Misleading Appearances.

Marina Warner’s LRB review of Silence: A Christian History, by Diarmaid MacCulloch, includes the following sentence: “The different churches provided socially bonding rituals (as conveyed by the word religion, from religio, ‘I bind together again’).” In the first place, there is no Latin verb “religio“; she means religo. That could, of course, be a typo or editing error, and I’m not going to make a federal case of it. But the verb religo does not mean ‘bind together again,’ it means ‘tie up/down, hold firmly in place,’ and that’s a pretty embarrassing error if you ask me; back in the days when everyone studied Latin, it would never have been made, or if made would never have found its way into print. Furthermore, the idea that religio comes from religo is plausible-looking but far from certain. The OED says it’s “re- prefix + a second element of uncertain origin; by Cicero connected with relegere to read over again, so that the supposed original sense of ‘religion’ would have been ‘painstaking observance of rites’, but by later authors (especially by early Christian writers) with religāre,” adding “Each view finds supporters among modern scholars.” Modern dictionaries say “perhaps” in their etymologies for the word, and much as I deplore the use of etymology to make philosophical or social points about words, if you’re going to go down that path you should at least make sure you have a sturdy etymology to lean on.

Vaguely related: I was watching an early Fassbinder movie set in Munich when one of the characters ordered Leberkäse and the subtitle said “meatloaf.” I raised my eyebrows (surely Leberkäse means ‘liver-cheese,’ whatever revolting dish that might imply?), paused the DVD, and headed for my biggest German dictionary, which said that, sure enough, Leberkäse is meatloaf. So I went to Wikipedia, which told me that “Linguists believe that the etymology of the word either involves the Middle High German word lab (to clot) or the word laib (loaf), and the Slavic root quas (feast)[citation needed].” Citation needed indeed! Does anybody know more about this? At any rate, I’m relieved to know that if I’m ever in a German-speaking land I can order Leberkäse without fear.

Comments

  1. You pretty much figured it out on your own… Leberkaese is utterly revolting, but not related to liver.

  2. In what way is it revolting? I mean, would someone who likes meatloaf (e.g., me) not like it?

  3. order Leberkäse without fear.

    Indeed you can and I highly recommend it. I’ve enjoyed it a few times sliced on a bun as a quick lunch. Stu will probably have more to say on the matter, but my understanding is that the everyday meaning of “liver-cheese” is indeed meatloaf and nobody much thinks about how the word’s two components came together much less its ultimate etymology.

  4. Yes, I’m looking forward to seeing what Stu has to say on the subject.

  5. My German is rather marginal, but I knew that “Leberkäse” meant I kind of meatloaf. However, I’ve never had it, and I probably would have guessed that it did have liver in it. I’ve always been interested the use of “cheese” and its cognates to describe certain kinds of meatloaf. In American English we have “head cheese” and another type that I’ve now forgotten.

  6. marie-lucie says:

    religio (noun)

    This Latin word cannot be related to the verb religare, since the nominal suffix associated with -are verbs is -atio(n…) (as in educare : educatio), so one would expect religatio not religio. Cicero’s interpretation (whether his own or the commonly accepted one in his time) is the one I remember reading about the origin of the noun. Surely Cicero is a better guide than the later “early Christian” writers. The early Christians were an often persecuted minority who felt themselves “bound together” by their beliefs and practices, but the word religio is a much older term. Proper performance of rituals at the appropriate times was the important part of ofrficial Roman religion, not individual belief. “Modern scholars” in this context may differ in their interpretation of religio depending on their knowledge of Latin.

  7. In North Carolina, you can buy ‘liver pudding’ and ‘liver mush’. I don’t know what either tastes like, and likely never will, but the manufacturer assures us that liver pudding “doesn’t taste like pudding and it doesn’t look like liver”. (They do not deny that it tastes – I assume – like liver and looks like pudding.) Then again, maybe I should try it: their various types of country sausage are amazingly good. The only thing I can say for liver pudding is that I find it slightly less unappetizing than the acorn pudding sold in Korean grocery stores.

  8. ἅλις δρυός?

  9. Try Leberkaes’ mit Ei — with a fried egg, if you’re not worried about cholesterol. And while you’re in Munich, don’t forget to try Leberknoedelsuppe — liver dumpling soup, which does include liver — and Muenchner Weisswurst.

    religio: The OLD says: dubious etymology, probably connected with ligo, “to bind” or lego, “to gather, collect”.

    For the less than devout, religio brings to mind the line from Lucretius:

    tantum religio potuit suadere malorum

  10. marie-lucie says:

    head cheese = French le fromage de tête

    Neither of these meat preparations has anything to do with actual cheese, a dairy product. But they are made of chopped up bits and pieces of a pig’s head.

  11. Try Leberkaes’ mit Ei — with a fried egg, if you’re not worried about cholesterol.

    I’m not, and I will — that’s exactly what the woman ordered in Gods of the Plague!

    And while you’re in Munich, don’t forget to try Leberknoedelsuppe — liver dumpling soup, which does include liver — and Muenchner Weisswurst.

    I will try no such thing; I’m one of those people who can’t stand liver.

  12. Wouldn’t someone who binds together again be an alligator?

  13. “I’m not, and I will — that’s exactly what the woman ordered in Gods of the Plague!”

    And what happened to her? I was in Munich in 1970-71, when the film was apparently shot, and nothing untoward happened to me from eating Leberkaes mit Ei. You could also get Bouillon mit Ei, which was beef bouillon with a raw egg dropped into it.

    At the risk of inducing nausea in the readership, one of the most memorable meals I’ve had was in a Gaststaette in a Bavarian village in 1971. I ordered the Schlachtplatte, the “slaughter plate,” consisting of blood sausage and liver sausage, with Sauerkraut and potatoes. It was delicious. Recognizing my friend and me as American soldiers, the host proudly set a bottle of ketchup before us. I didn’t use it, though.

  14. I’ve probably said it before, but I’ll say it again differently: Liver from wild deer is absobloodylutely delicious! But cow’s liver hasn’t tasted good since the Fifties. I am willing, though, to taste liver from a grass-fed beeve.

    I should mention that I get most of my protein from sources other than red meat.

  15. John Cowan says:

    “‘Tis true, you come of good blood, and so does a black pudding” (proverb). Likewise, “Blood without groats is nothing”, punning on groat ‘coin worth fourpence’ and ‘hulled kernel of a cereal grain’, the latter also being an ingredient of blood pudding.

