.
    Re Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Cronin gives an interesting explanation of the title. “In 1907 Picasso drew on his memories of a Barcelona brothel to paint .. his most revolutionary picture so far….with five prostitutes in a tight group. …The brothel is [sic, written in 1989] in Barcelona’s Carrer d’Avinyo – the Catalan form of Avignon – and Picasso – with heavy irony – had privately referred to it as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.” Picasso had kept it rolled up and only gave it to Andre Salmon’s gallery for exhibition in 1916, with Salmon retaining the title, Cronin says.
    The book seems very thoroughly researched (but he does like using dashes…).

  27. Thanks for that about Les Demoiselles d’Avignon, Paul; I didn’t know it. It sounds like a very enjoyable book.
    au feu eternal, a rather extravagant way of saying on an open fire.
    Are you serious, is that the normal French phrase for an open fire to cook on? The eternal flame, like the one they have under l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris?

  28. “In 1907 Picasso drew on his memories of a Barcelona brothel to paint .. his most revolutionary picture so far….with five prostitutes in a tight group. …The brothel is [sic, written in 1989] in Barcelona’s Carrer d’Avinyo – the Catalan form of Avignon – and Picasso – with heavy irony – had privately referred to it as Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.”
    That’s absolutely fascinating—so it has nothing to do with the city of Avignon! The things I learn around here… (I don’t understand the “heavy irony,” though; I’d say rather that it was his little joke.)

  29. That’s the flamme éternelle you’re thinking about, Crown.
    Feu éternel sounds like something from the Old Testament. That would be just right as a designation for a fire a in French restaurant, touristy or superior (twee goes over well in both, I think).
    But could this finally be the little joke I keep expecting to find in seemingly twee French phrases, and seldom do? Paul, in what way and connection does Feu éternel mean “open fire”?

  30. John Emerson says:

    I have not seen the “Les parapluies de Cherbourg” movie. Are the parapluies really parasols, protecting demoiselles against sunburn? Or metaphorically, protecting lobsters against boiling? (The mother-and-daughter team in the movie do sell parapluies in Cherbourg, obviously to protect demoiselles.)
    The theme song becomes more interesting if you think in terms of lobsters:
    If it takes forever I will wait for you
    For a thousand summers I will wait for you
    Till you’re back beside me, till I’m holding you
    Till I hear you sigh here in my arms
    Anywhere you wander, anywhere you go
    Every day remember how I love you so
    In your heart believe what in my heart I know
    That forevermore I’ll wait for you
    The clock will tick away the hours one by one
    Then the time will come when all the waiting’s done
    The time when you return and find me here and run
    Straight to my waiting arms
    If it takes forever I will wait for you
    For a thousand summers I will wait for you
    Till you’re here beside me, till I’m touching you
    And forevermore sharing your love

    Sort of the “The Walrus and the Carpenter” of lobsters:
    “Oysters, come and walk with us!”
    The Walrus did beseech.
    “A pleasant walk, a pleasant talk,
    Along the briny beach:
    We cannot do with more than four,
    To give a hand to each.”

  31. John Emerson says:

    BTW, what is the derivation of the French word feu meaning “late, deceased”, as in feu ma mere? “La flamme non-eternelle”?

  32. A thousand summers would be a bit long to wait for a lobster dish, even in the best restaurant.
    When the feu éternel is upon us, and the seas around Cherbourg turn hot, then demoiselles will indeed have to deploy their parapluies to keep from boiling. Lobsters will be incinerated.
    I wonder if that’s the plot of Les cendres du passé et le feu éternal by Khalil Gibran? I found many references to it when I googled feu éternel.

  33. According to Petit Robert:
    feu, feue
    fadude fém. XIe; puis faü, feü; lat. pop. °fatutus « qui a accompli son destin », de fatum 

    The book title is “… feu éternel”.

  34. John Emerson says:

    Les restaurants de Cherbourg are not known for fast service.

  35. salad can mean ‘lettuce’ in some dialects of English, too. Like in Moby Dick. Or Salem in 1769.
    It’s interesting that Bartlett’s Americanisms has it in the first (1848) edition, then expanded with a quotation in the second (1859), kept that way in the third (1860), but it’s gone in the fourth (1877).
    DARE references a report of it in Eastern PA still in 1987, due to Germanic influence.
    Also the in East Riding.

  36. Paul, in what way and connection does Feu éternel mean “open fire”?
    Sorry, I haven’t a clue…I can only guess that it was an overdone menu in a chi-chi restaurant. I can find no reference to a link between feu eternel and cuisine, on line or in my Robert dictionary of phrases, which has 2-1/2 paperback pages on various uses of feu. (My favourite is péter le feu – to fart fire – being hyperactive. The current Président de la République comes to mind). All references to feu eternel are religious.
    The usual reference to cooking over an open fire is for things like steaks cooked “au feu du bois”, over an open wood fire.
    AJP: The book is “Paris on the Eve” by Vincent Cronin. Abebooks has copies from £2.71 upwards.

  37. The report being “Germanisms in the English of Eastern Pennsylvania”, though I don’t have access from home myself.

  38. “Noodle salad is a kind of salad, like lettuce”
    I note that we can say bluefish is a kind of fish, like sea bass, and I think that this says something about what is not wrong with the sentence above: the problem is not simply that the “word” salad is not present in the “word” lettuce.
    Unlike several other languages, English happens not to have a one-word generic term for the various sorts of leaves that are generally eaten raw by humans. The word “lettuce” covers many of these, but to cast a wider net many of us to resort to the two-word term “salad greens”.

  39. the problem is not simply that …

    In my opinion, the problem with
    A. Noodle salad is a kind of salad, like lettuce
    is not at all that the “word” salad is not present in the “word” lettuce. The problem with A is in the implied premise that lettuce is a kind of salad, which it ain’t.
    Even given a one-word generic term for the various sorts of leaves that are generally eaten raw by humans – let’s call it “saladgreens” – then
    B. Noodle salad is a kind of salad, like saladgreens
    would still be nonsense, because “saladgreens” are not a kind of salad. They can be an ingredient in salad(s), but they are not salad(s). No more than noodles are salad(s), for all that they are used in them.
    As a dinner guest in Germany, you might enjoy a brief moment of fame for silliness by insisting that Kopfsalat ist kein Salat. Er wird in Salaten verwendet, ist aber selbst kein Salat (Lettuce is not salad. It is used in salads, but is not itself a salad). It wouldn’t be wrong, just wrongheaded.

  40. Your fame would quickly extinguish if you rounded off that dinner sally with an explicit third sentence, which the other guests were afraid was what you were getting at anyway in the first two sentences: Also ist Kopfsalat eine Fehlbezeichnung (so lettuce is a misnomer).

  41. I think that I agree with just about everything you are saying, Stu. I only meant to toss in an observation or two.
    I was caught by the distinction between the weird German and the impossible English in:
    Nudelsalat ist eine Art Salat, wie Kopfsalat. It’s not wrong, just wrong-headed – something a child might say, at which one would smile and reply “That’s right, Angela”. It’s weird in German, but a “translation” of this sentence into English just wouldn’t make sense …
    It seemed to me that what made the English not just weird but impossible was that in English we do not call lettuce “salad” (or, for example, call Romaine lettuce “Romaine salad”). I think that we once did do some of that, but probably, unlike the Germans, we happened to cease to do so before the class of expressions that includes “pasta salad”, “fruit salad”, “chicken salad”, and “Waldorf salad” came into being.

  42. And, if I may complete the (not really very interesting) thought, I said to myself let’s pretend that English-speakers did still sometimes call lettuce “salad” — it seems that we would find pasta salad is a kind of salad, like Romaine exactly as weird (wrong-headed but not wrong) as a German would find Nudelsalat ist eine Art Salat, wie Kopfsalat. The function of my fish story was to test that.
    In this imagined alternative universe the sentences “Pasta salad is a kind of salad” and “Romaine is a kind of salad” would be fine on their own, but the conjunction would be wrong-headed.
    How would the plain Nudelsalat ist eine Art Salat go over, Stu?
    Am I going to get in trouble for going to a hypothetical universe for evidence? I don’t care: anything to get away from that tedious dinner party.

  43. Geoff Nunberg says:

    I’ve never heard anyone pronounce ‘anchovy’ with stress on the second syllable, but Smith must have said it that way, since “A magic soupçon of ANchovy sauce” would be unmetrical. The OED gives both, but lists “anCHOVy” first; the American Heritage and Merriam-Webster both reverse that order of preference. Perhaps a dialect difference, I though, but my English friends say they’ve never heard “anCHOVy” either. But maybe I’ve led a too sheltered life (or a too salted one).

  44. it seems that we would find pasta salad is a kind of salad, like Romaine exactly as weird (wrong-headed but not wrong) as …

    Now I understand what you were getting at.
    But wasn’t the German example sufficiently intelligible? How much did that trip to the hypothetical universe set you back? All you acquired there was an English sentence that, although as weird as the German, is also artificial, unlike the German. Closer to home, along the lines of “Kids say the darndest things” (I know how an ammonite must feel), I can imagine a kid asking “Dad, are you a doodad?”.

    How would the plain Nudelsalat ist eine Art Salat go over?