  16. I would also add that the beeve should be a Speckled Park, a hornless, gentle breed developed in Canada which would not produce adrenaline when gently led to slaughter.

  17. John Cowan says:

    Freely available at Separated by a Common Language, the OED on pudding and boudin

  18. By the bye, would Captain Aubrey’s puddings have been made solely from corn (grain) or would they have contained animal products? I don’t recall the mention of ingredients.

  19. MMcM says:
    February 1, 2014 at 11:40 am
    ἅλις δρυός?

    “The proverbial expression, ἅλις δρυός, refers to the time when men gave up a diet of acorns for one of bread. In general language, ‘times are changed, and what suited the past is ill adapted to the present.’ Jeans aptly cites the same proverb from Voltaire: ‘Le siècle du gland est passé, vous donnerez du pain aux hommes.’”

  20. And what happened to her? I was in Munich in 1970-71, when the film was apparently shot, and nothing untoward happened to me from eating Leberkaes mit Ei.

    Nothing untoward; as far as I know she enjoyed it, and so, I expect, would I.

    …Oh, wait, I misremembered, it was the guy who just got released from prison who ordered it, and the woman he was with said “Don’t you want something better than that?” He said “I like Leberkaes mit Ei.” He did eventually get killed, but as far as I know he enjoyed his Leberkaes and suffered no ill effects.

  21. Bill W: is Muenchner Weisswurst. a veal sausage, like Swiss saucisse de veau – kalb bratwurst ?

    LH : another käse, I used to very much enjoy a few slices of fleischkäse with a bottle of beer for a roadside picnic in Germany. It’s similar to boloney.

  22. John Cowan says:

    The three ages of humankind are not the Gold, the Silver, and the Lead; nor yet the Stone, the Bronze, and the Iron; but the Age of Manure (??-1770), the Age of Guano (1770-1915), and the Age of Chemical Fertilizer (1915-??). This is because the nitrogen content of the soil sets an absolute limit on the size of the human population.

  23. marie-lucie says:

    I am sure the age of manure lasted a lot longer than 1770, and it is still continuing in some corners of the earth. When I was a child in France, each farm (most of which were small) had in its yard a large heap of manure, constantly added to from the cows and other animals, and which in the fall was carted otf to be spread on the fields.

  24. My opinion is sought on Leberkäse, but not on Luhmann ? Somebody is trying to tell me something, I guess…

    Apart from slight differences in preparation and ingredients, Leberkäse is simply what Bavarians call Fleichkäse, as it is known in other parts of the country. According to the WiPe article, it hardly ever contains liver these days – I’ve never had any with liver (so’s I could notice).

    The Käse part refers to the consistency. I always fry Leberkäse, and sometimes top it with a fried egg. There should be mustard in the vicinity.

    Leberkäse resembles in no way that horrid commercial stuff I remember from my childhood in the States – was it called “baloney” ? It was grey, and had a fringe of fat going around it.

  25. Oops: Fleischkäse

  26. Bill W: I ordered the Schlachtplatte, the “slaughter plate,” consisting of blood sausage and liver sausage, with Sauerkraut and potatoes.

    That dish is one of the reasons I have stayed in Germany. I can no longer imagine living on chicken-fried steak and freedom fries.

  27. According to WiPe, it never had liver, even in Bavaria. Hence the plausibility of the claim that the etymology does not involve Leber ‘liver.’

  28. Also, if the subject of Luhmann came up, your opinion would certainly be sought. You are my go-to guy for Luhmann.

  29. I should add: Leberkäse tastes nothing like meatloaf. It has a smooth consistency, unlike meatloaf – the kind I knew and still make anyway – which is coarse-grained.

  30. Hat: According to WiPe, it never had liver, even in Bavaria

    The article I linked says differnt:

    Ursprünglich wurde dem Leberkäse Leber beigemengt, heute ist die Bezeichnung Fleischkäse (ursprünglich ein Schweizer Wort) treffender, da zumeist auf Leber verzichtet wird.

    Der Leberanteil ist nicht allgemein festgelegt, lediglich bei „grobem“ und bei „Stuttgarter Leberkäse“ muss er mindestens fünf Prozent betragen.

  31. John Cowan says:
  32. Sounds fantastic, I’ll make me some. Of particular interest to me is the closing remark: “This recipe can be doubled”. Nothing better than to have leftover meatloaf in the fridge for nocturnal raids.

  33. Captain Aubrey’s puddings had suet in them.

  34. The article I linked says differnt

    Yeah, but it also accepts an etymology from Leber ‘liver,’ which makes me suspicious that they were desperate for examples that actually had liver.

    Edit: But see Thomas’s comment below. I guess I have to accept the potential presence of liver. Feh.

  35. Crucial data point from a NRWler who ended up, deliberately, at the Baltic Sea:
    Whatever the history and origin of “Leberkäse” has been, it may contain some liver.
    As far as I can tell, it’s originally South-Eastern vs Southern, i.e. Thüringen/Sachsen vs Bavaria (as well as nationwide brands).
    Up here you have to check, too, if it’s the good stuff or contains liver, because former GDR.
    “Fleischkäse” is apparently safe. I recommend spinach (with cream) and Bratkartoffeln.

  36. By the way, “Zungenwurst” …

  37. Whatever the history and origin of “Leberkäse” has been, it may contain some liver.

    Well, hell. Now I’m nervous again.

  38. As Wolfgang Haas wrote – “Der Leberkäs wird aus den Resten von den Knackwürsten gemacht und die Knackwürste aus den Resten vom Leberkäs. Das ist ein ewiger Kreislauf.” Leberkäse is an Austrian staple, true working class food, and nothing at all like meatloaf. It’s closest US equivalent is probably baked bologna (the real Italian stuff) – or maybe the meat that’s in a hotdog formed into a loaf without a casing and then baked. It contains no liver, and no cheese, but probably contains whatever else fell on the slaughterroom floor the day it was made. In Vienna “pferdeleberkäse” with horsemeat is still fairly popular. It is a great dish to eat on the street at 2:30 in the morning chased with a can of Goesser or Ottakringer beer, otherwise be afraid, very afraid.

  39. Leberkäse tastes nothing like meatloaf..

    No. Both dishes are made of animal products, formed into a loaf shape and baked. There any similarity ends.