    Since it states the obvious, the only comment it might excite is Und? (so?) I think you are missing out – as to German but not to English, of course – the role played by half-recalled real-life contexts that swirl around in the mind while sentences are being spoken and listened to. Without these familiar contexts, one couldn’t make distinctions like “not wrong, but wrongheaded”.
    My explanation for how these things work is that understanding is three-quarters anticipation based on real-life experience. That is, understanding in a given situation works pretty much on the principle that there will be hardly any surprises or gimmicks, as defined by the individual situation type. (When there are surprises, you change mental gear into the joke situation, in which you are supposed to be surprised. Then, when you’re not surprised, you complain that the jokes are not funny, as you had expected them to be)
    As soon as you hear Nudelsalat in normal circumstances (you’re not listening to a comedian famous for his puns, say), you are disposed to expect that the meaning of Salat, as the sentence continues, will remain constrained to the semantic vicinity of Nudelsalat. That vicinity contains the real-life things you have in your mind like Nudelsalat, Wurstsalat, Waldorfsalat that appear together in the same section of a menu, or in refrigerated glass cases in grocery stores, or on a buffet table.
    Kopfsalat does not appear together with these things in any of the contexts specified. The main reason is that Kopfsalat is not eaten by itself, but only in combination with other things in a salad – unlike Nudelsalat etc. Also, it is refrigerated – in a different part of the store – at most to keep it from wilting, unlike Nudelsalat which must be kept from spoiling.
    There are few everyday contexts in which plain ol’ Kopfsalat turns up in some systematic connection with these other Salate. I claim that is part of the reason why Kopfsalat is not felt to be associated with Salat, except as an ingredient. The kind of things you do with Kopfsalat, and describe doing, are very different from the things you do with Nudelsalat, and describe doing. That’s why Germans don’t get confused about these things.
    But a young linguist (say), possessing only the rudiments of German, but armed with computational grammar, might seize on the final …salat in all the *words* that have appeared above, and conclude that they all are words for different kinds of Salat, which he takes to be *one word with one meaning*. He will discover by field work that that is not accurate, so he may conclude that his grammar is ambiguous (technical term, meaning “produces more than one parse tree on some sentences”), and maybe even that German is strange. Whereas I would conclude that he has got the wrong end of the stick. What we’re dealing with are not words for things, but things as words.
    A final note: Kartoffelsalat as such is not an ingredient of a salad, at least one that you would want to eat, say by taking a container each of Kartoffelsalat, Rotebeetesalat (beet salad) and Heringsalat and dumping them together into a bowl. This doesn’t mean you couldn’t make a tasty meal out of Kartoffeln, Rote Beete and Hering with a judicious choice of condiments – in fact this is more or less the North German Labskaus.

  45. More explicitly: that’s why Germans don’t get confused about these things. There is no occasion for confusion. All occasions guide them, as they guide the occasions.
    The linguist also has no occasion for confusion, but in a different sense – he has no occasions to guide him. He has only syntax and a room with a view over the Berkeley campus. That’s why he is so liable to confusion. He doesn’t realize he is confused, because his confusion is well-ordered by his theories.
    I would be surprised to see it demonstrated that some natural language did not work as I have described. But I can live without universal truths. It wouldn’t change my views on German and English – and French. I have finally figured out why French chaps my ass – it’s because I’m still hooked up to theories and appearances, like Neo.

  46. But wasn’t the German example sufficiently intelligible? How much did that trip to the hypothetical universe set you back? All you acquired there was an English sentence that, although as weird as the German, is also artificial, unlike the German.
    Yeah, I dunno why I went there …
    Closer to home, along the lines of “Kids say the darndest things” (I know how an ammonite must feel), I can imagine a kid asking “Dad, are you a doodad?”.
    Now you’ve lost me. How must an ammonite feel? And about what?
    Labskaus sounds yummy. Anyway, it combines several of my favorite things. The English sailors in Patrick O’Brian’s historical novels eat something called lobscouse, which must be a related word but it seems to be a very different dish.

  47. “The usual reference to cooking over an open fire is for things like steaks cooked “au feu du bois”, over an open wood fire.”
    I think that should be “au feu de bois”, since you’re not referring to a particular wood.
    I notice that nobody has mentioned “Les demoiselles de Rochefort”, the other film (after “Les parapluies de Cherbourg”) directed by Jacques Demy, starring Catherine Deneuve and featuring songs by Michel Legrand.

  48. John Emerson says:

    Per wiki, the name is originally British, with the Norwegian and German word are derived from it. But the things seem different. Apparently both are maritime dishes. It seems that there was an evolution after the name was borrowed.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scouse_(food)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labskaus

  49. In Chinese, lettuce is 生菜 shēngcài, which means “raw vegetable”. Not sure why, because in Chinese cuisine it is always cooked….
    Salad is not found in Chinese cookery, although the Chinese are now acquainted with it due to the influence of Western food. They call it 沙拉 shālā or 色拉 sèlā.

  50. John Emerson says:

    Or possibly originally Dutch. Wiki editing is not always optimal.

  51. John Emerson says:

    My understanding is that Chinese food is always cooked, and fruit is always peeled. There must be exceptions, but that’s how it seemed.
    COnsidering the fertilizer they use, probably a good idea.

  52. Bruessel: Quite right. I’m lazy about things like that. Probably comes from having learned French on the job, and not classically, hence my written French is sometimes shaky ….

  53. mollymooly says:

    The parapluies in “Les parapluies de Cherbourg” are to keep off the rain; it is famously (maybe even actually) the wettest town in France.

  54. John Emerson says:

    So the joke on les demoiselles de Cherbourg is a complex structuralist one:
    boiled (“sunburned”) : rained on :: lobsters (“demoiselles”): demoiselles.
    The place where demoiselles get rained on is the place where “demoiselles” get”sunburned”. The real parapluie is a symbol of the imaginary parasol protecting the imaginary demoiselles.
    Etc.

  55. John Emerson says:

    I bet there’s something smutty about getting rained on too. And probably the lobsters are the male id.

  56. You can buy cans of lapskaus at the supermarket here and it’s really awful, like the cheapest kind of dog food. My daughter loves it.

  57. You can buy cans of lapskaus at the supermarket here and it’s really awful, like the cheapest kind of dog food. My daughter loves it.

  58. Now I want to experience it for myself. I wonder if I can find some over here. Does the canned stuff have red herring in it? It must, if both herring and beets are involved.

  59. David Marjanović says:

    Thing is, the most common kind of salad over here is just lettuce with a sprinkle of oil and enough vinegar to make the room unusable for hours. Erdäpfelsalat, Nudelsalat, Wurstsalat etc. are much rarer.

  60. A tossed green salad.

  61. John Emerson says:

    I think that in English “salad” means
    1. Vegetables and greens of various sorts choped up and mixed with a sauce or dressing
    2. By extension, any dish made up of various things chopped of (or not) and mixed with a sauce
    3. Metaphorically, anything choped up and mixed, like a word salad — “a tossed salad of incoherent and mostly invalid arguments”.
    4. (obs.) Lettuce, originally (and still usually) the main ingrediant in #1.
    I suppose that this is a bit flat-footed WRT this thread, but the core meanings are A. “lettuce”, B1. “chopped up”, and B2. “mixed up”.
    In German and Norse, #4 is not obsolete, so there’s more interference between the A and B core meanings.

  62. That summarizes it well, except that the dining experience that I reported left me wondering whether #4 was entirely obsolete in the UK. Anyway, the disappointing use of chicken salad sandwich did not fit well with #1, #2, or #3.

  63. John Emerson says:

    Let’s not be prescriptivist and normative. Your chicken salad sandwich was just a normal case of language change, not a dastardly attempt to cheat you by serving nearly-inedible food with only the slightest resemblance to anything else with the same name.
    Keep your eyes open. Soon chicken salad sandwhiches will be made of reconstituted neutral meat substance.

  64. And the words “delicious” and “nutritive” will undergo semantic change to keep pace.

  65. When Shakespeare used the term “salad days”, he was obviously referring to meaning #4. That is, a reference to the greenness and short-lived freshness of lettuce leaves.

  66. Or so I would have thought, except that World Wide Words says this:
    “Incidentally, for Shakespeare a salad wasn’t just lettuce with some dressing, but a much more complicated dish of chopped, mixed and seasoned vegetables (its name comes from the Latin word for salt); the word was also used for any vegetable that could be included in that dish.”

  67. Any complaint about a chicken salad sandwich purchased in England or elsewhere in the Irish Isles should centre on the use of the word ‘sandwich’. That’s where the confusion lies for Americans.

  68. Somewhere, I believe in one of Dorothy Sayers’s novels, I have run across the expression cutting sandwiches, which to me suggests the idea that when you have sliced the bread you have already completed the main step toward making the sandwich. Such disregard for the filling is a big problem for me.

  69. Let onion atoms lurk within the bowl
    It seems that atom was a household word for Smith. I wonder what it “meant”, exactly.

  70. I have run across the expression ‘cutting sandwiches’, which to me suggests the idea that when you have sliced the bread you have already completed the main step toward making the sandwich. Such disregard for the filling is a big problem for me.
    Er, actually, I think that refers to cutting the sandwich into two or four.
    Normally a sandwich is made with two full slices of bread, but is served cut in half or quarters.

  71. But I could be wrong.

  72. In my life that is what “cutting a sandwich” would normally mean, but I had the impression that in the older context where I ran across it “cutting sandwiches” was shorthand for “making sandwiches”.

  73. “Cutting sandwiches” occurs in England when sandwiches have been very rude and nobody will talk to them anymore. It happens a lot with cucumber sandwiches on pre-sliced white bread, for some reason.

  74. marie-lucie says:

    The recipe: the word condiment in the first line suggests that the recipe is for the dressing, although inluding the pureed flesh of two boiled potatoes would seem to make the dressing quite thick (but perhaps the potatoes are tiny, and the recipe seems to be for a restaurant-sized bowl of salad).
    Paul: I just discovered today that demoiselles de Cherbourg are lobsters – Vincent Cronin dixit in Paris on the Eve (1900-1914) of meals Proust and Plantevignes ate in Cabourg.
    Some 25 years in France and neither of us had every heard that usage – and my wife’s a serious student of French cookery.
    In fancy restaurants, or at fancy meals such as for society weddings or receptions at the Elysée, the maîtres d’hotel traditionally try to disguise the ingredients of the dishes by giving them novel, clever, cryptic descriptions. These descriptions are usually far removed from the normal words for those dishes or ingredients (especially commonplace ones), which is why they are not found in cookbooks.
    The normal word for ‘lobster’ (as found on the Atlantic coasts) is le homard, but there is also la langouste for ‘rock lobster’ which is (or looks like) a kind of giant shrimp, and la langoustine for a species of very small rock lobster. Since demoiselle (normally ‘young lady’) is a feminine word with a connotation of smallness, it is likely that les demoiselles de Cherbourg are not the full-sized rock lobsters but a smaller species also with a feminine name, perhaps even large prawns, which occur in the “English Channel”.
    It is very likely that the name on the menu is meant to recall that of Picasso’s painting (thanks for the explanation), and perhaps also another use of les demoiselles d’Avignon on a particular menu (which might be referring to olives or tomatoes!) since famous chefs study each other’s menus.