    As cultural equivalents – “meatloaf”, to Americans, has connotations of home cooking, comfort, maybe grandmothers and family meals. “Leberkaese” – at least in Austria, connotes a cheap street food generally eaten by people who can’t afford better (workers, students) or people who are inebriated. So “meatloaf” strikes me as a horrible translation. “Fried bologna” is not exact either, but culturally probably much closer.

  40. It’s not just Capt. Aubrey’s puddings that have suet in them. My mother’s and grandmother’s suet pudding is awesome. Here’s the recipe, which my sister-in-law made for us all in Thanksgiving 2012, a few weeks before my mother died and many years after the last time she’d made it herself, and again for the rest of us last Christmas, in her memory:

    Steamed Suet Pudding

    Stir together in bowl:

    1 cup dark molasses
    1 cup raisins
    1 cup sour milk (add 1 tbsp vinegar to fresh milk and let stand 10 min)
    1 cup finely chopped suet.

    Combine:

    3 cups flour
    pinch salt
    1 tsp each
    baking soda
    cinnamon
    allspice
    nutmeg
    and cloves.

    Stir into liquid mixture.

    Grease mold and sprinkle with:

    sugar.

    Pour mixture into mold (no more than 2/3 full) and cover with lid or securely fastened heavy foil. Place mold on rack in larger pan and add water halfway up sides of mold. Simmer covered 3 hours.

    Or put mold in pressure cooker. Add 4 cups water. Cover and heat. When steam flows from vent tube, reduce heat to medium and allow steam to flow 30 minutes. Then set control at 5 lbs and cook 30 minutes after control jiggles. Reduce pressure instantly. Serve with lemon or orange sauce Serves 8-10.

    - – - – - – -

    The lemon sauce is a thin mixture of mostly lemon juice and sugar. There’s a recipe in older editions of The Joy of Cooking, but not the newer ones.

    The ‘pudding’ has no resemblance to anything Americans call pudding, but is actually a thick heavy brown molasses cake with raisins in it. It’s so filling that soup and salad and suet pudding makes a very satisfying Christmas Eve meal.

    By the way, my mother never tasted the stuff until she was 16, because she couldn’t stand the idea of eating anything with ‘suet’ in the name. That year, grandma called it ‘raisin pudding’ and she realized what a fool she’d been as soon as she tasted it and was told what it was.

    I think it would taste rather nasty when cold – like leg of lamb – but there’s rarely any left over, so it’s hard to say for sure.

  41. “Leberkaese” – at least in Austria, connotes a cheap street food generally eaten by people who can’t afford better (workers, students) or people who are inebriated. So “meatloaf” strikes me as a horrible translation. “Fried bologna” is not exact either, but culturally probably much closer.

    Thanks, that’s very enlightening, and I’ve emended the dictionary definition accordingly. (It also explains the scene in the movie: no wonder she thought he would want something better.)

  42. Trond Engen says:

    taste rather nasty when cold – like leg of lamb

    Objection!

  43. Hey guys, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

  44. Judging from the pictures, Leberkäse : pâté :: brandy : cognac.

  45. Trond:
    Cold lamb is OK if you can get every bit of fat off it, but in my experience cold lamb fat has a very nasty taste, unlike hot lamb fat, or beef or chicken or pork fat that is either hot or cold. I think the same would be true of suet pudding, except that there’s no possibility of removing the suet.

  46. in my experience cold lamb fat has a very nasty taste

    I have to agree with this, lamb-lover though I am.

  47. The Wikipedia article on Leberkäse gives a reference link,
    http://www.spezialitaetenland-bayern.de/en/search-for-specialities/details/bayerischer-leberkaese/?no_cache=1
    which has some etymological notes:

    Whoever examines the roots of the word Leberkäse sees that the term goes back to the old German root words “Lab” and “Kasi”. These terms are related to the coagulation of meat protein by cooking or roasting. It is also said that the word “Leber” (liver) is only supposed to be an alteration of the word “Laib”, and the word “Käs” describes a compact mass like that of even “Quittenkäs” (quince bread) or “Kartoffelkäs” (potato loaf). According to this interpretation, Leberkäse would therefore be a loaf, which is made from a compact mass. Wicked tongues also call Leberkäs “Beamtenripperl” (civil servant’s spare rips).

  48. marie-lucie says:

    PO: Thank you for the pictures! Indeed all of these look like types of pâté, something which was not clear from the descriptions. The first one in the second line, with its bits of white stuff among the pink, looks like mortadella, an Italian variety also popular in France, presented as a very large sausage from which thin round slices are taken.

    MH: I only looked at the first page, but perhaps brandy/cognac is presented later? At any rate, cognac is just one type of brandy, from the region of the town of the same name. Its main rival is armagnac, produced nearby. Place names in -ac are typical of the region, in Southwest France. These are wine-based brandies. There is also a cider-based brandy in Normandy, called calvados from the name of the area. I am not an expert: there may be other, less well-known local brandies.

  49. John Burgess says:

    Throughout the Middle Ages, liver was widely used as a binder for other bits of meat that were made up into puddings, loaves, and the like. There was a tendency — though not strict rule — that poultry dishes would use poultry liver and meat dishes use mammal livers. Liver even shows up in some early recipes for minced meat which today usually has no meat and rarely suet.

    Mennonite cooking still has minced meat pies with meat in them. Large pieces, in fact.

    I’ve had liver sausage from the Carolinas. It’s most certainly made of liver and tastes like it. This is good, though, as I really do like liver of almost any kind. Even (especially?) cod livers.

  50. marie-lucie:
    My point was that there is a class difference, at least in the U.S., between the different names. Brandy (from grapes) and applejack (from apples) are ordinary, not very expensive, liquors, made in the U.S. Cognac (and Armagnac) and Calvados are exactly the same thing, except imported from France, with fancy French names and very much higher prices, which may or may not reflect a correspondingly higher quality. The brand of applejack most commonly found in Virginia liquor stores even looks cheap and tacky, with a pirate on the label, though it tastes good.

    Judging from the pictures, Leberkäse and pâté are also pretty much the same thing, except that pâté is more high-class (a slippery concept), more expensive (if Leberkäse is “a cheap street food generally eaten by people who can’t afford better” and by drunks), and (I hope) of correspondingly higher quality.

    languagehat:
    I’m also very fond of lamb, and would rather have roast leg of lamb than roast beef any day. But I’d much rather make cold roast-beef sandwiches out of leftovers than cold lamb sandwiches. Removing all the fat is wasteful and time-consuming and makes what meat is left too dry, while leaving it in ruins the taste.