  75. M-l, thank goodness you’re back. What about au feu eternal? Does it really mean an open fire for cooking on?

  76. If you google “demoiselles de Cherbourg” only in French, its current usage appears more widespread than one would have thought (and not confined to preciously worded restaurant menus), especially in one particular region of Normandy, as Paul pointed out.
    And like Grumbly Stu said, the word is “éternel”.

  77. marie-lucie says:

    AJP: au feu éternel: without a context, this would refer to the fires of Hell. Here it seems to be part of the precious language of a fancy restaurant: perhaps it means an wood fire (un feu de bois) which is kept going all day, as opposed to a gas fire (the most common cooking method in France) which is turned on and off as needed. (feu du bois is not right).
    bruessel: demoiselles de Cherbourg: this description of small lobsters may have spread over the whole region (and perhaps farther away) from the fame of a particular recipe prized by fashionable visitors such as Proust. Cherbourg is at the Northern end of the Cotentin peninsula which juts out from Normandy into the “English Channel”.

  78. Bruessel: We rescued a pot of rowan jelly from my deceased father-in-law’s freezer and it’s pretty peculiar. It is really quite bitter, though not wholly unpleasant when mixed with the sugar of the jelly. I’d say it’s appropriate for adding to roasted meat, but not for spreading on bread. I guess it’s kind of worth 37 euros for the weirdness.
    Thank you m-l, it is so good to have you back. I didn’t know that peninsula had a name.

  79. Bruessel: We rescued a pot of rowan jelly from my deceased father-in-law’s freezer and it’s pretty peculiar. It is really quite bitter, though not wholly unpleasant when mixed with the sugar of the jelly. I’d say it’s appropriate for adding to roasted meat, but not for spreading on bread. I guess it’s kind of worth 37 euros for the weirdness.
    Thank you m-l, it is so good to have you back. I didn’t know that peninsula had a name.

  80. I didn’t know that peninsula had a name
    And I didn’t know that there were so many quotation marks in the English Channel nowadays. Aren’t they a shipping hazard? Surely they’re not being planted there deliberately by the FLA (Francophone Liberation Army)??

  81. marie-lucie says:

    Grumbly: Writing about a region on the French shore, it seems strange to me to use the phrase “English Channel” for the strait (?) known as la Manche, a name without nationalistic connotations – but in English “the Manche” would not be right (and “the Sleeve” even less). So my quotation marks reflect my discomfort.

  82. I was just kidding, marie-lucie! Initially I thought I understood the discomfort you meant when I read “Writing about a region on the French shore, it seems strange to me to use the phrase ‘English Channel’”, since it occurred to me I might feel the same way referring to something in America by a furrin name for it. But then you end the sentence with “la Manche, a name without nationalistic connotations”, ce qui FLAire un peu le zèle.
    Surely there’s no discomfort for anyone in the fact that loads of French people every day mention la Manche, while loads of British people refer to the English Channel? In the Radio 4 shipping forecasts which I’ve heard for decades, the German bight gets its outlook along with the others. Although coming from Texas, it never occurred to me to take exception to the Gulf of Mexico on the Texas coast.
    When first formulating my post, I also wanted to refer in a jocular fashion to “The Sleeve”. But immediately I thought I’d better check the Petit Robert first, since the French so often have something up their manche that I hadn’t reckoned with. (Also, the fact that you’re back with us makes me again extremely cautious about any pronouncements, uses etc. having to do with French. That’s a good thing, I’m not complaining. A rap a day keeps the knuckles in shape.)
    PR gives manche in the sense of bras de mer (“vieux” !) with the examples la manche de Bristol and la manche de Danemark. With so many manches floating around, it seems natural to add “de Bristol” and “de Danemark” merely to identify which is meant – “the one with Bristol on the other side” – with no implication of territorial claim.
    I was gratified to learn also that a manche à vent is a ventilation duct, and a manche à air a windsock:
    (XVIe; par anal. de forme) Techn. Large tuyau souple qui sert à conduire un fluide. — Mar. MANCHE À VENT : conduit installé sur le pont pour aérer l’entrepont et la cale. MANCHE À AIR : conduit en tôlerie, à pied et pavillon orientable, destiné au même usage; tube en toile placé en haut d’un mât pour indiquer la direction du vent. => biroute. — Les manches à air d’un aérodrome.
    By the way, I’ve always only known “straits” (détroit), as if it were a plural form.

  83. And knuckle-rapping as an aid to learning may be inferior to classical techniques. More “humane”, but less effective. No smart, no smarts. Gibbon writes that he had a too-easy time of it, due in part to his sickliness. He learned Latin and Greek despite the lack of discipline:
    Our seminaries of learning do not exactly correspond with the precept of a Spartan king, “that the child should be instructed in the arts, which will be useful to the man;” since a finished scholar may emerge from the head of Westminster or Eton, in total ignorance of the business and conversation of English gentlemen in the latter end of the eighteenth century. But these schools may assume the merit of teaching all that they pretend to teach, the Latin and Greek languages: they deposit in the hands of a disciple the keys of two valuable chests; nor can he complain, if they are afterwards lost or neglected by his own fault. The necessity of leading in equal ranks so many unequal powers of capacity and application, will prolong to eight or ten years the juvenile studies, which might be despatched in half that time by the skilful master of a single pupil. Yet even the repetition of exercise and discipline contributes to fix in a vacant mind the verbal science of grammar and prosody: and the private or voluntary student, who possesses the sense and spirit of the classics, may offend, by a false quantity, the scrupulous ear of a well-flogged critic.

  84. It’s curious that manche came in as an alternative to bras de mer towards the end of the 17th century (I’m assuming that the 1690 occurrence identified by the PR entry was not preceded by centuries of spoken, but not written manche). Could that have something to do with the increasing availability and use of maps since the 16th century? I mean that perhaps when one gets accustomed to looking at the Channel “from above, at a distance” on a map, the idea of a conduit or sleeve suggests itself more than the bodily (militarily inspired?) metaphor of an arm. On a map, you don’t *see* an “arm” attached to a “body”. Without a map, you *imagine* rather than *see*.

  85. Luckily the English Channel still hasn’t got to the point of the Sea of Japan or the Persian Gulf, both of which have become huge bones of contention. There is something ridiculous about assuming that the name of a sea or gulf implies a territorial claim to a place.
    (Actually, “English Channel” is a non-ethnocentric name, because it takes the French point of view, namely that France is at the centre and the “English Channel” separates “us” from England over there. If it were the “French Channel”, it would put England at the centre with a channel separating “us” from France over there.)

  86. Far above, I should have written où je FLAire le zèle.

  87. Actually, “English Channel” is a non-ethnocentric name, because it takes the French point of view
    But “English channel” is not a French expression. In what sense could it reflect a French point of view? That would surely have lead to la manche d’Angleterre, say, in analogy with la manche de Bristol.

  88. La manche d’Angleterre would indeed reflect the French point of view. So by using “English Channel” (which is La manche d’Angleterre in English), the English are actually adopting the French point of view :)

  89. Bathrobe: I now see your point. Gulf of Mexico may be a translation of golfe de México. The Mexicans were there first, after all. But then there should have been a time when the Channel was called manche d’Angleterre or manche anglaise. Do you know, marie-lucie?

  90. The French Wikipedia entry is succinct on etymology:
    Le bras de mer qui sépare la France et l’Angleterre a dit-on été nommé Manche britannique par métaphore avec le nom commun manche qui désigne la pièce de vêtement dans laquelle s’enfile le bras. Bien qu’en 1768, Bruzen de la Martinière répertorie dans son grand dictionnaire géographique, historique, et critique, plus de 15 Manches, l’usage va tout au long des siècles suivants restreindre le mot à la simple dénomination de la Manche britannique, les autres bras de mers étant appelés détroit et canal en fonction de leur taille.
    The English one has more, including this to conjure with:
    The French name “La Manche” has been in use since at least the 17th century. The name is usually said to refer to the Channel’s sleeve (French: “manche”) shape. However, it is sometimes claimed to instead derive from a Celtic word meaning “channel” that is also the source of the name for The Minch, in Scotland.
    Immediately following is a dubious suggestion that the Spanish think of it as “Channel Spot”:
    In Spain and most Spanish speaking countries the Channel is referred to as “El Canal de la Mancha”. In Portuguese it is known as “O Canal da Mancha”. (This is not a translation from French: in Portuguese, as well as in Spanish, “mancha” means “stain”, while the word for sleeve is “manga”.)

  91. La Mancha is also a place.
    From Wikipedia:

    La Mancha is derived from the Arab word al-mansha, “land dry”. The name of the city of Almansa in Albacete also has the same origin…Miguel de Cervantes gave international fame to this land and its windmills when he wrote his novel Don Quixote de La Mancha. Some believe that Cervantes was making fun of this region, using a pun; a “mancha” was also a stain, as on one’s honor, and thus a hilariously inappropriate homeland for a dignified knight-errant. Translator John Ormsby believed that Cervantes chose it because it was/is the most ordinary, prosaic, anti-romantic, and therefore unlikely place from which a chivalrous, romantic hero could originate, making Quixote seem even more absurd.

  92. La Mancha is also a place.
    From Wikipedia:

    La Mancha is derived from the Arab word al-mansha, “land dry”. The name of the city of Almansa in Albacete also has the same origin…Miguel de Cervantes gave international fame to this land and its windmills when he wrote his novel Don Quixote de La Mancha. Some believe that Cervantes was making fun of this region, using a pun; a “mancha” was also a stain, as on one’s honor, and thus a hilariously inappropriate homeland for a dignified knight-errant. Translator John Ormsby believed that Cervantes chose it because it was/is the most ordinary, prosaic, anti-romantic, and therefore unlikely place from which a chivalrous, romantic hero could originate, making Quixote seem even more absurd.

  93. However, it is sometimes claimed to instead derive from
    This is Wikipedian for “warning: worthless non-etymology I happen to like follows.”