  51. But I’d much rather make cold roast-beef sandwiches out of leftovers than cold lamb sandwiches.

    Yup, same here.

  52. marie-lucie says:

    MH, I had only seen the German : French equivalence, I had not thought of the matter of class: to me, French food is food eaten in France, in my family for instance, not necessarily fancy food. As I said, I am not an expert on wine or liquor in general , so I can’t comment on the respective merits of “calva” (yes) vs applejack, and the like.

    As for pâté, the pictures show a rather uniform kind, pinker than the usual French kinds which are more often beigey. There are many French varieties, depending on the exact composition and manner of preparation. There are also regional differences. Except for those pâtés made with rare and expensive ingredients like foie gras (fattened goose liver) or bits of truffles, pâté in general is not considered very special as an appetizer or sandwich filling. Ordinary pâté de foie (made with pork liver) is basically the same as German leberwurst or English liverwurst, except that the French kind is never found in sausage form, only as a loaf like other kinds.

  53. This Latin word cannot be related to the verb religare, since the nominal suffix associated with -are verbs is -atio(n…) (as in educare : educatio), so one would expect religatio not religio.

    The idea is not that religiō is derived from religō, but that they both derive from the same root. -iō is a fairly productive abstract noun formant in Latin, e.g. legiō, regiō.

  54. But in any case, that religion should take its name from the fact that it “provides socially bonding rituals” strikes me as a semantic development that could only plausibly take place in a community of twenty-first-century social scientists.

  55. “is Muenchner Weisswurst. a veal sausage, like Swiss saucisse de veau – kalb bratwurst ?” Yes.

    I used to enjoy Leberkaes mit Ei even before getting drunk. I never tasted liver in it or associated it with liver.

    It looks (and probably tastes) something like pepper loaf.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=pepper+loaf&client=firefox-a&hs=NX&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=vsLtUryNBpKzsAS2lYGADQ&ved=0CCYQsAQ&biw=1440&bih=742

  56. marie-lucie: Judging from the pictures, Leberkäse and pâté are also pretty much the same thing

    Beware ! Although it’s not visible in the pictures, Leberkäse has a rubbery consistency. A slice of some kinds of it is so light that one imagines it has had air pumped into it – as is done with some kinds of margarine. The consistency resembles that of the dog in a hotdog. Also, Leberkäse is often fried, but pâté hardly ever if at all.

    These facts alone should convince you that Leberkäse and pâté are not likely to be pretty much the same thing.

  57. John Cowan says:

    I’m wondering if the “German bologna” my supermarket dispenses is really Leberkäse. If so, it’s good stuff.

  58. TR: that religion should take its name from the fact that it “provides socially bonding rituals” strikes me as a semantic development that could only plausibly take place in a community of twenty-first-century social scientists.

    Good point. Although social scientists speculating about etymology would be interdisciplinary, which is all the rage now.

    Apart from etymology, even the claim that religions “provide socially bonding rituals” is fairly vacuous, on my view. The conceptual frame of that claim represents societies as “really existing”, rickety contraptions comprising glueless pieces that are over time bonded together by various kinds of glue – in this case religious rituals.

    On a less substantialist view, societies are rickety constructs in the minds of participants in and observers of them. It’s not plausible to claim that societies “really exist” apart from how they are experienced and observed. So religions are just part of what is observed in history as societies. Sometimes they bond, sometimes they subjugate, sometimes they are divisive.

    I first noticed this in TV documentaries on primates who live in groups. It is often claimed that their mutual lousing is a “socially bonding ritual”. But one could also see it like this: lousing is part and parcel of their society. No lousing, no groups, nothing to bond.

  59. The preceding thoughts come to you courtesy of Niklas Leberkäse.

  60. On the etymology: de Vaan’s “Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages” quotes religio s.v. ligo, ligare “to fasten, bind”, without even discussing any possible link to legere “read”.

  61. John Cowan says:

    It’s not plausible to claim that societies “really exist” apart from how they are experienced and observed.

    What about trees? Do they really exist apart from etc.?

    There was a young man who said: ‘God
    Must find it exceedingly odd
    If it seems that this tree
    Simply ceases to be
    When no-one’s about in the Quad.’

    Dear Sir: Your astonishment’s odd:
    I am always about in the Quad.
    And that’s why the tree
    Will continue to be,
    Since observed by,
         Yours faithfully,
              God

    —Ronald Knox

  62. What about trees? Do they really exist apart from etc.?

    “Trees” are hardly the same kind of thing as “societies”. For one thing, you can point at trees, and even at “trees”, but not at societies. You can’t derive a society from a tree (or a man either), as the man said about ought and is.

    If you can explain what you mean by “trees”, i.e. if I can understand what you mean by “trees”, then we have communicated successfully, to all appearances. Why postulate trees in addition to your explanation and my understanding ? In order to explain the circumstance that we have communicated successfully ?

    But how will you explain a failure to communicate about trees ? A symmetrical explanation would be that in such cases there are no “trees”.

    Note that as we now converse about “trees”, there are no trees in sight, only in mind. The Knox limerick is cute because it confirms that trees are always on somebody’s mind, if only God’s.

  63. In any case, I wrote that it’s not plausible to claim that societies “really exist” apart from how they are experienced and observed. I didn’t write that societies don’t exist. My point is that their mode of existence is not that of trees (which do not exist for microbes, I think it is safe to say).

  64. If Leberkäse exists quite apart from whether I take note of it, then it could equally well stop existing. I would have a concept and a jar of mustard, and nowhere to go.

  65. My father occasionally ate liverwurst-and-peanut-butter sandwiches. I probably thought everybody did. I don’t know where he got the idea.

  66. On the other hand, one of the images Paul Ogden linked to shows Leberkäse mit Bananen.

  67. marie-lucie says:

    Stu: Thanks for the clarification. Indeed the notion of frying any kind of pâté seems totally weird. I have actually seen Leberkäse (without knowing the name) in a German deli here, but have never tried it. From what you say, I don’t feel like trying it. That same place (now defunct) used to make delicious Leberwurst.

    TR: The idea is not that religiō is derived from religō, but that they both derive from the same root. -iō is a fairly productive abstract noun formant in Latin, e.g. legiō, regiō.

    These words are not really abstract: they correspond to concrete realities too.

    Hans: On the etymology: de Vaan’s “Etymological Dictionary of Latin and the other Italic Languages” quotes religio s.v. ligo, ligare “to fasten, bind”, without even discussing any possible link to legere “read”.

    Is this dictionary the topnotch source? Other sources do mention leg-ere as well as lig-are. About legere ‘read’: how old are the oldest written Latin sources? Roman religion (incorporating Etruscan elements) is very old, predating widespread literacy. What was the original meaning of legere in the ritual context? We say that the augurs “read” the flight of birds, for instance: here ‘read’ means something like ‘interpret, understand’. What is the meaning of the leg root?

  68. marie-lucie says:

    iakon: Liver from wild deer is absobloodylutely delicious!

    To each their own! Having had the opportunity to sample this, I don’t share your opinion. I ate a little piece to please my hostess, who had received the liver from the hunter, but I found it much too strong for my taste. But the taste may depend on how the liver is prepared. Mine was simply fried.

    From the notice (link to Wikipedia)

    According to the Online Etymological dictionary, live/life and liver (and their Germanic cognates) are derived from two homophonous roots *leip, the one meaning ‘staying, continuing’, the other ‘attached, fat’ or similar words. I find this implausible. Surely a meaning ‘attached’ is very compatible with ‘stay’. And the ‘fat’ of a body is always attached to something, the meat or skin. It seems plausible to me that the liver was called that because it seemed to be the most alive of all of an animal’s organs, still quivering and gorged with blood even after being removed, and (unlike the other organs) differing enough from one body to another that (in some cultures) it could be used for divination.

    In any case, I don’t see how the leb ~ lif/liv stem can have anything to do with a word meaning ‘loaf’.

  69. marie-lucie says:

    m-l: From the notice (link to Wikipedia)

    Sorry, I intended to comment on this paragraph posted by Greg Lee above but I got mixed up in the process of cutting and pasting:

    Whoever examines the roots of the word Leberkäse sees that the term goes back to the old German root words “Lab” and “Kasi”. These terms are related to the coagulation of meat protein by cooking or roasting. It is also said that the word “Leber” (liver) is only supposed to be an alteration of the word “Laib”, and the word “Käs” describes a compact mass like that of even “Quittenkäs” (quince bread) or “Kartoffelkäs” (potato loaf). According to this interpretation, Leberkäse would therefore be a loaf, which is made from a compact mass.

    More later.

  70. Is everyone here assuming that Latin religio has the same broad meaning as English ‘religion’? If so, that’s a mistake. I don’t remember where I read this many years ago, but I believe the general Latin term for religion is res divinae, ‘divine things’, ‘things having to do with the gods’, also the title of a mostly-lost work of Varro, and that religio is much more specific, referring to religious restrictions on what one can do, something like a taboo. An example of a religio is the rule against peeing on temples, even the back walls of them. Persius the Satirist mentions that the Romans would paint two snakes on the wall in an alley to show that a blank wall was a temple wall, and that no one should pee there. Like a skull on crossbones on a bottle of poison, the advantages of snakes is that even illiterates and small children can ‘read’ the message.

    Anyway, if a religio is more or less a ‘taboo’, then the etymology is quite transparent: ligare = ‘bind’ and religare = ‘bind + hold back’.

  71. Oops: “skull and crossbones”. The Persius reference is 1.112-14.

  72. empty: I don’t know how I forgot suet, except perhaps because it’s many a decade since I had suet pudding. I loved it.

    m-l: The blood must be thoroughly washed from deer liver, which is then thinly sliced and quickfried. Melts in the mouth.

  73. Michael Hendry: The two snakes are very pagan. Entwined they were the symbol of Asclepios, and I have read that they kept houses free of vermin before cats were introduced to Europe from Egypt. They were also a symbol of fertility as they are very prolific.

  74. marie-lucie says:

    iakon: The deer liver I sampled did not at all melt in my mouth! Perhaps it had not been washed as you describe.

    MH: Anyway, if a religio is more or less a ‘taboo’, then the etymology is quite transparent: ligare = ‘bind’ and religare = ‘bind + hold back’

    In that case, there would have been many religiones that Romans were subject to. But it is doubtful that the word only applied to injunctions against certain acts, there must have been positive injunctions about what to do, so “observances” might be a better word than taboos (similarly the Ten Commandments include both positive and negative commands).

    However, if the etymology was as transparent as you see it, why has the origin been disputed for centuries, including by Romans? Why did Varro need to give examples such as surely were known to all Romans? Why did Cicero bother to relate the word to legere, the meaning of which is hardly compatible with ‘bind’? The TLFI, which is usually quite thorough about the etymology of French words, only says that the origin of Latin religio is disputed, although it gives a longish 19C quote about the differences between the modern and the Roman concepts of ‘religion’, in which the author relates it to ‘bind’.

  75. John Cowan says:

    Actually, Asklepios’ staff has only one snake; it’s Hermes whose caduceus traditionally has two snakes and wings; it’s properly a symbol of commerce, exchange, writing (now also printing), and wisdom/cunning. Of course, Hermes Trismegistus is a healer too, in a different style from Asklepios. But the use of the caduceus for medicine in North America is (as WP has it) “a result of documented mistakes, misunderstandings and confusion”.

  76. It seems that “religio” is a previous and wider concept than the idea we have now which is more limited. Some definitions I’ve read about “religio” are related to adj. scrupulous (translated to Spanish). Anyway, as far as I know this adj. means pretty much the same in English, French and Spanish. For example: scrupulous care (“atención escrupulosa”), scrupulous conscience (“conciencia escrupulosa”). There are expressions like “vir summa religione” (man with extremely scrupulous conscience), “religionem adhibere” (to show scruples). Obviously, the root of “religio” doesn’t have to do with “scrupulus”. As for “lego, -ere”, the meaning of “to read” is in a figurative sense; meanings like “to take”, “to gather”, “to collect” are more specific. The dictionary I’ve read says that “to collect sth using hearing or sight” is the explanation to the figurative senses of “legere” to “to listen to” or “to read”.

  77. marie-lucie says:

    Jesús: As for “lego, -ere”, the meaning of “to read” is in a figurative sense; meanings like “to take”, “to gather”, “to collect” are more specific. The dictionary I’ve read says that “to collect sth using hearing or sight” is the explanation to the figurative senses of “legere” to “to listen to” or “to read”.