  94. I am very fond of the word Minch, so much so that I once had a cat nicknamed the little Minch.
    The name English Channel does suggest that England is not the center of the speaker’s world. But many of these coastal features were named by seafarers, for whom the watery realm might be the true center of things.

  95. Dressing Gown’s plea sounded a bit of a stretch, but I’m beginning to see he’s right. It’s important for the Channel Islands that the channel in question is English. On the English side of the water, it’s absurd to think of the Isle of Wight or the Scilly Isles as “Channel Islands” even though they are in it.

  96. Dressing Gown’s plea sounded a bit of a stretch, but I’m beginning to see he’s right. It’s important for the Channel Islands that the channel in question is English. On the English side of the water, it’s absurd to think of the Isle of Wight or the Scilly Isles as “Channel Islands” even though they are in it.

  97. When English people call it the Channel rather than the English Channel, do they sound more Anglocentric or less?

  98. John Emerson says:

    I have heard La Mancha described as Kansas. Ohio might also work. “Don Quixote of Akron”.

  99. When English people call it the Channel
    Good point, it’s actually a shibboleth. If you hear English people talking amongst themselves about “the English Channel”, you can be sure they’re German spies.

  100. marie-lucie says:

    To me, the words “English Channel” suggests that the strait belongs to England, so I understand the debate about the “Persian Gulf”, even though I know that there is no intent of “possession” in either designation. However, I am not about to campaign for a renaming in English.
    The word “strait” is not used only in the plural: on the Pacific Coast there is Juan de Fuca Strait (locally more commonly known as Strait of Juan de Fuca) which separates Vancouver Island from the American coast, and also the Strait of Georgia which separates it from the Canadian mainland. Further North there is Hecate Strait between the mainland and Haida Gwai (formerly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands), and Chatham Strait near the Alaska coast, and of course the Bering Strait. This is not only a regional habit, since my atlas (the Oxford Essential World Atlas) shows singular uses in other parts of the world.
    Don Quixote de la Mancha: I had not thought about the punning interpretation “DQ of the Stain” which must have been intended (by Cervantes, not by the hero). I have not been in Kansas or Ohio, but those are known as fertile agricultural regions, while La Mancha is supposed to be quite arid, which is why DQ is very poor and cannot afford the proper equipment of a knight.

  101. How odd, I could swear that I learned “Bering Straits” at school. I find evidence of change and uncertainty in the internet. Some google hits for “Bering Straits” redirect to Bering Strait. Other lead you to the plural form, such as Crew Log 43 – Through the Bering Straits. Then there’s the Bering Straits Alaska Native Regional Corporation.
    On the topic of DQ, “the knight of the stain” is all very well. But that Wikipedia paragraph moving from El Canal de la Mancha to “[Spanish] ‘mancha’ means ‘stain’” in consecutive sentences displays what I might call misleading erudition. It says about El Canal de la Mancha: “this is not a translation from French”, and I say, so what? It’s probably not a translation from Korean either.
    The Spanish Wikipedia article on La Mancha says nothing about stains. It mentions theories as to the origin of the toponym mancha:
    En el año 711, los árabes cruzaron el Estrecho de Gibraltar y dieron comienzo a la conquista de la Península Ibérica, a la que llamarían Al-Ándalus. Precisamente, según varias teorías, es de la lengua árabe de la que procede el topónimo “Mancha”: así, Manxa o Al-Mansha se traduce como “tierra sin agua”, y ManyaXX como “alta planicie” o “lugar elevado”, siendo estas teorías las más comunes sobre el origen del topónimo.
    [I had to add XX in the last sentence because Hat has got some weirdness turned on that leads to
        Your comment could not be submitted due to questionable content: yaXX com
    the XX also being added here by me
    ]

  102. marie-lucie says:

    The toponym “La Mancha” has nothing to do with stains, but the word for a stain, coincidentally, is also “la mancha”, so that there is a pun in Spanish on the knightly appendix to the name of Don Quixote.
    As for the Spanish and Portuguese names of la Manche dividing France from England, they are not “translations” from French but adaptations of the name, replacing the French final e with a which is its most common equivalent in these languages.

  103. they are not “translations” from French but adaptations of the name
    That’s what I suspected, but didn’t want to risk saying.

  104. When I suggested, without any concrete examples to back it up, that “English Channel” is not Anglocentric, I was actually half joking. But the reasoning is thus:
    If you have a large mainland mass and an island off the coast, any strait or passage between the two is more likely to be named after the island, not the mainland. So if you have the Continent of Brobdingnag and the island of Lilliput, the strait between them is likely to be called “Lilliput Strait” or “Lilliput Passage” rather than “Brobdingnag Strait” or “Brobdingnag Passage”. Unless you are a Lilliputian, in which case you might very well call it Brobdingnag Strait, because you would be putting Lilliput at the centre of your world (a bit like the famous British headline of yore that people liked to poke fun at — “Fog in Channel, Continent Cut Off”).
    I think my reasoning is sound, but of course, there are so few actual examples to back it up that it is really just theorising. And it doesn’t work for gulfs, because in most cases gulfs don’t separate major from minor land masses. Nor does it work for seas, which can be named for either a neighbouring land mass or a neighbouring island (Norwegian Sea, Timor Sea).