    I think these meanings could be expressed by English “to take in”, “to take note of”.

  78. marie-lucie:

    About legere ‘read’: how old are the oldest written Latin sources? Roman religion (incorporating Etruscan elements) is very old, predating widespread literacy.

    I had the same thought, which is why the ‘bind’ etymology makes more sense to me. On the other hand, of course, though Roman religion is old, we don’t know how old the word religiō is; it could conceivably be younger than priestly literacy. But the ‘read’ etymology does sound to me like the kind of thing a hyperliterate intellectual like Cicero would come up with. In any case, the ancients were terrible at etymology (take a look at the Cratylus sometime).

    What was the original meaning of legere in the ritual context? We say that the augurs “read” the flight of birds, for instance: here ‘read’ means something like ‘interpret, understand’. What is the meaning of the leg root?

    Well, the PIE root *leǵ- seems to have meant “collect, choose, pick out”, or something like that; Latin compounds (e.g. colligō) still show this meaning. In Greek the simplex retained the original meaning but also developed a much more common sense “say”, maybe through a sense like “list, enumerate”. This doesn’t answer your question about its specific meaning in a Roman ritual context, of course.

  79. >Marie-lucie
    Thank for your correction. I’ve read, for example, “nuces legere” (to gather walnuts) but also “recoger con los oídos o con la vista” and “recorrer con la vista” (to look through one’s eyes over).

  80. Since this thread is such a cynosure, I’m going to repost John Cowan’s remark from this earlier one, which no one is looking at:

    LexisNexis is letting me go as of March 1, and so I am looking for employment. Resume. If any Hattics know of suitable jobs, drop me a line at cowan@ccil.org. Thanks.

    Help the man out if you can!

  81. In any case, the ancients were terrible at etymology

    Yes, I wouldn’t take seriously an etymology by Cicero or anyone else before the 19th century.

  82. John Cowan says:

    m-l: While historical semantic change is a vexed question[*], it seems clear that the oldest meaning of PIE *leg- is ‘gather, collect, choose’. This is what legein means in Homer, for example, though in later Greek it means ‘speak, tell’, presumably from the idea of choosing words. Latin legere shifted in the same way first to ‘speak’, > English lecture, lesson and then to ‘read’, > English legend, legible. The idea of a collection still appears in English legion < Latin legio, and with prefixes the meaning ‘gather’ is still present, as shown by English collect itself, but also elect, select, neglect.

    Most of the Greek borrowings in English come from the o-grade form logos ‘word’, though lexicon is an exception. Latin lex may be from this root, but also possibly from *legh- ‘lay’ > English law ‘what is laid down’. (The similarity of Old English laga to Latin leges and French loi to English law therefore may or may not be a coincidence.) Lignum ‘wood, firewood’, with various technical English derivatives, is ‘that which is gathered’. Finally, there is the native English word leech ‘bloodsucking worm’ < ‘physician’, showing that the leech probably originally cured by magic spells.

    [*] Tolkien cites the example of yelp (both noun and verb), which originally meant ‘proud(ly) boast, heroic(ally) boast’ — King Alfred’s translation of Boethius contains the sentence “If you want to yelp, yelp about God” — and through the set phrase idle yelp ‘boast about nothing’ came quite suddenly around 1500 to mean the noises made by dogs and birds!

  83. Anyway, if a religio is more or less a ‘taboo’, then the etymology is quite transparent: ligare = ‘bind’ and religare = ‘bind + hold back’.

    This makes all the more sense in that we know the same root was actually used with this metaphorical meaning in Latin, cf. obligō.

  84. Trond Engen says:

    I like the derivation from a meaning something like “obligation”. Heck, note the root! My centenarian Latin-Norwegian dictionary lists the meanings of religio as:
    1a) conscience b) conscientious scrupulousness c) scruple 2a) piety, religious observation and then letters up to g) showing aspects of the religious meaning. It also points to deligo “loosen, pick (fruit)” and negligo, but not, strangely, obligo.

  85. According to the Online Etymological dictionary, live/life and liver (and their Germanic cognates) are derived from two homophonous roots *leip, the one meaning ‘staying, continuing’, the other ‘attached, fat’ or similar words. I find this implausible. Surely a meaning ‘attached’ is very compatible with ‘stay’.

    OED on liver: “Some scholars derive the word from the same Indo-European base as ancient Greek λιπαρός oily, shiny with oil, fatty, greasy (see liparocele n.), λιπαρής adhesive, i.e. ultimately from the same Indo-European base as live v. and (with different ablaut grade) leave v.” The semantic development seems to have been “sticky, adhesive > remain, continue > live”. If so, German bleiben is from the same root, cognate with a now obsolete English verb belive

  86. Trond: deligō, negligō are from the root meaning “pick, collect”, not the one meaning “bind”.

  87. Trond Engen says:

    The non-English Germanic word for “read” is No. lese etc., a calque from Latin. Danish still preserves the original meaning of the verb in læsefrugter “wild nuts, berries etc.”. The calque is so old that the causative “make read” was rhotacized to e.g. No. lære “teach”. Eng. ‘learn’ is the inchoative of that again, i.e. “become made to read”.

  88. Trond Engen says:

    Trond: deligō, negligō are from the root meaning “pick, collect”, not the one meaning “bind”.

    In that case I withdraw my enthusiasm. But I see that deligo is listed as two homonymous words. One is from ligo, meaning “bind” (and not as I misremembered “untie, loosen”).

  89. Trond Engen says:

    Looking closer I notice that religio had a spelling variant relligio, attributed to Lucrece, Horace, Vergil and Ovid. Could that be significant?

  90. marie-lucie says:

    LH: It is too bad about JC, who is so immensely talented. Let’s hope some of the other Hatters will be able to help, or some other company will be happy to snatch him.

    (I opened the link and the page says : “Not found, error 404. The page you are looking for no longer exists”. That must be why “no one is looking at it”).

    etymology

    What did Cicero actually say? perhaps there were old traditional phrases including legere.

    TR: Well, the PIE root *leǵ- seems to have meant “collect, choose, pick out”, or something like that; Latin compounds (e.g. colligō) still show this meaning.