  105. I think my reasoning is sound
    It’s sound Dressing Gown, no question. But returning to the Channel, there’s no reason it has to have a political name at all. We could call it The Sleeve and they could call it la Manche. For straits, a non-territorial name is often possible: Pillars of Hercules, Skagerrak (the strait I live next to) etc. Why not change the Strait of Dover /Pas-de-Calais into something less competitive? Pas de Calais où Dovre, I don’t know if that makes sense.

  106. I think my reasoning is sound
    It’s sound Dressing Gown, no question. But returning to the Channel, there’s no reason it has to have a political name at all. We could call it The Sleeve and they could call it la Manche. For straits, a non-territorial name is often possible: Pillars of Hercules, Skagerrak (the strait I live next to) etc. Why not change the Strait of Dover /Pas-de-Calais into something less competitive? Pas de Calais où Dovre, I don’t know if that makes sense.

  107. … but it certainly shouldn’t be in italics.

  108. … but it certainly shouldn’t be in italics.

  109. scarabaeus says:

    Salad for the lower segment of wealth, is food that is cheap and available, and no cooking involved, thus in Rabbit food country side, it is COS lettuce, left over mutton chopped up and un-magoty cheese. When the Local Big cheese came a calling and he liked it, he would take the Rx and give it to his chief cook and bottle washer thus this concoction would get a nice name that stood for value and end up as a fancy dish across the German sea [so named in 1606 by Jan Baptiste Vrients ( Oceani Germanici Pars)(Noort Zee].
    The naming of something has to be such that it would be easy for everyone to identify, such as the straits of Dunkirke, the Golfo of Venetia .
    The map of La France 1705 called the waters between a kingdom conquered by Normans and the other lost kingdom of the Normans, La Manche ou Le canal and that narrow part, Pas de Calais .
    The big money Merchants were using London as center of business and the Seine had too many problems and the Le Harve was not in deep with the Roi’s so the French could not dominate the naming those dangerous waters, also Paris failed to get the rights to zero meridian thus the naming conventions the waters was lost, the man with the gold gets his pick.
    Thus as the common man caused the lingo of Rufus to be delisted as a viable communication link of the masses, French failed to keep the their nom just like when a wealthy man losses his loot he loses his name on the building like Pan AM.

  110. I still think that the bight gets named, for better or worse, by the captain of the barque.

  111. Bademantel says:

    across the German sea [so named in 1606 by Jan Baptiste Vrients ( Oceani Germanici Pars)(Noort Zee]
    I think it used to be known in English as the “German Ocean”.

  112. What is the origin of “Cos” lettuce, and why was it changed from Greek to Romaine in countries other than Ireland (and Britain)?
    I don’t live there any more, but the Pan Am Building will always be the Pan Am Bdg. How could you call a big-city, centrally-located, prominent skyscraper “The Metropolitan Life Building”? Too ironic even for NY, it would be like living in Disneyland. If anything, they should call it “The Late Work Of Walter Gropius Building”.

  113. What is the origin of “Cos” lettuce, and why was it changed from Greek to Romaine in countries other than Ireland (and Britain)?
    I don’t live there any more, but the Pan Am Building will always be the Pan Am Bdg. How could you call a big-city, centrally-located, prominent skyscraper “The Metropolitan Life Building”? Too ironic even for NY, it would be like living in Disneyland. If anything, they should call it “The Late Work Of Walter Gropius Building”.

  114. I don’t live there any more, but the Pan Am Building will always be the Pan Am Bdg.
    Amen. (I used to work there.) And I still miss Pan Am itself, which my family used to fly on back when we were going back and forth between the States and Japan or Bangkok.

  115. “Pas de Calais où Dovre”
    Erm, I take it you mean “Pas de Calais ou Douvres”.
    As to Cos lettuce, according to Wikipedia, the name comes either from the Greek Island of Cos or the Arabic word for lettuce “khus”, but the lettuce apparently reached the West via Rome, hence romaine. Indeed, in Germany, it is mostly called Römersalat. But I can’t answer your question as to why it is still called Cos in Britain and Ireland.

  116. A.J.P: Forgot to say, thanks for the heads up about the rowan jelly, I think I’ll give it a miss and stick to apricot jam. But shouldn’t we be having this conversation on your own blog, which seems to have fallen into a mild stupour?

  117. One day soon we will be able to email rowan jelly and then I’ll send you some.
    I may try and post some things this coming week, I’m supposed to be busy with other things. A blogger’s work is never done. I don’t know how Language manages one post a day, just think how many people it takes to produce Language Log: literally several.

  118. One day soon we will be able to email rowan jelly and then I’ll send you some.
    I may try and post some things this coming week, I’m supposed to be busy with other things. A blogger’s work is never done. I don’t know how Language manages one post a day, just think how many people it takes to produce Language Log: literally several.

  119. To John Emerson on August 30, 2009 at 10:11 AM: “I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates; you’ve got a brand-new key. I think we should get together and–”
    There, we’re even. Live with that in your ear for a week.

Speak Your Mind

*