    Aha, I can see a possible link: the lig in religio (possibly from re-*leg-…) may have been identified with the same sequence in colligo ‘I gather together’ (from con-*leg-o) and ligo ‘I bind’ (from *lig-o.

    As Jesús mentioned above, leg-ere could still have both the concrete meaning ‘to gather’ (as with nuts) and the abstract one ‘to take in (by sight or hearing)’, as with information: to take in visual information of a certain kind is ‘to read’. In order to behave and perform the rites properly, different kinds of information had to be taken in (and into account), some by ordinary people (such as paying attention to what kind of wall looked like a suitable peeing-spot), and some by specialized priests (such as augurs observing the flight of birds, haruspices the entrails of animals, especially livers).

    In Greek the simplex retained the original meaning but also developed a much more common sense “say”, maybe through a sense like “list, enumerate”.

    That must be logos. The intermediate meaning is that of tell, which also went from ‘count’ (a meaning still recoverable) to ‘say’.

  91. Whereas “obligo” came from “ob and ligo”, “negligo” (also “neglego”) and “deligo” came from the verb “lego”. However, there is also another verb, “deligo”, whose infinitive is “deligare” so it came from “ligo”. Both “negligo” and “deligo” have a “i” although the verb has a “e”, maybe the same case of “religio” and its “enigmatic” “i” supposing this word came from “lego”. Anyway “yo soy lego en la materia” (I’m completely ignorant about the subjet).

  92. marie-lucie says:

    p.s. I forgot the initial prefix re-: this prefix can mean ‘repetitive’, or ‘backwards’, but it can also be simply intensive. Re-*leg-ere could mean ‘to take in (etc) very carefully, to pay close attention to’.

  93. (I opened the link and the page says : “Not found, error 404. The page you are looking for no longer exists”. That must be why “no one is looking at it”).

    Huh. The post was IT WOULD MAKE A DOG THINK, from June 9, 2011.

  94. marie-lucie says:

    Jesús,

    The i instead of e is not enigmatic, there is a Latin rule which converts some root vowels to i under certain conditions when the verb stem is preceded by something else, for instance fac-ere ‘to make’, but satis-fic-ere ‘to satisfy’ (lit. to make enough) , sacri-fic-ere ‘to sacrifice’ (li. to make sacred), and similarly with leg-o ‘I gather, take in, read, etc’, but colligo from con-lig-o ‘I gather together’ (con- ‘with’), and many others.

  95. Trond Engen says:

    Oh, yes! “Pay observance to” would pretty much sum up all the diverse meanings of religio.

  96. >Marie-lucie
    I see this change in “sacrificare”, and even more: “sacrum and facere”, but not in “satisfacere”. Thinking in “sacrare” (to consecrate), maybe it could explain the end in “-are” instead of regular “-ere”.

  97. John Cowan says:

    m-l: satis-fic-ere reflects vowel weakening during the pre-classical period, when Latin had initial stress.

    Trune: The English must have learned the art pretty quickly after arriving in Britain, because they kept their native words for ‘persuade’ and ‘scratch’ > modern read, write instead of borrowing both from Latin as all the other Germanics did. This may also have to do with the continuous tradition of literacy in Britain.

    Jesús: Newly created verbs, especially verbs from nouns, get -ar(e) in Latin and the Romance languages (-er in French), even if there is a verb underlying the noun that is of a different declension. There are rare exceptions: French alunir ‘land on the Moon’ by analogy with aterrir ‘land’, but compare Spanish alunizar.

    Hat: You forgot to insert “http://” in the link, which makes it relative to this page (i.e. garbage).

  98. Hat: You forgot to insert “http://” in the link, which makes it relative to this page (i.e. garbage).

    Thanks, fixed now. I just copied the URL from the address bar, which usually works.

  99. Looking closer I notice that religio had a spelling variant relligio, attributed to Lucrece, Horace, Vergil and Ovid. Could that be significant?

    There are, similarly, also cases in poetry where it has to be scanned rēligiō (rather than rĕligiō). But this is most likely just metris causa lengthening (which Greek poets at least are very prone to, though I know less about Latin poetry). Long ē could theoretically come from *eH with a laryngeal, but neither of the two candidate roots appears to have had an initial laryngeal. Greek λέγω does have some forms which look like they point to an initial laryngeal, εἴλοχα, εἴλεγμαι, but these are late and seem to be analogical. There appear to be two laryngeal-initial PIE roots which could potentially give a form with an initial heavy syllable, *h1leiǵ- “shudder” and *h2leǵ- “be concerned with” (which, contra my earlier comment, is the source of negligō); the latter might be made to work semantically, but I don’t know if anyone has suggested this.

  100. Trond Engen says:

    June: I think the terms coexisted for quite a while in Scandinavian. One would ráða and rita runes and lesa and skrifa book-staffs — bók of course meaning “Latin”.

    Myself: Realizing that “pay observance to” makes sense doesn’t equal being convinced of the etymology. I don’t think it’s clear (yet) that lēgere originally meant “see” rather than just “gather” or “select”. Reading is to gather meaning and select words from a row of letters. My dictionary says Vergil used it meaning “pass over with the eyes”, but that might just as well have been a metaphorical use of “read”.

  101. John Cowan says:

    Reading is to gather meaning and select words from a row of letters.

    I don’t think the semantics went straight from ‘gather’ > ‘read’ like that, at least not in Latin. I think the sequence is ‘gather’ > ‘speak’ (gather words) > ‘read’ (out loud).

  102. The English must have learned the art pretty quickly after arriving in Britain, because they kept their native words for ‘persuade’ and ‘scratch’ > modern read, write instead of borrowing both from Latin as all the other Germanics did.

    How neat. Never thought of that. Though English did borrow from the Latin for certain uses, as in prescribe, proscribe, scribe, scrivener and probably several more. And at least in Bavaria, a cousin of English read means speak: Ich kann Deutsch reden. (Stu may have to correct my spelling.)

  103. The English must have learned the art pretty quickly after arriving in Britain, because they kept their native words for ‘persuade’ and ‘scratch’ > modern read, write instead of borrowing both from Latin as all the other Germanics did.

    Wait, how does that follow? They could conceivably have remained illiterate in Britain for centuries and still used native words to describe writing once they came in contact with it. (Not that they did, of course; in fact Germanic speakers had been writing in runes for some centuries already, which makes sense of the use of “scratch” for “write”.)

  104. My point is that their mode of existence is not that of trees (which do not exist for microbes, I think it is safe to say).

    Hm; perhaps not.

    In short, if all the matter in the universe except the nematodes were swept away, our world would still be dimly recognizable, and if, as disembodied spirits, we could then investigate it, we should find its mountains, hills, vales, rivers, lakes, and oceans represented by a film of nematodes. The location of towns would be decipherable, since for every massing of human beings there would be a corresponding massing of certain nematodes. Trees would still stand in ghostly rows representing our streets and highways. The location of the various plants and animals would still be decipherable, and, had we sufficient knowledge, in many cases even their species could be determined by an examination of their erstwhile nematode parasites.

    (From Wikipedia, which gives as the reference:

    Cobb, Nathan (1914). “Nematodes and their relationships”. Yearbook United States Department of Agriculture. United States Department of Agriculture. pp. 457–90. Quote on p. 472
    )

  105. Paul: Ich kann Deutsch reden. (Stu may have to correct my spelling.)

    Spotless ! There are also fixed expressions: Er redet wie ein Wasserfall and er redet Unsinn. I guess one could say that sprechen is noncommittal and denotes “bare speaking”, whereas reden suggests intention, intensity and/or additional components.

  106. Owlmirror: “A film of nematodes” ! How wonderful ! Sounds like Cobb was a phenomenologist whose work was not acceptable to the trade journals, so he snuck it into Department of Agriculture yearbooks.

  107. In other words, sprechen = “speak” and reden = “talk”.

  108. m-l: Is this dictionary the topnotch source?
    It’s the most recent etymological dictionary of Latin, so I’d somewhat expect it to reflect the current communis opinio. But it’s also a product of Leiden, so it may just reflect the convictions of that particular school of Indo-European linguistics. Certainly, older etymological dictionaries have other etymologies; I have a 1910 edition of Walde as pdf, and it links religio to intellego, neglego and diligo (s.v diligo), tracing them back to a root “care” separate from both ligare “bind” and legere “collect”, related to Greek alego:. FWIW, LIV (p. 276f.) also relates the Greek verb and intellego, neglego, diligo to a root *h2leg(‘)-, but doesn’t say anything about religio, probably because its not a verb.

  109. marie-lucie says:

    Danke, Hans. I don’t know Greek, what is alego?

  110. Gk. alegō means “trouble oneself, care for”; this is the root I referred to above: *h2leǵ- “be concerned with” … the latter might be made to work semantically, but I don’t know if anyone has suggested this. Should have checked Walde, obviously.

  111. My daughter is fond of Fleischkäse – as in “next year, let’s go skiing in Austria so we can have Fleischkäse again.”

    In Austria – let’s say rural and small-town Austria where the ski resorts are – it’s always translated as meatloaf.

    In some shops/restaurants in Austria, there is also Leberkäse but it always turns out the same as Fleischkäse. I assume that these two are different names for the same product, one used in the south (Austria and Bavaria) and the other more generally.

    The taste of Fleischkäse reminds me of something I ate as a small child but I cannot remember what exactly. I don’t think it was Soviet bologna (докторская/любительская колбаса).

  112. Andrew Szmelter says:

    A “cheese” is used in the pressing of apples to make cider

  113. @ TR: Thank you for answering m-l’s question, I only saw it now.

  114. David Marjanović says:

    Latin legere shifted in the same way first to ‘speak’, > English lecture, lesson

    I thought a lecture is (traditionally) something that is read aloud? That’s what the German translation, Vorlesung, means.

    The non-English Germanic word for “read” is No. lese etc., a calque from Latin. Danish still preserves the original meaning of the verb in læsefrugter “wild nuts, berries etc.”.

    See also German Erbsen lesen “to sort edible peas from less edible peas”, an activity featured in many a fairytale. (It’s Cinderella’s job in particular.)

    The calque is so old that the causative “make read” was rhotacized to e.g. No. lære “teach”. Eng. ‘learn’ is the inchoative of that again, i.e. “become made to read”.

    Strikes me as improbable. This book (p. 102) instead proposed that Proto-Germanic “*liznōn- ‘to learn’ [...] is semantically better understandable as a medial causative ‘to make oneself know’ (cf. Go. lais ‘I know’ than as an inchoative ‘to start knowing’.” This Gothic lais probably shows the effect of word-final devoicing and underlyingly had a |z|; Northwest Germanic rhotacized /z/ but not /s/.

    The English must have learned the art pretty quickly after arriving in Britain, because they kept their native words for ‘persuade’ and ‘scratch’ > modern read, write

    “Persuade”? Not “guess” like German raten?

    And at least in Bavaria, a cousin of English read means speak: Ich kann Deutsch reden.

    Can’t be; English /d/ and High German /d/ can’t correspond to each other (except behind /l/ and /n/).

    In other words, sprechen = “speak” and reden = “talk”.

    Exactly! And in the Bavarian dialects, sprechen doesn’t exist. :-)

    (I wouldn’t say ich kann deutsch reden, though, by default. I’d simply say ich kann Deutsch. Unlike English can/be able to, German können doesn’t need to be followed by a verb, it only needs to be followed by an ability. I Am America (And So Can You!))

    In some shops/restaurants in Austria, there is also Leberkäse but it always turns out the same as Fleischkäse. I assume that these two are different names for the same product, one used in the south (Austria and Bavaria) and the other more generally.

    Leberkäse is usually called Fleischkäse here in Berlin; I had never encountered the latter word before I moved here.

  115. You’re right that lesson, lecture have to do with reading rather than speaking. But OE rædan has a whole complex of meanings: Etymonline lists ‘advise, counsel, persuade; discuss, deliberate; rule, guide; arrange, equip; forebode; read, explain; learn by reading; put in order’. Ræd is ‘advice, counsel’, as in Athelstan the Unready, better translated as ‘the Ill-Counseled’.

  116. I think you mean Aethelred, whom I like to call “Aethelred the Clueless.”

  117. Yes, of course.

  118. John Cowan says:

    m-l (from way up in the thread): The Age of Manure ended in 1800 or so, not because manure ceased to be used (it is of course used to this day) but because the world population grew too large for manure to be used as the sole form of nitrogen fertilizer. (I omit the use of legumes for nitrogen fixing, because although locally important they have never supported human population as a whole.) However, it’s true that the dates given are Eurocentric: guano was important to South American civilization for more than a millennium before.

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